Sports diplomacy as an untapped source of globalised integration

By Stuart Murray

Sports News

Diplomacy today is much more than a rarefied, exclusive and secret dialogue between states. Governments the world over are experimenting with innovative types of public engagement such as cultural, digital and public diplomacy. These new, democratised types of diplomacy create fluid, plural and diverse networks of state and non-state actors, generate win-win scenarios via complementary partnerships, and temper the disintegration agenda. This briefing paper describes a ‘new’ dynamic type of diplomacy that is rapidly growing in theory and practice: sports diplomacy.

Framing sports diplomacy: from the ‘old’ to Version 2.0

Like it or loathe it, sport, politics and international relations have mixed since time immemorial. The Ancient Olympiad, the 1520 Field of Cloth of Gold Summit, or, more recently, the respective Olympic boycotts by the U.S. and Soviet nations during the 1980s, are well known examples. Much of this history and practice was, however, characterised by elite state actors co-opting elite sport, sports people and sporting events to advance or augment traditional foreign policy ends. Ping-pong diplomacy, the use of sport as part of the boycott against Apartheid South Africa, or the intermittent episodes of ‘baseball diplomacy’ between the U.S. and Cuba, were little more than ‘the continuation of policy by other means’, to adapt Clausewitz. As such, traditional sports diplomacy was sporadic, opportunistic, clumsy and imbued with tactless jingoistic pageantry; ‘war minus the shooting’, in the words of George Orwell.

This type of sports diplomacy endures, for international sport is often a parody of international relations, however, in the epoch of globalisation it is being supplanted by a new form of sports diplomacy, a version 2.0, if you like.

Sports diplomacy, Ver 2.0: definitions and practical examples

‘New’ sports diplomacy is a far more inclusive, amateur and networked model that embodies the type of state, non-state and public partnerships characteristic of twenty-first century diplomacy. It can be specifically defined as the conscious, strategic and regular use of sport, sportspeople and sporting events by state and non-state actors to engage, inform and create a favourable image among foreign publics and organisations, to shape their perceptions in a way that is (more) conducive to the sending group’s desired goals.

Often, a government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) acts as the hub in a diverse network composed of national sporting bodies, civil society organisations, multinational sporting businesses, and, even, influential celebrity sports diplomacy. The purpose of the MFA is somewhat retrospective: to act as a sporting ‘gatekeeper’, and to produce a whole-of-government sports diplomacy strategy that enhances a nation’s soft power image, reputation and partnerships (both domestically and internationally). Such networks can significantly boost people-to-people links, education, development, cultural, trade, investment or tourism opportunities, for example.

Many governments are developing (or refining) esoteric sports diplomacy programs, policies and strategies. Due to their love of both innovation and sport, the Americans and their U.S. Department of State’s were the first nation to take sports diplomacy more seriously. Their vanguard initiative is the Sports United programme, which was born after 9/11 as a way of engaging young, disenfranchised people across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. India and Pakistani leaders regularly engage in ‘cricket-diplomacy’ as a way of diffusing tensions over terrorist attacks, nuclear brinkmanship, and trade disputes, and there is much activity in the Asia-Pacific region as the governments of the Republic of Korea (2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics), Japan (2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympic Games), and China (Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the ongoing Football Revolution) are all seeking to engage and charm global publics numbering in the billions.

However, it is the Australian’s and their Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that are arguably leading the race. In 2015, DFAT launched the world’s first, esoteric, whole-of-government Sports Diplomacy Strategy (2015-2018). It sought to provide a dedicated point of contact, a portal, for absolutely anyone – players, coaches, sponsors, administrators, diplomats and politicians at home or abroad – with a stake and interest in Australian sport.

As Foreign Minister Julie Bishop noted at the launch, the Strategy

“signals a new era of partnership between the Australian Government and sporting organisations. Together, we will leverage our outstanding sports skills, facilities and knowledge to promote Australia and strengthen our links with countries and communities in the region.”

Where the Americans, Australians and Asian nations lead, other nations will surely follow, particularly those where sport forms a core part of their society, values and culture. Cuba, Canada, and New Zealand are all working on similar sports diplomacy strategies, as are the British, French and Italian governments, although these programmes are rather poor compared to those described above. This attitude is difficult to fathom because these nations are sitting on top of a veritable sports diplomacy goldmine.

Why sports diplomacy now?

Iran’s Fatemeh Khalaji (right) challenges Turkey’s Kubra Aydin for the ball in the Turkey versus Iran girls’ preliminary football match of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) played at the Jalan Besar Stadium, August 12, 2010. Turkey won the match 4-2. Photo: SPH-SYOGOC/Chong Jun Liang

All the nations described above are using sport as a relatively cheap means of improving their image, credibility, stature, economic competitiveness and (they hope) ability to exercise agency on the international stage. The reason behind such growth in practice of sports diplomacy is simple: sport, like music or art, is a universal language that effortlessly overcomes estrangement between so-called disparate peoples, nations and states.

Everyone – from the Inuit to the Somalians and Scottish – all speak this language, for it literally woven into the human DNA (as evolutionary anthropological studies have proven). Sport endures as a powerful diplomatic tool that can sublimate conflict, promote comity between old and new enemies, break down stereotypes and stimulate more tolerant attitudes. Working in tandem with traditional diplomacy, sport is therefore no longer a niche area ‘below’ government but an increasingly relevant soft power tool for modern diplomacy. The ‘sportscape’, to use Manzenreiter’s term, is truly global, generates trillions of dollars, and affects billions of fans, players and coaches.

