Mandate and accountability theory state that governments should implement the policies that they promised voters. Accordingly, this study addresses a key lacuna by exploring the role of electoral politics in shaping public policy on sport. Attention centres on issue-salience and policy framing in party manifestos in post-war UK elections. In an era of multi-level governance, the analysis also explores the impact of devolution in the UK where, since 1998, sport policy is mandated in four electoral systems in place of earlier, single state-wide ballots. The findings reveal that there has been a sharp increase in issue-salience over recent decades – thereby confirming the party politicization of sport as part of the wider rise of ‘valence politics’. They also show how parties increasingly frame sport proposals to achieve non-sport aims such as promoting social welfare and boosting international standing. Notably, the data underline the territorialization of sport policy following the UK’s move to quasi-federalism – as policy framing is now contingent on ‘regional’ socio-historical factors and party politics, including nation – building by civic nationalist parties.
Published: July 2014