Sport & Society

The Sport & Society chair focuses on the public values of sports, such as well-being, inclusion and public health, and sport-related social challenges, such as doping, match-fixing, corruption, criminal infiltration and political interference. The research questions centre on what public values and public issues arise in sports, how public and private organisations deal with them and what this means for society in general and the sports world in particular.

The core research themes of the Sport & Society chair stem from the growing interconnectedness of sports with society. Broader societal and political developments affect sports while, vice versa, the social impact of sport is increasing. Through critical analysis, the research group aims to offer concrete solutions to these issues and have an impact on society, within and outside the sports sector.

There are a wide range of crucial cases in the sports sector, in which relevant, general governance and organisational issues feature prominently, often to an extreme degree. Examples are issues relating to diversity in organisations, the cultural aspects of diversity in organisations, the cultural aspects of organisational change, the hybridisation of organisations, private authority and the creation of public values.

The research programme focuses on two interrelated themes: Value creation in sport and public value creation, and public-private problem-solving.

The Sport & Society chair is led by prof. Maarten van Bottenburg.


  • Value creation in sport and public value creation
  • Public-private problem-solving
  • Research and projects
  • Publications
  • Collaboration
  • Research Staff

Value creation in sport and public value creation

This theme centres on questions such as: to what extent does the sports world comply with broader public values, such as gender equality, child-friendliness and integrity? What do social developments, such as the increasing diversity, mean for the sports world? How do actors and stakeholders in sports respond to the call to leverage and increase the societal significance of sports? How can sports organisations contribute (or not) to health, inclusion, safety and sustainability, for example? And how can they increase their public value(s) using alternative methods of organisation, governance and management? To what extent has fair play evolved into a public value and what is the significance of fair play in society as a whole?

In addition: how does this impact old and new institutions within and outside the sports sector? What does it mean for the sports world when sports are used as a means of achieving policy goals that transcend sports? What action can administrators and managers take so that sports organisations can create public values appropriate to their context and identity?

Public-private problem-solving

This theme centres on questions such as: how do general public issues, such as violence, corruption, racism and sexual intimidation manifest themselves in sports? Vice versa, how do sport-specific problems, such as doping and match-fixing, affect public issues such as public health and crime? How are actors and stakeholders responding to the call to address these issues, and what does this mean for sports organisations in terms of transparency, compliance and accountability, as well as for the democratic content, the quality and effectiveness of sports governance? What strategic interactions and collaborations does this create between public and private organisations and what is the impact on old and new institutions in the sport sector?

Research and projects

  • PhD research: Rutger de Kwaasteniet on the rise of women's football in the Netherlands and what this means for the governance and organisation of football clubs; Arend van Haaften on ethnic diversity in sports;
  • The end of membership as we know it? Research on sustainable social ties in organised sports. Prof Maarten van Bottenburg, Dr Michel van Slobbe and Arend van Haaften (in collaboration with the Utrecht University Faculty of Geoscience UU, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, the NOC*NSF Olympic Committee and 15 sports associations);
  • Calibrating Inclusive Sporting Encounters, research (2019-2023) on the crucial role of organisation networks and primary care professionals in helping people in vulnerable positions to engage in sports. Dr. Maikel Waardenburg is project leader of this transdisciplinary research project, in which research universities, universities of applies sciences and social institutions collaborate in two living labs in Utrecht and Eindhoven.
  • Erasmus+-project Strengthening Athletes Power in Sport aimed at increasing democracy and transparency in the sports world, an initiative of the Danish Institute for Sports Studies. Researcher: Dr. Arnout Geeraert (in collaboration with Swansea University, Pompeu Fabra University, EU Athletes, the NOC*NSF Olympic Committee and others);
  • Erasmus+-project Evidence-based prevention of Sport-related match-fixing aimed at identifying the scale of sport-related match-fixing and prevention, an initiative of Ghent University. Researchers: Prof Maarten van Bottenburg, Dr. Marianne Dortants and Dr. Ineke Deelen (in collaboration with Université de Lausanne, Loughborough University, societal partners and other parties);
  • The development of the 'Sports Governance Observer', which measures and analyses good governance in international sports federations, with applications for international sports federations and national sports association in Flanders and the Netherlands. Researchers: Dr. Arnout Geerart and Dr. Frank van Eekeren (in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Sport Studies, Play the Game, and others).
  • The high-level sports climate measurement. A regular survey commissioned by the NOC*NSF Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport on the competitive high-level sports climate in the Netherlands. Researchers: Dr Jan-Willem van der Roest (in collaboration with the Mulier Institute);
  • Sport Policy Actors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS). International comparative analysis of the relationship between policy and success in competitive high-level sports. Researcher: Dr. Jan-Willem van der Roest and prof Maarten van Bottenburg (in collaboration with Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Sheffield Hallam University and Victoria University).
  • Evaluation of the Dutch Sports Council (Nederlandse Sportraad) Evaluation of the added value of the Dutch Sports Council, focusing on the performance and positioning of the council and the impact and quality of its recommendations, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. Researchers: Dr. Ineke Deelen and Dr. Frank van Eekeren (in collaboration with DSP-groep).


Researchers engaged in the Sport & Society core themes work with partners in professional practice, including municipalities (Utrecht, evaluation of the Local Sports Agreement and Vuelta a Hollanda), ministries (VWS, evaluation of the Dutch Sports Council), sports associations (KNVB WorldCoaches, KNGU governance structure), sports umbrella organization NOC*NSF (Eilte Sport Climate Measurement, Good Sports Governance) and other sports-related organizations such as the Johan Cruyff Foundation, Krajicek Foundation, FNV Sport and Coöperatie Eerste Divisie.

In addition, we work strategically with other research institutes and groups within and outside Utrecht University. Examples are the Sport & Society research focus area (faculty cooperation within Utrecht University, research into integrity and criminal undermining in sport) and the strategic alliance ‘Vitality Academy’ (an inter-university cooperation between Utrecht University, UMCU and TU/e, research into new sports interventions for vulnerable groups).

Research staff