Embedding sport as a regular, conscious and proactive tool in a state’s diplomatic arsenal is beneficial for many other reasons: it can transcend acrimony in diplomatic relationships, bring ‘estranged’ leaders together, offer informal pathways beyond staid, formal venues of diplomacy, generate massive public diplomacy opportunities, amplify a state’s diplomatic message, culture and values, and unite so-called disparate nations, states and people via a mutual love of pursuits centred on physical exercise.

Part of the attraction in using sport as a form of diplomacy is also practical – it is low-risk, low-cost and high profile. And, by experimenting with new means to old ends, the culture of a state’s diplomacy can change from aloof, hermetic and ‘dead’ to one that is advanced, innovative, very public and even fun. Sports diplomacy also dovetails neatly with other new forms of diplomacy, chiefly public and digital diplomacy (the latter being the use of digital media platforms to exponentially increase the number of recipients for a diplomatic message). And, finally, sports diplomacy is difficult to object to? After all, who can be against sport, or diplomacy?

The final whistle

History demonstrates that both sport and diplomacy are powerful civil, civilising and civilised institutions. They are not, however, perfect. Classical, traditional diplomacy remains a complex, zero-sum game loaded with cabal, intrigue and secrecy. This is, however, the nature of a competitive, anarchic international relations system dominated by retrospective, Westphalian states obsessed with survival, by any means possible. Sport too has its issues. The observer need only think of FIFA under the extraordinarily unethical tenures of Presidents Havelange or Blatter, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bidding scandal, or, more recently, the 2016 World Anti-Doping Agency report that accused more than 1,000 Russian Athletes of ‘benefitting’ from state-sponsored doping. Sadly, international sport continues to be associated with graft, violence, and cheating.

Just as sport can bring people together, it can also drive them apart. But, transgressions from ideal of diplomacy and sport are the exception rather than the rule. In other words, both sport and diplomacy do far more good for international society than harm.

Compared to some of the major issues in twenty-first century international relations– terrorism, poverty and climate change, to name but a few – sports diplomacy is a generally positive phenomenon. Granted, many states will continue to use sport to further self-serving national interests and foreign policy goals, however it is important to remember the core, diplomatic components of sports diplomacy: to overcome separation between separate peoples, nations and states, to generate mutually reciprocal ‘soft’ outcomes, and to reduce misunderstandings between ‘them’ and ‘us’ by demonstrating strangers speak a shared, universal language of sport. For the most part, sports diplomacy fosters peace, comity and unity.

From the ping-pong tables of Beijing to the front row of the Estadio Latinoamericano where Barrack Obama, the first US President to visit Havana since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and Cuba President Raul Castro, watched a few innings of a friendly baseball match between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team, sports diplomacy continues to demonstrate significant potential to bring nations, leaders and people together.

More and more states are implementing sports diplomacy 2.0 programs and, as such, its short-term future looks assured. In an age sullied by disintegration, parochial xenophobes, global terrorism, financial crises, overpopulation and resource scarcity, sporting exchanges and innovative diplomacy between nations, states and people should be fostered and encouraged. Sports diplomacy is one of the genuine success stories of the globalised era.

Recommendations for governments

For those nations that have not yet considered a sports diplomacy strategy or policy, the following considerations might pay dividends:

– Ensure a working group composed of theorists, practitioners and experts from both the realms of sport and government is formed.
– The question guiding initial discussions could be “what role has, does and should sport play in our diplomacy, foreign policy and international image, reputation and brand?”
– It is also important not to confuse sports diplomacy with public diplomacy (or, indeed, to hierarchically disaggregate sport as part of a broader public diplomacy strategy).
– A rich and passionate repository of expertise, funding, experience and partnership is to be found in the non-state sporting sector. Strive for reciprocity: governments get access to extant sporting networks, while non-state sporting actors gain a legitimacy and credibility as a state-partner.
– Related, many non-state sporting actors are already agents, symbols and architects of globalisation. Sporting brands and icons such as Adidas, Nike and Body Armour, or Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, and Sebastien Vettel, or clubs and teams like F.C. Barcelona, F.C. Bayern Munich, or Manchester Utd (which claims to have global fanbase numbering 650 million), are all good examples of established, global resources that are often glad to work with the state.
– Sports diplomacy works just as well in domestic, intra-state contexts as it does in inter-national environments. The Australian government, for example, uses sport to overcome systemic estrangement with the indigenous First Australians, the Papua New Guinean female Rugby League team are powerful ambassadors for women’s rights within one of the most patriarchal societies on the planet, and, many European football teams serve as valuable sporting ambassadors in overcoming social problems created by recent waves of mass immigration.

Stuart Murray (@Diplomacy102) is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Bond University, Queensland, Australia, an associate editor for the Diplomacy and Foreign Policy journal (Brill), and a Global Fellow at The Academy of Sport, Edinburgh University. He has written widely on ‘innovative’ diplomacies, is a member of a group of academics from around the world devoted to advancing sports diplomacy research, and has consulted and advised several governments and non-state sporting actors on sports diplomacy policy design, implementation and review. He also still plays football, badly. ; Twitter – @Diplomacy102

Selected references

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT. 2015. Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Dichter, Heather L. and Johns, Andrew L. Johns (eds). 2014. Diplomatic Games: Sport, Statecraft, and International Relations since 1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,

Grix, Jon and Donna Lee. 2013. “Soft Power, Sports Mega-events and Emerging States: The Lure of the Politics of Attraction”. Global Society 27(4): 521-536.

