This article aims to make a contribution to comparative sport research and details a method for comparing nations’ elite sport systems less descriptively by measuring and comparing determinants of national competitiveness quantitatively. A mixed methods exploratory sequential design is used, consisting of two distinct phases. After qualitative exploration, a conceptual model was developed, revealing that there are nine sport policy dimensions or ‘pillars’ that are important for international sporting success. This article focuses on a second quantitative phase, where the model was tested in a pilot study with six sample nations to develop a scoring system. Data from each nation were collected through an overall sport policy questionnaire completed in each country, and through a survey with the main stakeholders in elite sport, namely athletes (n = 1090), coaches (n = 253), and performance directors (n = 71). Reflecting recognized principles of economic competitiveness measurement, this article demonstrates how 103 critical success factors containing quantitative and qualitative data can be aggregated into a final percentage score for the sample nations on each pillar. The findings suggest that the method is a useful way for objective comparison of nations, but it should not be isolated from qualitative descriptions and from a broader understanding of elite sport systems.
De Bosscher, De Knop, and Truyens are with the Dept. of Sport Policy and Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Shibli is with Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK. Van Bottenburg is with Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands.