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Sweden "wastes money" on youth sport

Published måndag 12 januari 2015 kl 15.00
"Too many clubs focus on success."
(2:42 min)
Tomas Peterson, sports researcher at Malmö University. Collage: Radiosporten.
Tomas Peterson, sports researcher at Malmö University. Collage: Radiosporten.

Seven billion Swedish kronor - that's how much tax payers subsidise youth sports every year. Partly for the good of society, but also to achieve international sporting prowess. But are sports clubs discouraging children and young people to take up sport by putting too much pressure on them to succeed.

You might have thought that any support - financial or otherwise - for getting young people involved in sports would be welcome.

However, according to Tomas Peterson, sports researcher at Malmö University, with fewer children and young people playing organised sports than ten years ago, Sweden is wasting much of the seven billion Swedish kronor it spends on youth sports every year.

"Unfortunately, what many sports clubs do goes against what society wants them to achieve with their funding," explains Peterson, because the focus on being the best discourages those who perhaps aren't considered to be good enough to perform at the highest level.

He goes on to say that their approach also undermines the goal of producing more and better elite sportsmen and women.

Money is ploughed into youth sports every year for a number of reasons, including improving health and in a bid to ensure that Sweden punches above its weight in the international sporting arena.

"I want to be as good as I can be. I'm aiming to be the best in Europe and then better than that," says 15 year-old Swedish table tennis hopeful, Filippa Bergand. She started playing when she was nine, and now trains at least 25 hours a week.

Filippa is the exception, however. Having spoken to young athletes, sports clubs and those who have dropped out of playing sports, Swedish Radio's sports service has discovered concern that sports in Sweden - perhaps contrary to the consensus-driven image of Swedish society abroad - have in fact become too competitive in recent years.

This is turning kids away from doing sport for fun: between 2004 and 2013, the number of young people playing sport in organised clubs fell by a tenth.

And according to Sports in Sweden, an umbrella organisation for sport, sports clubs have focused too much on success which has resulted in children being excluded.

"In my opinion, there are way too many sports clubs and associations that undermine all the goals that they are set to achieve with the support they are given," says Peterson.

And his solution?

Remove their funding, he says.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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