Jarvie, Grant, Murray Stuart and MacDonald Stuart. 2017″. Promoting Scotland, Diplomacy and influence through Sport”. Scottish Affairs 26 (1): 1-22.

Murray, S. (2016). Sports diplomacy. In Costas Constantinou, Pauline Kerr and Paul Sharp (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Diplomacy (pp. 617- 627). London: SAGE.

Murray, S. (2017). “Sports Diplomacy in the Australian Context: Theory into Strategy”.  Politics & Policy 45 (5): 1-21.

Pamment, James. 2016. “Rethinking Diplomatic and Development Outcomes through Sport: Toward a Participatory Paradigm of Multi-Stakeholder Diplomacy”. Diplomacy & Statecraft 27(2): 231-250.

Rofe, J. Simon. 2016. “Sport and Diplomacy: A Global Diplomacy Framework”. Diplomacy & Statecraft 27(2): 212-230.

Sport, China and Diplomacy: Beware of your own reflection!

By Stuart Murray

Post Beijing 2008, sport in China has continued to gain considerable attention. The growth of football, the part that China has played in developing sporting infrastructure in Africa and the development of a national fitness programme are but three post 2008 examples of activity.

Sports News

Both theorists and practitioners have become quite animated about the potential of China’s burgeoning domestic sports economy, impending sporting hegemony, and its use of sport as a tool for projecting both hard and soft power abroad.

Popular assertions are common place:

• China is building 20,000 football academies;
• Its domestic sports economy is set to grow twenty percent every year for the next twenty years;
• 200 million people watched the Lakers/Heat game;
• Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Some of this is true – many Chinese do love basketball – but some of this is illusory, has still to happen and is typical of outsiders thinking and projections about China.

This researcher recently visited Beijing and, typically, imported the attitude alluded to above. It had been eight years since my last visit and this time I went there as part of the Alan Chan Fellowship Exchange, to fulfil commitment to invited lectures, liaise with old and new colleagues and, primarily, gauge the interest in the theory and practice of sports diplomacy, a growing area of soft power research that has been utterly dominated by western people, clubs and nations.

What I witnessed and learned, and wish to share in this Academy of Sport blog is simple: our outside view of sport in China is problematic. Should lovers, evangelists and profiteers of sport wish to truly unleash the potential of sport in China then an inside perspective is really important.

In this contribution three observations from recent fieldwork are offered.

Sporting habitus

Firstly, China has a long way to go in terms of sporting habitus. Unlike the UK, or my second home, Australia, there are few wide, open and green spaces sanctioned for sport. In the many peregrinations around the capital, I did not see people jogging, or cycling (road bikes, that is), any football or rugby pitches, or swimming pools or tennis courts. My hosts assured me ‘they were there’, then pointed me to Olympic Park, The Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube.

  • The Olympic Park (see below) is awesome- 1200 hectares of sprawling, meticulously planned sporting architecture and facilities.

It is inspirational to meander around the wide, open spaces of Olympic Park, dreaming of sport. However, the 2008 Games, as was intended, creates the illusion of an advanced sporting nation. Outsiders often forget that China is still a developing country with far more important matters to attend to than sport. One such matter is the smog mainly caused by China’s heavy manufacturing industry. It’s difficult to run around and do sport if you can’t actually breath.

The amount of ‘blue sky days’ have dramatically increased over the years but the smog alludes to a key problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): balancing ongoing economic growth with social wellbeing, health and sport. China is reaching the end of a rapid and epic period of modernisation and industrialisation (between 2011 and 2013, for example, China “used more cement that the US used in the entire 20th century”).[1] Sport will come in China, but it will not happen overnight. The idea of a huge, new market for sport is just that: an idea. Such a market does not yet exist. It’s not that the playing fields are empty. There are no fields.

Has a bag of money ever scored a goal?

Secondly, when thinking of sport in China, much has been made of President Xi Jinping’s love of, investment in, and aspirations for Chinese football. The most powerful leader since Mao, Mr. Xi has repeatedly stated his desire to improve the Chinese Super League, conducive to turning China into a “soccer powerhouse…that will ultimately lead to China not only hosting the World Cup but winning it.”[2]

$850 billion is to be invested over the next decade, foreign companies and labour continue to be acquired, and the Party is set build the fabled 20,000 Soccer Academies over the next five to ten to twenty years (who knows?).

Again, some of this is true. Mr. Xi does adore football (the Core Leader is a Manchester United fan, apparently), the Ministry of Education has plans for 20,000 primary or middle schools specialising in football by 2017, many foreign players, coaches and clubs are pouring into China, and, after the Qatar debacle, China has a very good chance of, at least, hosting a World Cup either in 2026 or 2030. However, can a nation buy success in football? The vast amounts of money poured into the game by oil and gas rich Gulf states, or the failed MLS experiment in the 1970s suggests otherwise. (Remember the New York Cosmos and Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto?) It will take a least a generation to produce the Mr. Xi’s envisaged army of 50 million school-age players and, even then, there is no guarantee they will be any good. Once more, time will tell. What is certain, however, is that pouring money into football rarely works.

