Elite sporting success at national level positively impacts amateur participation
Recent research in Applied Economics Letters studied the ‘trickle-down effect’ whereby national footballing success inspires increased personal involvement in the game from amateur footballers. Past research has not completely corroborated that victory at national level triggers burgeoning amateur participation, but through longitudinally studying the relationship between German national wins and individual club memberships from 1950 – 2014, authors Frick & Wicker have proven a connection.
Spikes in registered club members, according to German Footballing Association Membership data, in the 1970s correlated with Men’s 1972 European Championships and 1974 World Cup titles. Individual memberships increased by more than 100,000 in the year following a German World Cup win; an undeniable link between elite success and growth at grassroots level. The long time frame of the study, covering over 50 years helped the pair avoid many shortfalls of previous research, and allowing secondary data for more impartiality and factoring in controls such as income and working hours of club members.
Interestingly, Women’s teams did not see a similar increase in memberships following the Women’s European Championship titles. Frick & Wicker urge for more research to determine why women seem not to be motivated by success at national level and encourage cross-gender analysis to determine “whether (fe)males are more inspired by sporting success of (fe)males and vice versa.” In addition, they suggested that “Future studies should also examine the inspirational effect of sporting success on informal participation as opposed to club-related participation” – and with events such as the Rugby World Cup about to begin, we may expect to see just that.
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