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.

The ‘networked’ rise and power of the football super-agent


By Dr Paul Widdop, Dr Dan Parnell and Tony Asghar

This summer, even for the hedonistic consumption of the Premier League, was unprecedented. Spending topped one billion pounds, with Manchester United breaking the World transfer record, in the region of £95million for Frenchman Paul Pogba.  Many within the football world were left dismayed that United payed so much for the Juventus player who the left the club for nothing in 2012. More disheartening for fans is the reputed 30% or if we conservatively round this down, the £20million fee super-agent Mino Raiola will collect.

Whilst football agents, the games infamous middle men, have been around since the early 1960’s , the term super-agent is only a recent arrival into the lexicon of association football. As money has flowed into the game, a powerful few have amassed enough resources to move from mere Agents to the grander media christened term ‘Super-Agents’.  Empirically of course it is difficult to typologise super-agents given the somewhat blurred boundaries, but we are told they are the most powerful men in football, not mangers, players, leaders of the games governing bodies, but agents.

However, what are we to make of super-agents and their networked world. Are they to be demonised as neo-liberal capitalists, fuelled by finance and commerce at odds with the cultural meaning of football as social institutions, or do they play a pivotal role in the production process, using there connected worlds to produce a global game.

It is somewhat easy to place all footballs ills at the doorstep of these business men. As Tony Asghar Managing Director of Revolution Global Sports Consulting Ltd and Masters in Sport Directorship student notes:

It is clear that the media and public perception of the role of the football agent has been dramatised as “the root of all evil” the people who “take money out the game” and “only think about themselves” , however on looking behind the curtain the role of the agent who represents a club in the transfer of player (buying or selling) or represents the player in negotiating an employment contract are necessities not only in football but in global commerce.

In this blog using a Social Network Analysis (SNA) we critically explore the networked rise of super-agents and how these structures give them power, resources and a means to restrict and skew the market. In doing so, we aim to provide both academic and industry insight.

 The rise and role of the super-agent

How did we get to this situation, where a powerful few have engineered a market-trading environment that not only facilitates a specific role for itself (agents), but one which would not function without them given their centrality to this market.  We consider that the rise in super-agent is fundamentally a network phenomenon.

We are interested here in whether this network takes away or restricts rational choice and constrains the trading market conditions, and ultimately whether this is positive or negative. Whilst it is difficult to define super-agents, it has been noted that a few represent the many, which has given rise to more networked with better connections than others (Poli, 2016). For Tony Asghar:

 “…the term Super-Agent has been tagged for a small number of agents (businessmen) who have created a business model which is clever and effective and is beneficial to the clubs who are working with them.”

However, it is clear that through their networks, super-agents have taken power from others and have created more for themselves. Perhaps the embodiment and archetypal manifestation of this is Portuguese businessman Jorge Mendes and his GestiFute networked empire.

Before exploring the networked nature of the GetisFute empire and its implications for global football, it is important to put the market and the agents role into context.

What is the role of an agent?

Agents can be described as those with the role of representing both clubs and players within the context of contracts or transfer negotiations, dealing with players image rights and carry out recruitment activities such as scouting (Poli, 2016). However, the actual role of agent (and intermediaries) has blurred boundaries. Fundamentally they are middlemen yet their role is increasing taking over responsibilities that were traditionally undertaken by the club. As Asghar notes:

“…representing the player in a contract negotiation requires payment whether it is a registered intermediary or a lawyer, whilst the credibility of a lawyer is not in question in most part (mostly due to the time spent educating themselves).

The role of an intermediary negotiating raises suspicion of lining their pockets. Intermediaries who are credible and have experience should only be looking for the best deal for their client and if this is matched by the club then the player is paid and the club may pay the agent fees on behalf of the player.

This is no different to any representation in entertainment, Media or other industry.”

Asghar believes the public scrutinise the role of agents for the most part because they don’t know exactly what they are being paid for:

“…most people agree that no person should sign a contract of any kind without seeking advice. Football players are no different. Perhaps the experience of an agent (who knows the market rate of salaries, knows how to structure a deal, knows the valuation of the player…) can be a lot more advantageous than an educated lawyer who may not have that experience.”

Asghar is also keen to raise awareness of all agents, not just those at the top of the pile:

“It is also important to note, that at present the public perception of agents who are making millions at the highest level of transfers does not alleviate for the majority of agents. Especially those moving players who are (i) free of contract (out of a job), (ii) not playing within a team, (iii) fell out with a manager and/or other reasons whereby time and effort are carried out (without payment) and not highlighted within the media.”

