Blogs

Atalanta B.C. – from “lift club” to CL quarter-finalist

November 23, 2020

“The main explanations for our performance success are a systematic game concept, the ability to develop the individual players and the crew treatment at a very high level. We cannot afford to buy world stars like the big clubs as Juventus F.C., A.C. Milan, F.C. Inter, A.S. Roma or S.S. Lazio, but instead find potential top players both in – and not least outside – Italy. In addition, we must develop talented youth players in our academy, which is one of Italy’s absolute best. And we have been very successful in recent seasons. Today we have players from 12 different countries and players such as “Papu” Gomez, Ilicic, Zapata and Hateboer failed to fulfil their potential in other Serie A clubs – it has only really been redeemed here with us”. My good friend Jens Bangsbo is – as always – very precise when, over a double espresso at the restaurant “Cucina” on Mount San Vigilio outside Bergamo, he talks about Atalanta B.C.’s sporting achievements since head coach Gian Piero Gasperini took office in the summer of 2016. Bangsbo is now in his third season at the club, which last season reached the quarter-finals of football’s premier tournament: the Champions League.

Strong combination of theoretical knowledge and applied practice

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Jens Bangsbo played over 350 matches in Denmark’s best football league, including for Kastrup Boldklub, Hvidovre IF, Lyngby Boldklub and Esbjerg fB. He’s a graduate of P.E. and math and has written more than 300 scientific articles and 25 books on football. And not least, he has managed to integrate the physical, technical and tactical elements of the game, both in the daily training and the club’s game concept. Bangsbo has also been associated with the Danish national football team for several periods as physical coach during the final rounds and has been coach and educator of the DBU, UEFA and FIFA. Today, Bangsbo is regarded as one of the world’s most competent experts in physical training in football. And the commitment to Atalanta B.C. is today combined with the job of professor in applied physiology at the Department of Sport Science and Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen.

An offensive and aggressive game concept

It was also as a physical coach that Jens Bangsbo met Gian Piero Gasperini at Juventus F.C. – Italy’s most winning club, both nationally and internationally. At the time, Bangsbo was a consultant for the club under legendary coach Marcello Lippi, while Gasperini served as youth coach at the same club. Gasperini and Bangsbo quickly found each other in conversations about the qualities and challenges of different game concepts. Gasperini has always been a believer in an offensive style of play that demands the individual players, both physically, technically, tactically and mentally. “It is far from coincidental that we have been the highest-scoring Serie A team in the last two seasons. Our formation is typically 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 with offensive, aggressive pressure on the opponent. This means that players have to deliver a very large running syllabus in every single game, whether we play at home or away. The game concept also means that all training sessions take place with very high intensity, which is far from suitable for all players. Football is a team sport, but training must be individualised to achieve the greatest possible impact. Therefore, we very often work with specific technical-tactical training in groups of 3-5 players. With us, players must fulfil the game concept – and not the other way around. Therefore, it also happens relatively often that the club buys players that we sell on relatively quickly or rent out, because they simply cannot honor the kind of football that Atalanta B.C. must achieve results on”, says the 63-year-old Bangsbo.

Physical and mental fatigue “just around the corner”

The offensive game concept of aggressive pressure on opponent and a high defensive line with 3 defenders and short distance between defense and midfield also makes in between Atalanta B.C. vulnerable. Not least against teams who master the counter-game at a high level, such as Liverpool F.C. “We have seen that in the first game of the season many goals have been scored against us, both in Serie A and the Champions League. That’s because our pressure game hasn’t worked quite as well as last season. And then we have made too many personal mistakes – it will be punished about the very best teams”, says Bangsbo. Among the reasons for Atalanta B.C.’s good results over a long period of time is according to Bangsbo that the club has been spared from injuries. “We have only used 14-15 players for almost a year, which is quite unusual in terms of the large number of matches we have played. However, we can now see several negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which extended last season and meant virtually no summer break. Many of our players are now both physically and mentally tired after a very large number of matches. It costs that the players have not been given the break their bodies are used to and need. For that reason, I may be a little concerned about the coming weeks as we have to perform in Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. The decisive battle for qualification for the eighth-place final in CL will probably be the match against Ajax in Amsterdam”.

Conversations are the key factor to a very strong sense of community

Jens Bangsbo has worked in Italy for several years now, but has also been associated with clubs in both Greece and Turkey. “I love Italy and football – and not least the Italians’ attitude to life. It was a great experience for me and my family to stay here for three years. We felt welcome and Italians are generally open-minded and very passionate about the things that they find important in life. I have also experienced with Italian top coaches such as Lippi, Ancelotti and Gasperini that they are very adept at seeking advice and guidance from the professional experts who are part of their staff. Italian top coaches often have very high charisma, as is the case with Gasperini. And then they have a clear philosophy with the team’s game concept. In addition, I learn these years a great deal from Gian Piero’s crew treatment. He manages, through often long and in-depth conversations, both with the individual players, the team and the staff around the team, to create a very strong sense of community” continues Bangsbo, who has not set a date for the end of his cooperation with Gasperini and Atalanta B.C. “I have learned from a long life in football that things can change in a split second – also in Italy”.

You can read more with Atalanta B.C. on the website: https://www.atalanta.it


You can also read about Jens Bangsbo’s scientific articles and books on football here:

https://nexs.ku.dk/ansatte/?pure=da/persons/jens-bangsbo%2824839560-f889-42a6-9b73-97b69f101548%29.html

 

 

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«La bella momenti della vita» – about the values of life and football

November 2, 2020

Most Italians have a particular passion for art, design, fashion, gastronomy, wine and … football. For generations of Italians, this has given precisely the beauty and meaning of life: “La bella momenti della vita”, as the life-revelers of the boot country say with enthusiasm and glow in the voices. During these weeks I also enjoy life in and around Bergamo, which just six months ago was the epicentre in Europe of the COVID-19 pandemic. From my apartment in Bergamo’s old town, I have a view of the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital, where doctors and nurses fought 24 hours a day to save lives. The images of military trucks driving coffins from the city’s hospital to the crematory are still to be found on my retina. Lombardy, Italy’s largest and richest region with a population of 10 million, was hit very hard by the covid-19 pandemic, with more than 70% of all cases of infection in Italy taking place here. And Bergamo in particular, which has a population of 120,000 inhabitants, reported more than 100 deaths a day for several weeks on the front pages of the world’s media. Slowly but surely, through curfews and very strict restrictions, health authorities manage to bring the situation under control, but everyday life will never be the same as before the outbreak and deadly force of the COVID-19 pandemic, either in Bergamo, Lombardy or other regions of Italy. Yes – maybe not in the whole world either.

Northern and Southern Italy are two different worlds

There is a big difference between prosperity, living conditions and mentality in Northern and Southern Italy. Rome has always been the capital of Italy and not least the country’s political and religious centre of Western civilization, partly as the capital of the Roman Empire and partly as the home of the Holy See. It was mainly industrialisation at the end of the last century that created great income and wealth disparities between the South and the North in Italy. Today, Northern Italy is rich, industrially well developed and dominated by private companies, while Southern Italy is poor, highly dependent on agriculture and with very high unemployment in several regions. Therefore, it is no coincidence that most, richest and most winning football clubs, both nationally and internationally, are located in Northern Italy. More than 3/4 of the Serie A clubs come from Northern Italy and only S.S.C. Napoli have historically been able to challenge the clubs in Northern Italy.

“The old lady” that no one gets close to

The biggest among Italian clubs is Juventus F.C. from Turin, which has won no less than 37 national Championships. Or more than twice as many as the two Milan clubs – A.C. Milan and F.C. Inter – both of which have won 18 national Championships. “The Old Lady,” the club’s nickname, has won the national Championship for the past nine seasons and there is no indication that any other club can prevent Juventus F.C. with world stars such as Bonucci, Chiellini, Ronaldo and Dybala winning the 10th Championship in a row when the bottom line is to be made up for spring 2021. In addition, Juventus F.C. have won two Champions League titles and three Europa League titles in recent decades. The national and international success of the Turin club has long been a thorn in the side of all tifosi in Milan – Italy’s second largest city with more than 1.3 million inhabitants. And now the two traditional clubs are being squeezed from a completely unexpected edge: Atalanta B.C. from Bergamo.

From “lift club” to Champions League quarter-finalist

Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, founded in 1907 by a group of high school students, has played in Serie A for 58 seasons but never won the national Championship. And until a few seasons ago it was a “lift club” between Serie A and Serie B. But with the recruitment of Gian Piero Gasperini in the summer of 2016, a new era began for the club, which has also had well-known Danish national team players such as Jørgen Leschly Sørensen (1949-1953) and Flemming Nielsen (1961-1964) among the profiles of the club. It was with Flemming Nielsen on the team that Atalanta B.C. won the “Coppa Italia” in 1963 – the Italian Cup. Gasparini introduced a highly offensive and aggressive style of play with little Argentine Alejandro “Papu” Gomez as the focal point of midfield as well as Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata from Colombia and Slovenian Josip Ilicic as hyper-dangerous strikers. The results were also absent, with the club becoming No 4 in the 2016-17 season and trailing No 3 in the past two seasons. And last season, the team scored as many as 98 goals, the highest number of goals in Serie A since 1948. With the top positions in Serie A Atalanta B.C. has also gained access to the Champions League group stage, thereby also securing a very substantial injection of capital for the purchase of players from the “top international shelf”. In terms of results, the debut in the Champions League in the 2019-2020 season also surpassed everything and everyone’s expectations, with only a few seconds separating the club from a place in the CL semi-final.

“Gli Azzurri” – the pride of the nation

Italy’s strong passion for football includes not only club football, but definitely the national team “Gli Azzurri” – the azure ones – who have won the World Championship four times (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) – second only to Brazil with 5 World Championships (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002). Somewhat surprisingly, Italy, where the goalkeeping legend and captain 42-year-old Gianluigi Buffon will play national no. 177 in a few weeks, have won only one European Championship, namely on home soil in 1968. Italy has often emerged as a nation with many political conflicts and conflicts between the individual regions of the North and South. Despite these conflicts and contradictions, the national football team has always been a national pride across the age, gender, political persuasions and economic hapitus.

The beautiful moments of life

On Tuesday night, Atalanta B.C. will meet one of the world’s best club teams: the national champions of England and the 2018-2019 CL-Champions from Liverpool F.C. in the CL group stage. And next Sunday there will be a special match at the “Gewiss Stadium” when F.C. Inter from Milan – presumably with Christian Eriksen as the substitute – will visit Bergamo. Unfortunately, due to the risk of infection, it is not possible, either for me or other spectators, to be physically present in the stadium. So I must instead follow the matches “live on TV” at one of the local bars. On the other hand, it is still allowed to enjoy a good dinner with wine from the Valcalepio district at “Ristorante Il Ducale”, visit the art gallery “Accademia Carrara” and buy a pair of shoes and new pants in one of the many fashion stores at “Via XX Settember”. A “peasant from Jutland” has also learned that life can consist of “beautiful moments”.

In my next blog I will tell you a little about the background to Atalanta B.C.’s sporting achievements in recent years with my good friend – and today assistant coach of Atalanta B.C. – Jens Bangsbo as the main source. 

You can get more information about Serie A here: http://www.legaseriea.it/en

In addition, the book by Jesper Ralberg & Mikael Sørensen: “Calcio Italiano – Culture, Politics and Economics” (2013) can be recommended.

 

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UEFA Champions League: The rich get richer and the poor get …

October 13, 2020

Next week, the first round of the UEFA Champions League group stage of the 2020-2021 season will be played. And for the first time since the autumn of 2013 with a Danish club – FC Midtjylland – among the 32 clubs, which are divided into 8 groups. 47 clubs from 40 nations in Europe did not manage to qualify for the group stage and thus have to wait another year to get through the “needle eye” to the at least DKK 225 million, which goes to all 32 clubs from 14 nations in the CL group stage.

FCM is a debutant in the CL group stage

FCM’s ranking as No. 102 on UEFA’s rankings indicates that the club’s qualification for the CL group stage and not least the accompanying capital injection is definitely not “everyday life” for the ambitious club from Herning-Ikast, which so recently 7 years ago was stumbling close to financial bankruptcy. The English rich man Matthew Benham, who is also the owner of the English Championship club Brentford F.C., at that time bought the majority of the club’s shares and thereby secured it financially. Subsequently, FCM with three Danish championships, one silver and two bronze medals and a cup title of 6 seasons has taken over FCK’s dominance in Danish football. The coming months and years will show whether FCM can also perform on the biggest international football scene: the UEFA Champions League.

Economic capital concentration in the major leagues

The cash flow in the UEFA Champions League is gigantic, according to the latest annual report from the international accounting and analysis company Deloitte. The total turnover in European football is almost DKK 220 billion and constitutes more than 80% of the turnover for all sports in Europe. And almost 2/3 of the turnover in European football is within the five biggest leagues: Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France). The economic concentration in the major leagues has only gone one way since the turn of the millennium: Upwards. The economic growth is primarily due to astronomical TV contracts, both in relation to the national leagues and the two European club tournaments: Champions League (CL) and Europa League (EL).

Sale of TV rights = the financial success of club football

UEFA sells the television rights to the Champions League on multi-year contracts to a number of different broadcasters, which broadcast the matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in one or more countries. The individual CL matches are included in different packages, where some matches are “free”, while others are “pay-per-view” matches. The broadcasters also trade the rights between each other across national borders. The sale of television rights to the Champions League makes up the vast majority of UEFA’s total revenue. And these have almost doubled over the past 5 years, namely from DKK 11 billion in 2014 to DKK 21 billion in 2019. On the other hand, the financial turnover on match days from spectators, both nationally and internationally, makes up only 10-15% of the total turnover. The all-important reason why last season’s Champions League and Europa League were settled over one match, without spectators and within a few days from the quarter-finals until the final was not sporting, but purely financial. The substantial contributions to UEFA and the individual European top clubs from TV contracts and exposure of multinational sponsors were simply too great for CL and EL not to be completed.

European top clubs are owned by non-European capital

UEFA supports the concentration of gigantic sums in the five biggest leagues by distributing 70% of the payouts from the two European club tournaments – the Champions League and the Europa League – to these five football nations. The five biggest leagues are also pre-allocated 19 places – or 60% – out of 32 places in CL’s group stage. A significant explanation for this distribution is a latent threat from the strongest money clubs – Real Madrid C.F., F.C. Barcelona, ​​Manchester United F.C., F.C. Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Manchester City F.C. and Liverpool F.C. – to go their own way in the form of a “closed tournament” exclusively for these clubs. The top European clubs, most of which are owned by investors from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United States or other countries outside Europe, have had annual growth rates of 8-10% over the past decade and the individual clubs’ annual turnover is today at DKK 5-7 billion.

The richest clubs have a monopoly on sporting success

UEFA has gone to great lengths sportingly to accommodate the strongest clubs and today the Champions League is a “closed VIP party” for the richest, while smaller nations’ best clubs – in i.a. Denmark, Sweden and Norway – in the vast majority of cases must “just” qualify for the second best European club tournament: Europa League and from next season the third best European club tournament: Conference League. The enormous capital concentration of the top clubs in the five biggest leagues also has a number of sporting consequences. In the 2019-2020 season, no clubs from other than the top five leagues managed to advance among the top 16 clubs from the group stage. And on UEFA’s ranking, which is calculated according to the clubs’ results in the last 5 years of European club tournaments, there are only 3 clubs – F.C. Shaktar Donetsk of Ukraine (No. 12), F.C. Porto (No. 19) and S.L. Benfica (No. 20) from Portugal – among the 20 highest ranked clubs.

Inequality in European club football is growing

Developments in European football are unequivocal: the richest clubs in the biggest leagues are getting richer and richer. And the clubs in the smaller leagues – i.a. the Danish Superliga – gets (perhaps) a (marginally) larger financial turnover, but in relation to financial races among Europe’s strongest money clubs, the clubs from the smaller nations become poorer and poorer. The best players – also from Denmark – will naturally compete against the five strongest leagues and the concentration of top players is – and will in future be further – in relatively few clubs. It is thought-provoking that the second best series in England – The Championship – today has a significantly higher turnover than e.g. the best leagues in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. In a “global and unregulated market”, the (few) strongest will always do best. And with capital transfers across borders and continents, inequality will (just) get bigger and bigger – especially in football, which has the entire world’s population as consumers.

You can get more information here:

 

 

 

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A gentleman from Croydon

September 22, 2020

On Saturday afternoon, there is a top match in the world’s best football league: Crystal Palace F.C. vs. Everton F.C. from Liverpool at Selhurst Park in the south-east of London. There are very few who had predicted a top match between these two clubs after the first two rounds and there are certainly even fewer who believe that the home team – The Eagles – will end up in the league’s best half when the season’s 38 games are over. Yet every time Crystal Palace plays, a new record is set by 73-year-old manager Roy Hodgson – a gentleman from Croydon who proves every day that age is relative and quality can be lifelong.

Roy Hodgson’s Backyard: A run-down, sad and impoverished suburb

I visited shortly after Roy Hodgson’s appointment as manager of Crystal Palace F.C. 3 years ago the dilapidated and sad district of Croydon, where Roy Hodgson was born and raised. Roy’s mother worked in a bakery and his father was a bus driver in one of London’s poorest areas, where apartment blocks, terraced houses, greengrocers, hairdressers, fish-and-chips shops, betting companies and pubs form a cluttered and raw suburban area. In the same way as the many different ethnicities, it forms the pulsating and colorful street scene. It was by no means coincidental that almost 10 years ago, Croydon was the center of a series of riots in which houses and shops were set on fire and confrontations between police and troublemakers became front-page news in the media. As a boy, unlike his father who was a Newcastle United fan, Roy was a happy Crystal Palace supporter and he also tried to break through as a youth player in the favorite club. It never succeeds, however, but the dream of winning football matches, respect and recognition with Crystal Palace F.C. remained unchanged at Hodgson throughout his lifelong career as manager of 16 different clubs and national teams in 8 different countries.

Great sporting success in Sweden: Four Championships and two cup titles

Roy Hodgson was educated as a P.E. teacher, but already at the age of 23, Hodgson began his coaching career in English amateur clubs. However, it was not until he was appointed head coach of Halmstad BK in the mid-1970s that his impressive coaching career really took off. Halmstad BK was at that time bottom team and threatened with relegation in Sweden’s best football league – Allsvenskan – but in record time Hodgson introduced a new style of play with great success: Halmstad BK sensationally won the Swedish championship in Hodgson’s first season at the club, which was repeated three years later. Also in Malmö FF, which has always been one of Sweden’s top clubs, Hodgson achieved great sporting success with two Championships and two Cup titles in four seasons (1985-1989). Because of these achievements, Hodgson was highly regarded and he had a great influence on the development of Swedish football throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Hodgson, along with his good friend and coaching colleague Bob Houghton, introduced zone coverage with a high offside line of the four defenders as well as high pressure on the opponents’ ball carrier of the midfield and forwards.

The cornerstone of FCK’s dominance in Danish football

Roy Hodgson also laid the foundation for FCK’s sporting success in recent decades, even though he was only associated with the club for a single season: 2000-2001. Hodgson is, in my opinion, by far the greatest coaching capacity that has worked in the Super League. In record time, the experienced Englishman, who at the time had also been coach of the Milan club Inter in Serie A and national coach in Switzerland, succeeds with a classic British 4-4-2 game concept and a strong discipline on the team exemplified through the two leadership types : Jacob Laursen as central defender and Ståle Solbakken as back midfielder to achieve great sporting success: FCK lost only four matches in the season 2000-2001 and became supreme Danish champion. In many ways, Hodgson has put together his game concept according to simple principles – unlike many “modern” coaches and managers. Hodgson has e.g. always believed that the farther the ball is from one’s own goal, the fewer goals the opponents score. Hodgson also became known in FCK for his raw – but also familiar – tone with players, staff, chairman and board. FCK has of course developed and nuanced Hogdson’s 4-4-2 game concept, but in my opinion there is no doubt that it was primarily Hodgson who changed FCK from being a mediocre team to a champion team.

“England Manager”: The hottest seat in football

Of course, this is far from the only success that can be attributed to Roy Hodgson’s career as a manager for more than four decades. Among his more “dark” chapters is a very short period in the autumn of 2010 as manager of one of the big clubs in British football: Liverpool F.C. Despite a 3-year contract, the relationship between Hodgson and the players, staff, board and not least fans of the LFC never worked well – the chemistry simply fit. Nor did Roy Hodgson’s work as manager of the English national team in the period 2012-2016 become a real success. For any English manager, the dream job is “England Manager”, but the pressure from the media in particular on this position is relentless and at times very painful. It seems that several of the English media are still living “in the shadow of” the World Cup triumph at Wembley in 1966. During Hodgson’s 4-year appointment as manager, England achieved its best position so far as No. 2 in the FIFA World Ranking (autumn 2013). Hodgson also manages to qualify England for both the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the European Championship 2016 in France, but both Cups were sporting failures. Expectations for the English national team were towering ahead of the 2014 World Cup, but defeats to both Italy (1-2) and Uruguay (1-2) as well as a goalless match against Costa Rica sent the nation’s pride – “The Three Lions” – humiliated return after that initial group stage. The results put Hodgson under tremendous pressure in the British media and among the enthusiastic – or more precisely fanatical – English fans. And with the absolute low point – the traumatic defeat of 1-2 to the “mini-put nation” Iceland in the round of 16 at the European Championships 2016 – Hodgson’s time as manager of the English national team was over.

Home to the street of childhood and the playground of youth

Due to the lack of results with the English national team, there were also many who doubted Roy Hodgson’s quality as manager of the childhood club Crystal Palace F.C. when he was offered the job in September 2017. And the start as Crystal Palace manager was also anything but flashy: 7 lost matches and a goal score of 0-17. However, Hodgson had a strong belief, both in his game concept and in rock-hard work, which has always been a part of Hodgson’s everyday life. Slowly – but surely – the team and Hodgson found each other. And with 44 points in the remaining 31 matches, the club achieved a form 11th place in the Premier League. It has never happened before in the history of the Premier League that a team has avoided relegation after losing the first 7 matches of the season. Hodgson’s second season (2018-2019) was also a success with a 12th place and 49 points – the highest number of points the club has ever achieved. Also not in Hodgson’s third season (2019-2020) was Crystal Palace with a 14th place and 43 points near relegation, which meant that Hogdson’s contract with the childhood club was extended to the summer of 2021.

On Saturday afternoon, the post-war and working-class boy from Croydon will once again sit at the sidelines at Selhurst Park and follow every detail “on the pitch” – a gentleman is back in the street of childhood and on the playground of youth.

You can read more about here:

  • Richard Allen: Roy Hodgson: A football Life: The first biography of England’s manager (2014).
  • Mike Carson: The Manager – Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 2013).

 

 

 

 

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Putin, State-run doping and a new (inter)national Act

September 2, 2020

Will be published soon ….

 

 

 

 

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Should Danish Elite sport be supervised?

August 8, 2020

Elite sports have a very low priority by the politicians of the Danish Parlament (Folketing) and the government ministers, except when they are guests at the Confederation of Danish Sports (DIF) during the Olympic Games or prizes are to be awarded at annual TV galla shows where Denmark’s best athletes are honored. During the coming autumn, however, the parliamentary parties will, for only the third time in four decades, discuss Danish elite sports in an international perspective. The background for the additions to the Act on Elite Sports is primarily the so-called “swimming case”, which stems from DR’s documentary broadcast: “Swimming stars – below the surface” (April 21, 2019) and the Chamber Advocate’s subsequent report: “Investigation of conditions for elite swimmers in the Danish Swimming Federation” was published on February 7, 2020. On the basis of the “swimming case” – and similar cases in e.g. Badminton Denmark and the Danish Orienteering Federation – on non-well-being, violations and unacceptable behavior, the Minister of Culture decided a few weeks ago that “… there is a need to change the rules regarding, the composition of the Team Denmark board to emphasize Team Danmark’s supervisory obligation, strengthen the athletes’ voice and minimize potential conflicts of interest/incapacity in Team Danmark’s board ”(Press release from the Ministry of Culture, July 2, 2020).

