The Mulier Institute

About us

The Mulier Institute was founded in 2002 and is the only independent, non-profit, scientific sport-research institute in the Netherlands. As such, it is engaged in fundamental, practice-focused and policy relevant social-scientific sport research. It monitors the developments within the Dutch sports sector. It builds its own databases and trend series to this end, in close cooperation with academic and professional universities both in the Netherlands and abroad as well as with other research organisations and statistical administrative bodies, such as CBS Statistics Netherlands and Eurostat.

The institute aspires to enhance the quality of sport research and sport policy in the Netherlands. It therefore advocates the appointment of sports professors, and organises conferences and symposiums, such as the annual Sport Research Day (DSO). The Mulier Institute is a prominent member of many national and international research communities, including Measure, EASS and ISSA.

Recent international publications include:

The Mulier Institute has an annual budget of 3 million euros. Half of this budget is funded by an institutional grant from the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The other financial means stem from contract research for third parties (municipalities, ministries, sport unions and umbrella organisation) as well as subsidies for scientific research.

The institute has the legal form of a foundation. It is a non-profit organisation. Its daily management is run by Dr Hugo van der Poel and Dr Remco Hoekman. The Mulier Institute employs 40+ staff members, mostly researchers with a background in social sciences. The institute’s offices are located in the Galgenwaard stadium of the premier league football club FC Utrecht.

The institute is named after W.J.H. (Pim) Mulier (1865-1954), the pioneer and patriarch of (organised) sports in the Netherlands. Pim Mulier stood at the basis of the Dutch Football Association and Athletics Union, was involved in the founding of the ISU International Skating Union and helped internationally renowned sport events, such as the Four Day Marches Nijmegen and the Eleven Cities Skating Tours, take their form and shape.

For more information on the institute’s work and activities, please contact Hugo van der Poel.


MEASURE stands for Meeting for European Sport Participation and Sport Culture Research.

MEASURE is an international network of researchers aiming to develop the understanding of trends and differences in sportparticipation across countries and across time.

The MEASURE network was inititated at the 7th EASS meeting in Porto in 2010 by Koen Breedveld and Remco Hoekman of the Mulier Institute, and Jeroen Scheerder of the Catholic University Leuven, with the following objectives:

  • to improve the access to reliable sport participation data and the possibility for researchers to exchange information;
  • to improve the quality of sport participation data;
  • to improve the understanding of differences in sport participation between countries and social groups;
  • to raise interest in sport participation research among policy makers.

The network is loosely connected to the EASS (European Association for the Sociology of Sport, and meets at EASS-conferences.

For more information or to register as a member of MEASURE contact Remco Hoekman (Mulier Institute;; +31 30 721 02 33).

Background: sport policy and sports participation

In most European countries raising levels of sport participation, especially for groups that appear to lack behind, is one of the basic concerns underlying much policy interest in sports. This is, among others, reflected by the adoption of the European Sport for All charter by all of the member states of the European Union. We see an en-heightened interest in sports on EU level. Policy demands research to back up choices that need to be made, relying on data to be gathered, mechanisms to be detected, and interventions to be proven effective. The EU policy makers depend on the European research community to provide them with the necessary information to get a better understanding of sport participation.

In order to develop a public policy to increase sport participation rates and in order to set reasonable targets it is necessary to have a basic understanding of differences in sport participation and the development of sport participation rates over time. Sport participation research is in this matter an important instrument to guide and to evaluate policy actions. Most European countries have, to some extent, data available on sport participation.

Already in the 70s the first cross-national sport participation surveys have been launched. This resulted in a first attempt to rationalize sports policies in Europe. However, in order to improve the sport participation research in countries and increase the understanding of sport the need for a European framework on sport participation research increased. Because of the growing interest for benchmarking sport participation data there is a strong demand for a standardized definition of sport and an objective approach for sport participation research. In Europe this resulted at the end of the last century in the COMPASS project (Co-Ordinated Monitoring of PArticipation in SportS) (UK Sport, 1999, see publications). The COMPASS project addressed the problem of the variety of methodologies for data collection and data analysis that were used by European countries. The different research approaches made it difficult to compare the results. Therefore, the COMPASS project was foremost focused on improving the comparability of sport participation research in Europe.

Despite the success of COMPASS in developing a framework, this initiative never succeeded in making the results of different European countries truly comparable (van Bottenburg et al., 2005; Van Tuyckom et al., 2011; see publications). The guidelines do not prescribe exactly what to do in all the phases of the research process, e.g. (1) the sampling and fieldwork, (2) the research question formulation, and (3) the analysis procedures. A different approach on these fields will inevitably lead to differences with regard to outcomes. In addition the guidelines do not overcome cultural differences in interpreting the concept of sport.