Jorge Mendes – a man at the top of the pile

Despite the significant numbers registered as agents, the market especially in the big European leagues follows somewhat of a power law distribution, i.e., more players are registered with a fewer number of agents. These agents gain further power and control becoming super-agents. We turn now to GestiFute and Jorge Mendes.

The rise in super-agents we believe is a network manifestation. The GestiFute networked business empire is illustrated below, it is an ego-net of Jorge Mendes.  To put this graph (network map) into context, the circles (nodes) represent football clubs and the line linking the two (an edge) represents a transfer between clubs (the players that Mendes represents).

The circle size is weighted on a measure of how often a circle falls along the shortest path connecting two other circle (football clubs), such that they might ‘broker’ between these parties (i.e., betweeness centrality). The lines (or transfers) are sized by number (or sum) of transactions between two clubs/circles. That means, the more transfers between the same clubs the greater the size of line.

What does this tell us?


[Click on sociogram to enlarge]

This is a basic sociogram and helps to understand the complex network structure that exists. The network of Mendes is complex. However, we identify six points to consider in this brief insight into this ego-trade network of a super-agent (up until June 2016).

  1. This is a truly global network covering approximately 88 football clubs across 15 countries, involved in 500+ transfers. Portugal still remains the heartbeat of the organisation, but Spain is becoming important in this network.
  2. Examination of the graph metrics show that there are relatively short lines linking a few football clubs. This perhaps makes trading patterns more predictable.
  3. The three giants of Portugese football, FC Porto, Benfica, and Sporting Lisbon are the most central in the network and the powerbase of the organisation. Interestingly, there is relatively very little trade directly between these three, indirectly this is different. That is, players don’t move from FC Porto to Benfica to Sporting Lisbon, and so forth.
  4. Smaller provincial football clubs play key brokering roles in this network. For example smaller clubs in Portugal, for example Maritimo and Rio Ave FC. It appears that almost serve to be used as a trading hub, whether older players getting one last transfer, or a test bed for two years of a young star before being traded off in the football circus. This will be possibly at odds with the traditions and beliefs of the supporters.
  5. This clearly demonstrates the network nature of this industry and gives initial insight into how these agents have become all-powerful.
  6. Finally, whilst it is interesting to see the football clubs that are part of the Jorge Mendes network it is also interesting to note those that are not. Leading us to raise further questions. What impact does this have on them when they are trading? Is the market restricted for these organisations? What about the economics of rational choice? Perhaps a better way to understand this market is transactionally or relationally – through the lens of relational sociology.

 From an Agents perspective

From his deep knowledge of the industry, and understanding of the conventions and trading conditions of the market, Tony Asghar has somewhat of an alternative understanding of the network.

For Asghar:

“Jorge Mendes has created a network of players, clubs and managers with whom he has gained trust and respect as to being the man who can produce the best players for their clubs.

Mendes is a corporate head-hunter or talent finder who is no different to a Head-hunter is Silicon Valley or Hollywood as the “go to guy” to get the deals done.

There are other similar models by other agents working with a group of clubs and managers at lower level which again is bred by trust and ability rather than open a free market network to the ever increasing intermediaries after the de-regulation of FIFA agent regulations in 2015.”

Indeed, Asghar highlights that agents have an important contribution to the game:

“The issue of owning third party rights of players also comes into the world of the so-called super-agent, and although this is prohibited in the UK, FIFA and UEFA have still not regulated this type of transfer and Mendes and others have offered the service by purchasing a percentage of the player to allow the buying club to invest a more reasonable sum.

Like the banks and financial institutions used to provide loans for these fees, the super-agents are able to assist because they have the funds and more importantly have the experience and know the market and can make a calculated risk on their investment when moving a player say from South America to Europe and knowing he may accumulate club and international appearances and then be ripe for selling on to EPL or other top league for profit.

Therefore the commodities that players are becoming in the eyes of clubs and club owners are major financial investments and yes for every Pogba deal there will be a Falcao, some will work some will not.

The super-agent is becoming powerful but they are also becoming a necessity to the oligarch owners to make financial investment decisions on players, however managers will always have the say on players in order to create a winning team, and rightly so and in my experience most top level managers will not be swayed or overruled by a super-agent (if the player is not right for him), that will never happen.

Super-agents will be an exclusive and small band of football/business/relationship/social experts and even an agent who finds, nurtures a client that gets catapulted into super stardom then the super-agents are waiting to strike and offer that player into their exclusive club and why would the boys original agent say no, if he is getting a seat in the super-agents room, if only for a short time and not on the hard seats at the back of the room.”