Elite sports at the international level are a selective and exclusive system

This is not a thorough revision of the existing Act on Elite Sport, but only additions. It is, in my opinion, both inappropriate and annoying. There is more than ever a need for politicians to put words to and direction for the most important purpose(s) of Danish elite sports in an international context. The first section of the Act on Elite Sport states that “… Team Denmark is a public, self-governing institution that aims to develop Danish elite sports in a  socially manner” – but develop Danish elite sports for what? Today, there is an unfortunate mix of targets or means in relation to the overall aim of the Act. Sporting results are e.g. not specifically mentioned, neither in the main clause of the Act nor in the 12 tasks described by the Act. However, it is pointless not to view Team Denmark’s work from an international results perspective, ie. good sporting results at international events such as the Olympic Games, the World Championships and the European Championships – but certainly not at any price. Sexual offenses, dispensing of medicine without medical approval or the like do not (nor) belong in the world of sports, but examples of e.g. non-well-being and eating disorders will always occur in certain training environments. Likewise, it is my opinion that “… elite sports at the international level is a selective and exclusive system where athletes can and must be deselected. Far from everyone thrives in such a system. Yes – maybe it’s really the fewest. There will always be a power relationship between athlete and coach, as the coach’s task is to deselect and prioritize among the athletes. For that reason, it is also pointless to compare elite sports environments with, for example, workplaces and educational institutions, where inclusion and social care are core values ​​”(” Will all that talk of well-being force Danish athletes down from the medal podium “, Jyllands-Posten,  July 8, 2020 ).

Will the additions to the Act on Elite Sports have consequences for Team Denmark’s next support programme or and the contract with the Ministry of Culture?

If the Minister of Culture and the parties in the Parlament (Folketing) fail to discuss and take a position on the most essential issue in the discussion of Danish elite sports in an international perspective – the overall aim(s) and direction of development of Danish elite sports – it will be exciting to follow the consequences. partly for Team Denmark’s support programme 2021-2024 and partly for the contract between Team Denmark and the Ministry of Culture in the same period. The latest 4 support programme (2005-2020), which define who, what and how Team Denmark can support athletes, teams and federations and the latest three contracts between Team Denmark and the Ministry of Culture (2009-2020) have emphasized that the most important aim has been to ” … Team Denmark-supported federations must perform at the highest international level and win medals at the European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. At the same time, Denmark as a nation must place in the Top-5 among nations under 10 million inhabitants and in the Top-25 among all nations measured on international rankings ”(Contract between Team Denmark and the Ministry of Culture 2017-2020, February 2017). Will objective, measurable sporting results have the same value and significance when the additions to the Act on Elite Sports enter into force on 1 January 2021 or will other objectives achieve higher priority at the request of Team Denmark and/or the Minister of Culture?

An “independent” function can be a completely wrong solution

With the additions to the Act on Elite Sports, as mentioned earlier, the Minister of Culture wishes to strengthen Team Denmark’s supervisory obligation, so that the institution “… is obliged to supervise that the rules and guidelines that apply to Team Denmark and that Team Denmark lays down are complied with, and that the work of the federations and similar partners with whom Team Danmark collaborates takes place in accordance with Team Danmark’s ethical and social guidelines”and“… Team Danmark establishes an independent function with a specially appointed person that athletes, coaches and others can contact them if they experience unacceptable behavior in the training and competition environments that Team Denmark collaborates with. The independent function refers directly to Team Denmark’s board ”. The most interesting thing about the above addition, however, is that “… Team Denmark is responsible for establishing and preparing a detailed description of the independent function after discussion with the athletes’ representatives and the involvement of the Danish Data Protection Agency. The description of the function must appear in Team Denmark’s articles of association ”(Proposal for the Act on Elite Sports, the Act on the Promotion of Integrity in Sport and the Act on the Distribution of Profits from the Lottery, July 2020). However, it will be paramount to the value and quality of an “independent” function that the general legal principles of separation between a legislative, executive and judicial power apply. If Team Denmark’s Board of Directors is to be both a legislative and judicial institution with a “specially appointed person” with reference to Team Denmark’s Board of Directors as executive institution, this will be a very unfortunate construction. I have always been very concerned when sports organizations – or others – have established and developed “parallel systems” for the general courts. And precisely in relation to elite sports, where the “work”  by training and competitions rests on a legal basis, conflicts, disputes and serious disagreements should be decided in general courts when a party – athlete, coach, sports director, federation or others – experiences an offense by a counterparty. The greatest strengths in ordinary courts are that all actors have the right and duty to testify and that all statements are made under the responsibility of witnesses. Media and public debate are absolutely central in any democratic legal society, but interpretation, punishment and sanctions in relation to society’s laws and rules – including the Act on Elite Sports – must be handled by the courts and not by other bodies.

Capacity applies to everyone – except the members of the Confederation of Danish Sport’s (DIF) board members

The additions to the Act on Elite Sports also contain some positive changes, not least in relation to the capacity of board members. The Minister of Culture proposes that “… members of Team Denmark’s board may not at the same time be employed in the Confederation of Danish Sports or federation under the Confederation of Danish Sports or be a member of the board of a federation under the Confederation of Danish Sports (DIF)”. In my opinion, Team Denmark should be an independent, professional knowledge institution without board members with narrow sports policy and financial self-interests. It is very positive that the Minister of Culture – after the grotesque mixing of interests with the CEO of the Danish Swimming Federation, who was nominated by DIF to Team Denmark’s board – now proposes that this can not take place in the future. But it is still extremely unfortunate that board members of the Confederation of Danish Sports (DIF) can still – also – be board members of Team Denmark. Over the years, there have been a number of cases, including The Danish Volleyball Federation’s lawsuit against Team Denmark (2010-2011) and the case  regarding the location of a national elite sports center (2011-2014), where several of Team Denmark’s board members nominated by DIF had more than difficulty finding out which interests they represented: Team Denmark or the Confederation of Danish Sports. In my opinion, there are no reasons for the special status of DIF’s board members – in relation to DIF’s members: Board members and employees in the federations – when it comes to membership of Team Denmark’s board.

You can read about my views and attitudes regarding Act on Elite sports and the “swimming case” in the following blogs:

  • In deep water – Act on elite sports, incapacity and power relations (25 April 2019) – https://ma57.dk/paa-dybt-vand-lov-om-eliteidraet-inhabilitet-og-magt-relationer/
    Continued in deep water – A lifebuoy was thrown, but without land in sight (May 10, 2019) –
    https://ma57.dk/fortsat-paa-dybt-vand-en-redningskrans-blev-kastet-men-uden-land-i-sigte/
  • The dream that was shattered by power politics and a foolish lease agreement (November 18, 2019) – https://ma57.dk/droemmen-som-blev-knust-af-magtpolitik-og-en-taabelig-lejeaftale/
    “Study of the conditions for elite swimmers in the Danish Swimming Union” – Personal comments (9 February 2020) – https://ma57.dk/undersoegelse-af-forholdene-for-elitesvoemmere-i-dansk-svoemmeunion/

 

 

 

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With the body into the culture – Gleam of light in Sport history

July 24, 2020

Did you know that love affairs between young athletes and between them and older men who took care of their upbringing were part of daily life in ancient schools, that gladiatorial battles in the Roman Empire between armed men and against animals were extremely bloody and often fatal, that the Danish health apostle and sportsman JP Müller at the beginning of the last century published a book on gymnastics: “My system”, which was sold in more than 1 million copies both in and outside Europe, that Niels Bukh – the founder of the Academy of Physical Education in Ollerup – and Ragnhild Hveger – The Danish female athlete of the century was extremely closely associated with and admired by Nazi Germany before and during World War II, that the GDR – with only 17 million inhabitants during the Cold War – became the second best nation at the 1976 Olympic Games, the 1980 Olympic Games and the 1988 Olympic Games using a systematic state doping system, that China spent $ 40 billion on hosting the 2008 Olympic Games to gain political, economic and sporting superpower status, and that Russia and Putin’s biggest sporting prestige project until now – the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games – had a total cost of $ 55 billion, or more than all previous Olympic Winter Games combined. This knowledge and much, much more you can get in the book “With the body into the culture – Gleam of light in Sports history” (Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2020), which has just been published. The book is written by Hans Bonde, dr.phil. in history and professor at the Department of Physical Education and Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen with the participation of sports historian Stanis Elsborg, who is an analyst at the Danish Sports Studies (IDAN) and Play the Game.

Much more than a textbook

The book’s primary target group is high school students and teachers, but it is also aimed at students and teachers at seminars, university colleges and universities as well as people who are interested in the body as a historical, cultural, political and identity phenomenon. Primarly, the book is a textbook, which i.a. illustrated by the many tasks, analyzes, tour guides and questions contained in the book’s six chapters. The book consists of an impressive historical source material, both in texts and pictures, which gives rise to and the opportunity for learning and immersion in the reader. And the two historians demonstrate throughout the book that they possess “knowledge of human beings and the world”, which is crucial to be able to ask and answer questions in a qualified way. In addition, the book is supplemented by a number of podcasts on the channel “Mediano Sport & Perspektiv”, where Bonde and Elsborg elaborate and discuss the book’s main topics. The new channel, which also contains a number of current broadcasts on sports and politics, has become a collaboration between the Danish Sports Studies (IDAN) and the dissemination portal Idrætshistorie.dk.

It is a difficult and complicated task to review and analyze the body as a phenomenon from ancient Greece to today’s Olympic Games. For this reason, the authors have also been forced to make a number of opt-outs and instead focus on selected main body and sports history topics: Sports in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire (500 BCE – 480 BCE), the Danish gymnastics pioneer J.P. Müller and the modern breakthrough (1870-1890), the Danish-German sports cooperation before and during World War II (1933-1945), sport as a means of power politics during the Cold War (1948-1991) and the super power nations China and Russia’s use of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as national political propaganda.

Source criticism and methodological insight are very importent tools among students and teachers

Unfortunately, in my opinion, there are fewer and fewer high school students, students and teachers who have secure and strong methodological insight and knowledge in relation to source criticism and methodological key concepts. Therefore, the first chapter of the book: “Historical method and theory” is a really good starting point for the following five chapters. Through the use of pictures, films, symbols and sources, the reader is introduced to concepts such as historical awareness and use, credibility and tendency, primary and secondary sources, first- and second-hand witnesses, communication model, visual analysis, “soft” and “hard power” and imaginative national communities. This is a compulsory curriculum if the readers’ skills in sports history is to be expanded and nuanced.

Sports, body culture and politics – from ancient Greece to Putin’s 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

Many books on sports and body culture in ancient Greece have been published, both in Denmark and abroad. The reason for this is the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), who wanted to improve the upbringing and education of children and adolencents through sport. Coubertin was very inspired by the Olympic Games of ancient and not least that adolencents through sports and fair competitions can learn to behave according to certain rules and acquire certain values. In addition, Coubertin also had a vision that sport can be a means to make the world better and more peaceful, i.a. by meeting youth from all over the world every four years to create peace and understanding between people. And in 1896, Coubertin succeeded in reviving the Olympic Games, albeit in a form and content that is far from the form and content we know today.

There is a connection between the ancient and the modern sports culture, but Bonde and Elsborg also succeed in a distinguished way in pointing out some significant breaks between the role of sport in ancient Greece and the modern Olympic Games, which we have experienced them in recent decades. Slightly simplified, one can say that the ancient sport was completely intertwined with the culture of society in the form of religion, democracy, politics, war, art and sexuality. Today, in my opinion, the Olympics are completely intertwined with gigantic commercial interests between super power nations, multinational sponsors and international TV companies, which strive for an entertainment show without too much disruption. That conclusion was only confirmed after having personally experienced the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games up close and partly having read the book’s chapter on “Today’s Olympic Games: Beijing 2008 and Sochi 2014”.

New knowledge abounds in the chapter on the Danish gymnastics pioneer J.P. Müller, which is based on Bonde’s latest research: “The Health Apostle J.P. Müller, volume 1: The bodily modern breakthrough ”(Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2020). The modern breakthrough is most often associated with a spiritual, democratic and literary break-up, but Bonde adds a new dimension to the break-up: a sensuous-erotic break-up, which the health educator J.P. Müller became a pioneer for. Müller’s individual, holistic gymnastics also focuses on nutrition, smoking, sleep, underwear, room temperature, sex and the care of teeth, mouth, throat, hair and feet – and the liberated. naked body thus became a violent revolt against Victorian contemporaries at the end of the last century.

There is also plenty of new knowledge in the chapter on “The Cold War in the Arena”, where sports in the 1970’s and 1980’s became a very useful means in the battle between the Eastern Bloc with the USSR in front and the Western Bloc with the United States in front. Not least the battle between the two Germany: GDR and BRD in the sports arenas and not least in the doping laboratories during the Cold War is at the same time both fascinating and frightening reading. The break of the Wall and the reunification of Germany is in my opinion one of the greatest and best events in world history, where sport – and not least the “new” Germany’s World Cup triumph in football in 1990 – gained incredible importance for the Germans’ self-understanding and identity.

We do not understand the present or the future – without knowing the past

The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) has stated that “nothing changes as often as the past. Each generation creates its own historical picture”. The book “With the body into the culture – Gleam of light in Sports history” can help to give our generation a really good frame of reference to understand and explain our historical picture(s) about the body in the culture… for better or worse. Enjoy reading – MA

You can get more information about the book here:

Idrætshistorie.dk – http://idraetshistorie.dk/med-kroppen-ind-i-kulturen/
Mediano – Sport & Perspektiv – https://www.mediano.nu

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Which Nordic countries have the greatest chances of sporting success at the 2021 Olympics?

July 6, 2020

In late March 2020, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan’s government decided to postpone the XXXII Olympic Games, which should have been held during the period July 24 – August 9, 2020. And, probably until the summer of 2021, there will continue to be great uncertainty about the Olympic Games due to the risk of virus infection among athletes, coaches, leaders and spectators from all over the world. For everybody, it is completely unfamiliar to postpone the Olmpics, both sporting, health and financial. At present, approx. 60% of the Olympic qualifying places are distributed, either personally or as national places. In total, 11,090 athletes from more than 200 nations will compete for 339 medal sets in 33 different sports next summer in Tokyo. But which Nordic countries have the greatest chance of sporting success at the 2021 Olympic Games: Which athletes and teams are qualified and who are among the medal candidates at this time?

Swedish athletes and national teams won as many as 16 World Championships medals in 2019

Today Sweden has secured qualification for the Olympic Games 2021 in 13 sports: Athletics, table tennis, wrestling, archery, cycling (road), football (women), gymnastics (artistic), judo, kayaking, equestrian (dressage, eventing and jumping), sailing, shooting and swimming. In addition, Sweden also has really good chances of qualifying in handball, both women’s team and men’s team, golf and taekwondo in the upcoming qualifying tournaments or by the world rankings. By contrast, there is no indication that Sweden qualify for the new sports on the Olympic program: Baseball (men), softball (women), climbing, karate, skateboarding and surfing. Sweden has always had a tradition of qualifying in many sports, but in my point of wiew Sweden gets very difficult to qualify in 22 different sports, as was the case at the 2016 Olympic Games, where Sweden won 11 medals in 7 different sports. Swedish athletes and teams, however, have in recent years achieved very good World Championship results in Olympic disciplines. Sweden won no less than 16 WC medals in Olympic disciplines in 2019 and the top 8 ranking points at the WC have also been larger in recent years than in the years before the 2016 Olympic Games. Sweden is thus strongly ahead of the 2021 Olympics with the potential medalist in athletics at the only 21-year-old pole vault Armand Duplantis, who won the WC silver medal in 2019 and a few months ago set a new world record with a jump of 6.18 meters. Additionally, discus thrower Daniel Ståhl, who won the WC silver medal in 2017 and became world champion in 2019, is a strong medalist candidate in Tokyo. However, in my opinion, the biggest medal favorite is 26-year-old swimming star Sarah Sjöström, who won a total of 3 medals in the 2016 Olympic Games and no less than 4 medals in Olympic disciplines at the 2019 World Championships. Additionally, in sports, such as wrestling, golf, equestrian, sailing, shooting and soccer for women, Swedish athletes and team has realistic medal chances at the 2021 Olympics Games.

Denmark is very far from the level before the 2016 Olympic Games

Denmark was the best performing Nordic nation at the 2016 Olympics Games, with a total of 15 medals in 9 different sports – one of the historically best Danish Olympic results ever. Today, Denmark has secured qualification for the Olympic Games 2021 in 12 sports: Athletics, table tennis, wrestling, archery, cycling (road and track), handball (men), kayaking, equestrian (dressage, jumping and eventing), rowing, sailing, shooting and swimming. In addition, Denmark has very good chances of qualifying athletes in badminton and golf by world rankings, so that the number of sports with Danish participation at the Olympics 2021 comes very close to 15, which was the number at the 2016 Olympic Games. Danish athletes and teams showed good World Championship results in 2019 in Olympic disciplines, with a total of 12 medals and no less than three of gold: Mads Pedersen in road cycling, Anne-Marie Rindom in sailing (Laser Radial) and handball for men. Both Rindom, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games and the men’s team handball, who are defending Olympic champions, are, in my opinion, potential medalists in Tokyo. However, the biggest Danish medal favorites are the 4 km team pursuit in track cycling, which in February 2020 became World Champions and at the same time set a new world record with time 3 minutes and 46.203 seconds. Additionally, Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Mørkøv in madison have shown world class over the past few years and the two experienced riders are a really good bid for Danish Olympic gold in Tokyo. In addition to track cycling, sailing and handball, badminton with Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen in men’s singles as well as kayaking with Emma Åstrand Jørgensen in the K1 200 must be awarded realistic medal chances at the 2021 Olympic Games. In contrast to Sweden and Norway, Denmark has achieved significantly fewer medals and Top-8 placement points at the World Championships in recent years. On that background, it will be more than difficult to get near by 15 medals at the 2021 Olympic Games.

Norwegian athletes and national teams have shown very marked progress in the last 3 years

Norway has achieved many good World Championship results, both in terms of WC medals and Top-8 placement points, in recent years. And all indications are that Norway will win significantly more medals and get far more Top-8 ranking points at the 2021 Olympic Games than at both the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2016 Olympic Games, both of which were very disappointing for one of the world’s best sports nations. Today, Norway has secured qualification for the 2021 Olympic Games in 8 sports: Athletics, cycling (road and track), gymnastics (artistic), equestrian (dressage and jumping), rowing, sailing, shooting and swimming. In addition, Norway has very good chances of qualifying for the Olympic handball tournament, both for women and men. And in my opinion, both handball teams must also be considered realistic potential medalists. In particular, Norway’s women’s handball team has achieved impressive results at the past three Olympic Games with two gold medals and one bronze medal. Among the biggest medal candidates should also be mentioned the 400 meter hurdles runner Karsten Warholm, who became World Champion in the distance in both 2017 and 2019, and the swimmer Henrik Christiansen, who won the WC silver medal at the 800 free style in 2019 and the single sculler Kjetil Borch, who won the World Championship in 2018 and the WC bronze medal in 2019. Among Borch’s competitors for the Olympic medals is the faroe Sverri Nielsen, which has shown impressive progress in the past year.

Finland may find it difficult to avoid sporting Olympic failure in Tokyo

Finland, unlike Norway, has won very few World Championship medals and achieved few Top-8 ranking points in recent years. Finnish athletes or teams hold only one World Championship medals in Olympic disciplines in 2019, and many suggest that Finland may have difficulty in improving the nation’s worst summer Olympics ever, the 2016 Olympic Games where it became only a single bronze medal. Today, Finland has only secured qualification for the 2021 Olympic Games in 6 sports: Athletics, cycling (road), equestrian (dressage), sailing, shooting and swimming. In addition, Finland has good chances to qualify athletes in martial arts such as boxing, wrestling, taekwondo and judo as well as weightlifting and golf. However, I do not think that Finland comes close to representation in 16 sports, as was the case in Rio. In my opinion, the highest medal chances among Finnish athletes is the wrestler Petra Olli, who has previously won the World Championship and the sailor Tuula Tenkanen in Laser Radial. Additionally, Lizzie Armanto, who is born and raised in California, US in the new olympic sport – Skateboarding. 

Iceland has no medal candidates, but will probably qualify in 5 sports

Iceland has won four Olympic medals over the years, lastest the silver medal in the men’s handball tournament at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. At present, Iceland has only qualified swimmer Anton Sveinn McKee (200 m breaststroke), but hopefully obtain qualification in one or two sports more over the next 11 months.

Of course, much can happen over the coming year. Some athletes and teams can make great progress, while others may find it difficult to maintain their current level – or be “overtaken” by competitors from other nations. Overall, however, there is reason for optimism for the Nordic nations – not least Sweden and Norway – while Denmark, Finland and Iceland may find it difficult to achieve results as at the 2016 Olympic Games.

You can find more information about each country’s results and Olympic qualifications on the following websites:

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You’ll Never Walk Alone

June 26, 2020

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

On next Sunday, when Liverpool Football Club hosts Aston Villa from Birmingham in the Premier League, the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will once again sound from the public-address system at Anfield – Liverpool FC’s legendary home ground since the club’s founding in 1892. Unfortunately without the spectators at “The Kop” and the other stands, but for all the club’s millions of supporters – in Liverpool and across the globe – the song and emotion this evening will be very special. The supporters can celebrate Liverpool FC’s first national Championship in 30 years. A club that has endured triumphs and tragedies of unimaginable dimensions over the past decades.

From the musical about a father’s “mistakes through life” to the world’s most famous football song

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is first of all known as the world’s most famous football song. The lyrics make it rattle down the spine, and when the song sounds at Anfield in Liverpool, Celtic Park in Glasgow or Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, one must humbly acknowledge that however emotional and generous football can be. The song’s reach and fixpoint through the generations for millions of football fans is really surprising. The story of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” began back in 1945, when it was authored by the legendary duo Rodgers & Hammerstein for the musical “Carousel”. The musical is a very sad story of a father being sent down from heaven to seek forgiveness for some of the mistakes he made during his life on earth. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the closing number in the musical, where the father is allowed to return to heaven after reconciling and attending the daughter’s high-school graduation. This closing number has meant that the song has often been – and continues to be – sung in connection with end-of-term celebrations in the United States.

LFC – the hope of greatness for a sad and poor port city

The port city of Liverpool has always been closely linked culturally and socially to the United States, and the young singer Gerry Marsden had seen in the cinema in the early 1960’s the American filmization of the musical “Carousel”. He was not so impressed with the film itself, but he could not shake off “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Gerry Marsden was singer in the Liverpool group “Gerry and The Pacemakers”, and in the fall of 1963 Gerry Marsden was ready to record the song on single. Gerry Marsden had seen, and not least heard right: A classic was born, but no one had ever dreamed what influence the song would have over time. Back in the fall of 1963, Liverpool FC, with the legendary Bill Shankly as manager, had just begun its ascendancy to the best football clubs in England. The club was the season before returned to the best division – after 8 seasons in the second best. The many dock workers from Liverpool’s dock areas had also just won the right to be released every Saturday afternoon, and “Merseybeat” with bands like “The Beatles” and “Gerry and The Pacemakers” really put Liverpool on the map. And on the world’s most famous stand – The Kop – 28,000 “scousers” stood every other Saturday and romped on the hit parade of time, which was played over the public-address system before every home game. When the tour came to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” the scousers” continued to sing, even after the speakers were turned off. And even as the song disappeared from the public-address system, the fans at “The Kop” continued to sing it. After that, it wasn’t long before it became a solid repertoire for all LFC’s matches. An indispensable ritual just before the players run on the field. Later that season (1963-64), the club won its first national Championship in 17 years, which was also the first championship with Bill Shankly as manager. And “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has since accompanied the club in good times and bad.

