Our role: Building bridges between academics and sport development practitioners

Our vision: An environment in the UK where sport and physical activity policy and practice is influenced and shaped by academic research

What we are: An informal network of academics and practitioners which everyone is welcome to be part of, led by a small group of people dedicated to achieving its vision.

What we do:

  1. Organise events

An annual conference aimed at sharing recent academic and collaborative academic/practitioner research related to sport development

A regular series of seminars discussing and debating current policy issues from an academic research perspective

  1. Influence policy

Influence a range of policy makers using academic research to inform debate and decision making through providing a critical friend role

  1. Communicate and collaborate

Promote the findings of academic research amongst a network of academics and practitioners through published journals and other methods

Provide a digital forum for connecting academics and practitioners

Promote collaborative academic/practitioner projects where
opportunities arise

Our impact and outcomes

Strong and effective academic-practitioner relationships

Accessible research contributing to enhancements in sport and physical
activity policy and practice

A network of critically engaged, reflective academics and practitioners

An effective, efficient and sustainable professional network.


UKSDN – how we define sport development

The UKSDN acknowledges and embraces the contested nature and purpose of sport development, believing this to be one of its unique strengths.

The Council of Europe definition of sport provides a reference point for the UKSDN’s involvement with the policy and practice of sport development:

‘Sport’ means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.

The UKSDN has adopted a broad and inclusive conceptualization of sport development in which it is viewed as:

  • A process, or processes, the precise nature and purpose of which may vary between different organisations
  • Being concerned with the policy and practice of sport, specifically programmes of intervention based on principles and practices of: participation; inclusion; equity; social justice; behavior change; personal, social and community development; health and well being; talent identification, development and sporting excellence; peace
  • A collaborative endeavor underpinned by partnerships
  • A professional discipline requiring the reflective and critical engagement of policy makers, practitioners and academics, underpinned by theory, evidence and research


Sport development, as defined above, is mostly publicly (including Lottery) funded but also includes the work of voluntary and charitable bodies, commercial organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Sport development is viewed as a sub-discipline of the sport industry/sector, with important links to other sub-disciplines such as sport management and sport science, requiring its own professional identity and career structure.

UKSDN recognizes that sport development in the UK is closely aligned to Government policy. Whilst this is an important consideration in our work, we will not be overly restricted to this in recognition of the need and our desire for the Network to act as a critical friend and advocate in sport policy and practice debates.