Towards an EU Sport Diplomacy policy recommendations imagine a streamlined use of sport as a soft power tool

By Anita Kiraly, Communications Officer, ISCA

The Towards an EU Sport Diplomacy (TES-D) project gathered a unique European consortium of professionals, who capped off the project by releasing policy recommendations that promote a more consistent understanding and practice of EU-level sport diplomacy. Following two years of thorough research, numerous discussions between the partners and relevant stakeholders, the most precise and relevant document on the topic is now available!

At the EU-level, sport is a relevant tool through which EU nations can build new relationships and strengthen their shared European identity. The contemporary European context has enhanced the need to develop and promote an EU diplomacy that uses sport as a vehicle, as sport has a prominent presence in popular culture and politics. In particular, sport is seen as a legitimate soft power tool serving as a means through which nations can improve their international reputation whilst building political, cultural and economic bridges between countries. Strategies have been built around the concept of “sport diplomacy” and in academia, sport diplomacy can stand on its own or fit within broader concepts of cultural and/or public diplomacy.

As it was first expressed in the 2007 White Paper on Sport, the EU counts on sport to promote EU values and serve as an element of dialogue between countries. If we consider sport as culture, situated within the broader field of cultural diplomacy, the EU has also expressed international cultural relations as one of its priorities.

Anchored within this context, and conscious of the economic, social, political and cultural benefits at stake for the EU, the Towards an EU Sport Diplomacy (TES-D) project has gathered a unique European consortium of partners from universities, think tanks and associations in order to develop relevant policy recommendations from their collaborative work.

What if we built an EU sport diplomacy by adding the sum of all existing sport diplomacies of the 27 EU nations?

Building on this hypothesis that the knowledge of all existing national sport diplomacies of the 27 member States of the EU can be used to create coherent and implementable policy recommendations at the EU-level, TES-D’s guiding principle was to mix academic inquiry, practitioner perspectives and empirical knowledge. 

As a result of this two-year work, in addition to building on the recommendations of the EU High-Level Group on Sport Diplomacy formulated in 2016, as well as various works and articles published, a desk research was conducted including a literature review on sport diplomacy, on case studies of extra-European sport diplomacy, reflecting on the development, strengths and challenges of EU sport diplomacy, and five pilot actions were also carried out in order to provide relevant advice for the final recommendations.

Relying on these elements, the TES-D team extracted key facets of a framework that allowed them to formulate concrete recommendations for the stakeholders involved at EU level. In the process, the consortium approached the topic over four stages:

Stage 1: Strategy – to outline sport diplomacy strategic objectives;
Stage 2: Governance – as there is no proper policy without adequate governance, to provide a framework for sport diplomacy actors to share best practice;
Stage 3: Impacts – to identify appropriate outcomes and impacts in policy development;
Stage 4: Futures – to design the future of sport diplomacy. 

You can access the full recommendations here


Posted on 06/03/2023 by Anita Kiraly, Communications Officer, ISCA