Olympic Study Network

The Dutch are more positive about the Olympic Games than about the IOC

The Dutch are more positive about the Olympic Games in general (61% are positive) than about the IOC in general (19% is positive). People who are aware of olympism are more positive about the Olympic Games and the IOC than people who are not aware. This is concluded in the factsheet ‘Olympism | 2019’, published by the Mulier Institute and NOC*NSF.

The factsheet was presented by Paul Hover (Mulier Institute) and Fabienne van Leeuwen (NOC*NSF) this week during the 15th International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies in Olympia. The presentation also set out the new NOC*NSF strategy with regard to olympism.

Other important results are:

  • More than half of the Dutch population is aware of the olympic ideology, even if only by name. The awareness among the elderly is higher than among the young, but the awareness among sport participants and non-participants hardly differs.
  • The words most frequently associated with olympism are ‘participation’, ‘sportsmanship’, and ‘togetherness’, or related words.
  • The support for the organization of the Games in the Netherlands is 43 percent (36% is neutral and 21% is negative). That support is slightly higher than in 2014.

Click here to download the factsheet (PDF).

Contact Paul Hover for more information.

Run for Health

The Mulier Institute participates in the international research project Run for Health, which is funded by the Erasmus + program of the European Commission. The project aims to promote sports, exercise and social well-being through the organization of running events. The mission of the project is fourfold:

  • Study of running events – from management, marketing, organizational policy and communication perspective – for in-depth insight.
  • Development of practical guidelines and policy recommendations for the organization of running events.
  • Stimulation of (international) communication between organizers of events and policy makers.
  • Increasing awareness about the (im) possibilities to stimulate sports, exercise and social well-being through running events.

The duration of the project is 24 months. Project partners are: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University of Leuven, European Association of Sports Management, NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, Lithuanian Sports University and European Culture and Sport Organization.

The 1st European research project on gender equality in sport

The Mulier Institute, along with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and NOC*NSF, will represent the Netherlands in the first European research project on gender equality in sport. Making gender equality a reality in sport is one of the main goals of the Council of Europe and the European Union. Through the “ALL IN – Towards gender balance” project, the Council of Europe is currently running a data collection campaign on women and men in sport in 19 European countries. The project focuses on six main areas: leadership, coaching, participation, gender-based violence, media / communication, and policies and programmes addressing gender equality in sport. The Ministry / government department responsible for sport, the National Olympic Committee and the national Olympic sports federations from each country are invited to contribute to this research.

The results of this research project will allow for comparisons between the situations in Dutch sports organisations and other organisations in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe. Furthermore, the results will contribute to the development of relevant sport and gender policies at an international, European and national level. Results are expected by September 2019.

Edited book on ‘Disability Sport in Europe: Policy, Structure, and Participation. A cross-national perspective’

Planning is well underway for the book, “Disability Sport in Europe: Policy, Structure, and Participation. A cross-national perspective” (working title). Caroline van Lindert (Msc, senior researcher, Mulier Institute, the Netherlands), Prof. dr. Jeroen Scheerder (Professor, University of Leuven, Belgium), and Dr. Ian Brittain (Assistant professor, Coventry University, United Kingdom) will serve as editors for the book. International publication is expected by the end of 2020 or early 2021.  The possibility of an open access publication is being investigated.

The book aims to explore the role of national, regional, and local (sport) policies in stimulating the sports participation of people with disabilities, and how these policies contribute to the sport infrastructure for people with disabilities. The book will explain the various ways in which sport for people with disabilities is governed and organised in Europe, as well as the extent to which people with disabilities participate in sport (if data are available in the respective countries). The book will also identify various methods of data collection in sport participation research, as well as challenges in data collection in this population.

The book will be written from a cross-national perspective based on a collection of country-specific chapters from all regions of Europe, with up-to-date data, in-depth descriptions and analyses within a solid theoretical framework. This format will allow for the identification of similarities and differences between European countries in their policies, infrastructure and participation levels with respect to sport for people with disabilities.

The terms ‘disability’, ‘sport’ and ‘disability sport’ will be conceptualised theoretically in order to structure the descriptions in the country-specific chapters. In addition, a comparative framework focusing on the structuring, steering and supporting elements of sport policy, will serve as a guideline for the description of the policy system on disability sport in each country. Within this theoretical framework, authors will have ample room to explain country-specific particularities concerning their disability sport (policy) systems, which will enable the editors to draw conclusions regarding the concept of disability sport in Europe as a whole. Guest authors from almost 20 European countries have agreed to contribute to the book.

