The newly-established Political Studies Association Sport and Politics Specialist Group intends to explore how the development and significance of an increasingly professionalised and internationalised sporting environment impacts on the political process as well as on the way in which practitioners of politics use sport as a tool for political gain. To promote the widest range of disucssions and studies, the focus of activity will not be exclusive to either a specific sport or geographical region. Amongst the issues to be explored initially are the links between sport and: Nationalism; Foreign policy; Sectarian rivalries; Imperialism and commodification; Globalisation and cultural imperialism; Political icons; Power and hegemony; Public policy; The abuse of the Olympic ideal. The group's main activities will include panels at the Annual Association Conference in April, the production of an electronic newsletter or mailing list facilitating networking between interested academics and specialist events on specific issues. All of these objectives are geared to promoting an exchange of knowledge and ideas leading to a better understanding of the ever-increasing links between sport and politics.

Sport Podcasts

The site now features the latest mp3 and video podcasts on features of interest to the politics of sport. Check out (on the left) Prof Angie Hobbs' offering on the nature of heroism and whether we can consider sports men and women as 'heroes', from the award-winning WarwickPodasts. If you would like to feature your thoughts, then email the administrator and a link can be made.

Progress report

Kick start
The 2006 Political Studies Association annual conference marked the inauguration of the Sport and Politics specialist group with two stimulating panels chaired by Dr. Russell Holden (Group Convenor) and Paul Gilchrist. In the first session, devoted to the British perspective and meanings of the politics of sport, Marc Keech presented a paper on the government and governance of sport, a paper on protest and collective action in canoeing was delivered by Paul Gilchrist and Neil Ravenscroft and Alan Tomlinson presented a paper on critical theory and sport.
The second panel, consisting of
Wyn Grant, Dean Allen and Russell Holden, took an international approach on the international political economy of sport, sport and reconciliation, and the England-Zimbabwe cricket crisis, 2001-2005.
Round two
On the back of these two successful panels it was agreed that more panels would be staged at the PSA annual conference in 2007, at the University of Bath, and that a conference be staged in early 2007. The inaugural conference of the group was held at the University of Wales residential centre, Gregynog, Powys on Febraury 23-25 2007. A range of papers were heard on diverse areas that discussed the 'currency' of sport. We were joined by cricketer Robert Croft and cricket journalist Matthew Engel who entertained us with anecdotes on the Saturday night. For a fuller report see above.
Round Three
The group hosted a panel at the PSA's annual conference at the University of Bath in 2007. This included papers from David Ranc 'Local politics, identity and football in Paris', Michael Holmes 'Mercenaries or nationalists? National identity and the Republic of Ireland football team' and Wyn Grant 'Two tiers of representation and policy: the EU and the future of football' and Russell Holden 'Never forget the Welsh - exploring the myths and realities of the Welsh contribution to the 2005 Ashes victory'.

Since its inception the group has made links with a number of organisations including the Leisure Studies Association, British Society of Sport History and the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). Discussions are being conducted with other PSA specialist groups and with the British Sociological Association Sociology of Sport Study Group regarding the possibility of running joint events. Our membership database includes over 100 academics and contacts with practitioners
and journalists are being constantly made. We look forward to further activity.

