Integration and Empowerment: Organized Sports and Newcomers in Finland

This two–year project (1.1.2022–31.12.2023) funded by Kone Foundation with the minority research experts PhD Malte Gasche and M.Sc. Anni Reuter intends to examine the link between opportunities for involvement in organized sport and social integration of newcomers in Finnish society. We are specifically interested in how such a participation can contribute to individual and collective empowerment of persons with a migrant background. With a study focus on the Helsinki Area and in a unique collaboration with the Finnish Basketball, Boxing, Football, Handball, Ice Hockey and Ski Association, the project situates organized sports in the context of the Finnish welfare state with its aims to promote inclusion, to safeguard equality and to nourish each human being’s creative potential but will also draw attention to trends of social segregation in Finnish society, including socioeconomic preconditions and racial prejudices. For this reason, the project will examine the integration prospects of organized sports from a structural and an individual perspective. In the proposed study integration is understood as a process whereby the individual maintains his or her own cultural identity while at the same time starts to participate in the host culture (Berry, 1997 & 2001).

The aim of the project is also to promote widespread debate on how participation in club sport can be made accessible to newcomers in Finland. Thus, the project will cooperate with M.A. Petter Lindberg, cultural producer at the Finnish public broadcaster Yle, to facilitate the non-academic dissemination of its research results, such as debate and documentary programmes. Moreover, in collaboration with the Sports Museum of Finland the project will develop an online exhibition format on the museum’s website to present the results of the project.