As Johan Cruyff once adroitly noted, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”

Sports diplomacy with Chinese characteristics

Thirdly amongst the people I spoke with, there was much interest in sports diplomacy, that is, the conscious, strategic and ongoing use of sport, sportspeople and sporting events by state and non-state actors to engage and inform foreign publics, conducive to maximising “people-to-people links, development, cultural, trade, investment, education and tourism opportunities.”[3]

A growing area of theory and practice for western nations such as America or Australia, many of the Chinese academics, practitioners and students I spoke with seemed genuinely enthusiastic of developing a similar strategy, with Chinese characteristics. The 2008 Olympic Games, where, in a matter of weeks, China dramatically altered billions of public perceptions around the world, remains a very proud moment for China.

2022, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, will prove another interesting sports diplomacy experiment. Watch this space! Many were also keen to remind me of China’s “stadium diplomacy”, where China has either built or donated stadiums or facilities in dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.[4]

If we ignore mass, western media, an inside view confirms that China is already a master of diplomacy, a paragon of civilisation, and an exemplar of Bull’s International Society. Of course, the Party and nation, like any other party or nation, has its issues, but China is very well placed to develop into a leading practitioner in the use of sports diplomacy.

A land of sporting oddity and mystery

 For the outsider, China remains a land of sporting oddity and mystery. Sitting in your hotel room, flicking through the channels while craving sport, it is odd to note the absence of any indigenous Chinese sport being broadcast. It’s easy to watch European football or American grid iron but virtually impossible to watch a bit of wu shu (kung gu, to us outsiders), taijiquan (shadow boxing), xiangqi (highly addictive Chinese chess) or, my favourite, the strangely addictive qigong (deep breathing exercises). One wonders then, is the flood of western sport trampling traditional Chinese sport, games and exercise?

If so, this is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Alisports – the sporting arm of Jack Ma’s massive Alibaba group – has recently agreed to broadcast the FIFA Club World Cup, American NFL matches, International Boxing and, most recently, Oceans Sports & Entertainment to promote match poker in China. This all seems quite odd, and could suggest that many Chinese prefer watching sport to playing it, or that indigenous Chinese sports aren’t widely enjoyed. Again, generally, the Chinese do not seem, unlike the Europeans or the Americans, with their rough, combative sports, to need to sublimate conflict on the metaphorical pitch or stadium battlegrounds.

At times, as many visitors to the Middle Kingdom experience, Chinese history, culture and society seem that much more civilised than ours, more harmonious. I dare anyone to wander the Forbidden City at dawn, or the Temple of Heaven and suggest otherwise! Harmony is everywhere, even in their attitudes toward sport. “It’s why we like ping-pong,” Professor Zhang Qingmin of Peking University, the country’s leading diplomatic scholar, told me. “There is a net and a table in between us and our opponent,” he added with a smile.

The future?

Looking ahead, two things are absolutely certain. First, the CCP and not outsiders will shape the country’s sporting future, however uncertain or odd it may appear. Second, we westerners still fail to understand China (and I include myself, here). Even when promoting something as benign and positive as using sport as a diplomatic tool to promote peace or development, I was constantly reminded that China will determine its own future, be that political, economic, and sporting. Indeed, uniqueness, mystery, and independence are China’s great strengths.

As such, even when in country, we outsiders remain ‘estranged.’ We do not know China; perhaps we never have. Not long after I arrived, when I was still jabbering on about how big sport in China was set to become, a young Chinese basketball player said to me, in gentle, harmonious tones,

“be careful when you look in the mirror, for all you see is your own reflection.”

How very true. Outsiders seeking to understand the role sport could play in Chinese society, international relations and diplomacy would do well to remember this.

Stuart Murray is Associate Professor at Bond University, Australia and a Global Fellow with the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport.

Beyond a boundary


Grant Jarvie

On January 5th 2016 Temba Bavuma became the fist black African to score a Test century for South Africa. Bavuma is only the 5th black South African to play test cricket for South Africa in a country in which about 80% of the population is black.

Cricket as culture has a long history in South Africa from at least 1808, when one of the earliest cricket matches was recorded, to the present day. It has with other sports provided a voice for the voiceless, been a symbol of resistance to apartheid as well as being seen by the present South African government as means to achieving togetherness, mutual understanding and respect.

With South Africa being readmitted to international cricket in 1991, following the end of apartheid, Bavuma has long since been aware of the fact that for him and others cricket has a significance that goes beyond the boundary. Commenting upon making his debut Bavuma explained, “it’s not about me making my debut it’s about being a role model, an inspiration for other kids…black African kids”.

CLR James writing on cricket inspired Joseph O’ Neil to write Netherland, a novel dissecting American society whose touchstone was the cricket brought by immigrants to New York. It challenged the political barriers of class, race, culture and art.

In a different but similar way Bavuma’s triumph, like CLR James’s triumph in Beyond a Boundary, has contributed to reinvigorating cricket with a new political energy and for those who question the significance of sport as culture it is a reminder that the symbolism and lasting impact of playing sport can send powerful messages.

Cricket South Africa’s commitment to transformation is well served by Bavuma’s performance from the crease but his words, after his historic century, were much more about hope for the future.

FIFA, reform and women’s soccer

FIFA was recently asked to reform it’s governance structures  and become more representative and inclusive of women’s soccer.

It was also asked to reflect upon the fact that investment is world soccer is skewed.

Presented below is a summary of the case presented to the FIFA reform committee.

The case for reform prepared by Moya Dodd and Sarai Bareman 

The Academy of Sport was invited to support the bid by Monika Staab Global Fellow and FIFA ambassador for women’s football. 

Under pressure from authorities, commercial partners and stakeholders within, FIFA is in need of imminent change. The opportunity to reform and produce a more equitable governance structure exists now.