Among Liverpool FC’s biggest triumphs are 6 titles in the most prestigious European Champions League, 3 UEFA Cup titles, 19 national Championships and 7 FA Cup titles, making Liverpool FC one of the most winning English clubs ever, and the football club in the UK that has won the most European titles.

Two tragedies that will never be forgotten

But the song has seemed the strongest and most comforting in the club’s black moments – not least in connection with the tragedies at Heysel and Hillsborough. The tragedy at Heysel Stadium in Brussels took place during the final of the European Champions final between Liverpool FC and Juventus FC in May 1985. An hour before the match, it was revealed that the fences were set up to maintain a so-called neutral area in the stands between Liverpool and Juventus supporters were far too flimsy. The shutdowns gave way and chaos ensued among Juventus’ supporters due to pressure from Liverpool’s supporters. As a result, all fans gathered in the one grandstand, which crashed, killing 39 people. The game was finished despite protests from the teams’ managers, and it ended with a 1-0 win for Juventus FC. Subsequently, 14 Liverpool supporters were sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years for negligent manslaughter.

Only four years later, Liverpool FC and its supporters experienced yet another tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, with 96 fans perishing and more than 400 fans injured. The accident happened in a match where “The Reds” met Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-finals. More than 25,000 Liverpool supporters had traveled to Sheffield and shortly after the start of the match, they became 96 supporters – including children of 6-8 years – mast to death. Both immediately after the match and right up until a few years ago there have been countless investigations and explanations of the causes of the tragedy. Just 4 years ago – and a quarter of a century after the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy – a jury set up by the British government announced that the 96 LFC supporters perished as a result of a criminal offense. The police, who were present during the match, were thus convicted of negligent manslaughter. In addition, the organizers of the match were criticized for not controlling the conduct of the match, including failing to postpone the start of the match due to the massive crowd influx. And finally, the rescuers were criticized for not realizing the scale of the disaster in time. In doing so, Liverpool supporters were resurrected for the accusations that had been directed at them over the years for awareness of the tragedy.

In joy and sorrow….

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is also sung elsewhere than on Anfield and it has an understandable global appeal. But regardless of the fact, the song will always be closely associated with Liverpool Football Club. The relationship to the song has been strengthened after the Hillsborough tragedy, and for Liverpool fans, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has become the epitome of what football and life are all about: We stand together – in joy and sorrow.

You can find more information about Liverpool Football Club on the website: https://www.liverpoolfc.com

The following books about Liverpool Football Club are recommended:

Hughes, Simon: The Red Journey. An Oral History of Liverpool Football Club (de Coubertin Books, 2017).

Platt, Mark: Liverpool Football Club. Champions of Europe. (Grange Communication Ltd., 2019).

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The battle for the Danish Championship: FCK vs. FCM …. also for the coming years

May 13, 2020

Next week, the Danish Super League in football resumes after almost 3 months of break due to corunavirus. Unfortunately without spectators at the stadiums – but better late than never and better with second best solution than no solution. However, the best thing about playing the remaining two rounds of the basic tournement, the “Top-6-play” and relegation tournement, is that league clubs now have the opportunity to receive the remaining 2/3 of the annual TV-revenue – an amount of more than DKK 275 million, which is the existential revenue base for virtually all the super league clubs. The remaining matches will also answer three important questions: Who wins the Danish Championship, who qualifies for the “Top-6-play” and who will be the three relegators?

Close connection between salary budgets and sporting results

Analyzes from both international and Danish football over the past decades have shown that there is a clear correlation between players’ wages and sporting results. The Danish Institute for Sport Studies (IDAN) has shown that staffing costs of Super League clubs can explain more than 4/5 of sporting results since the turn of the Millennium. In conclusion, the clubs that, over time, can maintain the highest salary budget for players, coaches, healthcare staff and administration, just wins the most. However, it is far from all Super League clubs that have been equally skilled and effective in managing their financial resources. Some clubs, such as FC Nordsjælland, FC Midtjylland and Hobro IK, have been sporting significantly performing, while other clubs such as Brøndby IF, OB, AGF and AaB have underperformed over the past five seasons.

PARKEN Sport & Entertainment A/S is much different from FCK

There are currently only two candidates for the Danish Championship 2019-2020: FC Midtjylland and FC Copenhagen. Over the past 20 seasons, FCK has been absolutely superb in Danish club football with a total of 12 Danish Championships and only one season (2017-2018) has the club not won medals. FCK is also the only Danish club with success in international football with repeated participation in both Champion League and Europa League group tournements since the turn of the Millennium. It is TV-revenue from these tournaments and not least PARKEN Sport & Entertainment A/S’ “side business” in the form of the holiday centers “Lalandia”, which has created financial resources for player purchases – and thus also labor costs – which is a nice piece over the nearest competitors. However, based on the financial resources available to the club’s sporting management, FCK’s sporting results in the Super League over the past 5 years have not been impressed – rather, on the contrary. It has turned into 3 Danish Championships , but winning the FCM this year’s championship, which in my opinion is most likely, FCK has actually underperformed in the Danish Super League in relation to the club’s financial resources. By contrast, FCM has outperformed the Super League since its incumbent Matthew Benham, who also owns the English Championship club Brentford, in 2014 acquired the majority of FCM’s shares in the event of a looming bankruptcy. The “Wolves from the Heath” won the year after the club’s first championship, which was recovered in the 2017-2018 season. And today, in my opinion, the club is also a big favorite to win the club’s third championship and thus the fifth medal in just 6 seasons. In addition, the club has also outperformed the transfer market with the sale of players such as Pione Sisto, Aleksander Sørloth and Paul Onuachu. Talent development at the club’s academy has throughout the history of FCM been one of the club’s core services. And this with great success, as the academy has developed players such as Simon Kjær, Winston Reid and Erik Sviatchenko.

FC Nordsjælland is clearly the best at buying, developing and selling players

FC Nordsjælland has also been extremely skilled at developing talents through the Super League for sale to foreign clubs. In 2015, the club was acquired by an investor group – “The Pathway Group Limited” – including Tom Vernon, who had previously started in the football academy “Right to Dream” in Ghana. The purpose of the collaboration is for FCN to be self-sufficient with players from FCN’s local community clubs and, not least, young players from Africa who will use the Super League as a springboard for a career in the major European leagues. This has been very successful, as FCN has just been awarded top marks – the “highest international class” in Danish Football Association’s licensing system. Like the FCM, the club has made a lot of money in recent years – more than 250 million DKK – on transfer income, including on players like Emre Mor, Mathias Jensen, Andreas Skov Olsen and Mikkel Damsgaard. Transfer income in both FCN and FCM has also “offset” significant operating deficits in the two club’s accounts. At the same time, it is impressed that every season FCN has qualified for the “Top-6-play”. I think that will be the case this season as well, with FCN being my favorite for the bronze medals.

“Tradition clubs” underrepresent, both on the field and in the accounts

However, there are also super league clubs such as Brøndby IF, OB, AGF and AaB, which has underperformed in the past five seasons in relation to the financial resources of the clubs. The reasons for this fact are diverse and complex: “Poor” buying and selling of Danish – and especially foreign – players, lack of quality and continuity among players, coaches, sports directors and the board, weak talent development strategy, declining spectator and sponsor interest and much, much more . Especially Brøndby IF has been a really bad business both sporting and financial. It is only astronomical financial “donations” of 50-80 million DKK annually from the main shareholder Jan Bech Andersen, who has kept the club “above the water”. Wage costs have been towering compared to most other super league clubs and over the past decade, the club from “the Western part of Copenhagen” has been without Danish Championships and “only” won two silver medals and three bronze medals.

Other traditional clubs in Danish football such as AGF, OB and AaB have also had very poor results in recent years. The football pride of Funen – OB –  already has two remaining matches in the basic game with no chance of qualifying for “the Top-6-play”. Despite one of the league’s highest budgets, OB has only managed to qualify once among the Top-6 teams in the past five seasons. In terms of sporting results, only AGF performed poorly during the same period. However, “The Whites from Fredensvang” surprisingly everything and everyone with an impressive half season in the fall of 2019, when the team finished in a 3rd place. AGF’s start in spring 2020 was –  with a draw against Hobro at home and defeat to Silkeborg – anything but flashy. Just a draw in the postponed match against Randers FC, however, will secure AGF a place in “the Top-6”, which has not happened in the past 8 seasons. “A swallow does not make a summer, however,” so in my opinion, the AGF should qualify for “the Top-6-play” at least 3 out of 4 seasons going forward from the club’s financial resources. The same expectation should be given to North Jutland’s football pride – AaB – which, after Danish Championships in 2008 and 2012, has had a very difficult time achieving results stability. The club has been without medals for the past five seasons and the battle for the last place in the Top-6-play” may well accrue to Randers FC – at the expense of AaB. Randers FC, which is actually one of the clubs that, based on a relatively modest economy, has shown great sporting stability as a super league club over a number of years.

Esbjerg fB, Silkeborg IF and Hobro IK look like three relegations

Perhaps the biggest dramas in the Danish Super League 2019-2020 await in the relegation tournement, with the entire 3 clubs becoming “buck”. Among the relegation candidates is Hobro IK, who has actually outperformed markedly sporting with the past 6 seasons, with the club having the supremely lowest budget of all Super League clubs. The club’s salary costs this season make up only 1/10 of clubs like FC Copenhagen, Brøndby IF and FC Midtjylland. However, I do not think Hobro IK – and Silkeborg IF – avoid relegation this season. And then another traditional club – Esbjerg fB – has to show far better games in the remaining matches to avoid the last relegation spot. The consequences for all three relievers will be a loss of revenue – primarily in the form of TV money and sponsorships – of 30-40 million DKK. This knowledge is also known in clubs such as AC Horsens and SønderjyskE, which can also jeopardize relegation.

Based on the economic development, in both Danish and international football, everything indicates that very few league clubs in the coming seasons will become richer and richer, while the “poor” clubs will get more and more difficult – in result over a whole season – to surprise and challenge the most money-laden competitors. That is why I believe that the battle for Danish Championship in football in the coming years alone will be a matter between FC Copenhagen and FC Midtjylland. Then the rest of the super league clubs have to fight for the bronze medals or…. relegation.

You can find more information about finances in Danish Super League clubs and international top clubs on the following website:

Steen Houman’s blog – https://steenhoumann.com  
The Danish Institute for Sport Studies – https://idan.dk
Off the Pitch – Football, Business and News – https://offthepitch.com/

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League clubs in Danish elite sport under intensive financial pressure

April 23, 2020

The league clubs in Danish football, handball and ice hockey are facing some very intensive financial challenges in these weeks. Admittedly, the professional clubs are covered by the two state “aid packages” on salary compensation and compensation for canceled matches, which partially cover the clubs’ costs for salary, rents, insurance and much more. In addition, several of the country’s municipalities have chosen to supplement the state support with municipal grants, which especially benefit the league clubs’ immediate need for liquidity. Public support are thus crucial for the survival of almost all Danish league clubs, but in the coming months everyone – players, coaches, employees, board members, spectators, sponsors and broadcasters – will have to deal with a new situation. And only league clubs with targeted and effective financial management combined with open and credible communication with the outside world will, in my opinion, get through the “COVID-19-crisis” without payment suspension or, in the worst case, insolvent.

Big difference in the Super League clubs’ turnover and composition of income

Based on the economic analysis of recent years, it can be estimated that the total revenue in the Super League (football) in the 2019-2020 season is approx. 2.8 billion DKK. However, there are very large differences between the 14 clubs’ revenues, which vary between DKK 30-35 million for clubs such as Hobro IK A/S and Silkeborg IF A/S to 800-820 million DKK for PARKEN Sport og Entertainment A/S – the enterprise behind FC Copenhagen, which for many years has been supremely highest among the Super League’s clubs, mainly due to non-football-related activities such as the holiday centers Lalandia and the rental of the Parken. FCK, which has won 12 Danish Championships since the turn of the Millennium and has been a “regular participant” in the Champion League and the European League during the same period, is thus behind almost 1/3 of the turnover in Danish football.

Handball and ice hockey are more vulnerable than football

The turnover in the Primo Tours League (Men’s handball) and the HTH League (Women’s handball) can be estimated at approx. 300 million DKK. Also among the 28 league clubs in handball, there are very large variations in relation to the clubs’ turnover. There are variations from a few million in league clubs like EH Aalborg and Ajax to approx. 30 million DKK in clubs such as Aalborg Håndbold A/S, Skjern Håndbold A/S and Bjerringbro-Silkeborg Håndbold A/S. By contrast, the turnover variations in Danish league clubs in ice hockey are far smaller than in both football and handball. The total turnover in Danish ice hockey can be estimated at approx. 80-90 million DKK, distributed between 7-14 million. DKK in the 9 league clubs.

League club revenue is mainly divided into 4 main sources: Matchday revenue (entrance and season tickets, food and beverage sales, merchandise etc.), sponsorship revenue, TV revenue and transfer revenue (purchase and sales of players). The latter is absolutely crucial to the financial success or failure of most super league clubs, while transfer proceeds are virtually non-existent in neither handball nor ice hockey. Of course, there are also variations in the individual league clubs relative proportion of the main sources. The primary source of revenue for handball and ice hockey league clubs is sponsor revenue, which typically accounts for 75-85% of total revenue. Matchday revenue in these two sports typically amounts to 15-20%, while league clubs’ direct revenue from handball and ice hockey television rights is limited to 3-6% of total revenue. However, it is of great importance for the league clubs’ opportunities for sponsorship contracts that sponsors can be exposed through direct television matches.

For the handball and ice hockey league clubs, sponsor income, either as “free funds” or barter agreements, which is a barter of services of equal value between the league club and company rather than paying each other for work done, is by far the largest share of revenue. Most of these league clubs usually have a few main sponsors and a large number of local companies that support the local league club.

TV revenue as well as the purchase and sale of players are paramount for the super league clubs

The composition of sources of income in Danish football is very different from that of handball and ice hockey. The Super League clubs are heavily dependent on TV-rights revenue, totaling 275 million DKK for the current season, or almost DKK 20 million DKK per league club on average. Thus, for some super league clubs, TV revenue represents the largest percentage of the club’s total revenue. The amounts for the individual super league clubs are paid “normally” according to the club’s placement at rounds 13 and 26 and at the end of the season. But today, the last two rates of the TV money have to be paid to the Super League clubs. Therefore, it will be a financial disaster for all super league clubs if the remaining matches of the 2019-2020 season are canceled. All indications then are that the remaining matches in the Super League, both in the primary tournement and the playoffs, will be played – unfortunately – without spectators in May and June.

There is also no doubt that Danish Super League clubs will experience a significant drop in transfer income. In the upcoming transfer windows, it will be much harder to sell players from Danish clubs to foreign clubs, which are also particularly hard hit financially. Likewise, many of the super-league clubs have tied a very large portion of the expenses in long-term contracts with players and coaches. And it can be very difficult to adjust spending as a significant fall in revenue. In this area, the league clubs in handball and especially in ice hockey because of typically one-year contracts with players have some comparative advantages over the super league clubs in football.

Both short and long term financial consequences for all league clubs

Of course, it is difficult to assess how large a fall in sponsorship income Danish league clubs will experience for the upcoming season 2020-2021. My personal bid will be a 20-30 % drop, but with large variations between the individual clubs. I also believe that the handball and ice hockey league clubs will be hit harder financially by the “COVID-19-crisis” than the super league clubs in football, with a very large share of the revenue in handball and ice hockey being based solely on sponsorship revenue. Very few companies and industries, both in Denmark and globally, will not experience significant declines in revenue and earnings in 2020 and possibly. also in subsequent years. Companies and groups in special industries such as airlines, retail and restaurants that have already laid off a large number of employees because of failing sales will naturally be very reluctant to re-sign sponsorships or enter into new agreements with league clubs in Danish football, handball and ice hockey – not for lack of will, but because of lack of… money.

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From outskirt to frontskirt. The fight of gymnastics in a century

March 26, 2020

New book on OD, Danish gymnastics, academies, politics and cultural history on the occasion of the 100’th anniversary of Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup.

No state, organization, private company or school can be established or developed by individuals, regardless of their knowledge, capabilities, passion or ability to act. But personal leadership is nevertheless one of the decisive factors for the inner strength and coherence of states, organizations, private companies and schools. And, in particular, competent and committed personal leadership has great significance and value for states, organizations, companies and schools’ relationships with the outside world. Personal leadership is a central thema in professor, Ph.D. and Dr. Phil. in history Hans Bonde’s new book: “From the outskirt to the frontskirt. The fight of gymnastics for a century” (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2020), which was published on the occasion of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup 100’th anniversary. And let it be said right away: The book is excellent storytelling, both in words and pictures.

An amazing journey in words and pictures

The book brings the reader on an exciting continuous journey in which events – gymnastics performances, international and domestic tours of gymnastics and events, buildings and artworks, democracy festivals and much, much more – are described in 100 entries by one or more sources. The sources are central actors – as via Bonde’s interpretation – appearing with views, attitudes and memories based on a string of images from past and present. The historical witnesses are wide ranging from former students, teachers, principals, gymnastics instructors, journalists, architects, professors, diplomats, ministers to King Christian X., creates a coherent process based on extremely comprehensive documentation.

The book contains an in-march and an out-march, like any popular gymnastics performance, seven chapters and written references. The in-march sets the stage for the book’s structure and main themes, as well as describes Bonde’s personal relationship with the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup from the early 1990’s, when then the former principal Gunnar B. Hansen assigned Bonde the responsibility of preparing an impartial doctoral dissertation based on Niels Bukh’s private archives, which had been ” hidden “knowledge of the public since Bukh’s death in 1950.

Niels Bukh – A charismatic gymnastics educator with naive political visions

Each chapter describes a historical period in which gymnastics such as cultural, physical, political, social and aesthetic phenomena are closely linked to concrete events, which have for decades left deep traces and crucial inspiration for the lives of many young people, both from Denmark and abroad. The motto of the academy: “Word and deed” (OD) has been far more than three small words for a century. The OD has also been the term for “Ollerup Gymnastics Instructor”, which more than 20,000 has achieved through an academy education of at least 12 weeks. However, Bonde emphasizes that “… words alone do not move very much. There must be action (deed) for “and” However, the cultivation of “action” rather than thought can also lead to an anti-intellectualism that renounces critical reflection and dialogue “(p. 18). With this in mind, the book’s first two chapters “A New Man Type” (1920-1932) and “The German Draw” (1933-1943) are fascinating reading. The chapters focus on at Bukh’s start-up of the Academy of Physical Education, which compared to the traditional Danish college with a focus on “the living word” and the song, used the body and specifically the gymnastics as a central language and tool. Niels Bukh and the Academy of Physical Education were a natural part of a Danish national revival, where the rural population, through the cooperative movement and, not least, gymnastics and shooting clubs, developed a cultural and political commitment, both locally in the parishes and nationally in the party Left. In the first half of the 20’th century, gymnastics was not a sport such as football, athletics and swimming, but “… an active cultural force that, in the countryside, partly shapes entire generations of young men and women, partly as an alternative to urban competition and finally through innumerable displays become the landmark of Danish abroad ”(p. 17). The first two chapters come very close to the charismatic, gay and politically naive Niels Bukh, who over a very short period – together with students, staff and locals – is building a cultural center in South of Funen with an impressive main building, the country’s first indoor swimming pools (1926) and one of Europe’s largest sports halls (1932). Bukh’s sympathy, admiration and desire for cooperation with other strong men in dictatorships – such as Hitler in Nazi Germany and Mussolini in Italy – is also more long-lasting and powerful than many other Danes who only “switched” towards the end of World War II. Today it is a well-known case that many Danish business owners earned huge sums, both before and during World War II, on working with or working for the German war machine. But Bukh never seriously distanced himself from his political views and attitudes after the end of World War II in 1945. Therefore, Bukh’s last year of life until his death as a 70-year-old in 1950 became a personal decline of dimensions. These years are described in the book’s third chapter “A new direction” (1944-1950), which also shows that a large loan from the Left government in 1948, loyal staff and former OD’s support surprisingly quickly reduced the student numbers at the rebuilt adecamy to the time before the Occupation.

The hard way out of Bukh’s “shadow”

The book’s fourth chapter “In the Footsteps of the Master” (1951-1967) covers a long-standing and tiring internal power struggle between Arne Mortensen and Jørgen A. Broegaard, who shared the position of principal of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup after Bukh’s death. After hiring as a gymnastics teacher in 1936, Arne Mortensen was the principal of the academy’s elite team and his closest friend Bukh’s obvious replacement as the head of the academy, but “Morten” was without a qualifying education. That criterion met Jørgen A. Broegaard, who had been a student at the academy in the 1930’s and subsequently trained as a theologian and thereby qualified to be responsible for the academy’s historical, cultural and spiritual subjects. However, the two “co-proprietors” disagreed with the management of the “legacy of Bukh”. Arne Mortensen wanted to continue the academy’s “spirit, soul and gymnastics” as the model Bukh, while Broegaard preferred a critical overlook of Bukh’s homosexuality and political attitudes, especially during the Occupation. Bukh’s faithful arms – Arne Mortensen – won the power struggle in 1966, when the board of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup elected by resignation Jørgen A. Broegaard. And thus, the “Bukh cult”, which also includes extreme conservatism, both politically and gymnastic, could be continued until the next change of principal in 1976.

The youth uprising, which “passed” the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup

Prior to this change, however, there were major changes, both nationally and internationally, outside the walls of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup. These changes in the form of rebellion against authorities, sexual emancipation, gender equality, barbed wire music and free hash are described in the book’s fifth chapter “Youth rebellion and Ollerup” (1968-1975). The youth rebellion cultural release, however, moved far beyond the Academy of Physicial Educaton, Ollerup to the principal Arne Mortensen undivided satisfaction. He stated the following to the media in 1970: “There is no breeding ground for a youth rebellion here at the Academy. Young people cannot be trained without the use of authority. The foundation on which Niels Bukh created the Academy is still the Academy’s ”. It was therefore both an external pressure and an inner “necessity” – far rather than the wishes or needs of the Board of the Academy and many former OD’s – that in the early 1990s, ie. more than 40 years after the death of founder Niels Bukh, a “Settlement with the Past” (1976-1998). Gunnar B. Hansen, who had been a student at the Academy, the headcoach of the elite team, the vice-chancellor, found it crucial for the academy’s current reputation and not least the forward-looking credibility to illuminate Bukh as a master and human being – with his strengths and weaknesses.

Inspiration for some gymnastics and sports colleges – and a counter parts to others

Calculated with the “father figure” Niels Bukh is the main topic of the book’s sixth chapter, which also deals with the description of the new principal Gunnar B.’s introduction of Beatles music to primitive gymnastics, student democracy and international students’ courses in democracy and sports life. This chapter also describes the role of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup for role models or counterparts for other of the country’s academies and sports colleges. At many academies and sports colleges, including “Gerlev Idrætshøjskole” (1935), “Viborg Gymnastikhøjskole” (1951), “Idrætshøjskolen i Sønderborg” (1952), Idrætshøjskolen i Aarhus (1971) and Nordjyllands Idrætshøjskole (1986) were principals and by far the majority teachers were former students or teachers from Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup. But there were also sports colleges, “Den Jyske Idrætshøjskole” (1943) and “Idrætsskolerne i Oure” (1987), which was established on the basis of competitive sports with coach-education in football, athletics, sailing, golf or modern dance. And with professional profiles, rules of order and living, which lay far from the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup.

