When it comes to its public value, sport is seen as a valuable instrument in intervening in social issues (compare Spaaij 2011). With regard to children and youth – the issue in this chapter – sport is seen as potentially able to stimulate pro-social behaviour, to provide learning of life skills to disadvantaged youths and to enhance the social and physical development of children (Gatz et al. 2002; Rutten 2007; Coakley 2011). In the dominant discourse of sports policy-makers and sports practitioners (Vermeulen 2011), depicted as ‘sport evangelists’ by Giulianotti (2004), sport is not so much valued for its own sake but rather for its potential to cure social ills. Two insights from sociological studies on sport are relevant in critically reflecting on the social value of sport. First, there is the issue of what Gatz et al. (2002, p. 1) refer to as ‘the paradoxes of sport’. While many sports programmes advocate social inclusion, the bridging of ethnic and gender differences and the advancement of peace, sports practice itself is marked by exclusion, unequal participation and even violence. Such paradoxes have to be taken into account when assessing sport’s public value. Second, studies indicate that it is quite difficult to substantiate claims about the positive outcomes of sport-based interventions since gathering evidence is conceptually and methodologically complicated (Haudenhuyse et al. 2012, p. 2; Coakley 2011).

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.4337/9781781006962.00013, hdl.handle.net/1765/103692
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Vermeulen, J. (Jeroen). (2013). The organization of social issues through sport: Youths in public playgrounds. In Managing Social Issues: A Public Values Perspective (pp. 88–104). doi:10.4337/9781781006962.00013