PtG Article 19.06.2023

SAPIS project launches good practice guide to strengthen athletes’ power in sport

A new guide aims to inspire athlete representatives and other stakeholders to empower athletes in the governance of their sports by sharing best practices and research findings.

The last decades have seen a number of sports scandals arising – ranging from institutionalised doping to sexual abuse, and widespread corruption – where it has been evident that the athletes affected were not engaged with nor heard.

Such instances point to an increasingly pressing issue of athletes being excluded from the meeting rooms where important decisions are made. Although some progress has been made in the last couple of years, athletes are still most often deprived from positions of influence concerning decisions that affect their sport, their daily lives, and their (future) careers.

The project ‘Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport’ (SAPIS) has worked since 2020 to strengthen the influence and representation of athletes in their sports organisations. It is supported by the Erasmus+ programme under the European Union and co-financed by the project partners.

Building on three years of research, the SAPIS project’s partners are now launching the guide ‘Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport – A guide to opening new ways in sports governance’.

A guide to opening new ways in sports governance

The guide aims at enabling athletes to raise their voices, but also gives advice to stakeholders as to how athletes are best involved in the way their sport is governed:

“SAPIS is the first occasion where academics and athlete representatives have worked together to identify the most important challenges for athlete representation and how to overcome them. We hope the findings will inspire not only athletes, but all stakeholders in this very dynamic area,” says Jens Sejer Andersen, coordinator of SAPIS and international director of Play the Game.

The good practice guide highlights three types of democratic involvement and defines the most central forms of athlete representation. It identifies some of the most important benefits that come from involving athletes and the competences needed to achieve them. It describes four specific cases that illustrate best practices. Finally, it lays out important findings from the original scientific research conducted by SAPIS.

”The guide gives concrete, usable advice that builds on extensive research into representation of workers and other key stakeholders from both inside and outside the sports field. Athlete representatives, sports governing bodies and advocacy groups have shared experiences through surveys and interviews,” explains Jens Sejer Andersen while stressing that the guide does not instruct people in exactly what to do. Instead, it lays out good practices and essential questions to support and increase the effectiveness of athlete representatives.

Next step: Disseminating the findings of SAPIS

Building on the good practice guide, SAPIS partners will host a series of seminars, where stakeholders are invited to learn more about the SAPIS project’s findings and take part in important discussions on how to empower athletes. The first seminar will take place on 20 June 2023 in Helsinki followed by seminars in Ljubljana, Amsterdam, and Barcelona throughout the autumn of 2023.

In conclusion of the SAPIS project, a dissemination conference will be held in Leuven on 28 September 2023 during the European Week of Sport. Here, the project’s findings will be presented.

Read more about the project and partners at

SAPIS partners

  • European Elite Athletes Association
  • JPY - Football Players Association of Finland
  • NOC*NSF - The Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation
  • Pompeu Fabra University, Spain
  • Swansea University, United Kingdom
  • University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Play the Game (project coordinator)

The project is co-funded by the European Union's Erasmus+ programme with a grant of approximately 251,000 euro.

Download the good practice guide

PtG Publication June 2023

Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport - A guide to opening new ways in sports governance

Read more about the SAPIS project


Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport (SAPIS)