Integration through sports

Enhancing refugee self-reliance, social cohesion and local integration through sports.

Integration through sports

Enhancing refugee self-reliance, social cohesion and local integration through sports.
A man balancing on a side walk

Contact details

Submitted by: Janine Romero Valenzuela, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI), Germany




Introduction to the project 




1989-Ongoing and it will be renewed


VIDEO: 30 Jahre "Integration durch Sport"



The federal programme “Integration through sports” (Integration durch Sport, IdS) was set up in 1989 and gives financial and other support for sports clubs. The aim is to encourage refugees and migrants to join sports clubs, enhance their self-reliance, and help them integrate in the local community. 

Project aims 

The programme aims to provide local sports clubs and sports associations with much of what they need for integration work. The programme managers of the sports confederations in Germany’s 16 federal states advise and support clubs and associations, offer intercultural qualifications and appropriate funding. This enables several thousand sports clubs across Germany to provide specific, customised and low-threshold services to refugees and people with an immigrant background. These services often go beyond mere sports courses or training groups; migrants are empowered to better deal with different situations of everyday life. The programme also strengthens intercultural competences in the sports clubs and the German host society. Newly arrived migrants receive help in their dealings with the authorities and with their homework, where applicable. The goal is to establish different local networks where associated sports clubs work together with social institutions or migrant initiatives.

Resources used 

The “Integration through sports” programme enjoys high political and societal support. Its finances are secured. The budget for the programme was raised in 2016 and in 2017. It now stands at 11.4m, almost double the funds earmarked for 2015.

In 2016, access to the programme was extended to all migrants, irrespective of the type of residence status they have.


  • German Olympic Sports Confederation
  • Regional sports confederations
  • Local sports clubs
  • Other organisations such as local migrant organisations, institutions and state authorities (i.e. police, social assistance offices, sports offices), educational institutions (i.e. schools, kindergartens, providers of language courses), social institutions (i.e. welfare organisations, churches) and sports associations

Challenges and how they were overcome


  • Firstly, many local sports clubs were unfamiliar with the regulations connected to different types of legal residence status migrants hold, such as insurance coverage, permission to travel within the country or entitlement to financial aid.
  • Secondly, cultural differences emerged. Clubs sometimes struggle to bring their values and rules across to their new members but also to adapt to the social norms immigrants bring with them.
  • Thirdly, while exercising sports does not require language proficiency, successful integration does require language skills.  

How these challenges were overcome:

  • The programme takes pride in its excellent cooperation with local migrant organisations, institutions and state authorities (such as police, social assistance offices, sports offices), educational institutions (schools, kindergartens, providers of language courses etc.), social institutions (such as welfare organisations, churches) and sports associations.
  • The regional sports confederations tap into these sources to provide clubs with the legal and cultural knowledge they need to reduce their administrative and informational burdens.
  • Furthermore, the programme includes intercultural training for club officials and oftentimes provides language tutoring along with sports activities.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Migrants and refugees are enabled to participate in shared activities.
  • They gain self-confidence through success in sports.
  • They learn the German language in an informal and very accessible way.
  • They learn about German values in a low-threshold manner.
  • Many refugees and migrants build a strong support system, not only in sports but in other levels of society and for everyday activities as well.
  • Migrants and refugees and members of the host community meet in informal settings, learn to understand each other and form intercultural bonds.
  • Many sports clubs have generally become more open and accessible.
  • Many sports clubs have gained new (often young) members, making them more energized and exciting places to be.

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Through sports, refugees and other migrants are empowered in ways other programmes cannot provide. In practising sports, having success and becoming part of a team, they can discover a form of self-efficacy and power they usually do not experience in daily life. In addition, sharing the fun of practising sports and experiencing a joined effort to win games etc are opportunities for social interaction going beyond the final whistle of the game. Locals start to focus on similarities rather than see the differences between themselves and migrants. The hampering effects of age, gender or disabilities ideally move into the background, and a sense of community evolves.

Next steps 

The programme has been in place for 30 years and will be continued. The next period of support will cover the period from 2021 to 2023.