Sports Clubs Provide New Approaches to the Integration of Refugees

Yksitoista iloista piirrettyä hahmoa on sulloutunut sateelta suojaan saman sateenvarjon alle.

Finlands Svenska Idrott (FSI) and Humak University of Applied Sciences begin to develop sports opportunities for children and young people with an immigrant background. The goal is to offer new types of operating models for integration in Finland. 

“At a time like this, it is important that the sports sector also creates hope and invests in the well-being of incoming refugees,” says the FSI Secretary Henrika Backlund.

Together with sports clubs and reception centers, Finlands Svenska Idrott (FSI) and Humak University of Applied Sciences are developing sports opportunities for children and young people with an immigrant background. Simultaneously, the management, coaches, team leaders and volunteers of sports clubs and associations are offered opportunities to improve their competence in promoting diversity.

The pilot club in the project is the sports club Åbo IFK from Turku. The club is bilingual and involves more than 600 athletes in football, handball and athletics.

“We already have previous experience working with asylum seekers – both children and adults. We expect the project to provide ÅIFK with concrete tools for its operations and training for coaches and other employees,” says the club’s Executive Director Lena Hindström-Pesu.

Åbo IFK soccer game in which children are running on the field with a ball.
Åbo IFK is participating in the project. Photo: Daniel Joas, ÅIFK.

National and International Operating Models for Sports Clubs

The pilot is part of the WELLcome – Well-Being and Integration Through Sports project, which aims to develop new and effective operating models for integrating refugees into Finnish society.

The operating models are disseminated nationwide to all FSI sports clubs and good practices are disseminated internationally. The project will begin in mid-April 2022 and will run for two years.

Read the news article “Flyktingar ska välkomnas med hjälp av idrott – ÅIFK:s verksamhetsledare: “Idrotten ger en positiv upplevelse utan ord” on Svenska YLE’s website (in Swedish).

Finland Receives Biggest Win in EU Funding

The project is funded by new EU project funding, which provided EUR 5.5 million across Europe for pilot projects in the field of sports. In Europe, funding was granted to a total of 17 pilot projects of which two were awarded to Finland. FSI and Humak received one of the largest wins, EUR 211,000. Another Finnish receiver of project funding is the City of Espoo. In total, Finnish projects received more than 10% of the total budget for pilot applications.

“I am really pleased that Finnish actors participated in the EU project application competition and use EU funding to develop their operations and form international networks,” says Tiina Kivisaari, Director of Sports at the Ministry of Education and Culture. She adds that she is happy with the success of Finnish projects in the process.

The Finnish National Agency for Education provided support and advice to those involved in the project application process. The same goes for other actors in similar situations in the future.

Group photo of Åbo IFK.
Åbo IFK already has previous experience working with asylum seekers. Photo: Mika Tähkäpää, ÅIFK.

More information:

Finlands Svenska Idrott, Tarja Krum (Accountability Manager), 040 621 2560,

Humak University of Applied Sciences, Janina Sjöstrand (Lecturer), 0400 349 207

Text: Janina Sjöstrand

Editing: Humak, Communications.