The balance between tradition and renewal – the folk high schools’ most important task

The book’s seventh chapter, “Culminated Jumping Series – Flagship for Democracy” (1998-2020), focuses on the past two decades with the current principal Uffe Strandby, former student of the Academy of Physical Education, as front figure. The chapter has two central themes: Renovation and new construction as well as the introduction of new forms of “gymnastics”. The “bite tradition”, introduced by Niels Bukh in 1922 and still practicing today, has created impressive buildings at the Academy. But daily wear and building materials of varying quality have also, in recent years, caused a great need for renovations and more modern facilities, such as a state-of-the-art spring center, which was inaugurated in 2002. And most recently, the old sports hall has been transformed into a modern multifunctional arena with mobile spectator stands for gymnastics performances, sports events, exhibitions, concerts and congresses. The renovation of the sports hall, indoor and outdoor swimming pool as well as works of art around the school area has been provided through donations from private foundations such as “Realdania”, “Ny Carlsberg Foundation” and “A.P. Møller Fonden”. The renovation and the new facilities have also meant that the academy’s professional profile in gymnastics has changed radically. Today, modern dance, fitness, parkour, crossfit, team gym, tumbling, zumba, yoga and performance are weighted on the same level as earlier “core disciplines”: jumping gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics. With the extension of the academic profile, the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup has managed to balance tradition and renewal, which is one of the most important tasks of the academies and colleges.

Out-march brings together the seven chapters into a clear and precise synthesis. But most importantly, Bonde sets out a number of choices and clues for the development of the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup, which everyone with heart and brain for the Academy has the right and duty to relate to. Anniversary book “From the outskirt to the frontskirt. The fight of gymnastics for a century “deserves a standing ovation for several minutes – and the Academy of Physical Education, Ollerup deserves thanks for” words and deeds “as well as good luck with the next 100 years.

You can read more at the Acedemy of Physical Education, Ollerup here: https://ollerup.dk/

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Sport as a tool for a better everyday life or … big business

March 2, 2020

These are special experiences that bring memories to life – both inside and outside the world of sports. One of my special experience is the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with London as a fantastic host city. It is no coincidence that London has hosted the world’s biggest sporting event for three times. For centuries, London has been the political, economic and cultural metropolis of the Commonwealth of Nations, which today consists of 52 nations spread across all five continents. Last week I was back in London, partly – together with the Idan Forum – to visit various charities and projects working to realize the Greater London Authority and London Sports’ vision of becoming the world’s most physically most active capital. And partly to restore “Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park” in East London. The park, located in Stratford, was once one of London’s most desolate and polluted industrial areas, but today the area has evolved into one of London’s most attractive with lots of new homes, tech companies, schools and educational institutions, parks, playgrounds, shopping center, cultural institutions and sports and music event facilities for the benefit of children, young people, adults and the elderly from all over London.

London – One of the world’s most exciting metropolises

There are many things that have remained unchanged since the Olympics and Paralympics almost eight years ago: The fish soup at “Borough Market”, one of London’s largest and oldest food markets, the musical “Les Misérables”, which is performed daily at “Queens Theater” since 1985 and the crowd in “The Tube” – London’s subway system, which serves 1.3 billion passengers a year. But there have also been significant changes: The number of cyclists is double, the season ticket prices for Premier League clubs Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and West Ham have exploded and the British resigned – regrettably – a few weeks ago formally by the EU after almost five decades membership.

Good behavior – both on and off the sports arena

England – and perhaps more precisely United Kingdom – can rightly be called the country of origin of sport, as sports such as football, cricket, rugby, tennis, badminton and table tennis were invented and widespread throughout the world by the British back in the latter half of the 18’th century. At that time, the UK was – and continues to be – a very fragmented society with large income and wealth disparities in the population, both nationally and locally. One of the biggest challenges for British sport today is precisely the growing distance between professional sport and “Sport for All”. Inequality is also a growing and visible problem between individual sports – not least in London, where the vast majority of sports activities for children and young people are organized outside the traditional clubs and federations. The increasing distance between sport as a measure of economic profit or sport as a means of social inclusion, education and learning for children and young people is also reflected in the state financial support for sport. UK Sport is responsible for allocating resources to Olympic federations and athletes, while Sport England supports both federations, schools, charities and private projects working to realize the vision of more active citizens – regardless of gender, age, education and race. State aid, both for UK Sport and Sport England, is increasing, while local, public support is extremely limited. The growing distance between sport as a goal or means is also one of the main reasons why very few children and young people under 18 – less than 20% – practice sports in organized clubs and federations. The corresponding membership figures for children and young people in the Nordic countries are more than 3 times greater, ie. over 60%.

One of the projects, which focuses on the recruitment of children and youth for sport in London, is Green House Sport (GHS). The project uses sports – including table tennis, basketball, swimming and judo – to engage and inspire children and youth from socially stressed areas. From a holistic perspective, well-trained and full-time GHS coaches work with local schools to teach the children and young people skills that they can apply both in and out of sports. The overall aim is to improve the lives and conditions of children and young people. Primarily funded by private foundations, Green House Sport encompasses more than 8,000 children and young people in London who have neither the financial advice nor the social support of their parents to join a traditional sports club.

Another project is Chance to Shine (CTS), which uses cricket as a means for children and young people to learn and develop, both physically, mentally and socially. In this way, cricket helps to create a better everyday life for the children and young people, who very often have a different ethnic background than the British. The Cricket Foundation, which has been launched independently – both organizationally and financially – by the National Cricket Association, offers cricket as an activity for more than ½ million. children and young people at nearly 5,000 schools in Wales and England. In addition to cricket in schools, the project also initiates cricket in green areas and parks in inner city areas. in London. Street cricket thus offers another way into the sport, with more than 85% of the children and young people in CTS not being a member of a traditional cricket club.

Positive reunion with “Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park”

The lack of organized clubs, the limited finances of many families and especially low public support, both for facilities and activities, are some of the biggest challenges facing British sport – not least in big cities such as London. I was therefore pleased to see Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which I visited for the first time back in 2006 – shortly after London was hosted by the Olympics and Paralympics 2012. Today, several of the Olympic facilities are used for pleasure and benefit the local children and young people, including Lee Valley VeloPark, which features tracks for mountain biking and BMX as well as a very nice indoor track. All age groups have access to the track for a fee, and Lee Valley Regional Park offers great opportunities for outdoor activities such as rowing, kayaking, soccer, rugby, hockey and tennis.

Inequality is getting bigger and bigger – also in the world of sport

London Stadium, which is the largest sports facility in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is today home to the Premier League club West Ham United, which since its inception in 1895 has been associated with the east of London. The club is also known to some of the most faithful and proud fans in the world. However, many of these have not been content to leave the legendary “Upton Park” stadium in favor of the Olympic Stadium with seating for 60,000 spectators. However, the frustration over the new stadium did not appear on Saturday afternoon, with “The Hammers” winning 3-1 over Southampton, thus maintaining the belief of yet another Premier League season. Professional clubs such as West Ham United are now multinational corporations with annual turnovers. The gap between “Chance to Shine” and West Ham United is unbelievably great, and the inequality in the world of sports, both in and outside England, is unfortunately only getting bigger and bigger.

You can find more information at the following website:

Idan Forum – https://www.idan.dk/idan-forum/
London Sport – https://londonsport.org/
Green House Sport – https://www.greenhousesports.org/
Chance to Shine – https://www.chancetoshine.org/
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/
Lee ValleyVeloPark – https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/velo-park/
West Ham United – https://www.whufc.com/

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KSDH, KSDH, KSDH …

February 13, 2020

Aarhus Gymnastics Club of 1880, GF or “The whites of Fredensvang”: Dear child has many names. This is also the case with AGF from Aarhus: The city’s football pride with 5 Danish Championships and 9 Cup titles, which is a Danish record. AGF is also the club in Denmark that has played the most seasons in the best league (1’st Division and Super League) under The Danish Football Association (DBU). The last Danish Championship was won in 1986, while the last trophy in the Cup was obtained in 1996. And we have almost a quarter of a century left to find the last Championship medal – bronze medal in 1997.

More than the “Team of city”

However, AGF’s performance and, not least, very good support from spectators and commercial partners in the fall of 2019 give the club’s many fans – inside and outside Aarhus –  dreams and realistic belief that there are new and better times ahead for the club with its proud traditions. There are three main reasons why I believe that AGF – for just the third time since the turn of the millennium – has really good opportunities to qualify for the playoff among the Top-6 clubs. And with a really good chances of winning the bronze medals. The gold medals and the silver medals are distributed between FC Copenhagen (FCK) and FC Midtjylland (FCM) – as they usually are.

Strong fight and a well-thought-out game concept

First, the team of AGF has shown great stability in the first 20 games of the season 2019-2020. There is only one team in the Super League – FCM – that has conceded fewer goals and only three teams – FCK, Brøndby and Randers FC – who have scored more goals than AGF. There has been a good balance in the team during the matches, based on a strong defense, a hard working midfield and an effective attack. The majority of points are not based on technical and well-polished play, but on strong fight and a well-thought-out game concept. I have been particularly impressed by captain Nicklas Backman, who has been indispensable in the central defense, and further on, Mustapha Bundu has in many matches been decisive with his impressive breakthrough power and great goals. AGF’s good performance is due to both good work on and off the field. The sporting leadership with the sports director Peter “PC” Christiansen at the forefront has bought in well, so AGF today probably has one of the broadest teams in the Super League.

David Nielsen – a winning type who has grown up

Second, the hiring of head coach David Nielsen in the fall of 2017 has proven to be the right choice for AGF. The 43-year-old Nielsen, born and raised in Skagen, is a type of winner who has a very realistic and pragmatic approach to the game, the team and the individual player: Everyone must contribute and make a whole-hearted effort for the team and the club. It is very positive, both for AGF and David Nielsen, that the parts have now extended the cooperation by 3 years – until the summer of 2023. The contract extension allows the club to further develop both the playing style, training culture and talent development at Fredensvang, where a new clubhouse creates an optimal framework for coaches, players and staff around the team. AGF’s sporting performance, especially in the fall, is also the reason why David Nielsen – along with Åge Hareide, Ståle Solbakken and Christian Nielsen – well deservedly nominated by DBU as Coach of the Year 2019, which will be announced within a few days.

Sporting and financial disaster have changed – and results that match the salary budget

Third, much indicates that AGF is on the right track in terms of getting a good sporting benefit from the club’s financial resources. Like David Nielsen, the hiring of rival Randers FC’s former CEO Jacob Nielsen back in the summer of 2014 was also the right choice for AGF.  Nielsen has with determined focus, great energy and support from the club’s board managed to create continuity, which is essential for sporting and financial success – not only in football, but in all elite sports. There is – in both Danish and international football – an unambiguous long-term connection between the input of salary and sporting results. The Danish Sports Institute’s studies over the past two decades show that the staffing costs of super league clubs can explain more than 80 percent of the variations in sporting results. In practice, this means that the clubs that can maintain the highest salary budget over time, everything else just wins the most. FCK has clearly been a leader with current staff costs for players, coaches, experts and administration of DKK 146 million. Brøndby has expenses of DKK 110 million. while FCM has expenses of DKK 94 million. Then follows AGF, whose current staff costs amount to DKK 66 million. DKK – thus a total 4’th place. And perhaps for most people, a significantly larger budget than OB with DKK 42 million DKK and Randers FC with DKK 33 million. The Super League club’s financial income, which is a prerequisite for labor costs, is thus by far the biggest part of the explanation that FCK has won 6 Championships and 3 silver medals in the past decade and that FCM has won 2 Championships and a total of 4 medals in the last 5 year. Money – whether it comes Champions League participation, TV rights, commercial partners, spectators or private patrons – thus plays a vital role in sporting results. So from an economic perspective alone, AGF should be a stable player in the Top-6 playoffs – in my opinion at least 4 out of 5 times. This has certainly not been the case since the turn of the Millennium, just as buying and selling players up through the 00’s and’ 10’s until the last few years has, overall, been a sporting and financial disaster. Today AGF has several players with great market value, especially the only 22-year-old Mustafa Bundu from Sierra Leone. I think it can be very valuable that AGF’s management chose not to sell the extremely talented player – or other potential marketable players – in the winter transfer window. Several of AGF’s closest competitors for the bronze medals – Brøndby, OB, AaB, FCN and Randers FC – have chosen to sell many of their biggest profiles, which in my opinion can be very expensive sporting.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 10,000 spectators will walk to Stadion Allé against Ceres Park when the AGF meets the arch rivals from Randers FC. The match is very important, but not crucial to AGF’s chances for playoffs and medals in 2020. The remaining 5 matches against Hobro, AC Horsens, Silkeborg IF, OB and AaB are equally important and so we will – both now and in the coming seasons – shout: “Come on You Whites … ” – “Come On You Whites .. ” – “Come On You Whites … “

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“Investegation of conditions for elite athletes in the Danish Swimming Federation” – Personal comments

February 9, 2020

A few days ago, “Investegation of the conditions for elite athletes in the Danish Swimming Federation” (February 6, 2020) prepared by the Chamber of Lawyers was published. The investegation was carried out on the basis of the documentary program of the Danish Broadcasting Company (DR) “Swimming stars – Under the surface”, which was sent in April 2019. The aim of the investegation is “… according to the terms of reference, to elucidate the circumstances revealed in the documentary program, including the historical and actual conditions , and the culture of the elite sport enviroments under the Danish Swimming Federation. In this context, the Reference describes a number of themes to be answered in the investegation. One of the themes of the investegation is to uncover and explain the training environment and its consequences for elite swimmers during the period from 2001 and forwards. In addition, the investegation must identify whether the factors included in the investegation can be attributed to concrete managerial failures or systemic weaknesses. In this connection, Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation’s supervision of the conditions must also be covered. The investegation will also examine the organizational framework of the Danish Swimming Federation, including whether the framework actually gave and allows elite swimmers to stand out. Finally, the investegation will reveal whether Team Denmark and the Conferation of Danish Sport (DIF) have fullfil to their responsibilities in the period from 2001 and forwards ”.

“Managerial failures” and “systemic weaknesses” – but no legal liability assessment

The Chamber of Lawyers’ investigation shows that “… a number of critical factors can be found in connection with the management of the training environment for the elite swimmers during the period from 2003 to 2013. This is especially true of the Danish Swimming Federation, but also Team Denmark”. It also appears that the Chambers of Lawyers “… has not made any actual legal liability assessment with regard to organizations or individuals, be it employment law, financial or otherwise. When we refer to managerial failures here, we refer to the failures of the organizations as such ”. The investegatoin emphasizes that “… Team Denmark, as a self-governing institution, is part of the Public Administration and the Public Law”. This means that “… Team Denmark is committed to ensuring that the organization’s financial resources are used in accordance with the purposes for which they are given. In this context, Team Denmark is responsible for continuously checking whether the individual federations that receive support from Team Denmark are acting in accordance with the expectations for the organization of the Act on Elite sport”. Thus, Team Denmark does not have a supervisory duty in the sense of State Law, but a duty to cooperate with partners – in the specific case of the Danish Swimming Federation – who do not comply with the “Act on Elite sport”, including the “Code of Ethics for Danish Elite Sports” and guidelines for weighing swimmers and medicine”.

Need for discussion about – and possibly revision of – Act on Elite sport

As CEO – and the top administrative officer in Team Denmark – during the period 1.9.2006 – 17.12.2014, I have a co-responsibility that a number of critical situations were not changed satisfactorily. There are many reasons for the managerial failures – both before and during my tenure – which is also evident in the investegation of the Chambers of Lawyers. Likewise, there are also many causes and explanations for the “systemic weaknesses” that the investegation uncovered. However, it does not change the following personal comment: It is deeply regrettable – not least for the young swimmers who have experienced failures and where it has had serious consequences for them in life – that the dialogue, communication and cooperation between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation were deficient and malfunctioning during the above period. Unfortunately, I can also today find that – both in the Danish Swimming Federation and in Team Denmark – there have been employees who have had knowledge that they have not presented in the right time and the right place. It is also extremely regrettable. I hope that the sad and serious case about the conditions for the elite athletes in Danish Swimming will have regulatory consequences for benefit of the development of Danish elite sport.

In addition, you can read about my previous views and opinions on the case here:

  • “In deep water – the Act on Elite sport, impartiality and relations of power” – https://ma57.dk/en/the-act-on-elite-sport-impartiality-and-relations-of-power/ 
  • “Still in deep water: A life buoy was thrown, but without land in sight” – https://ma57.dk/en/still-in-deep-water-a-life-buoy-was-thrown-but-without-land-in-sight/ 

Postscript (February 14, 2020):

Since the publication of the Chambers of Lawyers: “Investegation of the conditions for elite athletes in the Danish Swimming Federation” (February 6, 2020), my comments in the media (including Radio4 and BT) and the above blog have received many inquiries – the vast majority positive. I have also subsequently read my previous comments and opinions, both in the media and in two previous blog published (April 25, 2019 and May 10, 2019). I like to keep each sentence and comma in the two blog published. But of course, I have spent time and effort on reflections and conversations about the investegation, which goes all the way back to 2003 and to this day – ie. 3 years before and 5 years after my appointment as CEO of Team Denmark.

One of my conversations contained the following statement: “Michael – It is very often the people who shout most about good ethics and morals who at the same time act unethical and double moral”. I have given some thought to this statement based on the principles of a rule of law. One of the most basic principles of a rule of law is the division of power, which was mentioned by the French philosopher Montesquieu in “De l’esprit des lois” from 1748. The basic principle means that power is divided into an executive power (a Government that leads it public administration), a legislative power (the Parliament) and a judicial power (the Courts). The Chamber of Lawyers’ investigation is extensive and thorough, but it places no personal responsibility either in the Danish Swimming Federation, Team Denmark or between the two parties. Thus, the Chamber of Lawyers’ investigation does not detect whether there has been a violation of legislation. However, it is the right of every person, organization or institution to bring a case to the Court of Law, if one has an opinion of an offense. And then the Courts – not the public or the media – can make a legal decision if one or more persons, a federation (the Danish Swimming Federation) or an institution (Team Denmark) has violated a law.

There can be a big difference between good and bad management and leadership. And very often the different assessments of good and bad management or ledership are based on subjective criteria and limited knowledge. For these reasons, I would also like to encourage everyone to read through the entire investigation by the Chamber of Lawayers.

In the same way, there can be a big difference between elite athletes’ perceptions of coaches in international elite sports environments. Eg. stated Lotte Friis – the elite swimmer with Olympic bronze medals and many Championship medals in Olympic disciplines – following in the documentary programe: “Mark Regan has meant a lot to me. He was a kind of reserve father to me. He was the coach who really got me started in my career and got me out of a Danish bubble mentality. He pushed me to the extreme. My career had been just fine “and” After all, we are all different athletes and must all be handled differently. I’m fine with training under the two coaches (Mark Regan and Paulus Wildeboer). I’m fine with the way things were going. And that, in my opinion, is also the way things are done in other major swimming nations ”(DR – April 23, 2019).

There are many people – both in the Danish Swimming Federation and Team Dammark – who are responsible for dissatisfaction, including eating disorders and the delivery of medicines over a period of more than 10 years. There are also a number of people – both inside and outside the Danish Swimming Federation and Team Denmark – who have a joint responsibility for the individual cases in Danish elite swimming. For this reason, there is also now a need for a political debate about a revision or a new Law on Elite sport in Denmark.

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Do you best – New book about children and adolencents in school, sports and society

January 14. 2020

“Talk nicely”, “Behave well” and “Do your best”. Born in the 1950’s, raised as a child in the 1960’s and adolencent in the 1970’s, expressions like these have always had value and meaning to me. But the words for today’s children and adolencents have different values ​​and meanings than for my generation. Every generation, every culture and every society has different values ​​that are difficult to transform into the ones that follow. That is why the four authors – Pia Schou Nielsen, Per Andersen, Poul Erik Kristensen and Jakob Freil – ask themselves a very large, important and difficult task in the book: “Do you best – in school, sports and society ”, which was released in October 2019.

Focus on and examples from football – but also general knowledge about children and adolencents behavior and attitudes

The book’s four authors have many decades of experience with sports, especially with football. This means that the book contains many good stories and examples of behavior, language and attitudes of children, adolescents and their parents. The empiricism is derived partly from the authors’ practical, educational experiences with teaching, coaching, matches and competitions and partly from interviews with exciting and competent football players, coaches, volentary leaders and educational staff in institutions and schools. On the one hand, anecdotes and examples from football, which is by far the most popular sport in Denmark, both girls and boys, are very dominant in the book. On the other hand, it is a marked weakness of culture, behavior, language and values ​​from other sports, both team sports such as handball, ice hockey and volleyball as individual sports such as athletics, swimming and gymnastics, are not described or discussed to any significant extent. There are, in my opinion, more differences than similarities when it comes to the DNA of each sports – not least when it comes to children and adolencents.

Strong values and attitudes are necessary – also in relation to the daily lifes of children and adolencents

The book contains three main sections, divided into 9 chapters. The first four chapters present a solid theoretical knowledge of children and adolencents of today, primarily illuminated and discussed based on Danish literature, studies and research. It does not seem logical to me to start the book with a definition of winning culture with examples of “High Performance team” such as Manchester United. The authors correctly point out that a tough high performance culture with a unilateral focus on results and a culture of perfection among Danish children and young people has a number of particularly unfortunate consequences for the “core” of the individual child, namely confidence, self-control, empathy, sense of responsibility and ability to be part of communities. For that reason, in my opinion, children’s and youth coaches, educators, teachers, volentary leaders and parents should not seek the most important inspiration for establishing and developing well-runned sports environments in elite sports. Elite sports and high performance are “cut to the bone” about prioritization and selection – and to a much lesser extent about joy, well-being and inclusion. The book’s second chapter is a description and discussion about the “curling culture”, which has characterized the upbringing and attitudes of too many families, schools and clubs over the past decades. For the vast majority of children, upbringing and education today happens outside the family and through social media. Mother and father are usually working outside the home, and many hours of the children and adolencents are spent outside the home – in the nursery, kindergarten, school, SFO and club. Sweeping resistance away from well-meaning adults does not develop independent and robust children. The authors should be commended for highlighting clear statements and attitudes, e.i. in conflicts among children. Statements such as “… teaching children to cope and recover from conflict and adversity is an excellent and useful employment, which is a basic prerequisite for coping as an adult in a complex high-speed society and many conflicting interests and ways of life” and “It is an important part of healthy child development, that the children develop social learning and personal qualities to get well and strengthened out of a stressed situation. They learn how conflicts can be handled and overcome without bullying or violence as the preferred solution ”(page 51) is a competent response to too much adult control and management in the vast majority of children and adolencents’s daily lifes.

Social relationships and good manners must be learned – they do not come by themselves

The third chapter of the book introduces one of the book’s most valuable theoretical contributions and, in the words of the authors, “a summary model for understanding and communicating the book’s messages”: the relationship model or the formation circle. Every human being must establish, develop and master skills at three different levels: Individual – Relational – Collective. Today’s children and adolencents are formed and developed in a complex world, where many stakeholders and relations influence the opportunities for children and adolencents to thrive and do well. Children are formed and developed through early relations and upbringing in the family, but also through institutions such as kindergartens, schools and clubs, and not least through friends and social media, to a much greater and stronger extent and content than ever before. In this area, the authors also have some clear messages and recommendations: “A solution to the challenges of children and adolencents with robustness and mental strength seems to lie in the relational skills – the ability to play well with each other, as an individual and as a group. Performance plays out right in between individual and collective skills ”…” The ability to perform as an individual and a team can be trained and needs to be framed. It requires effort and team collaboration on everyone’s part. Especially in the early years the children’s core must be cultivated. Later, the necessary life skills and game plans for the individual and the team must be strengthened ”(page 293). The last theoretical chapter presents a number of general psychological concepts and more or less scientific theories, for instance persistence, impulse control, behavioral and personality profiles (red, blue, yellow and green category), risk behavior, inner  motivation – all in all a messy and incoherent chapter that lacks quality.