The future

Clearly the network here only relates to Jorge Mendes and the players he represents. Therefore, this is not a clear portrayal of how the market is structured. Yet this does offers an insight into the networked characteristics of trading between clubs that warrants further investigation and critical thought.

This throws open questions of rational choice and utility models. In that clubs in the network, might be restricted by who they can trade with and for whom, whilst those clubs outside the network have barriers to entry into the market, given that this is an example of one of many super-agents in the market place.

What does this mean for smaller clubs? Are they destined to become small brokers or feeder clubs to the game’s elite? Will their players trading at the behest of external powers, or super-agents? It appears that power is ultimately being taken away from them as a single entity. They are at the behest of neoliberal forces that have significant access to resources and therefore power.

In a further development straight out of a text book example of Michael Porters five forces, the Fosun group who have a minority stake in GetisFute and heavily connected to Jorge Mendes  have entered into a new market and purchased a Football Club, it will be fascinating to view events unfolding at Wolverhampton Wanders founded in 1877. Indeed, it will be fascinating to see how Mendes and the Fosun group use Wolves to for their commercial gain.

At present elite level professional football continues to develop and extend its commercial power, whether in the English Premier League or in emerging football markets within the Global South. As such, we should expect the role of the super-agent to become more prominent as they grow their network and most certainly in their power to influence player transfers in football.

Perhaps the final word should be that of Asghars:

“The market is such that to have your club bring the biggest and best players, they need to call on the most expensive people and experts to provide the service. The culmination of transfer fees this window has exceeded 1bn and is excessive, however the market is dictating this and I don’t see it slowing down in the near future. A slow for deals at the top end or a slow for discretionary support at the bottom end”.

Dr Paul Widdop is a Global Fellow with the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport and to contact the authors please email:

Brexit and sport: who is keeping the score?


Grant Jarvie and Paul Widdop

What does Brexit mean for Scottish sport?

The landscape of Scottish sport will be changed as result of the Brexit decision to leave Europe.

As at June 2016 

  • Approximately 50 players from the EU  will start next seasons Scottish Premier ship.
  • At least 15 different EU nationalities likely to be represented in the Scottish Premiership.
  • If you play for one of the top 50 countries in the world and have played 75% of your countries competitive games your chances of getting an SFA work permit are higher.
  • From, Bosman, to Webster, to fair pay EU law has protected players rights, pay and mobility.
  • Athletes have already asked if the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro will be the last UK team at the Olympics.12 Scottish athletes have qualified for the 2016 Olympics.
  • Funding for the National sports agency is primarily government funding.

When the Sport for All charter was adopted back in 1975, the Council of Europe made a clear statement that it would focus on participation and the fundamental right of all people to participate. By 2007 sport had been  recognized as a key European competency within the Lisbon Treaty.

In June 2016, the same month as the UK voted to leave Europe, The Council of Europe recommended that EU member states should focus the priorities of their sports policies on sport participation, collaboration between public institutions and the development of grassroots sport.

The resolution adopted by the European Assembly in June started by noting that sport is one of the most popular activities in European societies and that it had a continuing role to play not just in developing health but social cohesion, education, youth, non-discrimination, and the reception and integration of migrants.

 In doing so The European Assembly was asking equality bodies and national human rights institutions to co-operate in combating discrimination in sport, promote co-operation in running awareness-raising activities, as well as authorizing these bodies to participate in legal actions brought against perpetrators of discrimination.

It was also asking that sports wealth be redistributed in a much more just and equitable way. That rich sports associations initiate deliberations together with grassroots sports organisations on a better way to redistribute the revenues generated by top-level professional sport – especially by the major sports events that attract large television audiences – in order to allocate a greater percentage of those revenues to projects aimed at improving access to sport for all.

There is a correlation between a nation’s wealth and the number of infrastructure facilities that enable people to engage in leisure or competition sports (gymnasiums, playing-fields, swimming-pools, skate parks, fitness studios, facilities for outdoor sports, etc.) Scotland has invested heavily in sports facilities but the landscape of Scottish sport will be changed as result of the decision to leave Europe.

Free Movement and Risk 

If the negotiations protect the free movement of athletes, golfers, footballers, rugby players and specialist sports personnel within the sports industry then Scotland will continue to benefit from access to European professional sport markets and expertise.

But if the negotiations between the UK and Europe, Scotland and Europe and/ or Scotland and the UK do not protect the current free movement of sports personnel and expertise then the landscape of Scottish sport is about to change.

Work Permits

Some 400 football players are working in the top two divisions in England and Scotland. Hearts and Inverness are but two of many Scottish Premier League teams that have significantly benefitted from work permits being issued to players from other European Union (EU) countries.

