Six Sporting Worlds: A Cluster Analysis of Sports Participation in 25 European Member States

The aim of this study is to identify clusters of European nations grouped by sports participation outcomes—in particular, the organizational context and intensity of sports participation—in order to provide sensible groupings for international comparisons. We extracted sports participation data for 25 European member states from the 2004 Eurobarometer survey. We used both a hierarchical and a K-means clustering method to identify groupings of countries that are homogeneous in terms of sports participation profiles. Six clusters of countries were identified: (a) not to average fitness countries; (b) active club countries; (c) average non-organized countries; (d) average school countries; (e) active centipede countries; and (f) very active countries. This study reveals considerable differences between European countries’ sports participation profiles when viewed across clusters of countries grouped by actual sporting outcomes. This empirically derived taxonomy has advantages over traditional, more ad hoc systems for comparing sports participation and for deciding which countries appear to have the most comparable sports participation profiles. Moreover, it shows that policy strategies for increasing sports participation in European countries need a differentiated approach and have to take into account that each of the six sporting clusters has both different levels of intensity of sport and of opportunity for participation in sport.