Lots of good and useful tools

The following four chapters and the second part of the book – “Toolboxes for gameplan and the adult as leader” (Chapter 5), “… you as a parent” (Chapter 6), “… you as a teacher and educator” (Chapter 7) ) and “… you as a volunteer in an organization or association” (Chapter 8) – contains lots of quality. In these chapters, the author’s extensive knowledge and practical tools come into play in an excellent way. The four chapters contain a series of concrete exercises, examples, cases and reflection questions, which both provide the reader with new knowledge and challenge views, attitudes and behaviors in relation to their own practice. It is also a great strength that the individual chapters relate to different arenas for children and adolecents daily lifes and that cases from sports other than football are described. Each chapters contain a series of topics and dilemmas that can be used with great advantage in teacher education, coaching courses in associations and clubs, in parenting meetings and all other places where the framework and conditions for children and adolencents everyday life are discussed.

A qualified counterplay to “the individual child at the center”

The final chapter of the book summarizes in a clear and precise way the most important reflections, messages and recommendations. The authors summarize the three main themes for the development of robust and viable children and adolescents, namely good manners, performance culture and the need for leadership. It is liberating – and far from ordinary – to hear such a clear statement as the following: “There seems to be a need for adults in all spheres involving children and adolescents to take on clear leadership and seek companionship. There is a need for a clear framework on children’s education, upbringing and behavior, and outlines how they want it. As adult leaders for the various arenas where children are located, we have a very important task in teaching our children and adolencents how to master life in a changing world and in a society where, like on the football field, things often go very fast. Whatever role we play in the child or adolecent’s life, and whatever arena we encounter it, we have a responsibility to make every effort and ensure that they thrive, learn the right skills, and prepare for life. It places great demands on us as human beings and on our society ”

It has been worth all the effort to read the book. It is highly recommended to anyone who wants children and adolencents all the best.

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Sports Year 2019: Historic World Championships and few Top 8-rankings

December 7, 2019

The 2019 World Championships in Handball became two very different experiences, for players, coaches, managers, journalists and spectators. In the first month of the year, the Danish men’s team for the first time ever won the World Championship in handball. On home court, the men’s team throughout the World Championship – not least in the semi-final against France and the final against Norway – delivered a number of outstanding performances with fantastic support from the fans in Herning. The same stability showed the Danish women’s team far from at the last two weeks World Championship in Japan. Several matches were characterized by a large number of technical errors and a very low bottom level, which meant that Denmark did not achieve a ranking among the world’s 8 best teams. The disappointing performance also meant that the women’s team – as in 2016 – failed to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. It is strange to me that both Team Denmark and the Danish media – not least TV2 and DR – spend so much resources on a product of such poor quality.

World Championships in handball, road cycling and sailing

In addition to Denmark’s historic World Championship in men’s team handball, other world-class performances were also delivered by Danish athletes and teams in 2019. The only 23-year-old road cyclist Mads Pedersen became the first Danish world champion for male professionals in road cycling and the sailor Anne-Marie Rindom won both the World Championships and the European Championships in Laser Radial – a fantastic result which also resonated in international sailing. The sympathetic sports student from Aarhus was also named “Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2019” by “World Sailing” because of the results – as the first Dane ever.

In 2019, Danish athletes and teams have won a total of 12 World Championship medals in Olympic disciplines. which is very positive. Cycling has been best with 4 WC medals. In addition to Mads Pedersen’s World Championship, Lasse Norman Hansen and Casper Folsach won the WC silver medals in madison (track cycling), while the Danes in the team pursuit race (track cycling) and Julie Leth and Amalie Dideriksen in madison (track cycling) won the WC bronze medal. Cycling, especially track and road, has clearly been the sport in Danish elite sport that has had the greatest progress over the past few years. And it is particularly impressive that the recruitment and development of world-class riders is based on a very limited number of youth riders. Sailing has also had a really good year with 3 WC medals in Olympic disciplines. In addition to Anne Marie Rindom’s World Championship, Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lübeck won the WC silver medal in Nacra 17, while Ida Maria Baad and Marie Thusgaard won the WC bronze medal in Auckland in New Zealand. In other words, cycling and sailing have won more than half of the Danish WC medals in 2019. The other 5 WC medals in 2019 are divided into three sports: Rowing, badminton and kayak. Sverri S. Nielsen (rowing) won the WC silver medal in single sculler, just as Anders Antonsen (badminton) did in men’s singles (badminton). Finally, Emma Aastrand Jørgensen (kayak) in the K1 won 200 meters and W4- with Christina Juhl Johansen, Lærke Berg Rasmussen, Frida Sanggaard Nielsen and Ida Gärtz Jacobsen (rowing) the WC bronze medals.

Fewer athletes and teams are in the battles for World Championships medals

The number of WC medals in Olympic disciplines – together with the number and value of top 8 rankings at the World Championships or in the World rankings – are the best indicators for the international level of Danish elite sport. It is difficult to compare the results in different years, as the number of international events vary from year to year. However, it makes good sense to compare the results in 2019 and 2015 – the last year before the Olympics. The number of WC medals in Olympic disciplines is slightly higher in 2019 than in 2015, when it became 11 WC medals, divided into swimming (3), badminton (2), sailing (2), wrestling (1), cycling (1), kayak (1) and rowing (1). By contrast, the number and value of top 8 rankings in 2019 is lower than in 2015. Danish athletes and teams have only achieved 21 top 8 rankings at the World Championships this year compared to 27 in 2015. Similarly, Danish athletes and teams have achieved only 112 ranking points in Olympic disciplines against 133 ranking points in 2015.

Denmark falls back on international rankings

Assessing the chances of Danish success at the 2020 Olympic Games will be associated with great risks based only on the number of WC medals in 2019. It is a fact that Danish elite sport has had a markedly declining results over the past three years. In the period 2017-2019 Denmark achieved significantly worse WC results than in the comparative period 2013-2015. The number of WC medals has been 25 (medal points: 43) in 2017-2019 against 31 (medal points: 55) in 2013-2015, while the total number of top 8 ranking points in 2017-2019 has been 349 against 409 in 2013-2015 – a decrease of 15-20%. The declining performance level also applies in non-Olympic sports, such as orienteering, speedway, sports dance and bowling. The negative trend can also be seen on the “Greatest Sporting Nation Ranking” (https://www.greatestsportingnation.com/), which records international results in 98 Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines, where Denmark has thus fallen from a total ranking as No. 26 in 2013-2015 to No. 34 in 2017-2019 in the rankings of all nations and from No. 9 in 2013-2015 to No. 14 in the ranking of all nations per capita – by nations such as Bahrain, Estonia, Croatia, Serbia and Finland.

Reason for restrained Olympic optimism – after weak World Championships results in 2017 and 2018

Based on the WC results of recent years, a realistic target for the 2020 Olympic Games will be 10 medals. In my opinion, the most obvious medal candidates are track cycling – both Madison and omnium for women and men as well as 4 km team pursuit races. In addition, Anne-Marie Rindom as well as Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lübeck (sailing), Emma Aastrand Jørgensen (kayak), Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen (badminton), W4- and Sverri Nielsen (rowing) and not least the men’s handball team are considered for being good candidates for Danish Olympic medals in Tokyo. At present, I do not see Danish Olympic medal chances in either athletics or wrestling: Two sports, where Danish athletes won two Olympic silver medals 4 years ago. There are, of course, more explanations for the markedly poor results of Danish elite sports in the past 3 years than before. Sports such as swimming, badminton, rowing, shooting, orienteering, sports dancing, speedway and bowling, which have traditionally won many international medals for the World Championships and the European Championships, have apparently failed to secure a strong “food chain” of athletes and teams at the highest international level. Team Denmark’s support programme 2017-2020 has also been far too visionless and insufficent to develop Danish elite sport. The result should not be finally evaluated after the 2020 Olympics, but 12 WC medals in 2019 have certainly increased my optimism concerning Danish Olympic medals in cycling, sailing, rowing, badminton, kayak and men’s team handball.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone – athletes, coaches, managers and fans – in Danish and international elite sports a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Sport Year.

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The dream that was crushed by power politics and a foolished rental contract

November 18. 2019

A few months ago, Team Denmark published a press release stating “… that Team Denmark and the Sports Conferation of Denmark (DIF) at a common board meeting decided to lift the vision of building a national elite sports center in Copenhagen to a comprehensive solution involving the whole country” and beyond ” … that Team Denmark establishes innovation centers in Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg and Copenhagen, that will cover all parts of Denmark. At the new innovation centers, coaches, athletes and researchers will be able to meet and develop new knowledge about nutrition, physiology. sports psychology, testing and other topics that can give athletes and coaches competitive advantages ”.

The decision is not least due to a big grant of DKK 100 million in autumn 2018 from the Novo Nordic Foundation to Team Denmark. The Novo Nordic Foundations’ press release states that “… DKK 50 million is a targeted establishment of state-of-the-art facilities to be used in connection with sports research, eg. altitude hotel, climate room and other training facilities, where the equipment provides the opportunity to monitor athletes’ performance during training and competitions. The appropriation for these special facilities is conditional on Team Denmark obtaining support from other foundations by the end of 2020 to establish a building that can accommodate the special facilities ”.

More than one explanation of new strategy

However, there is another explanation for why the dream of a national elite sports center in Copenhagen unfortunately only seems to become a building at the University of Copenhagen that can accommodate the special facilities. Anyone who has been involved in elite sports research at international level is fully aware that a grant of DKK 50 million does not do any wonders.

There were many reasons why Kjeld Rasmussen, Brøndby’s mayor from 1966 to 2005, has the record as Denmark’s longest-serving mayor. One of the main reasons was that Rasmussen was a very big fan of sports, which in particular Brøndby IF – one of Denmark’s most winning football clubs – has enjoyed for more than half a century. In addition, the Social Democratic mayor quickly realized that municipal investment in sports facilities and contracts with external partners could be the way to stable revenue in the budget of the municipality.

One of Rasmussen’s most “brilliant” rental contracts was signed with the Sports Conferation of Denmark (DIF) in the early 1970’s, when Brøndby Municipality and DIF entered into a rental contract for “The House of Sports” on a field in the Western part of the Copenhagen. The building, which was opened in 1974, was the property of DIF, but located on a rented land that belongs to Brøndby Municipality and which can only be returned in the year 2060 – ie in 41 years. In addition, today’s “The House of Sports” has a loan that far exceeds the real market value of the facilities.

The House of Sport – a cold administration building where athletes and coaches do not have first priority

There are probably not many people who would describe “The House of Sports” as a visionary and sustainable sports facility with a strong focus on the wants and needs of athletes and coaches. And there are probably not many people who find the location of “The House of Sports” appropriate in relation to public transport. Furthermore, DIF has never succeeded in developing “The Sports House” for anything more than an administration building. These three factors were also the reasons why, in my opinion, the location of a national elite sports center in Brøndby would be as foolish as DIF’s rental contract with Brøndby Municipality.

The world’s best sports nations have pooled resources on Campus

The dream of a national elite sports center in Denmark was first discussed at Team Denmark’s board meeting in late 2011. The example was similar centers in some of the world’s best sports nations with the size of Denmark: Australia, Norway and New Zealand, which with great success had gathered largely all the necessary resources in the common facilities: Athletes, coaches, experts such as doctors, physiotherapists, dietitians, sports psychologists and not least researchers who were either employed at the Australian Institute of Sport and the University of Canberra (Australia), the “Olympiatoppen” and the Norwegian School of Sport in Oslo or High Performance Sport New Zealand and the University of Auckland in New Zealand – on a campus.

The vision and content of a national elite sports center was first discussed at a board meeting in Team Denmark in November 2011. At a board meeting in February 2013, I suggested to the board that Team Denmark should prepare an analysis with a cost of approx. DKK 1 million about a possible location of a national elite sports center, either at the Royal Arena in Ørestaden or at the Parken and Østerbro Stadium with the “Rigshospitalet” and the University of Copenhagen within walking distance. This statement definitely did not go down well with the board and management of DIF, who in the days leading up to the board meeting was in close contact with all of Team Denmark’s board members. The consequence of the hectic activity by telephone of the chairman of DIF was a non-decision at Team Denmark’s board meeting. The decision about the national elite sport center was sent to “corner kick” and the meeting became one of the blackest chapters in Team Denmark’s history. From that moment, I also lost hope and belief in a national elite sports center in Copenhagen outside “The Sports House”.  

Waste of resources on non-existent potentials

For more than six years, Team Denmark and DIF have “worked on” the visions of a national elite sports center. The visions and contents of the vision is described in the report: “National Elite Sports Center in Denmark – Phase 2, February 2017). In addition, in 2017, DIF and Team Denmark hired a“project director”, who was to be a front figure in realizing the vision, objectives and strategies in the report. The “project director’s” contract has now stopped with the decision of DIF and Team Denmark to change the dream of a national elite sports center with all the functions and resources gathered has been “laid in the grave”. In my opinion, Denmark has no sporting or research potential or resources to build or develop 4 “innovation centers” in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg – unless the four municipalities and the four universities finance the vast majority of the financial resources for the centers.

Kjeld Rasmussen – the “King of the Brøndby Municipality” for several decades – was a very wise and action-oriented mayor, but I actually think he would be genuinely sorry that the lease contract between DIF and Brøndby Municipality became an ever-present obstacle to the best solution for Denmark’s best athletes: A national elite sports center in Copenhagen – but outside Brøndby Municipality.

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US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center: One of the factors behind US sports dominance in international elite sport

October 18, 2019

The United States has been the world’s best sports nation since the turn of the Millennium, especially because of the great dominance of the Summer Olympic disciplines. The United States’ dominance in international elite sport was most recently confirmed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where athletes and teams from the United States won a total of 121 medals, including 46 of gold. In second place in the national competition, Great Britain came with a total of 67 medals, of which 27 were gold, while China was No. 3 with 70 medals, of which 26 were gold. Also, based on the past three years of World Championship results in 33 different sports and 339 disciplines on the program at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there is no doubt that the United States is a big favorite to win the national competition again.

Colorado Springs – “US Olympic City”

Many of the US top athletes and teams, including swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, boxing and shooting, have their training facilities at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The center also contains the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s administration and many federations also have their administration in Colorado Springs, which will open the world’s largest sports museum and Hall of Fame next year. The center was established in the late 1970’s and is today one of the absolute best training centers in the world with rooms for 140 athletes, coaches and experts, training facilities, restaurant, services for the athletes within sports medicine, physical therapy, nutrition, sports psychology and performance analysis. The center is often used for training camps for the best athletes and teams, in preparation for the largest national and international championships, such as Pan American Games, World Championships and the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games are special events – also for the USA’s sports stars

The Olympics have great status and prestige for all American athletes, including in commercial sports such as basketball and ice hockey. “The Olympics have always been something special for the United States and the nation’s top athletes. Athletics and swimming are the biggest sports for us at the Summer Olympics, while ice hockey is the biggest sport at the Winter Olympics. However, we work every day to be represented in all sports and also preferably to be among the medal winners. Fortunately, we have many athletes who qualify for both 3, 4 and 5 Olympic Games,” says Susie Parker-Simmons, High Performance Manager for the US Olympic Committee & Paralympic Committee. The USOPC is collaborating with all 28 federations that can qualify athletes and teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all 7 federations that can qualify athletes and teams for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. “We are optimistic about the upcoming Olympics, but we can also see that many federations find it difficult to retain the greatest talents that are attracted to professional and collegiate sports such as tennis, golf, American football, baseball ice hockey and basketball. In these sports, opportunities to get attractive financial scholarships in college or universities are far greater than in sports such as wrestling, archery, bobsleigh and figure skating”.

World-class training facilities and excellent sports campus

At the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, athletes have access to a range of services at the highest international level. The center has an interdisciplinary sports medicine team made up of doctors, physiotherapists, dietitians and chiropractors. Also, the center has a training facility where athletes and coaches can get advice and guidance on discipline-specific strength and endurance training programs. The area also contains state-of-the-art technological equipment that can be used for biomechanical analysis. There is also a training facility where the athletes can practice under various climatic conditions, such as altitude, heat and humidity. This training facility will be an essential tool for many athletes in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will present major challenges, especially in relation to humidity.

“We are constantly trying to optimize the conditions for our top athletes by the use of new technology in the daily training and competitions. In relation to winter sports we can see that Sweden and especially Norway have a lot of top athletes in sports such as cross country skiing, biathlon, Nordic combined and alpine skiing. We saw this most recently at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, where Norway won no fewer than 39 medals, 14 of them gold. We do not have the same opportunities to recruit talents through strong clubs as in the Nordic countries. Only in a few states such as Colorado, Utah and New York can we offer athletes good training conditions and we often have to travel on long-term training and competition stays in Europe. At the last Winter Olympics, however, we showed that we can defeat world class athletes from both Norway, Sweden and Finland, as Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggens won the gold medal in team sprint for women – this preformance we are very proud of”, says Susie Parker-Simmons, who was born and raised in Australia but has now been working for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee for more than a decade.

You can find more information about the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee at https://www.teamusa.org/About-the-USOPC and about the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center at https://www.teamusa.org/About-the-USOPC/olympic-paralympic-training-centers/csoptc/about 

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Talent development and elite sport in secondary schools

October 9, 2019

The revision of the Act on Elite sport in 2004 contained two new tasks for Team Denmark. The aims of the institution are to develop Danish elite sport in a socially responsible way. Firstly, the so-called 15-year rule was abolished, which meant that Team Denmark also had the opportunity to take responsibility for recruiting and developing the youngest talents. From the law’s remarks it appeared, that “… it no longer seems appropriate that Team Denmark cannot protect, advise and support the children under 15 years who participate in intensive training when the institution is tasked with protecting the children over 15 years. Therefore, the current age limit is removed, and Team Denmark, in collaboration with the other relevant partners (parents, clubs, federation and DIF) is instructed to take care of the development of the very young talents, ie. taking into account the  development of their motor, mental and social skills”. Secondly, it became possible for Team Denmark to establish formalized colloboration with the country’s municipalities in the form of mutually binding contracts. It was emphasized in the law’s remarks that “… such contracts can, for example, include the young talents with a view to providing them with good training conditions locally and to involve them in long-term education planning ”. The “new” Act on Elite sport hereby gave Team Denmark new objectives, strategies and topics in relation to recruiting and developing more and better talents for Danish elite sport. The two new tasks were integrated in subsequent years, partly at national level with initiatives such as “Age-related Training – ATK”, sports-specific ATKs and preparation of “Common values for talent development in Danish sports” and partly at local level with mutually binding contracts with a total of 23 of the 98 municipalities in Denmark.

Team Denmark’s Elite sport municipalities – a collaboration between many players

The contracts between Team Danmark and the municipalities, which are typically concluded for a four-year period, have as a general aim to optimize the framework and promote conditions for elite sports and in particular talent development in the municipalities. The contracts are different from municipality to municipality, but the vast majority of contracts include topics such as priority sports, training sessions in primary schools, secondary schools, and higher schools; sports medicine, physical therapy, dietary guidance and sports psychology.

One of the focus topics – the collaboration between primary schools, municipalities, clubs, federations and Team Denmark on sports classes in primary schools, where children and adolecents participate in a “dual career” – is now described and discussed in the book: “Talentudvikling og elitesport i skolen”(Aarhus University Press, 2019). The book, edited by Jens Chr. Nielsen and Jesper Stilling Olesen, associated professors at DPU, Aarhus University educational psychology and educational anthropology, has been prepared on the basis of a four-year research project in the period 2013-2017. The researchers have followed a year of sports children at 4 primary schools from 7’th to 9’th grade using both qualitative methods (interviews and observation) and quantitative methods (questionnaires). In doing so, the sports children, both those who have been successful and those who have had difficulty living up to the expectations of a progressive sporting development, have followed in development and not least in the ups and downs that have brought them closer in some cases to elite sports and in other cases has brought to drop-out in elite sports.

New theories and perspectives on talent development and long-term education

The book is generally well written and introduces new theories and perspectives to the existing literature on talent development and education. And not least, a number of key controversies and dilemmas about children, adolescents and elite sports are described and discussed based on extensive empirical material. The book contains 13 chapters on i.a. talent development under change, international research on talent development, sports classes under development, educational and cultural policy initiatives, preparation for dual careers, transitions in sport, the visible talents and the transition to high schools as well as a comprehensive literature list. In particular, I would like to highlight three topics in which the book gives Danish and international elite sports new knowledge based on theoretical considerations and the practice of reality.

Sports children in a sports class – and not talents in an elite sports class

Firstly, the researchers emphasize that the target group for a combined school and sport offer in the primary schools should be defined as “sports children in a sports class”. There is no doubt that talent development has in the past decade received a lot of focus both in the education system, the business world and in the cultural and sports world. The primary reason for this development has been that talent development has increasingly been regarded as a crucial factor for smaller nations such as Denmark can compete in the international sporting race. However, there is also no doubt that too many “talents” have been “prematurely” identified in the last decade, especially in the world of sports. In my opinion, there is no greater mistake than the statement: “Everyone has talent” and it is quite a few percent of the sports children in the sports classes that can – and should – be included in Team Denmark’s definition of “… a talent that is a youth athlete with competences and skills in a sport that is likely to develop long-term as a senior athlete at the highest international senior level. ” The vast majority of sports children and adolecents, both inside and outside Team Denmark’s Elite sport municipalities, never come close to that category. For this reason, all schools, clubs, federations and, of course, Team Denmark in the future should use the term “sports children” and “sports classes” instead of “talents” and “elite sports classes” – not least for the sake of the sports children and adolecents. Similarly, it is also valuable that the researchers introduce the concept of “dual becoming” instead of “dual career”. For sports children or adolecents at the age of 14-16, this is precisely a process of becoming and not a sports or educational “career”. In my opinion, this can at most be a career, both sports and educational, after completing high school and a sport transition from junior athlete to senior athlete.

“Double commitment” – sports children who can and want to

Secondly, the researchers point out that “double commitment” is crucial as an admission card for a good talent development. Commitment is an expression of a particularly strong commitment and can be defined as a general mental state that can explain a person’s targeted actions over a longer period of time. The researcers also emphasize that commitment is a relational and dynamic phenomenon, which should ideally apply to both domains: Sport and school. The premise of being selected and staying in a sports class for three years is that the individual child has a certain level of competence within their sport, that the sport child can continue to develop this competence towards the elite level and that he or she have the will to do so. It is also expected that the sports child has professional school competence and willingness to, among other things, to do homework and deliver assignments. In other words, the sport children must “be able” and “want”, both the school and the sport. That task is solved by some sports children, but far from most. The majority of the sports children are thus often under a “cross-pressure” between the sport and the school, where different expectations and demands are set from eg. parents, teachers, coaches, peers and not least the sports children themselves. The book describes – specifically and directly – “cross-pressed” for the different types of sports children. One of the book’s few weaknesses is that it gives no answer to how large a proportion of sports children who master both competences and commitment in the two domains and how many sports students are actually “misplaced” in a sports class.

Significant differences between sports – and between girls and boys

Thirdly, the researchers often emphasize in the book that sports children in sports classes should be viewed as procedural and relational phenomena involving many different actors: the sports children, teachers, coaches, coordinators, supervisors, parents, peers, and many others. A strong talent development environment consists not only of people, but also of a number of material facilities and objects such as school buildings, sports facilities, sports equipment and props, as well as policy documents, objectives, ideologies, norms and visions. The complex and controversial topic – talent development and elite sports in the primary schools – is also clearly expressed through the research project’s descriptions and discussions of the marked differences in behavior and attitudes, both in two genders – girls and boys – and in between the different sports.