Player Transfers and Worker Rights

Former Hearts and Scotland defender Andy Webster gave the name to the Webster ruling on the status and transfer of players established under article 17 of FIFA’S regulations.

Article 17 was created by FIFA and the European Union to give professional players the same rights as other EU workers.

Webster became the first footballer to invoke article 17 and released himself from his contract with Hearts in 2006.

Will such rights for sports workers be protected in the negotiations involving the Scottish Government?


FIFA regulations allow EU clubs to sign 16 and 17 year olds. Countries outside of the EU are only allowed to sign players over 18.

Brexit could mean the end of any influx of teenage players from the European Union who would be deemed to be homegrown players, developed in Scotland, with the clubs benefitting financially and culturally from having such players in their ranks.

Scottish players may of course get more opportunities but Scottish football although it has many aspirations is not yet as marketable and as financially strong as the top five European football leagues.

The top European clubs are not generally made up totally of home-grown players and it requires considerable financial strength to purchase such players.


In rugby the foreign player rule does not currently apply to players from EU countries that have an association agreement. Brexit will impact upon Scottish rugby players wanting to join clubs in Europe.

Several members of the Scottish rugby team currently on tour in Japan play in other European countries.

More Expensive Players

Economic instability, slow economic growth and the value of sterling would Scottish economy that would make it more expensive for Scottish Clubs to sign European players.

Scottish players could become less appealing to European teams because they would impact upon three non-EU rule where European football clubs are only allowed to sign three non EU players.

Funding for Scottish Sport

And what if the Brexit result leads to an independent Scotland? The arguments about Scottish sport aired during the Scottish referendum could come back into play.

The degree of UK sport funding allocated to Scotland through the Barnett formula or UK Lottery funding would come under increased scrutiny. The Welsh First Minister has already called for a more equitable agreement.

The likelihood being that less money could be made available to Scotland because unlike with the Smith Agreement which came into play following on from the 2014 Scottish Referendum it is unclear if Scottish sport and other areas of public life would be protected by no detriment clauses that protected Scotland within The Smith Agreement.

A distinct worry would be the potential of less funding being made available to sport and physical activity, for example, through the allocation of funding to sportscotland or grassroots sports.

The Olympics

A further Brexit impact triggered by an independence referendum would be the make up of future Great Britain Olympic teams. 12 Scottish athletes have qualified for the 2016 Olympics.

According to one report many athletes seemed to have voted to remain with some expressing fear that Brexit could spell the end of Team GB.

The free movement of students established under European social mobility schemes such as Erasmus could end for British students going to Europe and European students entering Scottish Universities.

Student Sport and Knowledge Exchange

The funding of European research projects which have promoted scientific and technological advance, collaboration and knowledge exchange between member states could exclude Scottish Universities. Few dedicated sports research streams of funding are open to Universities.

The British Council Erasmus Plus funding for sports collaboration and exchange is one such income stream that would be threatened.


There is no aspect of public life that will be untouched by a Brexit vote that has already triggered a multitude of different avenues of negotiation at a time when stability and economic growth are the much needed order of the day.

Sport in Scotland is not immune from Brexit consequentials and the material and cultural vitality of Scottish sport is threatened by the decision to leave the European Union.

Muirfield, golf and the myth of Scottish egalitarianism


Grant Jarvie

“ The decision delivered at Muirfield is bad for golf, bad for sport, bad for Scotland and bad for those who would like Scotland to be truly egalitarian and just. “

The secretive and mysterious nature of the inner workings of the Scottish establishment are hard to track and yet it is evidenced on the public face of a place such as Muirfield, which shows scant regard for the simple goals of equality, regard or equality of sporting opportunity, all values allegedly held dear by the Scottish electorate.

Despite the popular image that Scotland is somehow a more egalitarian society in golfing terms such assertions can always be challenged as long as the privileged continue to operate a closed door policy in terms of membership.

It has often been argued that golf clubs or other sports clubs that are in receipt of public money should not be allowed to operate exclusive policies. If only it were that easy since money is clearly not an issue and therefore has not been a potential lever to produce change in such cases.

The threat of the Open Championship being taken away has not be enough to produce a vote that allows women golfers to join Muirfield.

  • To admit women golfers as members, Muirfield – a privately owned links in East Lothian run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers – needed two thirds (432) of its 648 eligible voters to back the move.
  • Of the 616 members who voted after a two year consultation 397 (64%) voted for change while 219 (36%) voted against. The Club voted in favour of change but fell short of the two thirds majority needed to produce change.
  • Muirfield has hosted the open on 16 occasions since 1892- the last time being 2013.