Women's World Cup Soccer

Women’s World Cup Soccer

Key facts at November 2015

• 111 years after FIFA was formed, women are still vastly under-represented at every level of the pyramid in the world game.
• The European Commission recently called for minimum 30% gender representation in international sports governing bodies, 40% in national sports governing bodies, with a minimum 40% in management.
• FIFA Women’s Football Survey 2014 shows CONMEBOL (2%) and UEFA (6%) have the lowest % of women on Executive Committees of member associations.
• FIFA’s first women’s football tournament was held in 1988; the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, and women’s football was first played in the Olympics in 1996.
• Currently, FIFA still holds only men’s competitions in club football, futsal, and beach soccer.
• In March 2015, FIFA signed the Brighton + Helsinki Declaration, affirming the organization’s commitment to gender equality.


McKinsey measured the “organizational excellence” of companies in Europe, North America, and Asia by evaluating them on nine organizational criteria. When they examined the senior management teams of these companies, they found that those with three or more women had higher scores, on average, than teams with no women.

McKinsey found that the score increased significantly once critical mass was reached—about one-third women (Women Matter: A Corporate Performance Driver, McKinsey 2007).

What is the problem?

Football today is overwhelmingly male – not because women and girls are inherently disinterested or but rather due to decades of institutional and social barriers that prevent them from playing. When girls don’t play, women’s equity in leadership in technical, administration and governance remains under-realized.

Too few decision makers in football appreciate the nature and scale of the issue. At the 2015 FIFA women’s football symposium delegates from 171 member associations presented calls for reform that would fundamentally alter football’s profile.


Given that women constitute an enormous opportunity with for football such measures would serve FIFA’S objectives.

Women are under-represented in decision-making

Women comprise only 8% of ExCo members globally. At Confederation level, only 8 women hold ExCo positions, and some Confederations have none.

Within FIFA itself, there are 3 women out of 26 ExCo members; the Standing Committees contain hardly any women (outside the women’s football committees) and only one Director is female.

Globally, just 2 of 209 Member Association Presidents are women – less than 1% of the voting population in FIFA Congress – and in the majority of Confederations there are none at all.

Only 7% of registered coaches are female, and they battle a “grass ceiling” despite their qualifications and disproportionate success.

It is not only football that has disproportionately low female participation in decision-making: it is a pattern in society generally. Improving this ratio is now recognised as a major driver of social and corporate value.

A large body of emerging research shows materially positive effects of gender balancing, such as:

• 26 % better share price, where at least one women is on the board.
• 56% better EBIT and 41% better Return on investment than that achieved by all-male executive committees.
• reduced severity and frequency of fraud8.

Women’s football is under-resourced

The fan base exists but the resource distribution is skewed

The fan base exists but the resource distribution is skewed

Even though FIFA outlaws discrimination, it is still the case that many girls grow into women without having the chance to play in a team or know how it feels to score a goal.

Those who do get less opportunities, fewer competitions, reduced support and diminished rewards compared to their male peers, largely because historical, social and institutional bans have delayed competitions and affected development.

Barely 40% of member associations offer girls grassroots programs18 and all around the world, competitions and playing pathways are more limited. Even in FIFA itself, development funds dedicated to women’s football amount to only a modest share of the total.

Football’s stated ideal of ‘no discrimination’ has not yet translated into the active provision of equal opportunities for girls and women to participate in football.

As the biggest and most popular sport in the world, football is well-placed to invest in its largest, least-developed “greenfields” opportunity – the women’s game.

The fan base is international.

The fan base is international.

The impact would be transformative. With fair and proportionate resourcing, football can become the leading sport for women in the world – as it deserves to be, and as it already is for men.

Why is this a matter for the FIFA Reform Committee?

FIFA needs to rehabilitate its own image, and the image of football. Addressing gender imbalance is a visible and convincing means to demonstrate that this Reform Committee, FIFA and football are prepared to lead rather than lag society, and be a vehicle for progress.

It will build FIFA’s equity among the stakeholders of today and tomorrow, recognizing the fundamental shift in society’s expectations, and this will contribute enormously to rebuilding the credibility of FIFA, and football, in the eyes of the watching world.

Only 2 out of 209 member association Presidents are women.

Only 2 out of 209 member association Presidents are women.

Better gender balance of itself will deliver improvements in critical aspects of football’s governance by creating a better, more diverse decision-making environment and a culture that is less prone to corruption.



FIFA urgently needs both, and has been pressed by, and made promises to, various bodies.

• In March 2015, FIFA signed the Brighton + Helsinki Declaration, affirming the organisation’s commitment to gender equality. In pursuance of that commitment, FIFA should increase equality measures within its own governance systems.
• It has also been called upon by the European Commission to ensure better gender balance in decision-making, as well as members of the US Congress.
• FIFA has been urged to act by stakeholders within FIFA, including the Women’s Football Symposium in July 2015 and the Task Force for Women’s Football in August 2015.


Inclusion in decision-making

The Reform Committee is respectfully requested to recommend an immediate 20% presence of women on the FIFA Executive Committee, to be mirrored within a reasonable time at all levels (Confederations, MAs, clubs, etc) with a longer-term target of 30% gender balance.

Investment in the women’s game

The Reform Committee is respectfully requested to recommend an immediate requirement for all football stakeholders (including governing bodies and clubs) to actively resource participation opportunities for women and girls at all levels, without gender discrimination in fair financial proportion to its female participation and potential.