“Talentudvikling og elitesport i skolen” should, in my opinion, be a compulsory curriculum for any coach, teacher, parent, coordinator who deals with children, adolecents and elite sports – and who will follow them as best they can on their way in or…. out of elite sports.

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Unique talent, hard training and conscious choices: Karsten Warholm’s pathway to international success

September 13, 2019

One of the greatest favorites in the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championship is 23-year-old Karsten Warholm, who was born and raised in Ulsteinvik – a village with 6,000 inhabitants on the West Coast of Norway. There are several reasons for Warholm’s favorite role in the 400-meter hurdle, for example he became World Champion two years ago in London and last year he won the European gold medal in Berlin at the distance. However, the main reason is that the young Norwegian at the IAAF Diamond League in Zurich in mid-August ran at the best time of the year in the world – 46.92 seconds, which is the new European record. The time is also the 2’nd fastest in the world ever and the world record of 46.78 seconds set by American Kevin Young back in 1992 could very well be improved at the 2019 World Championship in Doha, where Abderrahman Samba of Qatar and Rai Benjamin of the United States will push Warholm to the last meters. Warhol’s performance and development curve has also meant that he is among Norway’s absolute greatest medal candidates at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, together with the Ingebrichtsen-brothers.

From decathlon to specialization – 400 meter hurdles

Already in the spring of 2013, the first sign of Karsten Warholm’s unique talent showed itself at the Norwegian Youth Championships. Warholm was registered and won 8 disciplines over 3 days – triple jump, 60-meter hurdles, 400-meters, height jump, 60-meters, 200-meters, long jump and the relay – and in 6 of the disciplines he set new Norwegian records. Later in the year, he also became the youth World champion in decathlon and a unique international career could really take off. During adolescence, Warholm’s versatility was unique and until 2014 Warholm participated in both decathlon and specific disciplines such as long jump, hurdles and 400-meters. Warholm’s weakest performance in decathlon was the throwing disciplines: Shot put, discus throw and javelin throw. “Karsten has always had a very great talent and the training in decathlon during the childhood and adolescence laid a very solid training basic. In addition, he has always wanted to train to progress. He has a strong belief in his own abilities and he has an exceptional ability to push himself, so that he fully exploits his potential, ”says Hanne Haugland, OLT coach who has followed Warhol’s development for a number of years and is today contact person between the “Olympiatoppen” – the Norwegian elite sports organization – and “Team Warholm”. In 2015 Warholm moved from Ulsteinvik to Oslo, where he began a collaboration with the very competent and experienced coach – 62-year-old Leif Olav Alnes. This collaboration has been of great value and significance to Warholm’s impressive career over the past four years. Hanne Haugland puts it this way: “When Karsten, together with Leif Olav Alnes, decided to focus 100% on the 400-meter hurdles, quality and competence in targeted training led to great progress in a very short time. Karsten got great benefit from Leif Olav’s vast experience from strength training and biomechanics and Leif Ola got the pleasure of training an athlete who was willing to focus 100%. It has been the perfect match between a 100% dedicated athlete and a 100% dedicated coach who has led to the world class results,” says Haugland.

Unconventional choices and priorities

Warholm and Alnes have also made a number of conscious and unconventional choices. Among other things, Karsten Warholm has chosen to train exclusively with girls: Amalie Iuel, Elisabeth Slettum and Solveig Hernandez – all hurdle-runners of the same age as Warholm. The daily training takes place in Vålerengas Vallhall, Bislett Arena and at the Olympiatoppens training center at Sognsvann, where “Team Warholm” with Leif Olav Alnes supplemented by assistant coach Andreas Thorkildsen is responsible for the training. The daily training load is very large – often 6-8 hours – and especially Alne’s strong motivation, extreme systematics and creativity combined to using unconventional training tools has been of great benefit to Warholm’s development. In addition, the team also collaborates with the experts of Olympiatoppen on dietary guidance, testing, and other factors that are critical to international top performance. Warholm greatly appreciates the informal conversations with the three girls, also on topics that are far from the world of athletics. “My training mates are by no means my competitors and the three girls help create a purposeful and serious atmosphere in our training group, but where there is also space for humor and fun between us” Warholm has spoken to Norwegian media about the unconventional choice of training mates.

Quality in the daily training – rather than prize money at international competitions 

Another unconventional choice made by Warholm and Alnes is not to take part of competitions outside Europe, also at the expense of the very big money associated with participation and victories in the Diamond League events. Of course, Warholm likes to compete, but it is actually the daily training that he values ​​most. He has stated to Norwegian TV that “… I find extreme pleasure in developing and that development usually happens in training. Competitions are important to gain a little extra, but training is the crucial basis. For me – and this may sound like a cliche – money is far from any driving force. I have never spent my time and energy on athletics to make a lot of money. I only set out to present – not to make money in the individual races. Money is the driving force for many top athletes, but I would like to be a kind of counterpoint to this attitude, “Warholm says, and continues:” When I get offers for money, I don’t say no – it will be too stupid. But for me, delivering performance on the field is far more valuable. The joy of sports comes first”. This attitude has also meant that “Team Warholm” deselects a number of international events in Asia, Oceania and the United States. “Traveling around the world is very demanding and you usually lack sleep, rhythm and rest after such trips. We have therefore selected few important international competitions during the season – and most of them in Europe. For me it is incredibly important that I look forward to the competitions that I have to participate in – so my motivation is top notch,”concludes World Cup and Olympic favorite Karsten Warholm.

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Danish rowing before the 2020 Olympics: Two candidates for medals and disappointing Olympic qualifications

September 1, 2019

Danish athletes and teams have won a total of 45 medals at the last 5 Olympic Games, which have been held since the Millennium. Top scorer among the medal winners is rowing, which has won a total of 9 Olympic medals (3 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze medals) closely followed by sailing with 8 Olympic medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 5 bronze medals), badminton with 6 Olympic medals (3 silver and 3 bronze medals) and cycling with 5 Olympic medals (one gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals). In particular, the introduction of lightweight rowing at the Olympic program at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta has been very beneficial for the Danish Association of Rowing (DFfR). The “golden lightweight four”, who won medals at all the Olympics in the period 1996-2016, became an institution in Danish elite sport, but also the lightweight double sculler with Rasmus Qvist and Mads Rasmussen, who won Olympic bronze medal in 2008 and Olympic gold medal in 2012, achieved impressive international results in their careers. Unfortunately, the lightweight four is no longer on the Olympic program, which means that only two lightweight classes – the double sculler for women and men – and 12 open classes at the 2020 Olympic Games will now compete. And unfortunately, it does not appear that Denmark will be represented. neither in double sculls for women or men in Tokyo.

Rowing is the “financial top scorer” among Team Denmark-federations

The excellent Olympic results of Danish rowing are one of the main reasons why DFfR is among the top scorers in terms of financial resources and expert assistance from Team Denmark – the Danish elite sport institution. The amount of funding in 2019 is more than DKK 9 million. During the four-year period leading up to the 2020 Olympic Games, the amount of funding for Danish rowing is approaching DKK 40 million. kr.

From this perspective, both DFfR and Team Denmark should also have ambitious goals and high expectations for the Danish results at the 2020 Olympic Games. Against this background, the 2019 World Championship, held in Linz-Ottensheim, offered both positive and negative performance of the Danish rowers. Denmark was represented in 8 Olympic classes, but only managed to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in 2 classes: Sverri S. Nielsen in singles sculls for men and W4- with Christina Juhl Johansen, Lærke Berg Rasmussen, Frida Sanggaard Nielsen and Ida Gärtz Jacobsen. I believe that Fie Udby Erichsen in single sculler for women to qualify for the Olympics 202o at one of the last two regattas in spring 2020, but in all other classes the Danish rowers were very far from the Olympic qualification: LW2 became No. 17 (Olympic qualification top 7), W2- became No. 17 (Olympic qualification top 11), W2- became No. 15 (Olympic qualification top 11), M4- became No. 16 (Olympic qualification top 8) and W8- became No.11 (Olympic qualification top 5). These teams still have the opportunity to achieve Olympic qualification at the FISA Continental Qualification Regatta or at the FISA Olympic Qualification Regatta, which will be held in the spring of 2020, but in my opinion at the 2019 World Championship performances it becomes very difficult to achieve Olympic qualification in more than 3 classes. There is simply too much distance from the men’s current performance level to the level needed to achieve one of the few Olympic qualifying places remaining. By comparison, it can be mentioned that Denmark was represented in 6 classes (W1x, W2-, W2x, LW2, LM2 and LM4) at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

A Faroese and W4- are medal candidates at the 2020 Olympic Games 

Currently, Denmark’s best medal chance at the 2020 Olympic Games is attributed to the 25-year-old Sverri S. Nielsen from the Faroe Islands, who won the WC silver medal after Oliver Zeidler from Germany, but ahead of the world champion of 2918 Kjetil Borch from Norway in a very exciting A-final. Sverri has undergone a fantastic development, especially in the past year with two World Cup victories and he is much better today in the tactical performances of his races compared to previous seasons. Sverri S. Nielsen is, in my opinion, one of Denmark’s biggest medal candidates at the 2020 Olympics. The team of W4- have also shown a very high international level this season with victory in one of the World Cups. The young team also delivered an excellent WC performance with a bronze medal after Australia and the Netherlands. In my opinion, there is no doubt that Australia, one of the world’s strongest rowing nations, is a favorite for the Olympic gold medal next year on the Sea Forest Waterway, but I believe that Denmark – along with nations such as the Netherlands, USA, Poland and Romania – must compete for the other two podiums.

I also believe that 34-year-old Fie Udby Erichsen, who surprised everyone with the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London has really good chances of securing the third Olympics attendance in 2020, but her chances for being a part of the medal match in Tokyo are in my opinion very limited. The 2019 World Championship was a disappointment for Fie with a 4’th place in the B-finals and thereby a total 10th place – just outside the 9 Olympic qualifying places.

Danish rowing balances on knife edge ahead and during the 2020 Olympics

It will be very disappointing if Danish rowing only qualifies in 2 or 3 classes for the 2020 Olympics, and at least one Olympic medal should be the target of Danish rowing. If that does not happen, the proceeds of one of Danish elite sports’ largest investments of DKK 40 million in the period 2017-2020 will be far too modest. Danish rowing balances on a knife age until the 2020 Olympics, but the chances of two Olympic medals in Tokyo are definitely present.

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Generational change in Danish badminton requires targeted efforts in relation to the recruitment and development of female players

August 6, 2019

In two weeks the TOTAL BWF Badminton World Championships 2019 will take place in Switzerland and Denmark have “only” Top 8-seeded players in two categories: Anders Antonsen in men’s singles and Kim Astrup and Anders Skårup in men’s doubles – the lowest number of seedings since the first BWF Badminton World Championships were held in 1977. One of the main reasons for the lack of seedings is that Denmark’s absolute largest medal candidate – Viktor Axelsen – in men’s singles has announced a cancellation due to a back injury. The lack of seedings does not mean that Denmark cannot get players or couples other than Antonsen and Skårup/Astrup through to the quarter finals, but it looks like a very difficult task in advance. The absence of Axelsen means that, in my opinion, the 22-year-old Antonsen must be attributed to the greatest Danish medal chances. Indeed, Antonsen has shown several times in recent months that he can defeat the very best single players in the world. The good performances have also brought Antonsen, who was developed in Aarhus Badminton Club, to rank 9’th in the world. On the other hand, it will by no means be a surprise if Denmark returns from the TOTAL BWF World Championship 2019 without medals, which has only happened 3 times earlier – in 1989 (Jakarta), 2007 (Kuala Lumpur) and 2018 (Nanjing) – out of the 24 BWF Badminton World Championships, which have been held so far.

Proud international traditions – but great challenges in women’s and mixed doubles

For decades, Denmark has been Europe’s supremely best nation and among the world’s 4-5 best nations in a sport dominated by nations in Asia: China, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, India, Thailand and Malaysia. Denmark is still Europe’s best nation, but nations such as Japan, China and Indonesia now have far more Top-10 players/couples than Denmark. Likewise, nations such as Taiwan and India have more and better rankings than Denmark on the world rankings (1). One of the main reasons why the distance between the top three nations and Denmark has increased significantly is that Danish players/couples have previously belonged to the world’s Top-10 players in at least 4 of the 5 categories: Men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, ladies’ doubles and mix double. At present, however, there are no Danish Top-10 players/couples in either women’s singles, women’s doubles or mix doubles. It has been particularly painful that the two best women’s and mix doubles players over the past decade: Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl have stopped their international careers. I do not currently see players in women’s doubles or mix doubles, which may come close to Pedersen and Rytter Juhl level over the next 4-5 years. The fact is that the best Danish couple in women’s doubles – Sara Thygesen & Majken Fruergaard – are currently ranked No. 25 on the World Rankings, while there is no Danish couple among the 40 best on the World Ranking in mix double. Due to the lack of international level in women’s doubles and mix doubles, it will also be completely unrealistic with Danish medals in international team championships such as the Surdirman Cup (Mixed national team) and the Uber Cup (Women’s national team) in the near future. On the other hand, the Danish men’s national team has really good chances of achieving a top result when the World Championship for Men’s team (Thomas Cup) is played in Aarhus in May 2020.

Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen – Two world-class players

While the lack of international qualities in women doubles and mix doubles are particularly obvious, there is much greater optimism in men’s singles and men’s doubles. Denmark’s largest medal candidate for the 2020 Olympic Games is 25-year-old Viktor Axelsen (No. 6 on the World Rankings), who has already won the World Championship (2017) and Olympic bronze medal (2016) as well as a number of Super Series victories. However, it is very worrying that in recent years Viktor has been forced to pause several international tournaments due to various injuries. And now a discus collapse in his back has also forced him to a World Championship cancellation. Injuries have also been Jan Ø. Jørgensen’s challenge for a number of years. Fortunately, Jan is on his way back with a semifinal result at the Japan Open. The performance shown that he still has the potential for top international results. It can certainly not be ruled out that Jan Ø returns to the Top-10 on the World rankings, if health allows continuity of training and tournaments.

Men’s doubles at the “heavy” end of the age scale

The best Danish men’s doubles – Kim Astrup & Anders Skårup (No. 8 on the World Rankings) – have also shown high international level in recent seasons and the couple can on “a good day” win over the best couples in the world. But from opinion the couple must perform with a higher “bottom level”, especially against opponents who are ranked lower than the talented pair. I am very pleased that 39-year-old Mathias Boe and 31-year-old Mads Conrad have come together in a new constellation, as are 36-year-old Carsten “Nuller” Mogensen and 31-year-old Mads Kolding. Unfortunately, Mads Kolding is beaten with a long-term injury, but both couples have the potential to challenge the world’s best pair in men’s doubles: Gideon and Sukamuljo, Setiawan and Ahsan from Indonesia and Li and Liu from China. Especially, I look forward to following Boe and Conrad, who are both “fighters of God’s grace,” in the coming months, focusing on their earning of points for the Olympic qualification. I think Denmark can qualify for two men’s doubles for the 2020 Olympic Games, but it will be very difficult especially for the two couples to interfere in the fight for Olympic medals due to the lack of seedings.

International potential at Blichfeldt and Kjærsfeldt – but perhaps greatest in doubles

Likewise, I believe that Denmark’s two best women’s singles: Line Kjærsfeldt (No. 17 on the World Rankings) and Mia Blichfeldt (No. 12 on the World Rankings) qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, but in both players are without medal chances. Neither 25-year-old Kjærsfeldt and 21-year-old Blichfeldt have yet succeeded in achieving international top results and the road to emerge among the best players in the world is still long. I also believe that their international potentials are greater as doubles players than as singles players. However, it is a crucial condition that the individual player is motivated for a career as a double player. Both Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen chose – consciously and advisedly by sports manager and coaches – to bet unilaterally on a career as doubles players. This choice resulted in impressive international results for more than a decade. Kjærsfeldt and Blichfeldt have the opportunity to follow the same road, which I think will be a wise choice.

More girls must be recruited in the clubs and developed to international level by Badminton Denmark

Danish badminton’s biggest challenge, in my opinion, is the lack of recruitment and development of doubles players, especially among the girls. It is a fact that today there are more than 2,000 girls under the age of 18 who are members of one of Badminton Denmark’s 650 clubs than 10 years ago. Similarly, the number of boys under 18, who are club players, has decreased by more than 2,000 in the same period, ie. a decline of young badminton players in Denmark under the age of 18 by more than 10 percent. In addition, the number of boys under the age of 18 – 22,500 – is significantly higher than the number of girls – 11,800 – in the Danish badminton clubs. The skewed gender distribution in the clubs also means that coaches, managers and parents often have – consciously or unconsciously – a much greater focus on the boys’ wishes and needs than the girls. Badminton Denmark with High Performance Manager Jens Meibom and his coaching staff should therefore, as soon as possible, in close cooperation with the strongest local training environments motivate and prioritize the most talented talent coaches – both professional and human – to train and develop the girls, if necessary “at the expense” of the boys. If Denmark is to challenge the very best nations again and maintain the position as Europe’s strongest badminton, it is essential that the federation and the clubs develop some specific targets, strategies and efforts to recruit and not least develop girls’ interest and motivation for badminton. Otherwise, Denmark will lose further international terrain in one of the most traditional and medal-winning sports – unfortunately.

Note:

(1) If the nations are ranked by Top-10 rankings and placement points (10 points to No. 1, 9 points to No. 2, 8 points to No. 3 … and 1 points to No. 10) on the World Ranking is status before the 2019 World Cup the following: 1. Japan: 10 Top-10 Rankings and 78 Placement Points, No. 2 China: 10 Top-10 Rankings and 69 Placement Points, No. 3 Indonesia: 8 Top-10 Rankings and 46 Placement Points, No. 4 Korea: 4 Top-10 Rankings and 15 Placement Points, No. 5 Taiwan: 3 Top-10 Rankings and 19 Placement Points, No. 6 India: 4 Top-10 Rankings and 12 Placement Points, No. 7 Denmark: 3 Top-10 Rankings and 10 Placement Points, No. 8 Thailand: 2 Top-10 Rankings and 12 Ranking Points, No. 9 Malaysia: 1 Top-10 Rankings and 6 Ranking Points, No. 10 Great Britain: 1 Top-10 Ranking and 3 Ranking Points.

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Back home to Aarhus by the lane of memories

July 11, 2019

Next week I moved back to the capital of Jutland after 38 years “away from home”. The reason I left Aarhus in the summer of 1981 was that I was “forced to do so” to complete my master’s degree in Political Science and Physical Education. At that time, only P.E. was offered at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. It was not until the late 1990s that P.E. was established at Aarhus University.

Debut in “Fuglebakken” – the working-class club on “Høgevej”

My first experiences with sport were in 1963, when I, as a 6-year-old, became a member of the football club “Fuglebakken” – a working-class club in the northwest part of Aarhus. Three years later, we moved to Fredensvang, where AGF’s facilities became my “second home” for a number of years. My first club, however, I had “in the heart” through all of my childhood and adolescence, not least because “Fuglebakken” in 1970 qualified for the second league, where the following year was very close to qualify for the best league. “Fuglebakken”, which played in the second league from 1970 to 1978, was a very special team with good abilities to score goals, but also with total lack of defense tactics and discipline. Therefore, results like 8-4, 7-2 and 3-6 were not unusual for the team’s matches. I do not think Fuglebakken left the field one time in the nine seasons in the second league without scoring at both ends of the field. There was always “value for money” when the red-blue striped with the free-kick expert Kristen “Kesse” Nygaard, the fast runner Lars Bastrup or the elegance Kim Sander – one of my good friends who unfortunately died of sclerosis at the age of just 35 – entertained in the relatively few spectators who followed the team at home field. The exception for a few spectators was the local derby’s against AGF in the five seasons, when the “bourgeoisie’s club” met “the working-class club from Høgevej”. The local derby was in 1971, attended by more than 20,000 spectators in Aarhus Stadium, and in particular, the Fuglebakken’s victory of 5-1 in 1976 remains clear in my memories. Overall, the city’s football pride – AGF with 4 Danish Championships and 5 Cup titles in the period 1955-1965 – had a big crisis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the club spent 7 seasons in the second league. The team played very physically and technical players were more than rare to find in the AGF lineup during that period. In 1977 AGF return to the best league and with profiles such as Troels Rasmussen, John Stampe and Lars Lundkvist, the club had a number of good years ahead of the Danish Championship in 1986. “Fuglebakken” never succeeds to qualify for the best league and after relegation to fourth league in 1980 the “adventure” was ended.

Sunday afternoons in Aarhus Stadium and Arena 

I spent all Sunday afternoons in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s with football in Aarhus Stadium – Fuglebakken or AGF’s home games at 13:30 – followed by two events in handball at 15:30 and 16:50 in Aarhus Arena. Denmark’s World Championship silver medals in 1967 became the starting point for my interest in handball and the KFUM players: Erik Holst, Jørgen Vodsgaard, Iwan Christiansen and Klaus Kaae became my “heroes” and role models. Therefore, Aarhus KFUM also became my favorite team, even though I started playing handball for Viby IF – the club in Aarhus with the strongest youth teams. In the 1960s, Aarhus was called “the world’s best handball city”. In 1963, Aarhus KFUM won the Danish Championship with three other Aarhus clubs: AGF, IK Skovbakken and Viby IF on the subsequent places. Aarhus KFUM regained the Danish Championship in 1965 and with a total of 7 silver medals in the 1960s, Aarhus KFUM was called “the eternal two’s” in Danish handball. “The arch enemy” was HG from Copenhagen, who became Danish Champions five years in a row from 1966 to 1970, with profiles such as Bent Mortensen, Verner Gaard, Carsten Lund, Gert Andersen, Palle “the wildman” Nielsen and not least “the world’s best handball player” Jørgen Petersen. The battles for the Danish Championships between HG and Aarhus KFUM in a crowded Aarhus Arena is still today as some of my best spectator experiences.

Aarhus KFUM played – just like “Fuglebakken” – as I remember today always entertaining. The team captain, both in defense and attack, was Vodsgaard or “Viktor”, who constantly and loudly commented on the performance of both teammates, opponents and especially the referees. Vodsgaard’s successor as the “M’s” captain became “the magician” Steffen Holst – one of the greatest technical players that Danish handball has developed. Aarhus KFUM won the Danish Championship again in 1974, but the number of medals for Aarhus KFUM through the 1970s was unfortunately very modest. Only in the early 1980’s did Aarhus clubs again have a great success with Danish Championships for Aarhus KFUM in 1980 and 1983 and IK Skovbakken in 1982 with my P.E.teacher from Viby Primary School – Hans Chr. Nielsen – as the coach. Subsequently, Aarhus – not even with “Aarhus Handball”, which was founded by AGF, Brabrand IF, VRI and Aarhus KFUM at the turn of the millennium – has just been in the vicinity of the past.

Everything has changed – except my passion for “top sports” in Aarhus

Everything has almost changed since I left Aarhus four decades ago: “Fuglebakken” and Aarhus KFUM are combined with Hasle Boldklub, whose best football team plays in the seven league and the handball team is a part of Aarhus Handball. Today, AGF is primarily a limited company with new “facilities” that contains separate changing rooms for the teams. The city’s football pride – and not least their fans, who are always extremely optimistic before the start of the season – is neither challenged by Brabrand IF, Aarhus Fremad or VSK (Vejlby IK and IK Skovbakken), who all play in the third league. Aarhus Handball has (yet) failed to challenge the best handball clubs in Denmark: Aalborg Handball, GOG, Skjern Handball and BSV – despite a very large number of national team players residing in Aarhus. Nevertheless, in a few days I will again walk along Stadion Allé to the most beautiful sports facility in Denmark: “Ceres Park & ​​Arena” in the Marselis forest. “The white ones from Fredensvang”, which the people of Aarhus either love or hate, meet one of the most successful teams in Danish football: FCM, which is owned by a rich man from the UK. Before the start of the game I will listen to Thomas Helmig’s “Malaga” and Gnags “Lav sol over Aarhus”, which will give me memories of past achievements and the dreams of the future, both in and outside the world of sport. And I will be spectator for “top handball” when Aarhus Handball plays “local dervy” against BSH or Skanderborg Handball. “Fuglebakken” and Aarhus KFUM are past: It is time to find new favorite teams for an “old” Aarhus boy who loves “top sports” – especially in Aarhus.

