This paper examines the emergence of sport as a tool of the European Union’s (EU) soft power, due to its popularity and cost-effectiveness. Public diplomacy is gaining momentum and is increasingly used by state and non-state actors as means to influence the behaviour of others. The EU is developing its sport policy, laying the foundations for what could become a formal sport diplomacy strategy in the future. Using a qualitative methodology combining content analysis, case studies and interviews, this paper studies the benefits of an EU sport diplomacy strategy and the form it should take. It argues that for the EU to gain a comparative advantage over other state and non-state actors, it should adopt a hybrid sport diplomacy strategy that is based on soft and smart power and reflects its norms, values, and unique structure. Key actions it should consider are collaborating with international (sport) organisations and developing grassroots projects. This thesis also provides recommendations for a future EU sport diplomacy strategy.

Keywords: European Union, sport diplomacy, soft power, strategy, grassroot

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