Visie & Beleidsplein

The Netherlands

how the interplay between federations and government helps to build a sporting nation

Breedveld, K., & Hoekman, R. (2017). The Netherlands: how the interplay between federations and government helps to build a sporting nation. In J. Scheerder, Sport policy systems and sport federations (pp. 201-219)

In 2010, the Dutch head of sports ('technisch directeur') Maurits Hendriks calculated that a gold medal costs the Dutch considerably less than than it costs in the UK or any other leading sporting nation. This finding had considerable appeal to the Dutch since it is well known that they are keen on keeping their money in their pockets. As a nation that is dominated historically by the middle classes, and with a culture firmly rooted in a Protestant ethic, hard work and a concern over money are part and parcel of Dutch heritage. Furthermore, even though the Dutch are as proud of their sporting heroes as any other nation, the country is relatively hesistant when it comes to making investments in elite sport. In Dutch society standing out from the crowd may quickly give rise to negative emotions, such as sceptism, envy and jealousy. There is, for example, a characteristic Dutch saying that states 'Act normal, that's crazy enough'. No wonder, then, that earning medals while having to make a large investment in elite sports had considerable appeal to the Dutch. What does this fact tell us about the sports culture in the Netherlands? Can the Dutch be rightfully labelled a sporting nation and, if so, what kind of sporting nation might that be? And, more importantly, how can it be that a gold medal costs the Dutch less that the British, or, for that matter, the Australians?



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Koen Breedveld
Remco Hoekman

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