The European Sport Model for Inclusion

The InSport project “Sport Inclusion – Full Participation in Sport by Persons with Disabilities” is co-funded by the European Union (EU) under the Erasmus + program and ran run from January 2018 to June 2020. The aim is to propose a European Sport Model and its Implementation Guide for the full participation of persons with disabilities in the practice of physical activity and sport as part of a single sport system and organized structure of the Member States of the European Union, and in general in Europe, being able to extend this Model to the other regions of the planet.




Currently the European Union has about 80 million people and this is expected to reach 120 million by 2020 (Ecorys, 2018; EU, 2019). About 15% are persons with disabilities (EU, 2019; WHO, 2019; World Bank, 2019).

Persons with disabilities are less active and involved in physical activity and sport compared to persons without disabilities (WHO, 2006). Ray Ewry,an athlete with disabilities, participated and was medallist in the second edition of the 1900 Olympic Games. During the Rio 2016 Games, some athletes with disabilities were also participating at the Paralympic and Olympic Games, at the same time. In Europe, the creation of sports clubs for persons with disabilities began in the 19th century. However, in 1924, the first disability sports organization – Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS/ICSD – International Committee of Sports for the Deaf) emerged, in parallel with the IOC – International Olympic Committee, which held the first World Deaf Games in the same year (currently Deaflympics).

The IOC has about 344 members (from 206 countries and 138 sports organizations) and 40 Olympic, summer and winter sports. The five parallel IOC organizations for the athletes with disabilities that host the World Games and Paralympics have a total of 659 members, 584 of which number countries (378 more than IOC) and 126 sports (86 more than IOC). Undoubtedly, there are the member countries that assume not only the burdens of the national but also the international plan, which needlessly quadruple as in the case with a total of 790 Olympic and Paralympic member countries (in total of 206 Olympic), as well as 40% corresponding to 166 Olympic and Paralympic sports (in total of 40 Olympic).

Recently, in June 2019, the United States announced the constitution of a single Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the fourth country to do so). The Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports has been, since 2008, one of the good examples of unifying national organizing and structures of sports for all.

Much is said and compared between American Model and the European Model of Sport, which is referred to as an open, democratic system with a pyramidal rather and not a horizontal structure that promotes volunteerism and focuses on solidarity between the elite and the amateur levels.

Although the European Commission recognizes the difficulty in establishing a unified model for the organization of sport in Europe, it’s limited to a sports system that is neither supportive nor inclusive to persons with disabilities and other vulnerable populations with a few participation opportunities (White Paper on Sport, 2007; Lisbon Treaty, 2009; Developing the European Dimension in Sport, 2011).




The two main objectives of this output 2, corresponding to the second phase of the InSport Project; the “Development of a Proposal for a European Model for Inclusion” and, simultaneously, the “Guide(s) for Implementation”, of this model, which aims to improve the access and participation of persons with disabilities in the regular structures of sport, avoiding the exclusion, discrimination with the consequent overlapping of organizations and the waste of resources, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the sports politic system.

The specific focus of the study focuses on local and close to the citizen framework structures (where they live and develop their activities) with particular emphasis on governmental entities (Local Authorities for Sport, Education, Health and Municipality) and non-governmental actors, the sports associations (sports clubs as the base unit that can ensure proper framing and participation). The local and proximity structure is framed in different geographical dimensions (National, European and International), according to three dimensions – the Political Sports System, the Organizing Structure of Sport and finally, access and sport participation. The latter served to focus on addressing the problem of overcoming barriers and obstacles to access and participation, at the same time as a strategy for launching a superstructure solution.

Considering the results obtained in Output 1, which provide data on countries and Europe, we conducted a brief literature review about disability and sport, which has involved the definition of the organizational model for persons with disabilities on the one hand, and on the other, the public system, which made it possible to draw up a proposal for a model and its implementation guide.

The desk research complemented an analysis through official policy documents and papers, legislative and policy frameworks, academic publications, available data, and information. We have attached an extensive bibliography as well as documents, which were used and presented at the transnational meetings and skype meeting.




