Finnish Sport and APA system

The Finnish sport system is based on cooperation between three sectors: public, voluntary and private. Volunteer associations, such as the sports clubs and other civic sector actors, are at the centre. Volunteer sector is financially supported and steered by the public sector which also provides sport services. Private sector offers sport services for a fee on the market basis.

The public sector (state and municipalities) has strong position in Finnish sport and physical exercise system. In the central government, the Ministry of Education and Culture guides and coordinates sport policy, legislation and financing, including sports facility construction. The Ministry applies non-discrimination and equality in physical activity and sport in every aspect of its operations. National Sports Council, a panel of experts, assists the Ministry of Culture and Education in sport and physical activity issues. The Council also evaluates the impact of government action in the field of sports and physical activity.

Municipalities, assisted by the state, are ordered by the Sports Act to provide sports facilities for their inhabitants. The self-governing municipalities are responsible for (1) providing physical exercise services and organizing physical activities that promote general health and wellbeing of various target groups, (2) to take care of the of the physical activity facilities and (3) supporting the civic sector.

The voluntary sector is the most important sector in Finnish sport system. The voluntary sector, such as sports clubs, is predominantly responsible for the national and local level sport services. The actors of voluntary sector are however in many way dependent on the support of the public sector in arranging sport services.

The private sector offers also sport services, but for a fee on the market basis. Out of the sport service providers, the role of private sector has increased most in last few decades.


Finnish APA System

Adapted Physical Activity (APA) may in Finland include rehabilitation, recreational and leisure activites, physical activity promoting health and wellbeing, inclusice/special physical education or competitive sports. It may consists individual as well as group activities.

The Ministry of Education and Culture has the leading role in overall management, development and in the creation of favourable conditions for APA in Finland. The ministry is funding most of the national level APA actors, projects, studies and also the municipalities.National Sports Council and especially its Division for Equal Opportunities and Gender Equality are evaluating the impact of the actions of the government in the field of APA and making proposals to develop APA.

At the national level sports and physical activities are coordinated and arranged by several civic sector actors and non govermental associations. The Finnish Paralympic Committee is responsible for top-level and world-class sports. The Finnish Disability Sports Organisation (VAU) is disability sport and physical activity organisation for physically and intellectually disabled people, visually impaired people and transplant recipients. National Sports Organisation of the Deaf (SKUL) is responsible of the competitive sport and physical activity of deaf people.

The Finnish Adapted Physical Activity Federation SoveLi is a national co-operation organization of 18 national health, disability and physical activity organizations. SoveLi promotes physical activity which enhances health and helps to maintain the functional ability. The national public health and disability organisations arrange adapted physical activity for their members, such as physical activity groups, events, camps, health vacations and rehabilitation courses. Read more about the national level here.

Most of the Finnish APA research has been carried out at the University of Jyväskylä, but also other universities, polytechnics and research institutes have made research in the field of APA. The only professorship in APA is in University of Jyväskylä (Prof. Pauli Rintala). Jyväskylä is also the only university that offers APA studies in Finland. Some sports institutes have APA instructor training (Vierumäki, Pajulahti etc.).

Municipalities bear primary responsibility for organizing adapted physical activity services, facilities and support functions. About 95 municipalities have full-time APA instructors who coordinate and arrange APA in their regions in cooperation with other local actors. Municipalities have also approximately 400-500 hourly paid instructors. Municipalities organize about 4.700 adapted physical activity groups weekly and approximately 70.000 persons are involved in directed APA organized by municipalities. Municipalities also aid the local associations in arranging APA and own and maintain the majority of Finland's 36 000 sport facilities. Municipalities are also responsible for adapted physical education in schools.

Local social, health, disability and pensioner associations have also an important role in arranging adapted physical activity services in local level. Local associations organize physical activity, mostly a health-promoting exercise (APA groups, events, tournaments etc.) for the members and their close relatives. Physical activity is implemented by professional and volunteer physical education instructors. The associations also support their members' own physical activities, for example by financing access to sporting activities and by providing information about sports facilities of the region.

Sports clubs and private sector have had so far a small role in providing APA services. For example, it's estimated that only about 10 % of the sport clubs arrange APA groups.

Photo: The Finnish Sports Association for Persons with Disabilities (VAU ry)


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