Similar to international trends, this investigation of social exclusion/inclusion from sport was preceded by studying the impact of poverty on sport participation in Hungary. Research was made on inequality of chances and on the disadvantaged position of the lower classes in sport, even in state socialism. Following the transformation of the political regime in 1989-1990, there was a growing interest in exploring unequal social opportunities in sport, not only by marginal social groups, but also by the increasing number of lower middle class people dropping behind. However, Hungarian sport has never been studied in the context of social exclusion/inclusion. The objective of this paper is to approach sport in Hungary from these perspectives. Attempts are made to answer the following questions: in which fields of Hungarian sport can social exclusion be observed? How is social exclusion from sport linked to age, gender, dwelling place, socio-economic status and to the lack of cultural and social capital? How is the concept of social exclusion/inclusion understood by the actors in Hungarian sport? How can sport be used as a means to promote social inclusion for people marginalized by economic, social and cultural barriers? In order to answer the above questions, the following methods were used: analyses of recent research findings on Hungarians' sport participation with a focus on deprivation; in-depth interviews with key persons (N= 15) in Hungarian sport with the aim to discover how the concept of social exclusion/inclusion is understood by them; and analyses of documents to explore which measures have been taken by sport policy to tackle social exclusion. The results show that exclusion from sport is widespread in Hungarian society. It is linked in a combined way to poverty, education, ethnicity, age, and settlements. It is established in early childhood and lasts the whole life cycle. Key excluded groups are in hopeless situations due to economic, social and cultural aspects, so they cannot overcome this problem alone. They receive assistance in several other areas, but they are left to their own resources in sport-related issues. Legally they should have access to sport, but they cannot claim their rights. The concept of combating social exclusion is generally not incorporated into the objectives and values of sport clubs and federations; it has not yet been an integral part of sport culture in Hungary. Government documents contain declarations in connection to tackling social exclusion, but very few actions are implemented to promote social inclusion. A major conclusion of the paper is that a serious modification of sport policy does not mainly depend on the lack of financial recourses but on the lack of a strong determination of the Government. The involvement of the Hungarian population in sporting activity and the intention for their inclusion are much lower than it could be under the present economic circumstances.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.