The great objective which remains to be put into practice is the fact that the European Commission recognizes that “Persons with disabilities have the right to participate on an equal basis with others in sporting activities” as provided in point 2.5 of “Social inclusion in and through sport” from the literary work “Developing the European Dimension in Sport” (2011, p.6).

The great lesson to be learned from the Model and for the Guide is the need to educate society at large about the idea that inclusion means placing athletes with and without disabilities side by side, competing, and only after identifying who was the winner, draw the conclusion and verify if is possible or not. History has proven that between Paris, France in 1900 Summer Olympic Games and Brazil, Rio 2016, athletes with disabilities have participated in the Olympic Games and many of them, won medals.

But inclusion and participation (recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee), the merger, a joint administration of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (1991), the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (2019) and the “Integration of Disabled and Deaf Athletes into Mainstreaming Sport in Norway” (which resulted in the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports in 2007) are few of the good examples of what inclusion might be. A “European Sport Model for Inclusion” and the “Guide(s) for Implementation of the European Sport Model for Inclusion” should be seen as facilitators of inclusion and participation in sport.

The Output 1 review and output 2 agree on the importance and need to reflect on national policies, international conventions, international disability and sport recommendations and instruments, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport of UNESCO, Lisbon Treaty, White Paper on Sport, Developing the European Dimension in Sport, EU Work Plan for Sport, and others.

The review and output 2 coincide on the need, in terms of the political system, to reinforce in the National Constitutions the introduction of specific articles about disability and sport, which provide not only the right to participate but also for the role of state in supporting this.

The review and output 2 coincide on the importance of introducing into the political and legislative system a law on habilitation and social inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The review and output 2 coincided on the Basic Law in SportFinancing and about Grassroots Promotion and Development Programs and High Performance, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Projects.

The review and output 2 agree on the proposal to create the “European Model for Inclusion in Sport” as they recognize that the current “European Sport Model” doesn’t favour the participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in sport. In addition, there is the difficulty created in the sports system due to the variety, multiplicity and complexity of governance and management of the structures existing in the member states, as well as the need to create a new structure at local level with a transectoral, horizontal and vertical articulation between Government and Non-Governmental Sectors.

The European Model for Inclusion in Sport is based at the local level, a structure built by local authorities in the Sports, Education, Health and Municipalities and Sports Clubs sectors.

The Model focuses in a holistic perspective on persons with disabilities. It advocates local intervention without neglecting the global, whether nationally, in Europe or globally. The creation of objective and subjective conditions of access and participation takes into account barriers/obstacles (negative aspects) and facilitators (positive aspects), according to the three levels: individual, social and environmental. Ensuring full participation will take into account four factors: first addressing people’s interests and motivations, second adapting activities to their capacities, third the health and safety of those involved, and fourthly enabling them to achieve goals and successful participation.

The realization of awareness raising actions, which includes information, training, dissemination, demonstration and experimentation that should be common and transversal to all sectors and have access to the Implementation Guide.

The Implementation Guide for the Health Sector provides for three dimensions of intervention. The first is to advise and refer persons with disabilities to physical activity and sports. The second in prescribing physical activity according to WHO recommendations. The third in the creation of integrated sport responses in the Therapeutic Rehabilitation and Social Inclusion Program into and through Sport.

The Implementation Guide for the Education Sector provides for the required education period (0-18 years old) has three intervention dimensions. One within the range of awareness. The second is inclusion and participation in physical education classes. The third is participation in School Sports. Furthermore, in higher education, the participation in University Sports.

The Implementation Guides for Sport Sectors and Municipalities also have three dimensions of intervention. One in the context of awareness. The second stage of the technical, human, material and financial support that entities provided to citizens and to the local and private entities that support persons with disabilities. The third is the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in programs that the respective entities, promote and develop.

The Implementation Guide for Sports Clubs has three major areas of intervention. The first is in the field of awareness. The second is through participation in the Promotion and Development of Basic and High-Performance Sport. The third is through the participation of persons with disabilities as a sports agent, volunteer or professional, without management of sports organizations.