Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Give me the money, government! Elite sport or mass participation?

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Andrew Connors, Nick Boudreau and Joshua Ogden

Should government support elite level athletes or should the money be directed to mass participation? Why does the government fund mass participation and elite sport? Where should the government appropriate funds? Currently, 90% of government funding goes to elite sport and 10% to mass participation. It is this groups belief that the funding should be split closer to 50% for elite and 50% for mass participation.

It is important to understand the “sport pyramid”. The top of the pyramid is elite sport, the middle is competitive sport and the wide base at the bottom is mass participation.


Governments believe that the “cycle of sport” is lead by elite level athletes becoming successful in their sport thanks to government funding, and in turn, their success builds up national pride and leads to the masses becoming inspired and increasing their participation; this can also be called the trickle down effect. The trickle up effect comes from funding of mass sport participation and the greater number of participants leads to a bigger pool of athletes with the hopes of becoming elite.

Although elite sport funding leads to increased mass participation, greater national identity and a healthy population; greater funding to mass sport participation will also lead to a healthier population, and also elite success because of the larger base of athletes participating and trickling up to elite sport. Mass sport funding will lead to sport for all and economic benefits thanks to a less taxed health care system because of a healthy population. Elite sport will stay successful and the sport cycle will continue to turn with greater benefits coming by giving mass participation more funding closer to the amounts of elite sport.


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De Bosscher, V., Sotiriadou, P., & van Bottenburg, M. (2013). Scrutinizing the sport pyramid metaphor: An examination of the relationship between elite success and mass participation in Flanders. International Journal of Sport Policy and Poltics, 5(3), 319-339.

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Grix, J., & Carmichael, F. (2012). Why do governments invest in elite sport? A polemic. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 4(1), 73-90.

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