Finnish Workers' Sports Federation

The Finnish Workers' Sports Federation (Finnish: Suomen Työväen Urheiluliitto, TUL, Swedish: Arbetarnas Idrottsförbund i Finland, AIF) is a Finnish amateur sports organization founded in 1919. In addition to the competitive sports, TUL focuses on youth activities and youth education as well as offering activities regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or financial means.[1] TUL is one of the member associations of the Finnish Olympic Committee.[2]

Finnish Workers' Sports Federation
Tul logo .png
Formation26 January 1919 (1919-01-26)
TypeSports federation
HeadquartersHelsinki, Finland
1,000 associations,
280,000 individual members
Lasse Mikkelsson

TUL is affiliated with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions as well as the Social Democratic Party of Finland and Left Alliance. It is also a member of the International Labour Sports Federation (CSIT). TUL currently has more than 280,000 members, active in 1,000 clubs in 59 different sports.


A postage stamp celebrating the 1946 Federation Festival

Early yearsEdit

After the 1918 Finnish Civil War, the Finnish Gymnastics and Sports Federation (SVUL) dismissed all clubs and athletes who had participated the war on the Red side. In 26 January 1919, 56 labour movement related clubs founded the new workers' sports central association Finnish Workers' Sports Federation (Suomen Työväen Urheiluliitto, TUL).[3] During the first year, a 78 newly established clubs joined the federation, and by the end of 1919, TUL had about 10,000 members.[4] In the next decade, the number rose up to 450 clubs with approximately 35,000 individual members.[5]

The establishment of TUL led into a dispersion in the Finnish sports as there was no cooperation between TUL and SVUL. Both associations created their own practise and competition systems, the Finnish championship titles were decided by SVUL athletes as TUL had own championships. Also the Finnish national teams were composed of SVUL athletes only.[3] In 1920, TUL was a founding member of the Socialist Workers' Sport International and later had also relations with the Red Sport International. Instead of the ″bourgeoise″ Olympic Games, the TUL athletes participated the Workers' Olympiads and the Spartakiads.[5] In 1921, TUL sent a team to the Workers' Sports Festival in Prague,[4] and in September 1922, the Finnish Workers' Sports Federation football team toured Soviet Russia. This was also the first international contact for Soviet sports after the 1917 October Revolution.[5]

Anti-Communist suppressionEdit

Since the founding of TUL, the Social Democrats and Communists struggled for power inside the federation. Finally in 1927, the Social Democrats gained majority, and TUL denied all contacts with the Soviet led Red Sport International. Eighty clubs still sent athletes to the 1928 winter and summer Spartakiads in Oslo and Moscow. This ended up to the dismiss of 80 clubs in the fall of 1929, and the Communist-led clubs established a shortly-lived central organization Työläisurheilun Yhtenäisyyskomitea (The Unification Committee of the Labour Sports), launched in December 1929.[5]

At the same time, fascism reached foothold in the Finnish society. In 1930, the Parliament of Finland passed the anti-Communist laws, hundreds of organizations and newspapers that were considered as communist were banned. Among these organizations were 147 TUL member associations. For example, Finland's second largest sports club, Jyry Helsinki, was disbanded. The banned clubs were not able to re-organize until the end of World War II.[4][5] Since 1932, TUL also lost its governmental grants for two years.[3]

Period of cooperationEdit

During the 1920s and the 1930s, more than 70 top athletes defected from the TUL clubs in order to compete in the Olympics. Between 1920 and 1936, 34 former TUL athletes participated the Olympic Games, 15 of them won a total of 23 medals. Since the early 1930s, 13 former TUL footballers were selected to the Finnish national football team.[3][6]

After the 1936 Berlin Olympics, TUL and SVUL launched negotiations of cooperation as Helsinki was elected to host the 1940 Summer Olympics. Finally, in 1939 the parties signed a cooperation agreement. The TUL and SVUL athletes competed together for the first time in June 1939 as the TUL and Finnish Football Association teams played against each other at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The 1940 Summer Olympics were soon postponed due to the World War II, but TUL and SVUL continued their cooperation through the 1940s. In 1948, TUL athletes participated the Olympic Games for the first time, winning three medals, including one gold. The 37-year fragmented period finally came to an end in 1956, as the TUL and FA football series were merged.[5][3]

Post-war yearsEdit

In 1959, TUL split due to the internal dispute among the Social Democrats. The minority led by Emil Skog left the party, which also dispersed TUL. The Skog supporters formed the Työväen Urheiluseurojen Keskusliitto (The Central Organization of the Labour Sports Associations), which was active until 1979, although Emil Skog himself returned the party in 1964. The dispute also caused that TUL athlete were not send to the 1960 Olympics.[citation needed]

Despite the cooperation, the political debates between TUL and SVUL survived even to the 1990s.[7] The number of individual members in TUL peaked at 380,000 in the early 1980s.[4] In 2001, TUL had 337,000 members.[7]

Festivals and Sports academyEdit

The ″Federation Festivals″ (Liittojuhlat) were launched in 1927 and have been arranged 12 times since. The largest festival with up to 36,000 participants was held in 1946.[4] The TUL sports academy Kisakeskus was opened in Raseborg in 1958.[8]


Olympic medalistsEdit

1948 Olympic gold medalist Tapio Rautavaara in the 1937 Workers' Olympiads.

The following athletes represented a Finnish Workers' Sports Federation's member association while winning an Olympic medal. Due to political reasons, TUL did not send athletes to the Olympics in 1920–1936 and again in 1960.[9]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Finnish Workers' Sports Federation TUL". Finnish Workers’ Sports Federation. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Member associations". Finnish Olympic Committee. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Andersen, Svein S.; Ronglan, Lars Tore (2012). Nordic Elite Sports: Same Ambitions - Different Tracks. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press. pp. 85–88. ISBN 978-876-30024-5-5.
  4. ^ a b c d e International Review for the Sociology of Sport (1 September 1982). "The Finnish Workers' Sports Federation (Tul)". International Review of Sport Sociology. 17 (3): 123–125. doi:10.1177/101269028201700310.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hentilä, Seppo (1982). Suomen työläisurheilun historia I. Työväen Urheiluliitto 1919–1944. Hämeenlinna: Karisto. pp. 146–148, 201–254, 311–325, 471–481, 582. ISBN 978-951-23216-0-5.
  6. ^ Syrjäläinen, Antti (2008). Miksi siksi loikkariksi? Huippu-urheilijoiden loikkaukset TUL:sta SVUL:oon 1919-1939. Joensuu: University of Joensuu. pp. 5, 49–52. ISBN 978-952-21913-7-3.
  7. ^ a b LaVaque-Manty, Mika (2009). The Playing Fields of Eton: Equality and Excellence in Modern Meritocracy. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-047-21168-5-0.
  8. ^ "Historia". Urheiluopisto Kisakeskus (in Finnish). Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  9. ^ Naskinen, Kari (18 February 2010). "TUL:n olympiamitalit". Mustaa valkoisella (in Finnish). Retrieved 22 May 2015.

External linksEdit