When considering international obesity levels (as based on BMI) Australia demonstrate the highest levels at 63% (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). In contrast, obesity levels in the UK are shown to measure 24.9% and Finland 15.9% (NHS, 2016; OECD, 2014). Green and Collin (2008) conducted research, which compared the sports policies in place in Australia and Finland. Furthermore, this research found that regardless of governmental recognition of increasing obesity rates and increased physical inactivity, countries which prioritised elite level sport, would continue to do so as a result of the self-retained values within that country (Evans, 2005).
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In undertaking a comparison of Australia, Finland and the UK, this essay is able to add, modern twin approach systems; such as that adopted in the UK, can work with relative effect as demonstrated by the statistics above. The UK was able to develop their elite sport system, whilst maintaining levels of physical activity levels greater than those seen in Australia. However, it should be noted that this analysis does not consider wider issues which may have substantial effects on measures such as physical activity (Bauman et al., 2012). The final part of the “stages model” is labelled maintenance and termination, this stage involves a decision based upon the evaluation of whether a policy should be maintained or terminated (Weible et al., 2011).
Each policy evaluated within this text demonstrates various limitations, from this it can be established that sports policy is a universal issue. In undertaking a rationalist’s perspective the multi-focus approach adopted by the UK seems the best way to approach policy-making (Lacey, 1986). However, it is clear from the policies currently in place within in the UK that they will need to be developed.
In using the “stages model” for this comparative analysis it provided an infrastructure which has guided a more rounded evaluation of the policy process. This helps draw attention to a range of aspects which otherwise could have been missed (Houlihan, 2005). In using this infrastructure, this text has been able to analyse policy as a series of actions which ultimately have led to a policy being put in place (Heywood, 2007). In taking this approach, it has helped provide a more central understanding of how current policies in Australia, Finland and the UK have been developed, providing the basis for this comparison (Houlihan, 2005).
Whilst the “stages model” worked with relative levels of effect, there are apparent limitations to its use. Primarily, Houlihan (2005), proposes that this model provides insufficient focus on the physical production and impact, of policy once it is in place. It could be argued that if analysis fails to capture details on the production and application of policy, then its value is limited due to its inability to aid future practice. More generally, this model has been critiqued for its simplicity. Sabatier (1999), suggests that it is unrealistic to assume that policy-making occurs in fluent cycles. Additionally, John (1998) explains that policy-making is an inherently messy process, which involves going back and forth between stages. The “stages model” is also criticised for its inability to acknowledge the weighting of a decision, consequently it assumes all policies are considered with the same depth (Sabatier, 1999).
Whilst the “stages model” appears to be very heavily critiqued, Cairney (2013) proposes that other models are also limited in their individual use. Furthermore, it is suggested that a combination of these theories would provide a more established means of undertaking a comparative policy analysis (Cairney, 2012; Ostrom, 1999). This is important, as when considering the general value of comparative policy analysis, this example may have adopted a structure which does not demonstrate its true potential (Cairney, 2013).
The overarching purpose of this text was to help determine the value of comparative policy analysis within the context of sport. De Knop et al. (1996) explains, knowledge can be developed through direct comparison, in following this notion it could be suggested as countries compare and contrast their polices effective practice is more likely to be established. On this occasion it has been identified that Australia perform well within elite sport and Finland are capable of encouraging high levels of participation, it could be suggested a hybrid design of these policies could produce a system capable of high participation rates and elite achievement.
Furthermore, comparative policy analysis can lead to the development of completely new insights. These can be considered important to the overall development of international policy (De Knop et al., 1996). In a conclusive statement, the value of comparative policy analysis can be seen in its ability to draw cross-national perspectives which are capable of developing universal concept which can be beneficial to human societies (Gibbs, Kraemer, and Dedrick, 2003).
This essay has shown different comparative analyses of Finland, Australia and the UK in relation to different sports culture, provision and organisational structure. It has demonstrated Australia’s commitment to elite sport policy, whilst Finland opted for policy relating to mass participation. The UK has attempted a twin approach, with data showing that it leans towards elite sports policy. It could be suggested Australia and the UK opt for political capital over health. This has shown through the rising levels of obesity and inactivity. It was also noted how there was recognition of change needed but implementation of these changes would come at political cost. However, research from Finland showed although the focus was on mass participation, elite performance may have been important too as the ‘doping scandal’ of 2001 proved.
Australia and the UK have shown to focus on success and national pride whereas Finland opted for health. The biggest comparative showed in funding, whilst Finland majorly self-funds participation rates, Australia dedicates just 5% of the sports budget towards mass participation policies. This is hugely reflective in obesity and inactivity levels. Whilst this essay also recognised the limitations of the stages model, it could be argued until a more thorough model is designed, this is most appropriate. In conclusion, a thorough model needs to be adapted to be more inclusive of factors which may affect policy-making. In reflection of the policies using the current stages model, policy approaches could adapt a hybrid design, incorporating both approaches, such as the UK, in both participation and elite success.