Addressing environmental challenges through sport

This blog highlights and recognises some of the work that is already being done to utilise the unique power of sport to address environmental challenges.

By Michael Pedersen,

Founder of M INC. > change the game

A campaign for greener sport.

A campaign for greener sport.

The evidence provided within this text reflects information as at 22 September 2015.

Sport is uniquely placed to address societal challenges. It attracts unprecedented attention and unites people across traditional societal dividing lines such as religion, ethnicity, political observation, wealth, social class and cultures.

Greening sport events vs. greening fan behaviours

There are generally two ways for sport to address environmental challenges. One is to reduce the environmental footprint of sport. The other one is to motivate behavioral change among fans, inside as well as outside the stadium.

Behavioural change in and through sport

Behavioural change in and through sport

While most of the current work focuses on greening sport, there is a big potential in also utilising sport to motivate behavioural change among fans in support of addressing environmental challenges.

The environmental footprint of sport

Sport negatively impacts the environment in several ways. Its environmental footprint is primarily caused by (no particular order):

  • The production and distribution of sports wear and sport equipment, including usage (washing clothe) and disposal (garbage).
  • Construction of new sport venues for the hosting of sport events (or renovation of existing facilities).
  •  Construction of new public infrastructure for the hosting of very big sport events (or renovation of existing infrastructure).
  • Fans engaging in sport tourism.
  • Board members and professional staff of sport organisations traveling around the world to attend annual meetings, board meetings and other meetings of national and international sport governing bodies, leagues and clubs.
  • Professional athletes traveling around the world to participate in training and to compete at sport events.

Emerging solutions in the world of sport

Golf eco footprint

While the International Olympic Committee [] and FIFA [] are integrating environmental sustainability into their evaluation criteria for bidders to host their events, other international sport bodies like for instance International Ski Federation [], Badminton World Federation [] and International Motorcycling Federation [] are putting in place environmental policies to guide events in their sports.

In sports like for instance golf, surfing and sailing, specific organisations are being established to develop standards for greening sport specific events and/or sport specific equipment, i.e.

A campaign for sustainable surf

A campaign for sustainable surf

Sustainable Surf [],

A campaign for cleaner regattas

A campaign for cleaner regattas

Sailors for the Sea []

and Golf Environment Organization [].

Also, in countries such as the USA, United Kingdom and Australia, specific organizations that focus on sport and the environment across sports are being established,i.e. Green Sports Alliance[], British Association for Sustainable Sport [] and Sports Environmental Alliance []. Last but not least, international standards and tools for greening of sport events are being created, i.e. by Académie Internationale des Sciences et Techniques du Sport (AISTS) [].

Evolving good practice: Environmental stewardship at the US Open in tennis

United States Tennis Association (USTA), which is the sport governing body that organises the  US Open [], initiated its environmental work in the context of the US Open Tournament in 2008. Among other things, USTA’s strategic decision to do so reflected increasing fan expectations of green initiatives and burgeoning energy costs.

During recent years, USTA has further increased and diversified its initiatives to minimize the environmental impact of US Open. Today, the Association is showcasing environmental stewardship in the context of its annual premier Tournament in at least four ways:

Minimizing direct environmental impact

Initiatives to minimize the direct environmental impact of US Open include:

  • Matching the electricity generated during the tournament through Green-e certified wind renewable energy certificates
  • Using napkins and other paper material composed of 40-100 percent recycled material
  • Diverting waste through recycling and composting
  • Collecting tennis balls used during matches and practices to be donated to community and youth organisations

Off-setting the environmental impact of player travel

Player travel to US Open is offset through Green-e Climate certified Sterling Planet carbon offsets. That is the case for both travel by air as well as travel on the ground.

Encouraging fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour

Each year, USTA hosts more than 700,000 fans during the two weeks of US Open at The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, USA. Initiatives to encourage tennis fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour include a campaign for them to take public transportation to the tournament venue.

Initiatives to encourage fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour beyond the US Open include a 30-second public service announcement titled “Impact”. Broadcasted regularly during the tournament, the announcement encourages fans to reduce their paper, water and energy use.

An important aspect is a message from Billie Jean King, the tennis legend whose name the stadium carries. Her message is: “To solve the serious environmental problems facing our planet, we need to shift our culture toward more sustainable practices.”

Other similar initiatives include environmental tips for smarter living that are featured in the ‘Daily Draw sheet’ as well as through US Open social media channels.

Shaping evolving good environmental practices in sport in partnership with others

Besides working closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council, USTA is a member of Green Sports Alliance.

Evolving good practice: International Cycling Union Eco Cyclo Patrol

The Eco Cyclo Patrol [ ] was created in 2006 in France by a passionate cyclist named Patrick François.

After too many negative experiences in seeing what participants leave behind at cycling events, Patrick decided to recruit volunteer cyclists to teach good environmental manners to their fellow participants.

The easily recognizable Eco Cyclo Patrol group of volunteer cyclists participate in targeted cycling events with the mission of advising and encouraging their fellow cyclists to adopt a responsible attitude to the environment.

Dressed in easily recognizable green harlequin jerseys, the volunteers in the Eco Cyclo Patrol ride alongside their fellow cycling fans and encourage green behavior. Not only do they fight against rubbish left behind by participants after major cycling events, they also work with organizers to encourage the use of renewable energy and recyclable infrastructures.

An ecocyclo group

An ecocyclo group

In 2013, the Eco Cyclo Patrol gained support by the International Cycling Union and is now expanding to offer cyclists and event organisers all around the world the opportunity to join in adopting environmentally friendly practices too.


