Research Topic

Sport, Radicalisation and Violent Extremism

About this Research Topic

In recent years, youth radicalisation and violence have become a significant global problem resulting in the increase in hate speech, xenophobic and racist violence as well as religious and political extremisms and ultimately terrorism. This problem has gained importance in the political and mass media narratives in western societies and in academia, where explanatory efforts aim to understand how youths can change from “ordinary” political, cultural or religious beliefs to violent extremism.


At this stage it is important to clarify the concepts of radicalisation and extremism often used interchangeably. The UK Government has defined extremism in its Prevent Strategy (2011) as: a vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” Extremist stances are antisystem aimed at replacing via violent means a political, socio-cultural or religious system with a radical different one.


The UK government also defines radicalisation as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups”. The EU argues that “Radicalisation is a phased and complex process in which an individual or a group embraces a radical ideology or belief that accepts, uses or condones violence, including acts of terrorism, to reach a specific political or ideological purpose.” 


Sport has significant educational and pedagogical values that can be utilised to prevent violent extremism and tackle radicalisation. During childhood and youth, Sport is not only important for the healthy development of the body but also for its ability to foster cognitive, emotional and social growth. Moreover, by learning the importance of respecting rules, the opponents and the value of fair play, youth get to know themselves and test their skills in relation to others. Through internalisation and observational learning, sports can also help youth to channel aggressiveness in a socially accepted way, to be responsible, to take initiatives and to cooperate.


However, sport can have a dark side playing a role in the radicalisation process of youth due its divisive nature and way of teaching. An example of this is the use of mixed martial arts to promote far-right ideology. Combat sports become schools of militancy; they are used to promote among youth values such belonging, sacrifice and devotion to the leader and the ‘cause’, aiming to forge warriors and ultimately political soldiers. Mixed martial arts events work as catalyst in Europe and beyond to unify far-right European groups. An example of this is Germany and European largest Neo-Nazi fight night, the Kampf der Nibelungen.


Sport can also promote violent extremism exploiting its popularity and its media predominance. Football fandom provides another important example. The Ultras (hardcore football fans) are highly active in the terraces of Europe and are a milieu to promote far -right violent extremism. The football terraces become a school where anti-LGBT, racist, islamophobia and anti-semitic narratives together with fascism and Nazism are promoted. Sport stadia can turn to a place to express of all forms of extremism and anti-establishment sentiments, including apology of terrorism and promotion of Daech propaganda and jihadist groups, as can be observed in North Africa. A message of defiance by the disillusioned youth who have to choose between poverty, unemployment, illegal immigration, or joining the ranks of Daech and other Jihadists groups.


Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) through Sport is becoming high in the agenda of a number of international organisations and other state and non-state actors such as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNESCO in partnership with international sport organisations, including the IOC and International Sport Federations.


This Research Topic aims to collect manuscripts that explore the link between sport, radicalisation and violent extremism; it aims to further the knowledge of researchers and inform the work of practitioners addressing the challenges they encounter while sharing best practices.




We welcome publications dealing with -but not limited to- the following topics:

· Prevention of violent extremism leading to terrorism in sport;
· Sport radicalisation and de-radicalisation;
· Design of sport intervention programs aiming to tackle violent extremism and radicalisation;
· Impact of de-radicalisation sport intervention strategies and best practices;
· Counter terrorism strategies at sport events;
· Violent extremism, terrorism, sport and public policy;
· The role of sport in conflict prevention and sport as peace.


Keywords: Sport, Radicalisation, Extremism, De-Radicalisation, Security, Policing, Terrorism


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In recent years, youth radicalisation and violence have become a significant global problem resulting in the increase in hate speech, xenophobic and racist violence as well as religious and political extremisms and ultimately terrorism. This problem has gained importance in the political and mass media narratives in western societies and in academia, where explanatory efforts aim to understand how youths can change from “ordinary” political, cultural or religious beliefs to violent extremism.


At this stage it is important to clarify the concepts of radicalisation and extremism often used interchangeably. The UK Government has defined extremism in its Prevent Strategy (2011) as: a vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” Extremist stances are antisystem aimed at replacing via violent means a political, socio-cultural or religious system with a radical different one.


The UK government also defines radicalisation as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups”. The EU argues that “Radicalisation is a phased and complex process in which an individual or a group embraces a radical ideology or belief that accepts, uses or condones violence, including acts of terrorism, to reach a specific political or ideological purpose.” 


Sport has significant educational and pedagogical values that can be utilised to prevent violent extremism and tackle radicalisation. During childhood and youth, Sport is not only important for the healthy development of the body but also for its ability to foster cognitive, emotional and social growth. Moreover, by learning the importance of respecting rules, the opponents and the value of fair play, youth get to know themselves and test their skills in relation to others. Through internalisation and observational learning, sports can also help youth to channel aggressiveness in a socially accepted way, to be responsible, to take initiatives and to cooperate.


However, sport can have a dark side playing a role in the radicalisation process of youth due its divisive nature and way of teaching. An example of this is the use of mixed martial arts to promote far-right ideology. Combat sports become schools of militancy; they are used to promote among youth values such belonging, sacrifice and devotion to the leader and the ‘cause’, aiming to forge warriors and ultimately political soldiers. Mixed martial arts events work as catalyst in Europe and beyond to unify far-right European groups. An example of this is Germany and European largest Neo-Nazi fight night, the Kampf der Nibelungen.


Sport can also promote violent extremism exploiting its popularity and its media predominance. Football fandom provides another important example. The Ultras (hardcore football fans) are highly active in the terraces of Europe and are a milieu to promote far -right violent extremism. The football terraces become a school where anti-LGBT, racist, islamophobia and anti-semitic narratives together with fascism and Nazism are promoted. Sport stadia can turn to a place to express of all forms of extremism and anti-establishment sentiments, including apology of terrorism and promotion of Daech propaganda and jihadist groups, as can be observed in North Africa. A message of defiance by the disillusioned youth who have to choose between poverty, unemployment, illegal immigration, or joining the ranks of Daech and other Jihadists groups.


Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) through Sport is becoming high in the agenda of a number of international organisations and other state and non-state actors such as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNESCO in partnership with international sport organisations, including the IOC and International Sport Federations.


This Research Topic aims to collect manuscripts that explore the link between sport, radicalisation and violent extremism; it aims to further the knowledge of researchers and inform the work of practitioners addressing the challenges they encounter while sharing best practices.




We welcome publications dealing with -but not limited to- the following topics:

· Prevention of violent extremism leading to terrorism in sport;
· Sport radicalisation and de-radicalisation;
· Design of sport intervention programs aiming to tackle violent extremism and radicalisation;
· Impact of de-radicalisation sport intervention strategies and best practices;
· Counter terrorism strategies at sport events;
· Violent extremism, terrorism, sport and public policy;
· The role of sport in conflict prevention and sport as peace.


Keywords: Sport, Radicalisation, Extremism, De-Radicalisation, Security, Policing, Terrorism


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

04 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

04 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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