Annual conference report

The tranquil surroundings of the University of Wales residential centre at Gregynog, Powys, provided the setting for the inaugural sport and politics study group conference (24-25 February 2007). A total of 25 academics and postgraduate students enjoyed 14 papers from 17 speakers on a range of subjects that explored the ‘currency’ of sport. The speakers, a number of whom included leading figures in the field, were drawn from sport studies, sociology and political studies departments across the UK, with one delegate travelling from Belgium.
David Storey (Worcester University) kicked off the proceedings with his presentation ‘Transferring national allegiance: cultural affinity or flag of convenience’, a paper that explored shifting regulations that govern international eligibility for athletes seeking to represent their nation. His examples were drawn from Ireland and revealed the conflicting and complex relationships that have to be negotiated by sportsmen for career advancement and cultural identity.
John Williams and Stephen Hopkins (Leicester University) continued these themes of community and identity through a paper (‘The politics of football ownership and fandom in an Anglo-Irish city in the North-West of England in the 21st Century) that explored sports fandom and the challenges brought to it by new consumer identities. They focused on the cultural politics of support for Liverpool FC and argued that the global ownership, production and consumption patterns that characterise other clubs, which have been the site of anti-commercialisation opposition, appear peculiarly out of place at Liverpool; a club that has a deep culture of cosmopolitanism, commercialism and global outlook – a legacy of its seafaring past. The presentation mixed the contemporary, contextual and historical to offer a nuanced and scholarly reflection on the nature of the political economy of sport.
Sean Hamil (Birkbeck College, University of London) picked up the theme of football and community to discuss the role of Supporters’ Direct in transforming the governance of football in the UK. He argued that injections of international capital into football and US-style franchise reorganisation of some clubs, misinterprets the foundational basis of their operation and existence. Football clubs are not business enterprises but community cultural institutions. The examples of Manchester United and Celtic were used to show how these tensions are managed and how local and political responses have emerged to challenge to developments in the political economy of football. Hamil also reflected on his role as academic and activist, a theme that recurred throughout the conference.
Tom Carter (University of Brighton) extended the international scope of examples to explore ‘What happens while the official looks the other way? Sports migrants and the circumvention of the state’. Utilising a decade of ethnographic fieldwork on Cuban sport, Carter showed how we need to take into account multiple and cross-border relations to explain patterns of migration, the reaction of totalitarian states to it, and the impacts of migration decisions upon the family and friends that remain. As such, the paper proposed an updated theory for understanding sports migration that incorporates and reflects both the actual experiences, routes, and roots of sports migration and all of the institutional “players” as well as relevant individuals involved in the migration process.
Barrie Houlihan’s (Loughborough University) paper ‘Independence and accountability: the case of the Drug Free Sport Directorate, the UK’s national anti-doping organisation’ gave a thorough account of the politics of drug policy in UK sport. The paper evaluated demand for an independent National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO), from a survey of national governing bodies (NGBs) and elite athletes and interviews with major policy actors, Houlihan argued that elite athletes and NGBs are less concerned with the location of the NADO within UK Sport, but with questions of accountability and communication. Enhanced independence, it was argued, would be, in itself, no guarantee of either neutrality or of greater effectiveness and may well be counter-productive. Moreover, when administrative reform is considered, there is little evidence that a more independent NADO would be more efficient, equitable or robust.
Alun Hardman and Hywel Iorweth (University of Wales Institute Cardiff) took us into sport philosophy with their paper ‘Sport citizenship and national identity – towards a normative account of international relations’. They attempted to clarify issues of citizenship, nationalism and national identity in sport by looking at ISR (international sporting representation) from the competing philosophical perspectives of ‘moral formalism’, ‘moral conventionalism’, ‘moral subjectivism’ and ‘moral interpretivism’. They argued that for a conception of ISR to be compatible with ‘moral interpretivism’, sporting eligibility should be judged by reference to rational principles regarding the nature and purpose of international sport and in particular the principle that sporting representatives should share in the national identity of the country they represent.
Tom Gibbons (Teesside University) and Jim Lusted (Leicester University) utilised the recent 2006 FIFA World Cup to look at national allegiances expressed by football fans. Their paper ‘Is St George enough? Exploring the complexities of contemporary English identity among fans of the national game’, which drew upon case studies in the North of England, suggested that fans of smaller English clubs negotiate their support for the nation with other identities, which is leading to ‘global’ structures of meaning and the development of hybrid identities that modify a unitary association with the nation.
Charlotte Van Tuyckom (University of Ghent) used international statistics to examine the relationship between sporting success and feelings of national pride. Using different data sources (World Values Survey, Polity IV, World Development Indicators, Olympic medal counts, World Football Elo Ratings) she revealed a negative correlation between sporting success and feelings of national pride, a result that stands in opposition to common and reported perceptions. Charles Little (London Metropolitan University) utilised records and information at the Public Records Office to reconsider the sport boycott against Rhodesia. He contrasted the rationale behind the boycott movement to show how it centred on the legitimacy of Ian Smith’s regime (1965-1979) rather than the racial issues that characterised the anti-apartheid sport boycott against South Africa. Furthermore, he showed the central part Britain played in the campaign and the importance of state actors rather than public protest movements. The paper was a reminder that sport boycotts are inefficient in delivering political change; an important point to remember as we approach 2010 – the release date for papers surrounding the British government’s failed approach to the 1980 Olympic boycott.
Grant Jarvie (Stirling University) in his paper ‘Sport, social change and the public intellectual’ asked us to consider three questions. What is the capacity of sport to produce social change? What is the role of the public intellectual? And should the role of the public intellectual be promoted? Jarvie wondered whether we have fully abandoned the transformative capacity of sport, a feature that marked earlier works and interventions in the field, as our RAE-dominated landscape asks us to prioritise certain published outputs instead of dreaming and implementing utopian projects for change through sport. Similarly, he showed how the press utilise the ‘fast talker’ - rhetoricians and public commentators who can offer fast and clever soundbites – marginalising the voice of the academic and promoting instead individuals who lack a critical, deep and sustained engagement with the politics of sport. These features were considered in the context of the decline of the public realm and voids in democracy - the retreat of ruling elites, apathy and abstention, and parties as appendages of the state - to show that there is a difficult path ahead in terms of our capacity to inform public debate and influence social change through sport. Nevertheless, he felt there was a responsibility on us to be more utopian and challenging in our thinking about sport and to be bold enough to launch programmes for change, through various forms of political participation.
Aaron McIntosh’s (Glasgow Caledonian University) paper ‘Sports policy and practice – gender impact analysis’, revealed some recent findings from a report commissioned by the Scottish Executive’s Equality Proofing (?) Budget & Policy Advisory Group, which looked at the relationship between spending and outcomes in terms of gender equality for Scottish sport. He highlighted how national agency activity has been refocused in recent years, particularly in relation to breaking down the barriers to physical activity. In targeting particularly inactive groups in the population, such as teenage girls and young women, sports bodies are now explicitly encouraging the delivery of a wider range of ‘activities’, breaking away from traditional sporting hegemonies. However, McIntosh questioned how adequately this sport policy aspiration could be achieved in light of the current governance of sport and leisure in Scotland.
Malcolm MacLean (University of Gloucestershire) analysed West Indian cricket legend Viv Richards’ autobiography, Hitting Across the Line, using the postcolonial theory and the lenses of ‘sly civility’ and cultural/political nationalism to argue that both are necessary to uncover the various roles that cricket plays in relations with the residue of the British empire, and in intra-West Indian relations.
Anna Semens (University of Central Lancashire) utilised findings from her doctoral research to focus on the development of the role of player representatives in relation to structural and economic changes in the football industry. She used qualitative interview data collected between 2004 and 2006 to evaluate the appropriateness of the FIFA licencing system and the effectiveness of proposed new regulations designed to control player representatives and legitimise the transfer process.
Russell Holden (University of Wales Institute Cardiff) rounded off the conference with an apposite Welsh theme in his paper ‘Never forget the Welsh – exploring the myths and realities of the Welsh contribution to the 2005 Ashes victory’. His paper examined the Welsh contribution both inside and outside of the Principality by highlighting a forgotten – perhaps marginalised - range of personnel and agents involved in the cricketing triumph. Nevertheless, Holden argued that some of the greatest efforts in terms of the contemporary development of Welsh sport, however, are the result of the support the Welsh Assembly Government (e.g. in funding the ground development of Sophia Gardens, the home of Welsh cricket) and not necessarily through mobilisation of alliances made on the back of recent victories for Welsh sport, including the Ashes but also the 2005 Six Nations victory. As such a number of questions need to be answered, in particular where the intervention of the Welsh Assembly Government are for the purposes of nation-building, promotion of the nation-state or strengthening cultural identity?
On the Saturday evening we enjoyed a sumptuous three-course meal and were joined by two guest speakers. Robert Croft, the Glamorgan and ex-England cricketer, entertained us with anecdotes about the relationship between cricket and the media. He gave us some insights into his relationship to England coach Duncan Fletcher and how a new generation of cricket stars are being developed away from the prying lenses and notebooks of the press. Esteemed journalist and current editor of Wisden Cricketer’s Almanac, Matthew Engel, himself a graduate of political science at Manchester University, carried on the theme of the relationship between press and cricket, in a talk that discussed the politics of England’s defeat. They generously responded to questions from the conference delegates and carried on the discussion in the bar afterwards.
The conference ended with a discussion of future directions for the group, where a number of directions were proposed. These are now being taken into consideration by the group convenors. However, all agreed that the group should continue to operate through conferences, workshops or seminars; to take forward the debates raised at Gregynog and should maintain rigorous yet friendly atmosphere to discuss work-in-progress from academics and postgraduate students alike.