Sport is uniquely placed to address societal challenges such as environmental issues. It can reduce its environmental footprint, not least from sport events.

it is in a position to motivate behavioral change among fans in support of the environment, inside as well as outside the stadium.

Emerging solutions include integrating environmental sustainability into the evaluation criteria for bidders to host sport events as well as establishing sport or country specific organisations, offering guidance and standards to reduce the environmental impact of sport.

Cases of emerging good practice include the US Open in tennis and the International Cycling Union’s Eco Cyclo Patrol.

Shinty and football bring the past into the present

Source: Shinty Archive

Source: Shinty Archive

By Hugh Dan MacLennan and Grant Jarvie

One of Scotland’s oldest and most valuable cultural assets is to be showcased from October 2015, for six months, in the award winning Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

Shinty – Irish missionaries probably introduced iomain or camanachd in Gaelic – to Scotland two thousand years ago, almost certainly along with the Gaelic language.

It is one of the few sports that can claim to be native to Scottish soil and has a significantly important cultural dimension through its Gaelic heritage.

It is also one of the cultural anchors that has offered the Scottish diaspora an historical link with their roots along with Gaelic and Highland Games.

The sport’s main trophy in the modern era is The Camanachd Cup – the national championship trophy, first played for in 1896.

Many of shinty’s great trophies will be on display on a planned rotation and clubs and Associations within the game are to be offered the opportunity to be part of the six-month exhibition.


Shinty has been played throughout Scotland, including St Kilda, but never in Orkney or Shetland.

  • Shinty was traditionally played as a social pastime and particularly in association with New Year celebrations, prior to its organisation as a sport with rules and regulations in the latter part of the 19th
  • Before the leather, stitched balls were introduced at the end of the 1800s, balls were made from wood, woven wool, sheep vertebrae and even dried seaweed stalks.
  • Several football teams and stadia in England have a shinty connection such as Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
  • Shinty has been played at Hampden Park in Glasgow and other stadia such as Parkhead and Ibrox on occasion.
  • On Sunday 2nd March 2014 the newly formed club, Krasnodar Camanachd, held what is believed to have been the first shinty match on Russian soil.
  • Shinty’s greatest ever goal-scorer was Kingussie’s Ronald Ross who amassed more than 1,000 goals in his playing career.
  • A number of top footballers were noted shinty players in their day, notably Duncan Shearer, ex Aberdeen and Chelsea, and Donald Park of Inverness Caledonian, Hearts, Hibs and Partick Thistle.
  • Shinty’s blue riband trophy and the Scottish championship is the SSE Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup, first played for in 1896.
  • A shinty stick is known by its Gaelic name, caman.
  • When Scottish emigrants left to the four corners of the globe in the 19th century in particular, they took their culture with them and traces of shinty are to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even in Montevideo.
  • During the two World Wars and the Boer War before that, Highland soldiers used shinty to help them maintain their links with home and keep their spirits up. Shinty is to be found at regimental camps, on the front line and in POW camps.
  • There currently is one player in Scotland’s Sporting Hall of Fame, Dr Johnnie Cattanach of Newtonmore. An all-round sportsman who distinguished himself at Edinburgh University, he holds the record of most goals scored in a Camanachd Cup Final (8) and was killed at Gallipoli in World War 1.

 Shinty Trophies

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

Source: Shinty Archive

The rich heritage of shinty, with its spectacular range of silverware, is a national cultural asset. Many of the sport’s most historic trophies are still used in competition, the oldest being the Glasgow Celtic Society Cup, dating from 1879. Others include Aberdeen University’s Littlejohn Vase (1905), a solid silver reproduction of the 400 BC Roman original that is in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated album of dedication.

 Shinty Milestones

  • 1272 earliest written reference to shinty.
  • 1589 Shinty banned from Blackfriars Kirkyard in Glasgow.
  • 1698 Martin Martin refers to shinty play on St Kilda.
  • 1820 Robert Chambers recorded shinnie playing in the borders.
  • 1842 Shinty in Sydney, Australia.
  • 1843 Argyll-shire Roads Act banned shinty play on streets.
  • 1851 Aberdeen University shinty club, oldest shinty club with written constitution
  • 1893 Camanachd Association, shinty’s governing body, formed.
  • 1924 First Shinty/Hurling international – Scotland v Ireland at Tailteann Games, Dublin.
  • 1953 Lovat Shinty Club first to win all six senior Scottish shinty trophies, a feat never repeated and now impossible.
  • 2005 Shinty moved to include summer play.

Shinty/Hurling matches have been played at various levels between Scotland and Ireland since the 1880s and the international fixture remains a vibrant link between Celtic traditions.

Shinty is a sport that has been at the heart of communities stretching from the Western Isles and North West Ross-shire to Caithness and the Mull of Kintyre and beyond to London, Manchester, Cornwall and the Scottish diaspora world-wide.

At least three sports shinty, curling and golf are regarded widely as but three of national indigenous sports of Scotland. They have all, at one time or another been played throughout the country and are recognized worldwide as iconic symbols of the country’s sporting heritage.

Alzheimer Scotland and the Camanachd Association have set up a special project for people living with dementia and other memory problems. Called Shinty Memories, it uses images of old players, teams, badges, trophies, grounds and memorabilia to improve recall, stimulate conversation and share memories of Shinty.


 The history of sport matters for a number of reasons:

It helps to avoid a parochial or insular understanding of sport.