It is anticipated that the depth and breadth of this volume, together with its theoretical and cross-national perspective approach, will ensure its location as a valuable resource for academic study across a range of sport and disability related programs, as well as a point of reference for researchers and policymakers working in this area. In addition, the intention is to demonstrate the importance of including ‘disability’ as a variable in (statistical) data collection on sport and sport participation, and to raise interest for further research about sport for people with disabilities across Europe.

For more information please contact: Caroline van Lindert.


Gender diversity in European sport governance

The book Gender diversity in European sport governance presents a comprehensive and comparative study of how various regions and countries of Europe have addressed this lack of gender diversity, discussing which strategies have brought about change and to what extent these changes have been successful. With contributions from leading sport sociologists, covering countries such as Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK, it provides a foundation for future policymaking, methodological analyses and theoretical developments that can result in sustainable gender equality in European sport governance.


Sport policy, sport facilities and sport participation

Local sport policy is influenced by the broader environment and exogenous developments. Despite the omnipresent instrumental focus on sport, local sport policy activities are still centred on facilitating sport and enhancing sport participation. Local sport policy characteristics provide some explanation for differences in sport participation, yet the social environment and socio-economic variables are found to be most important. Considering that the Netherlands is a relatively strong test case, given the abundant sport infrastructure and relatively high sport participation rates, it is anticipated that in other countries sport policy characteristics may be even more significant in explaining differences in sport participation.


Sports for Women in Urban Places (SW-UP)

The project Sports for Women in Urban Places (SW-UP) aims at gathering evidence on why and how to better create and direct women friendly outdoor Sport and Recreational Physical Activities (SRPA) spaces in urban environments. SW-UP is a cooperation between several European partners, coordinated by ALDA – the European Association for Local Democracy. Conducting a survey amongst the adult population in the participating cities is one of the activities in the project; this activity was coordinated by the Mulier Institute.


Health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) promotion programs

Health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) promotion programs are implemented in sports clubs. The purpose of this study is to examine the characteristics of the insufficiently active participants that benefit from these programs.

The results suggest that HEPA sporting programs can be used to increase HEPA levels of insufficiently active people, but it seems a challenge to reach the least active ones. It is important that promotional strategies and channels are tailored to the target group. Furthermore, strategies that promote family support may enhance the impact of the programs.


Physical activity in the school setting

Recent studies indicate that a single bout of physical exercise can have immediate positive effects on cognitive performance of children and adolescents. However, the type of exercise that affects cognitive performance the most in young adolescents is not fully understood. Therefore, this controlled study examined the acute effects of three types of 12-min classroom-based exercise sessions on information processing speed and selective attention.

The results revealed that exercising at low to moderate intensity does not have an effect on the cognitive parameters tested in young adolescents. Furthermore, there were no differential effects of exercise type.

The results of this study are discussed in terms of the caution which should be taken when conducting exercise sessions in a classroom setting aimed at improving cognitive performance.


‘Physical activity, that’s a tricky subject’

Based on a growing body of epidemiological and biomedical studies, physical activity (PA) is considered a cornerstone in type 2 diabetes treatment. However, it is also a practice embedded in daily life and, as such, may produce certain frictions as a topic in health care. The aim of this article is to give in-depth insight into experiences of health care professionals with the delivery of PA counselling to people with type 2 diabetes. Health care professionals providing PA counselling to people with type 2 diabetes have to navigate between possibilities within the diabetes care framework, options for an embedding of PA in the patient’s lifeworld, and the professionals’ opinions on and experiences with PA and healthy living from their own lifeworld. This makes PA a complex topic of care.


WEURO 2017 as catalyst? The narratives of two female pioneers in the Dutch women’s football media complex

2017 was a significant year for women’s football in the Netherlands. The Dutch women’s team won the Women’s European Champions football (WEURO 2017) for the first time in history. The screenings of their matches attracted massive audiences. This article explores the meanings given to gender and sport and the impact of WEURO 2017 by turning to two women pioneers in the field of elite women’s football and the sports media complex. We not only study how these women negotiate and experience the impact and meanings given to WEURO 2017 but we also explore how their narratives provide insights in the wider meanings given to (the development of) women’s football in the Netherlands. Results show, amongst other things, how an increased popularity and attention for women’s football from the part of the media goes together with a reproduction of hegemonic discourses that prioritize emphasized femininity and construct men’s football as normative.