Robert Croft, Matthew Engel and Russell Holden

Alun Hardman

Tom Carter

Delegates enjoying coffee and conversation

PSA annual conference 2006, University of Reading

The Sport and Politics Group kicked off with two panels at the PSA annual conference, University of Reading 2006. The first panel was devoted to explorations of the meanings of the politics of sport through a range of papers that dealt with critical theory, sport policy and aspects of collective action and protest. The second panel took an international approach focusing on the international political economy of sport, sport and reconciliation, and the England-Zimbabwe cricket crisis. Panel 1: British dimensions Theorising a critical politics of sport Alan Tomlinson (University of Brighton) The government and governance of sport: a case study of New Labour and sport policy Marc Keech (University of Brighton) ‘Power to the paddlers!’ Hegemony, protest and collective action Paul Gilchrist & Neil Ravenscroft (University of Brighton) Panel 2: International dimensions Is a political economy of football possible? Wyn Grant (University of Warwick) England and Zimbabwe cricket 2002-2004: a case of the hegemony of commerce and the death of morality Russell Holden (University of Wales Institute, Cardiff) Tours of reconciliation: Rugby, war and reconstruction in South Africa, 1891-1907 (University of Ulster)

PSA Annual Conference 2007 - University of Bath

The Sport and Politics study group will have a presence at the PSA annual conference 2007, hosted by the University of Bath. The panel is open themed and the accepted papers include papers on local and national identities, political myths and the role of the European Union in the governance of football. Papers: David Ranc 'Local politics, identity and football in Paris'; Michael Holmes 'Mercenaries or nationalists? National identity and the Republic of Ireland football team'; Russell Holden 'Never forget the Welsh - Exploring the myths and realities of the Welsh contribution to the 2005 Ashes victory'; Wyn Grant 'Two tiers of representation and policy: the EU and the future of football'. The panel discussant will be Scott Fleming.
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