Considering the personal challenges of refugees


4.4 Implementation into practice – breaking down the barriers

As we addressed earlier, it is important to consider the development of the organisation as a long-term project. That’s partly because change takes time but also so that the changes you make will not feel temporary. It is vital to avoid the sense that development is not taken seriously because not enough time is set aside for it. A successful project will require a unique mix of ideas, suitable for the unique nature of the particular sports setting.

Although sport can be found all over the world, not every sport is found in every country. Sports can also be organised differently in different countries or continents. As someone who has recently arrived in a new country, it can be a challenge to find a way into the local sports club. Think about how your club is recruiting new members, who are the leaders, how is the organisation run and who can the participants identify with? The answers to these questions look different in different countries, and can sometimes even vary between different sports in the same country.

As we mention in Chapter 2: Intercultural Dialogue, internationality can be challenging. Differences in cultures and traditions can cause misunderstandings and even conflicts, which is why it is important that we take steps to use interculturality and to learn how to interact with each other in a beneficial way.

We have seen positive effects from organisations that have been able to think outside of the box when it comes to recruiting new participants, sometimes including looking to other organisations to collaborate with. Some sports clubs create a partnership with organisations such as the Red Cross or Save the Children, who have already earned credibility with the target groups.

Being visible where the target group is active is also a route to success. Meeting people at asylum housing, in residential areas, at ethnic associations, school parental meetings or even language courses for adults can all be effective.

Another successful tactic is being active on social media and on websites which target the group you want to reach. Using these platforms, the club can invite people to different events and describe how to become active within the organisation.

It is important that sports bodies who want to open up to a new target group do not do this by creating new activities and making these only available to the target group.

This form of set-up is only a short-term solution and is not genuinely inclusive. It may be a starting point but it needs to be developed to reflect an inclusive sport which offers several routes to participation and which is open to all. Opening different routes for those who wish to get fit, for those who want to train and compete in a fun environment and for those who wish to focus on winning is a way of retaining participants.

In Sweden, there is an increase in sports teams that are linked to an ethnic or cultural association, rather than to sport. They arrange training in different forms, often within a sport that is popular in their culture and that is likely to have been experienced earlier in the life of the participants. But this approach is a symptom of sports clubs not having opened up properly and thus increasing exclusion despite wanting to work against it.

To get to the finishing line we need to take several steps and at this stage it is helpful to think about micro- and macro-actions.

Micro-actions take place at an individual level and include acts like speaking up when someone is unfairly treated or wearing a captain’s armband in the rainbow colours to show support for the LGBTQ movement. Macro-actions take place on an organisational level, i.e. structurally, and involve the whole organisation moving in the right direction - for example, working to get a balanced board.

Sport can be a great platform to include and welcome refugees to a new country. Through sport we can create a familiar context and use it to help start building a network for participants. Although it is important to feel at home on all levels in a new country, sport can help guide the way.

In the next chapter are five concrete tips on how to make your association more inclusive.

Download the Action plan as PDF-File


ASPIRE - Contact Information


House of Sports
Box 110 16
100 61 Stockholm

Privacy Policy

e-mail: [email protected]

ASPIRE - Twitter-Hashtag

Follow us on Facebook