It provides tools by which to evaluate change.

It helps to destroy myths.

It warns against an uncritical acceptance of heritage, tradition and identity.

It can add plausibility to not just sporting issues of the day but also broader problems and issues.

It can bring voices and records from the past to bear on contemporary challenges.


 You cannot understand Gaelic culture fully without recognizing the place of shinty in Gaelic speaking communities and you cannot understand Scotland or the Scottish diaspora fully without acknowledging Scotland’s cultural assets.

 The partnership between The Camanachd Association and the Scottish Football Museum helps to evidence that the sports past has much to offer contemporary Scotland.

 Shinty is a sport that values its tradition and heritage greatly and also its contemporary social and economic role in Scotland’s well being.

Read more about Sport on the Academy of Sport’s website.

Share Button

Sport making the art of the possible-possible?

Can sport make the art of the possible - possible?

Can sport make the art of the possible – possible?

Sport has a role to play in making the art of the possible, possible.

On June 2nd 2015 the New York Cosmos beat Cuba 4-1 in a friendly soccer match. The match symbolised a new era of foreign relations between the United States and Cuba.

Raul, the former Real Madrid and Mexican star who played for the Cosmos commented that “It was an honor to play against the Cuban national team,” Raul said. “They have a talented team and we felt it was a very good game. Football brings people together and we saw it today.”

The match  was part of a broader range of interventions that have attempted to draw a line under five decades of estrangement.


  • 2nd June the USA and Cuba resume sporting relations
  • 1969 Pele compared Tuesday’s intervention to that of the Brazilian side Santos visiting Nigeria in 1969
  • 1978 the last time a US soccer team had played in Cuba
  • 1999 Baltimore Orioles (baseball) played in Cuba and in May (2015) Havana announced that the baseball team would return later in the year
  • 1999 Cuba had 1 physical education teacher per 458 inhabitants
  • In terms of soft power sport Cuba has used sport for utilitarian and ideological purposes including the promotion of national prestige, health, defence, labour productivity, and integration.
  • 2014 -215 Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro pledged full restoration of ties on 17 December. The two leaders met in Panama in mid-April
  • 2015 Cuba completed the release of 53 political prisoners
  • 2015 Cuba, in May, was formally removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a critical step toward rapprochement 54 years after Washington cut off relations at the height of the cold war and imposed an economic embargo
  • At June 4th the FIFA World Rankings for Men and Women saw the USA ranked at 27 (Men) and 2 (Women) and Cuba 107 (Men) and 96 (Women).

Some analysts warn that as the two countries move to re- open embassies, the Republicans still pose a potential hurdle in the agreement to end more than 50 years of hostility.


 It is more than 50 years since Chataway and Goodhart produced their account of international sport in A War without Weapons (1968).

Victor Cha, the former Director of Asian Affairs for the White House, in Beyond the Final Score (2009) has penned one of the few inside accounts of sporting diplomacy and argued that:

  • Sport matters because it can provide opportunities for interventions
  • Sport matters because it can be less aloof than some forms of diplomacy

The UK House of Lords report on Persuasion and Power in the Modern World (2014), pointed to the necessity of balancing hard and soft power tactics and the role that sport could play.

Grix et al (2015) have interrogated the way in which some countries have utilized sport as part of a soft power strategy.

Hard and soft power is often seen to be  what one country does to another. International cultural relations can potentially go well beyond this because of the emphasis on mutuality.

There is a plethora of research from which politicians, civil servants and sports administrators can learn.

Sport matters because it has (i) universal appeal that crosses language and cultural barriers; (ii) the capacity to develop temporary feel good factors; (iii) the ability to foster conversations between countries that take place around sporting events and the capacity to develop some human capabilities.

BUT we need to know in a much more nuanced way what works and what does not work.


If  sport can make the art of the possible, possible and we should exploit it to the full. It provides a potential space around which other resources can be brought into play. It is not a solution in and of itself.

 It is not as if the world has its problems to seek. What is new is the contexts in which we live today and what tools we have to resolve these problems and issues.

The world economic forum identified the top four international trends are worsening income inequality; unemployment; rising geo-strategic competition, and intensifying nationalism. Additional concerns included rising population levels; weakening of democracy; climatic change, health and increasing water stress.

 With each world problem there is a temptation to simplify matters, find a quick solution, identify, sometimes wrongly, aggressors, transgressors and or victims.

But humanity like power politics is not that simple. The issues we must confront, while imposing in their scale are expansive in their reach, must be faced with fortitude and with a co-operative, collaborative spirit.

Consequently foreign diplomats, ambassadors, civil servants, cultural agencies, communities and countries need to have a wide variety of tools at their disposal.

Why would you not use anything if it can be evidenced that it can make a contribution?

Sport should be one of these tools. We need to take advantage of sports’ global currency, and further the part that sport can play in winning friends for countries.

We need to find an effective framework, language, set of principles through which international cultural relations can and should operate through sport and other facets of culture.

To forge long standing meaningful international cultural relations issues of mutuality, reciprocity, trust and co-operation have to be further enabled.

 The role played by non-state institutions and agencies working below the level of government is crucial.

Sport has a role to play in making the art of the possible, possible. Making sports policy, sports investment, sports research, sports advocacy, commitment, alignment, and the power of universities and civil society working for people, places and communities.


As a policy tool sport has a long history of opening doors for countries. It is a tool that foreign diplomats and civil servants should not forget but they need to understand in a more nuanced way what works where and when and under what circumstances.