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Japan heading for great sporting success at the 2020 Olympics

June 19, 2019

There is only one year to Tokyo in the days of July 24 – August 9 will host the 2020 Olympics. The populous and proud empire was also in 1964 host of the first Olympic Games held in Asia. In addition, Japan has previously been very successful in organizing the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Especially the 1964 Olympics gave Japan great international recognition and the Olympic Games were also a great sporting success, as the Japanese athletes and teams won a total of 29 medals (16 gold, 5 silver and 8 bronze medals), which gave Japan an impressive 3’rd place in nation competition, only beaten by the United States and the Soviet Union. I’m absolutely sure that the 2020 Olympics will also be a great sporting success for Japan. It shows virtually all international results in many sports at the 2016 Olympics, the World Championships and the Asian Games, since Japan was awarded the hosting of the 2020 Olympics six years ago.

Top-10 nation at all Olympics after World War II

Japan participated for the first time in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm and since then the nation, where the general participation in sports is surprisingly low, has competed at virtually every Olympic Games since. However, Japan was not invited to attend the 1948 Olympics in London, like Japan – as many Western nations – choose not to participate in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Japan won the first Olympic medal in 1920 and Japanese athletes and teams have won a total of 439 medals at the Summer Olympics, most gold medals won in judo. Also in sports such as gymnastics, wrestling and swimming – all sports with many disciplines – Japan has won a lot of Olympic medals throughout the decades. It will also be in these sports as well as athletics with 48 different disciplines that Japan will be among the medal candidates for the next summer Olympics.

Olympic Games 2016 – a step on the road to the Olympics 2020

Already at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Japan achieved many surprising results, bringing Japan a great sixth place in the nation competition behind the United States, Great Britain, China, Russia and Germany – but ahead of strong sports nations such as France, Korea, Italy and Australia. Japan won a total of 41 Olympic medals (12 gold, 8 silver and 21 bronze medals) in 2016, but I believe that Japan wins up to 70 medals next year. Nor is there any doubt in my mind that Japan will be among medal candidates in several of the new Olympic sports: Karate, climbing, surfing and skateboarding, as well as baseball and softball, which are back on the Olympic program.

The world’s best badminton nation – ahead of China

Also in two of Denmark’s strongest Olympic sports – badminton and sailing – the competitions with the Japanese athletes and teams at home count can be extremely challenging. Japan has so far “only” won 3 Olympic medals since badminton was introduced to the Olympic program in 1992. But that number is certainly increasing significantly by the 2020 Olympics. Currently, Japan has 8 top 4 players/couples in the five categories: Momota in men’s singles, Okultara and Yamaguchi in women’s singles, Kamura and Sonoda in men’s doubles, Matsumoto and Nagahara, Fukushima and Hirota as well as Matsumoto and Takahashi in women’s doubles as well as Watanabe and Higashinmo in mix double. By comparison, Denmark today only has Viktor Axelsen as top 4 player in men’s singles, while China “only” has 6 top-4 players/couple one year before the 2020 Olympics.

There have been no special traditions for Olympic sailing despite Japan’s geographical location with lots of ports across the country. Japan has often been represented at the Olympics in several boat classes, but to date only 2 Olympic medals have been achieved. However, at the World Championship 2018 in sailing, which was held in Aarhus, Japan showed impressive results in “the 470 class”, where it became the WC-gold medals in the women and the WC silver medals in the men. In comparison, Denmark won at home count one single WC bronze medal by Anne-Marie Rindom in “Laser Radial”.

Close interaction between athletes, coaches and researchers – as well as a massive financial investment

Of course, there are many explanations for Japan’s strong sporting position with less than 13 months before the 2020 Olympics. The most important are many financial and human resources invested by the government and the Ministry of Sports in the athletes and teams of all 33 sports that the host nation is required to participate in at the 2020 Olympics. In addition, over the past decades, Japan has built one of the world’s best organizational structures for talent development and elite sports. The primary partner in the structure is the “Japan Sports Council”, which is responsible for the development of the “Japan Institute of Sport Science” (JISS) and “AJINOMOTO National Training Center” (NTC). At these two facilities, world-class training and research environments have been created where athletes, teams, coaches and experts can conduct daily training and competition preparations ahead of the Japanese athletes and teams’ international competitions: the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games and World Cups. JISS consists of a research center for sports science and sports medicine (incl. Human Performance Lab), High Performance Gym, training facilities, modern testing facilities, nutritional guidance, training physiology and sport psychology. The research units under JISS have employed both national and international researchers who can provide advice and guidance to athletes, coaches, sports managers and federations in collaboration with the “Japan Olympic Committee”, research institutions and commercial partners. The AJINOMOTO National Training Center consists of training facilities for a variety of sports: Athletics, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, badminton, martial arts, archery and shooting. In addition, there are accommodation facilities for more than 450 athletes, both from Japan and from other nations, who are invited to a training camps as sparring partners for the national athletes and teams.

References:

Japanese Olympic Committee – https://www.joc.or.jp/english/ntc/jiss.html

Veerle De Bosscher, Simon Shibli, Hans Westerbeek & Maarten Van Bottenburg: Successful Elite Sport Policies. An international comparison of the Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS 2.0) in 15 nations (Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2015). 

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World-class talent development: The key factor for international success of Finnish ice hockey

May 19, 2019

2019 IIHF World Championship 2019 was a great success for Finland, which during the tournament defeated Sweden in the quartar final, Russia in the semi final and in the WC final the big favorites from Canada with 3 – 1. On the Finnish team, which primarily consisted of players from the Finnish league, there was one of the WC debutants in particular attracted much attention due to his performance in the WC: The only 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko from TPS in Turko. Already in the first match against Canada, Kakko showed international top class with two goals and in the second match against the WC hosts from Slovakia a hat trick from Kakko was the crucial factor in Finland’s 4-2 victory. All in all, Kakko scores 6 goals  in the 2019 WC – an unique performance. A performance which makes Kakko one of the most attractive players at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in a few weeks. There is no doubt that Kakko can become one of NHL’s biggest profiles in the coming years.

Kaapo Kakko is an excellent example of Finland’s world-class talent development in ice hockey. It is also the unique talent development, which is the basic for the Finnish success at the Olympics and the World Championships in ice hockey. During the last decades the Finnish men’s national ice hockey team – “the Lions” – has achieved a number of excellent results in international tournaments. In the 1995 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, Finland won its first ever gold medal in international ice hockey and this triumph was repeated in 2011. Within the last decade, “the Lions” has won two Olympic bronze medals (2010 and 2014) and two World Championship silver medals (2014 and 2016). These results are the reason Finland is considered a member of the “Big Six”, the unofficial group of the six strongest men’s ice hockey nations, along with Canada, United States, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden. There are of course many explanations for Finland’s international success in ice hockey. Among these are a historical tradition of the game, an increasing professionalization and commercialization at the Finnish Ice Hockey Association (FIHA) and the clubs, a strong national league (SM-liiga), great public and media interests, well-educated coaches, many ice hockey rinks and good facilities for physical training. But most importantly world-class talent identification and development, both in FIHA, clubs and sports academies.

Ice hockey – a popular game among children and youngsters in Finland

Football is the most popular sport and biggest spectator sport of many nations. In Finland football is also the biggest sport in terms of the number of players, but its popularity as a spectator sport doesn’t even come close to that of ice hockey. Today, ice hockey is clearly the most popular sport in Finland. After football and gymnastics, ice hockey is the third most popular sport of children and youngsters in Finland. More than 100.000 children and youngsters below the age of 18 play ice hockey. 38,900 children and youngsters – 3.400 girls and 35.500 boys – play ice hockey in an organized way in one of 348 clubs in the FIHA. This popularity is an important foundation for the competitiveness of ice hockey in Finland. So is the amount of training of the youngsters. As many as 71 per cent of children’s and youngsters’ club players train at least three times a week. In football, the corresponding figure is 47 per cent, and in athletics 20 per cent.

As with other Finnish sports, ice hockey is based on the voluntary work done in the sports clubs, both in the big cities and in the countryside. But there has always been a strong tradition for skilled and well-educated coaches, also in Finnish youth ice hockey. Many coaches are educated in the academic system and have many years of experience. In relation to the country’s modest population, Finland has many professional ice hockey coaches who are very well-respected in both Finland and abroad.

National training camps – a well-functioned scouting system

In the 1970’s the FIHA built a national ice hockey training center at the Finnish Sports Institute in Vierumäki, where  camp activities were started. Each of the regions in Finland sent their own team to the camp and the federation gathered the national junior teams for different age groups from players if these teams. These camps gradually developed into the core of the junior training system of the Finnish top ice hockey. They were based on the camp of the best players of the age group, testing and national team operations of different age groups, as well as the development of coaches. Today, the camp activities for different age groups are still the core of the talent identification and development system in Finnish junior ice hockey. Off course, the basic development of these talented players is done in the clubs. But the federation scouts for the talented players and through regional and national events the best players are selected for the national team of the different age groups. The well-known event is the “Pohjola Camp” – an annual event at the Finnish Sport Institute gathers the best 14 and 15 year-old players from different regions. The “Pohjola Camp” has a history of more than 50 years and all time it has been a scouting camp. If a young player goes through all the phases of the system, he will have an experience of about 100 international games when he is 20 years old.  

High quality of the daily training

There is a long and strong tradition of systematic research and analysis of the game, both at individual and team level. In particular, great emphasis has been placed on the physical part of the game and individual physical training has always been a priority in youth training. Likewise, players from an early age have been tested and the test results and the analyses based on them helped to screen and develop new top players, based on corresponding test results of other top players. Today, many clubs have hired professional physical trainers for the youngsters, so they can learn to train more effectively during the summer season.

The targeted and structured physical training is also the most important reason why many young players in Finnish ice hockey debut early in the SM-league which is among the best in the world. The physically demanding game in the SM-league makes great demands on the young players’ capacity in relation to both strength, endurance and speed.

Personal skills are crucial to an international career

Ice hockey is a team sport, but both club and national team coaches in Finland have increasingly focused on developing the individual player’s personal skills. Erkka Westerlund, who is one of the most winning coaches in Finnish ice hockey and the former head coach of the Finnish national men’s icehockey team (2004-2007 and 2013-2014) says it the following way: “During the last ten years we have focused on improvement of individuals. Allthough ice hockey is team sport we concentrate to develop individuals. It is crucial that the player achieves a good skating technique with a lot of tempo and direction changes. Likewise, the player must be able to deliver and receive the puck under pressure and at high speed. The player must also be able to shoot at the goal from different positions. Without surprising shots on goal – no victories. And finally, the player must have real good mental skills: The inner motivation is to train hard and fight back after adversity is crucial if you have to go all the way – through club matches and international matches in junior ice hockey, matches in the Finnish league and from there to KHL or NHL”.

 The dream about the first Olympic gold medal

World-class talent development in the Finnish Ice Hockey Association and clubs is the main reason why Finland has achieved exceptionally good results at IIHF World U20 Championships and IIHF World U18 Championships in recent years. Finland has won WC gold medals for U20 at three out of the last six championships (2014, 2016 and 2019) and WC gold medals for U18 at two out of the last four championships (2016 and 2018). There are many reasons for great optimism for Finnish ice hockey and the nation’s pride – “the Lions” – also at the 2022 Olympics in Bejing. And probably Kaapo Kakko will be one of Finland’s largest profile in the fight for the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in ice hockey.

Sources: 

Jari Lämsä: “Lions on the Ice: the success story of Finnish ice hockey”, pp. 152 – 167 I: Svein S. Andersen & Lars Tore Ronglan: Nordic Elite Sport. Same ambitions – different tracks (Universitetsforlaget, 2012). 

The Finnish Ice Hockey Association – http://www.finhockey.fi/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Still in deep water: A life buoy was thrown, but without land in sight

May 10, 2019

Two weeks ago, I was very surprised that Team Denmark submitted “Statement to the Minister of Culture about the DR documentary: Swimming stars – below the surface” without prior contact or dialogue with the undersigned, who was the CEO of Team Denmark during the period 1’st of September 2006 – 17’th of December 2014. Very quickly – as a “start jump in swimming” – my surprise disappeared: The CEO of Danish Swimming Federation Mrs. Pia Holmen is indeed Vice-Chairman of Team Danmark’s Board of Directors, nominated by The Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and appointed by the Minister of Culture.

Mark Regan and Paulus Wildeboer – Two international, charismatic coaches

It is a fact that my knowledge of and experiences with the Danish Swimming Federation’s political, administrative and sports management – former chairman of DS’ elite swimming committee Mr. Lars Jørgensen (today Chairman of DS), CEO Mrs. Pia Holmen and High Performance Manager Mr. Lars Sørensen – are both comprehensive and thorough , since all three were “key persons” in the collaboration between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation in the period 2006-2012. It was also during the same period that Mark Regan (2004-2008) and Paulus Wildeboer (2009-2012) were employed as coaches of the national team with reference to CEO and High Performance Manager of Danish Swimming Federation. I collaborated with Regan and Wildeboer at the 2007 World Championships (Melbourne), the 2008 Olympics (Beijing), the 2009 World Championships (Rome), the 2011 World Championships (Shanghai) and the 2012 Olympics (London). They were two very different, but both authoritarian coach profiles with great charisma. And like other international top coaches: Human beings with “strong” and “weak” skills and qualities. One of the biggest weaknesses of both Regan and Wildeboer was in my opinion that they were very reserved and skeptical about working with sports psychologists – also from Team Denmark. Regan and Wildeboer’s main focus, both in the daily training and at international championships, were on physical, biomechanical, technical and tactical topics of elite swimming. On these topics they were both international top coaches. In addition, I, together with Team Denmark’s employees, saw that both Regan and Wildeboer had great development potentials in relation to mental and social topics of elite swimming and a very limited knowledge of the Danish sports culture. But the biggest challenge, in my opinion, was that the two national coaches – not formally – but, retrospectively, really were their “own director” in the Danish Swimming Federation. It has the DR documentary and the follow-up stories from former and current elite swimmers, both in DR and written media, fixed with seven-inch seams.

An indecently bad statement with marked omissions

Team Denmark’s statement to the Minister of Culture (May 1, 2019) is long – very long, but in my opinion the quality of the statement is inversely proportional to the length. The statement has some crucial omissions in relation to the competence, responsibility and role distribution between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation. A few days after the submission, Minister of Culture Mrs. Mette Bock expressed exactly the same opinion as mine. The result was that DIF and Team Danmark in dialogue with the Ministry of Culture – and not least after a intense media coverage – chose to carry out an independent investigation on the recent weeks’ reports of dissatisfaction and eating disorders among former and current Danish national team swimmers. The study will also map the factual aspects of the case, including the actions of the Danish Swimming Federation and partly looking at the culture of Danish swimming. It is very positive that an impartial investigation is being prepared, but I had clearly preferred that the Ministry of Culture was responsible for the independent investigation. However, I look with serenity to openly and honestly answer all questions.

The Act on Elite sport states that ”… Team Denmark is a self-governing institution whose aims are to develop Danish elite sports in a socially responsible manner. In collaboration with the Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF), the federations of DIF and other relevant partners, Team Denmark initiates, coordinates and optimaze joint arrangements  for elite sports in Denmark through 12 primary tasks”. Operationalization of the Act on Elite sport takes place through Team Danmark’s support programme, which over a four-year period describes which federations can obtain financial support and services (doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, sports psychologists etc.) from Team Denmark. Likewise, the support programme describes which criteria are crucial for the federations to obtain financial support and services, divided into different categories. Danish Swimming Federation has since 2004 been placed in Team Danmark’s top category – World class – with an annual grant around 6-8 million DKK.

How did the cooperation between Team Denmark and the individual federations take place – and with what distrubution of roles and responsibilities between the two parts?

The collaboration between Team Denmark and the federations – also the Danish Swimming Federation – is based on a 4-year contract, which describes the rights and obligations of the two parts. The contract is valid for the entire period and through regular dialogue and meetings, objectives, activities related to training and competitions, finances, scope and content of services are established each year. Finally, Team Denmark’s support programme also determines the division of competencies, responsibilities and roles at different levels of collaboration. It appears from the three contracts between Team Denmark and Danish Swimming Federation (2005-2008, 2009-2012 and 2013-2016) that the steering group, which consists of Team Denmark’s CEO and TD consultant, DS ‘political, administrative and sports management, ” … is the overall committee for the collaboration between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation. The steering committee has the overall responsibility for the collaboration. The steering committee meets once a year “. In addition,” … a working group consisting of High Performance Manager, national coach(s), Team Denmark consultant and other relevant actors, prepare recommendations for the steering committee. The working group has the responsibility and competence to handle the daily work within the framework agreed in the steering committee. The working group communicates and meets regularly and follows up on development agreements and derived decision notes “. Finally, it is emphasized … … the High Performance Manager cares for the preparation of written minutes to the steering group”. 

After the DR documentary, I have reviewed all the minutes of the meetings in the period 2006-2014.  Unfortunately, I must note that the Danish Swimming Federation has in several cases offence the contracts between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation. This has been done by the Danish Swimming Federation’s management not having informed Team Denmark at steering committee meetings about specific inquiries from elite swimmers and their parents about offence of “Guidelines for weighing elite swimmers”. These offencies were – and still are – unacceptable and a clear circumvention of the contracts between Team Denmark and the Danish Swimming Federation. Ten steering committee meetings were held (November 16, 2006, September 4, 2007, February 21, 2008, November 24, 2008, November 2, 2009, October 11, 2010, November 15, 2011, July 2, 2012, October 15, 2013 and June 19, 2014) between Team Denmark and Danish Swimming Federation in the period 2006-2014. And there are written, approved minutes from all steering committee meetings from 2004 until today.

Breach of collaboration contracts and guidelines

I have – regrettably it must be said today – not as Team Denmark’s CEO received oral or written inquiries from elite swimmers or their parents, if the elite swimmers are under the age of 18, regarding offence of “Guidelines for weighing elite swimmers”. I can – and do not want to deny that there are employees in Team Denmark, who in the period 2006-2014 have received inquiries about offence of “Guidelines for weighing elite swimmers” from swimmers or parents of swimmers under the age of 18. Or who personally experienced offencies of the guidelines and who did not subsequently convey this knowledge – orally or in writing – to the undersigned. If that has happened, it is very regrettable.

It is crucial for the credibility and reputation of Danish elite sport that “all stones are turned” in this case. We owe it to the Parliament, which has passed the Act on Elite sport. And we owe it to all elite swimmers, both those who won medals at international championships and those who were “hit for life”. The culture – not even in terms of management – in any institution, organization, union or club – is not changed by a “crawl tag” or two, nor backwards. I hope that the responsible representatives from the swimming clubs in Denmark at the next ordinary or extraordinary board of representatives of the Danish Swimming Federation are fully aware of voting for a competent board of directors. Then the board of directors are responsible for hiring and/or dismissing the responsible administrative manager – the CEO of the Danish Swimming Federation – if there are significant reasons that speak for this. We might get the answer to this in the fall of 2019 or maybe … never.

Postscript (May 16, 2019):

After the publication of this blog, CEO Pia Holmen stated that “…. throughout the entire period, Team Denmark has been informed of all relevant persons. The information is typically passed to Team Denmark in the working group, where Team Denmark is represented. In the steering committee, where Michael Andersen himself take part, different topics on the National swimming team has discussed at a more general level. The discussions in the steering committee on personal issues were not led to the minutes” (B.T. – May 13, 2019).

I have the following comment on this statement: “This is stated in the Act on Elite Sports at ”… Team Denmark is a public, self-governing institution. This means that Team Danmark is part of the public administration and thus is covered by the Public Procurement Act and the Public Administration Act ”. The Public Administration Act contains rules on the legal status of the citizens over the public administration and the law describes rules for case processing in relation to, among other things, xxx, consultation, access to documents, confidentiality, appeal possibilities and much more. The Public Administration Act also describes frameworks and conditions for the preparation of minutes, also in relation to personal issues. It is stated that “… the authority shall, in cases where a managing authority is decided upon, note the content of information relating to the facts of a case that is relevant to the decision. The authority shall also includes actual information received per telephone”. Team Denmark is thus obliged – always – to work out written minutes on all cases – including personal issues. Processing of personal issues must, of course, take place in an anonymised form. I can state that in the period 1’st of September 2006 – 17’th of December 2014 Team Denmark has fully complied with the requirements of the Public Administration Act regarding preparation of minutes.

Postscript (May 20, 2019):

DR – once again – showed in the DR broadcast: “National coach overrule the medical staff: Shared his own pills to swimmers” (19’th of May 2019) – that national coach Paulus Wildeboer acted to a very large extent in the individual during the period 2009-2012. I also note that CEO Pia Holmen – still – has difficulties to inform the public in a credible way. She states to DR’s website: “Today, unfortunately, there is a picture of a national coach who was deeply unfair to the agreements that were made with his employers, the Danish Swimming Federation and Team Denmark”.

Team Denmark has never been an employer of Paulus Wildeboer – or for other national coaches and/or sports directors in Danish elite sports. This responsibility has the partners of  Team Denmark – ie. the federation and thus also the Danish Swimming Federation. An crucial question is: How many warnings – oral and/or written – have CEO of The Danish Swimming Federation assigned to the national coaches: Mark Regan and Paulus Wildeboer in the period 2004-2012 for breach of guidelines and contracts of The Danish Swimming Federation and Team Denmark?

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In deep water – the Act on Elite sport, capacity and relations of power

April 25, 2019

Denmark is one of the few countries in the World where the parliament – the “Folketing”, which pass all legislation and which controls how the government manages the legislation – has passed an Act on Elite sport. It was the most visionary Minister of Culture, Niels Matthiasen, who had the office in 1971-73 and 1975-80, his talented secretary Claus Bøje, as well as a number of prominent athletes and coaches who initiated the Act on Elite sport (Act No. 643), which was approved by Queen Margrethe II on December 19, 1984. During the preparatory work in the vast majority of topics, the Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) directly opposed an Act of Elite sport. There were several coherent reasons – not always logical reasons.

Inaccurate objects clause and unclear mix of tasks and means

The Act on Elite sport states that ”… Team Denmark is a self-governing institution whose aims are to develop Danish elite sports in a socially responsible manner. In collaboration with the Sport Confederation of Denmark (DIF), the federations of DIF and other relevant collaboration partners, Team Denmark initiates, coordinates and optimaze joint arrangements for elite sports in Denmark through 12 primary tasks”. These tasks range widely and it does not appear unambiguously, either in the Act on Elite sport or in comments of the Act, whether there are targets or strategies in relation to the aims of the Act. Sports results are also not specifically mentioned, either for the aims of the Act or in relation to the 12 tasks. But in my opinion, it is meaningless not to look at Team Denmark’s work from an international perspective. Shortly speaking: Good sport results at international championships such as the Olympic Games, the World Championships and the European Championships – but certainly not at all costs.

