Sport and the Sustainable Development Goals: Where is the policy coherence?

Iain Lindsey, Paul Darby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)
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This article addresses the urgent need for critical analysis of the relationships between sport and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals enshrined in the United Nations’ global development framework, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Importantly, there has yet to be any substantial academic exploration of the implications of the position accorded to sport as ‘an important enabler’ of the aims of 2030 Agenda and its broad set of Sustainable Development Goals. In beginning to address this gap, we draw on the concept of policy coherence for two reasons. First, the designation of a specific Target for policy coherence in the 2030 Agenda is recognition of its centrality in working towards Sustainable Development Goals that are considered as ‘integrated and indivisible’. Second, the concept of policy coherence is centred on a dualism that enables holistic examination of both synergies through which the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals can be enhanced as well as incoherencies by which sport may detract from such outcomes. Our analysis progresses through three examples that respectively focus on: the common orientation of the Sport for Development and Peace ‘movement’ towards education-orientated objectives aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4; potential synergies between sport participation policies and the Sustainable Development Goal 3 Target for reducing non-communicable diseases; and practices within professional football in relation to several migration-related Sustainable Development Goal Targets. These examples show the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals across diverse sectors of the sport industry and illustrate complexities within and across countries that make pursuit of comprehensive policy coherence infeasible. Nevertheless, our analyses lead us to encourage both policy makers and researchers to continue to utilise the concept of policy coherence as a valuable lens to identify and consider factors that may enable and constrain various potential contributions of sport to a range of Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-812
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Early online date22 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2019


  • 2030 Agenda
  • education
  • health
  • migration
  • United Nations


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