Revision of the Act on Elite sports in 2004 – a political compromise between the Minister of Culture and DIF

The Act on Elite sport from the mid-1980s has in the vast majority of topics proved – in contrast to the vast majority of the country’s other legislation – to be well-functioning over a decade of years. Only once – in 2004 – over the past 35 years, the Act on Elite sport has been revised. One of the major legislative changes in 2004 was that Team Danmark should be led by a board of eight members appointed by the Minister of Culture. 4 members are nominated by the Minister of Culture and 4 are nominated by the DIF. This distribution and competency between the two partners was a political compromise, but in my opinion one of the worst in Danish elite sport history.

It also appears that the Act’s remarks that “when composing the board, it is intended that the entire board represent a broad insight into the world of elite sport and other relevant areas (municipal policy, cultural policy, research, business life, etc.” and “at least two are current or former elite athletes and/or current or former elite sport coaches “and that” the Minister of Culture  and DIF must, when nominating and appointing the board members, ensure that the board together represents the breadth and the competencies described in the Act’s remarks “. That is, in the “spirit and letter of the Act on Elite sport” a professional – and not a political – board.

Capacity – a central principle in Danish administrative law

I have always appreciated my P.E.education, but in relation to my duties as CEO of Team Denmark, my master’s degree in political science, including public administration, has been of much greater benefit. When I joined as CEO of Team Denmark in the summer of 2006, I was aware from the first working day that there could be some very serious challenges for those of Team Danmark’s board members who at the same time were either board members or employed by DIF or one of the DIF’s federations – not least in relation to the individual board member’s imcapacity. A person is imcapacity in a case where there is a possible conflict between a person’s, group or organization’s economic, social or cultural ties to the person’s statements on issues within the same field of interest and where there are particular circumstances that may weaken confidence in the person’s imcapacity.

Already at the appointment of new board members per June 1, 2008, the challenge was “bent in neon” for me, as DIF nominated and then Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen appointed Niels-Christian Levin Hansen, member of the DIF’s board and chairman of the Danish Parachute Federation, to Team Danmark’s board for a 4-year period. In addition, Niels-Christian Levin Hansen, strongly engaged in “Elite Course” – a formalized network of 15-20 federations, which at that time was not financially supported by Team Denmark. And he was also a very active “lieutenant” for Niels Nygaard in the election campaign as DIF’s new chairman after the “Kai Holm era”. It will not be “completely out of the wheel” to describe the DIF’s nomination of Niels-Christian Levin Hansen to Team Danmark’s board in 2008 as a “diligence prize” for a faithful “lieutenant”.

In the subsequent nominations and re-nominations of DIF and appointment and re-election of changing Ministers of Culture – every second year – of new board members to Team Denmark, the serious challenge was maintained – or even further reinforced: Board members who were also members of the DIF’s board, board member, CEO or high performance manager of a federation has been appointed and re-appointed without much attention in the media. These people now – very often and with very different competencies in relation to the tasks in Team Danmark’s board – should fill out a double role which, on the basis of Team Danmark’s distinctive character as a professional, independent institution, has been both extremely unfortunate and, to my best, conviction to unfavorable for Danish elite sports main actors: The elite athletes.

Economic power relationship between Team Denmark and the individual federation 

Mixing of interests – as independent, professional board member of Team Denmark and politically elected or employed by DIF or a individual federation at the same time – has been numerous, both before, during and after my period as Team Denmark’s CEO in 2006-2014. Only the economic power relationship between Team Denmark and the individual federations – where Team Denmark most often finances 70-80% of the vast majority of common elite and talent budgets between Team Denmark and federation – means that everyone will be much better off by DIF only nominate and the Minister of Culture only appointe new board members who are not board members or employees of DIF or DIF’s federations. There are lots of well-qualified human beings – former elite athletes and coaches with great professional knowledge and skills, and experience from elite sports at international level – also of both sexes – who do not have this dual role. But, of course, it requires either a revised Act on Elite sport, that DIF looks for potential board members “outside the walls in The House of Sport” or that the Minister of Culture, who is to appoint new members to Team Danmark’s board – next time in May 2020 – has format such as “Culture-Niels” and a secretary in the Ministry of Culture on a par with or near Claus Bøje. I’m far from an optimist in relation to the first two opportunities – the slim hope for “clean lines” and the greatest possible independence and self-ownership for Team Denmark are linked to the coming ministers of Culture.

If you want to read more about the establishment of Team Denmark, I can recommend the book: Ivan Lønstrup & Jørn Hansen: ”Da eliteidrætten blev stueren, Eliteidræt og idrætspolitik i Danmark” ” (Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2002). 

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More and more adolescents are “drop outs” in the Danish football and handball clubs

April 11, 2019

Of course, the bottom line of any account is important, but the revenues and expenses can also be very interesting. And sometimes the most important information is the notes of the account with small founts. This was the case when the two largest sports organizations in Denmark – The Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and The Danish Gymnastics and Sports Clubs (DGI) – a few days ago announced their current number of memberships. An increase of 26,158 unique memberships – of which 20,167 or nearly four out of five were elderly people more than 60 years of age – created almost euphoria in the boards and the managements of the two sports organizations. It is rare that an increase of 1.1% gets so many words of praise along the way. But as the two sports organizations common press release showed, “progress was crucial in achieving the goal of becoming the most sporting nation in the World”. And as long as it can be signaled to the outside world that everything is going well, there is no danger of fewer – or maybe there is anyway.

Recruiting children under the age of 12 to sports is relatively “easy”

Before the euphoria in the two sports organizations comes completely out of control, there is many reasons to focus on the biggest challenge for the organized sports in Denmark. A challenge that was not mentioned with one single sentence in the press release of DIF and DGI. Unfortunately, there is a fact that more and more adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 drop out of team sports such as football and handball – Denmark’s two most profiled sports. Either historically or currently, it has never been a major challenge to motivate children under the age of 12 – or their paying parents – to become a member of a sports club, because there is no better and cheaper “care system” for girls and boys under the age of 12. For this reason, the proportion of memberships among children under the age of 12 is very high (70-75%) in Denmark compared to other countries and very constantly over time. The most popular sports for children under the age of 12 are gymnastics (168,050), football (130,930), swimming (147,840), handball (48,175), badminton (22,505) and horse riding (19,837).

Large dropout rate among football and handball boys between 13-18 years

Until a few years ago, the number of adolescents aged 13-18 who were members of a sports federation was also relatively high and constantly over time. But over the past five years, there have been some very sad trends that should give board members, high performance managers and coaches, both in the two sports organizations – DIF and DGI – and federations such as The Danish Football Association (DBU) and The Danish Handball Federation (DHF), serious frowns. The number of DIF-memberships aged between 13 and 18 has, in the past year, “only” decreased from 250,709 to 250,541. However, the modest number of “drop outs” among the adolescents covers significant differences between individual sports and team sports. The number of 13-18-year-old players in DBU’s clubs has fallen over the past year from 75,409 to 72,697 – i.e. 2,712 players or 4% have “drop out” of the football clubs. This continues the sad trends of the past five years, with 6,887 girls and boys – or 12% – “drop outs” of the football clubs. Many of these players are certainly also “resource persons” who could be potential coaches or volunteer leaders in the club now or later in life.

Teenagers find it difficult to combine sports and youth education

Even worse is the number of drop outs among the young handball players. There are currently 24,442 handball players registered in DHF between 13 and 18 years, which is 2,450 or nearly 10% fewer than 5 years ago and 6,668 or more than 20% fewer than 10 years ago. The catastrophic decrease has also meant that fewer and fewer handball clubs are able to collect seven players for the U-14, U-16 and U-18 tournaments and even worse, the players need to spend “expensive” time at the weekend to get into matches or tournaments in the “other regions of Denmark”. If this development goes on in the future, one should not look far until DHF and the handball clubs can spend all their efforts on children’s handball or activities such as “Handball Fitness” and “Five-a-side Handball”.

There are many and complex reasons why adolescents drop out of team sports such as football and handball. Many adolescents find it very difficult to maintain their commitment to team sports when they begin at the secondary schools, where many, especially girls, drop out of team sports for the benefit of homework, leisure jobs, boyfriends and fitness in commercial centres. For many male players, the dream of a professional life remains at the top of the list of priorities in relation to lessons and grades at the beginning of the secondary school. Quickly, they learn that the demands in the secondary schools cannot be met with a modest effort and a lot of time per week spent on training and matches. Or, they are drop out of the football or handball club due to lack of skills or an “unsatisfactory and inadequate” training effort.

Team sports such as soccer and handball have a number of qualities that are not found in individual sports: dependence on the other team mates’ performance, agreements that create social development and common victories, new team mates who increase the team and their own chances of success and much, much more. Yes – in fact, I think that collaboration and feeling of community in a football or handball team is a unique democratic process and a kind of community where the team is always bigger and more important than the individual. And that value and these qualities needs today’s adolescents more than ever before.

One-sided focus on results and outdated tournament structure are the main reasons for “dropouts”

In my opinion, too many football and handball clubs has too much focus on results and an outdated tournament structure with too much time spent on transportation and matches every weekend as well as inflexible rules in relation to players’ age categories will – unfortunately – have a very large number of “drop outs” in football and handball clubs in the future. More than ever before, there is a need for new visions, creativity and concrete proposals – both in DBU, DHF and in the football and handball clubs – if the clubs must continue to recruit and not least maintain the adolescents in the clubs. If this does not happen, the two sports organizations, the two federations – DBU and the DHF – and the clubs, seriously fail their most important core task: Sports for children and youth.

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Norway – the World’s best winter sport nation

March 15, 2019

In recent weeks, the World Championships 2019 in alpine skiing, Nordic disciplines – cross-country skiing, ski jumping and combined – and biathlon showed once again that Norway is the World’s best winter sports nation. Norway won a total of 38 WC medals (20 gold, 9 silver and 9 bronze medals) in 45 disciplines, including 44 per cent of the gold medals, which is Norway’s best result ever.  The FIS Alpine World Ski Championship 2019, which was held in Åre near the Norwegian border, started with a total of 4 WC medals for the Norwegian athletes: WC gold medal to Kjertil Jansrud in men’s downhill and Henrik Kristoffersen in men’s giant slalom and WC silver medal in men’s downhill  to veteran Aksel Lund Svindal, who finished a great career at the WC. In addition, Ragnhild Mowinckel won the WC bronze medal in women’s alpine combined downhill. The FIS Nordic World Ski Championship 2019, which were held in Seefeld, followed up with historic 25 WC medals, of which a total of 18 medals were won in cross-country skiing. Of these, no less than 10 were of the highest quality – gold medals – with Therese Johaug as World Champion in both 10 km classic style, 15 km skiathlon and 30 km free style. An impressive comeback by 30-year-old Johaug after her 18-month doping ban. In addition, there were four WC medals (one gold, one silver and two bronze medals) in ski jumping and three WC medals (two gold and one silver medals) in a combined events for the Norwegian athletes and teams. Finally, Norway won 9 WC medals (five gold, three silver and one bronze medals) at the IBU World Championships Biathlon 2019, which was held in Östersund also close to the Norwegian border. Here, Johannes Thingnes Boe was the most winning Norwegian athlete with five WC medals and no less than four of gold.

Supreme winner of the national competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics

Norway was also at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the best nation with a total of 39 Olympic medals,(14 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze medals). Norway was the supreme winner of the all nation competition in front of strong winter sports nations such as Germany, Canada and the United States.

Winter sports are popular among children and youngsters

There are many explanations for Norway’s total dominance in winter sports. Firstly, recruiting children and youngsters for winter sports in Norway is quite unique. There are many strong clubs throughout Norway, both in alpine skiing, ski jumping and not least in cross-country skiing. The philosophy of the clubs and the Norwegian Ski Federation is to keep as many children as possible in the sport as long as possible through versatile training and competitions. Cross-country skiing is the sport in Norway, which in recent years has the greatest increase in membership of children and youngsters. There are many well-functioned ski clubs in the Oslo area such as Kjelsås IL, Lyn Ski and Fossum IF, all with more than 1,000 children and youngsters as members. It also means that cross-country skiing is the second largest sport among children in Norway, only surpassed by football.

Good training facilities and lots of training camps on the mountains

Secondly, Norway has an ideal climate and optimal nature for winter sports. Global climate change means that the season for winter sports such as cross-country skiing, biathlon, Nordic combined and alpine skiing is very long, from mid-October to late May. The ideal climate and the optimal training facilities also mean that the vast majority of Norwegian top athletes in winter sports prefer to train at home and the National teams – both in cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, Nordic combined and biathlon – carry out more and more training camps in the Norwegian mountains, where climate and skiing conditions is absolutely optimal.

Excellent international results attract commercial partners

Thirdly, winter sports have become commercially very popular in Norway. In particular, football in Norway, like in the other Nordic countries, has been the top scorer in relation to the market value of commercial TV and sponsorship contracts. But in Norway, football and handball are challenged commercially by winter sports such as cross country skiing, biathlon and alpine skiing. The Norwegian Ski Federation and the Norwegian Biathlon Federation has entered into multi-year commercial partner contracts with Norwegian companies such as Spare Bank 1 (cross-country skiing), Telenor (alpine skiing) and DNB (biathlon). Economy is a more and more important factor in the global sporting arms race, also in winter sports. There is no doubt that the Norwegian great performances in recent weeks have increased the values in commercial partnerships, both individually and with the federations, towards the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Knowledge and experience across sports by the “Olympiatoppen”

Fourthly, the Olympiatoppen (OLT) has strengthened the regional structure in relation to clubs, federations and  research institutions by establishement of eight regional centers.  The centers, which are largely financed by the individual regions, can offer the Norwegian athletes and teams a number of expert services within sports medicine, testing, biomechanics, nutrition and sports psychology – the same services as these at OLT training center in Oslo. It is for that reason not surprising that many of the greatest talents in both cross-country and biathlon come from smaller villages spread throughout Norway. Norway has always had an excellent talent development for children and youngsters up to the age of 16-18 and many world-class athletes, but the transition of a talented junior to a world-class athlete has for many been far too difficult. Especially, it is “the next generation” – the 18-23-year-olds altheletes – who have received far better conditions with a stronger regional structure in Norwegian elite sports.

Research in winter sports – also world-class

Fifthly, the collaboration between OLT and research institutions has been significantly expanded and intensified in recent years. Indeed, research and innovation at the highest international level are crucial for sporting success in international competitions. OLT has, among other things, established a collaboration with the Center for High Performance Research at NTNU about biomechanical analyzes in ski jumping. The purpose of the collaboration has been to analyze technique in ski jumping through measurements of power and movement in the laboratory in order to better understand the connection between hop technique and performance. The researchers at NTNU have carried out various tests and collected data from the athletes in the laboratory to subsequently discuss the athletes’ technique and development together with the coaches of the team. In this way, research contributes to both performance optimization in the short term and to a longer-term development of the best Norwegian ski jumpers.

Also progress for Norway within summer sports

Norway’s dominance in winter sports is also the main reason why Norway has been ranked No. 1 as the World’s best sports nation by the last two years of the International Research Institute “Greatest Sporting Nations” – http://www.greatestsportingnation.com – which includes 98 Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines. The other Nordic countries were placed with Sweden as No. 4, Finland as No. 11 and Denmark as No. 12. In the all nation competition of 2018, Norway achieved an impressive 11’th place in front of strong sports nations like Australia and Spain. In spite of Norway’s impressive results in winter sports, however, it has been more difficult for Norway to maintain a high international level in the summer sports. Both the 2012 Olympics (two gold, one silver and one bronze medal) and the 2016 Olympics (four bronze medals) were big disappointments for Norway. But apparently there is marked progress on the way of Norway in the summer sports. Norway, in contrast to Denmark, Sweden and Finland, has achieved good results the last two years in the summer sports, including athletics, rowing and shooting, so at least 6 Olympic medals for Norway at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are definitely not unrealistic.

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Track cycling – the best Danish medal chances at the 2020 Olympics

March 3, 2019

Cycling – especially track cycling – is both historically and currently one of Denmark’s best sports. Denmark is among the ten best cycling nations in the world despite modest 5,300 license riders under the age of 18 and only three tracks in Ballerup (Copenhagen), Odense and Aarhus. The majority of the 26 Olympic medals, which Denmark has won in cycling, have been achieved on the track and Olympic gold medalists such as Willy Falck Hansen (kilometre time trial in 1928), Niels Fredborg (kilometre time trial in 1972), Dan Frost (points race in 1988) and most recently Lasse Norman Hansen (omnium in 2012) has largely contributed to the Danish olympic history. Danish track riders have won medals at the last three Olympic Games – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 – and in my opinion, this is also the sport that currently has the best Danish medal chances at the 2020 Olympic Games, both for women and men. There are 22 different Olympic disciplines in cycling (road, track, BMX and MTB) at the 2020 Olympic Games, but 12 of the disciplines – sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit, omnium and race – are held on “Izu Velodrome” in Tokyo. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, the number of disciplines for women and men in cycling is quite similar, both on road, BMX, MTB and track.

4 km team pursuit race is a Danish “parade discipline” at the World Championships and Olympics

Team pursuit, where 4 riders drive a total distance of 4 kilometers, has been on the Olympic program since 1968 and Denmark has very proud traditions in the endurance discipline. The international breakthrough for Denmark in this discipline came at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where the Danish team – Gunnar Asmussen, Reno B. Olsen, Per Lyngemark and Mogens Frey – became Olympic champions (4.22.44) after West Germany was disqualified in the final. In 1992, Denmark also won the Olympic bronze medal in team pursuit.

It was logical that team pursuit became the overall focus of an unique collaboration between Denmark’s Cycle Union (DCU) and Team Denmark, which started in 2005. The aim was Olympic medals in 2012, but this aim would soon turn out to be “overtaken by the realities”. The key topics for the collaboration was some very talented youth riders – Alex Rasmussen, Casper Jørgensen, Michael Mørkøv, Jens-Erik Madsen and Michael Færk Christensen – hiring of an international top coach Heiko Salzwedel, financial resources and a targeted training effort of the squad over a number of years. The team pursuits international breakthrough came already at the 2007 World Championships, where it became a surprising bronze medals – a performance that was awarded with “Talent of the Year” in Danish elite sport. The following year, the team pursuit delivered one of the best Danish olympic performances in Beijing with the silver medals (3.56.81) after Great Britain (3.53.31), but ahead of strong cycling nations like Australia and New Zealand.

Exactly 10 years ago I had – along with Chairman Tom Lund, CEO Jesper Worre and High Performance Manager Lars Bonde from DCU and the UCI president for track cycling – charismatic Peder Pedersen from Odense, who unfortunately died in 2015 – the experience to follow the Danish track riders at the World Championships in Pruszków. Denmark was among the favorites for the World Championship title in team pursuit. The squad – Jens-Erik Madsen, Alex Rasmussen, Michael Mørkøv, Michael Færk Christensen and Casper Jørgensen – fully lived up to favorite role and with a close victory (3.58.25) over Australia (3.58.87) in the WC-final, the Danish squad had reached their absolute highlight – the World Championship. At that time, High Performance Manager Lars Bonde had taken over the task as coach of the national team from Heiko Salzwedel, who is one of the most skilfully coaches I have co-operated with. The World Championship 2009 was historic for Danish track cycling, as Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv a few days later won the World Championship in Madison and Daniel Kreutzfeldt very surprising won the WC silver medal in points race.

Unique collaboration between the Danish Cycling Union and Team Denmark

DCU and Team Denmark’s collaboration on the team pursuit have so far led to a total of eight World Championship medals (Gold: 2009 – Silver: 2008, 2014 and 2018 – Bronze: 2007, 2013, 2016 and 2019) and two Olympic medals (2008 and 2016) in team pursuit as well as a number of EC-, WC- and Olympic medals in other disciplines of track cycling. Undoubtedly, Team Denmark’s economic investment in track cycling over the past 15 years is one of the most successful in the institution’s history.

In the last five days Pruszków has also hosted the World Championship 2019, where the team pursuit – Lasse Norman Hansen, Casper Folsach, Julius Johansen, Niklas Larsen and Rasmus Lund Pedersen – again succeeded in winning a World Championship medal. The preformances in the preliminary time trial and especially in the semi-finals against Great Britain were a little disappointing, but in the bronze final against Canada, the Danish team showed high international class and set a new Danish record (3.51.80). However, the World Championship also showed that especially Australia, which set a new world record (3.48.01) in the WC final, and Great Britain (3.50.38) are currently favorites for the Olympic final. But Denmark is definitely among the medal candidates for the bronze medals together with Canada and New Zealand.

In addition, Denmark also has very good medal chances in the Madison, where Lasse Norman Hansen and Casper Folsach won the World Championship silver medals only beaten by the German world champions Theo Reinhardt and Roger Kluge. Amalie Dideriksen and Julie Leth also won the WC bronze medal only defeated by the Netherlands and Australia. Both Danish couples showed that the season’s World Cup results have far from been a coincidence. There is no doubt that the Madison status of new Olympic discipline in 2020 is a great advantage for Denmark. 

Two or three Olympic medals for track cycling are absolutely realistic

I believe that the Danish chances for Olympic medals are greater in the team pursuit and Madison than in omnium, where 22-year-old Amalie Dideriksen became No. 6 in the women’s omnium and 21-year-old Niklas Larsen became No. 8 in the men’s omnium in Pruszków. Both Danish riders are extremely talented, but in both categories cycling nations like Australia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Italy, United States, France, New Zealand, Belgium and Spain have riders with many competencies and many years of experiences. But young Danish riders have previously surprised as, for example 20-year-old Lasse Norman Hansen, who stationed Olympic gold in omnium at the 2012 Olympic Games.

However, there is no doubt that Danish track cucling has significantly more Olympic medal candidates than ever before. In my opinion, it is not unrealistic that Denmark wins two or three Olympic medals in Tokyo, even though the competition is going to be very tough. 

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Finnish elite sports: Proud traditions, new organizational structure and current challenges

February 2, 2019

Finland has a strong historical tradition for elite sports. Since the Olympic debut in 1908, the proud sports nation has won a total of 303 medals at the Summer Olympics, ranking Finland with a modest population of 5.5 million inhabitants as the most winning nation per inhabitants of all 28 Summer Olympics – in front of Hungary, Sweden and Denmark. However, most of the Olympic medals have been won before 1960, ex. Finland at the 1924 Olympic Games won a total of 37 Olympic medals, primarily in athletics and wrestling. This excellent result gave Finland an impressive 2’nd place among 44 nations – after the United States, but ahead of strong sports nations such as Great Britain, France and Italy. From 1960 forwards, however, it has become increasingly difficult for Finnish athletes and teams to win medals at the Summer Olympics and at the last eight Summer Olympics Finland has only won a total of 28 medals. The historical low came at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with one single bronze medal won by the female boxer Sergiu Toma.

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First World Championship in men’s team handball for Denmark?

January 3, 2019

The 2019 World Championship in men’s team handball starts in next week and Denmark is the host nation for the second time in history. The hostess is shared with Germany, but except for the opening match against Chile played in Copenhagen and the two semifinals played in Hamburg, all Denmark’s matches are played in Herning. I’m absolutely convinced that Denmark will be one of the four semi-finalists and I actually believe that Denmark will for the first time ever win the World Championship in men’s team handball.

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Sports year 2018: It’s still the wrong direction for Danish elite sports

December 10, 2018

The Danish national team in women’s team handball ended with a modest 8’th place at the European Championships in France in the sports year 2018. It’s now 14 years since Denmark has won a medal at EC in women’s team handball and the way back to the world’s top four for the women’s team in handball is, after my perception, very long and unrealistic within the next 3-5 years. The same position has the Danish national team in women’s football. A salary conflict between the Danish Football Association (DBU) and the players was the main reason why the national team did not qualify for the World Cup next summer in France and hereby also lost the  national team’s chance of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But what’s really the status of Danish elite sport 20 months before the 2020 Olympic Games, which is the decisive “exam” for all Olympic federations in Denmark.

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