Historically golf is a cultural property that Scotland, rightly or wrongly, has claimed as its own. Other countries can also claim to have invented golf.

Scotland has also mythically or otherwise continued to claim it is an egalitarian country and yet in golfing terms the rich of the sporting world seem to be free to pursue their own interest and rules while paying little attention to sport for all.

Briefing on FIFA Presidency, 2016-2019 elections and reforms


Grant Jarvie

Facts as at 28 February 2016 


• FIFA still in a perilous position with on-going American and Swiss investigations into current and former officials. The extraordinary FIFA meeting in Zurich is an attempt to show the various legal authorities that FIFA can, with confidence and trust, regulate it’s own affairs.

• The Department of Justice if it does not believe FIFA is reforming could charge the organisation under US LAW with racketeering.

• The Swiss investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) competitions is still on going.

• 26 Feb 2016 FIFA elected the 9th President, the previous 8 have all been men and have reflected European power in world football. The new President will be the 7th President from Europe – excluding Switzerland- 8th if Switzerland included.

• The Presidential voting on the 26th February was by secret ballot. Many Candidates did not want to declare their hand for fear of affecting their countries opportunity to access FIFA resources.

• The Scottish and English FA backed the Gianni Infantino, the UEFA secretary general since 2009. Allegedly he had strong support from Europe, South America and the Caribbean and won after a second round of voting.

• The Presidential front-runner going into the elections was Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al- Khalifa of Bahrain and President of the Asian Football Confederation. Denies being involved in Human Rights violations and had to overcome the threat of this being the main story if elected. Had the backing of the Asian Confederation and Africa.

• The issues addressed by the FIFA Congress relate to reform, restoring trust, strengthening governance, and fostering diversity. Prior to the recent round of reforms only 2 of the 209 member organizations were led by women despite women’s football being one of the fastest growing games in the world.

• The package or reforms ratified involve the FIFA executive being replaced by a new FIFA Council that will include a minimum of 6 women, one from each of the 6 confederations.


  • FIFA is the main governing body of world football. An association governed by Swiss law with its headquarters in Zurich.
  • Founded in 1904 in Paris with the original 7 members, all being European, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • The English FA joined in 1905, Scotland and Wales in 1910 and Ireland in 1911. By 1914 FIFA had 24 members with 4 coming from outside of Europe, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and United States of America. Between 1950 and 1984 membership doubled from 73 to 150 and by 2014 FIFA had 209 member countries.
  • The previous 8 Presidents have all been men 3 from England, 2 from France, 1 from Belgium and Brazil and the outgoing President Sepp Blatter from Switzerland.
  • Friday 26th is a pivotal moment for FIFA with a new leader and a raft of new reforms.

Acting President- “ This is our opportunity to show we are united in building a stronger FIFA”


  • Gianni Infantino, Italian –Swiss, 45 UEFA General Secretary – has the backing of the Scottish and English FA.
    “ If we stop doing politics and start doing football, the world will admire us”
    Wants to expand the World Cup to 40 teams to ensure that a greater number of smaller countries can participate- he also wants to expand FIFA’S development plan by investing £860m and giving £3.6m to each member association.
  • Ist round votes gained 88.      2nd round votes gained 115.
  • Prince Ali of Jordan, age 40, called for a transparent ballot, possible a significant player in deciding the victor, the only candidate from a national association- Jordan.Wanted to quadruple the amount FIFA’S member associations receive but Wanted the money properly accounted for.
  • Ist round votes gained 27.       2nd round votes gained 4.
  • Jerome Champagne, age 57, former adviser to Sepp Blatter. Former FIFA executive from France.
    Wanted to modernise, introduce technology, rebalance inequality, help referee’s have women in key FIFA roles.
  • 1st round votes gained 7.        2nd round votes gained 0.
  • South Africa, Tokyo Sexwale’s, age 62, failed to win support from Confederation of Africa Football. Former political prisoner on Robben Island, not expected to win but crucial to where the votes go.
    Wanted to put sponsors on national team shirts to help raise money for football associations. Withdrew before the 1st round of votes.
  • Sheikh Salman, Bahrain, the favourite, is Asian Football Confederation President with support from Asia and most of Africa, age 50.

“ We want someone who is responsible and can deliver the promises”

Wanted to split FIFA in two with a business side handling commercial issues and a           football side organising World Cups and developing the game- believes the 2 sections apart will stop executives making self- interested decisions.

  • 1st round of votes gained 85.       2nd round votes gained 88.


Governance and diminishing levels of trust are at the heart of FIFA’s problems and are at the heart of the reforms. They have been criticised on the grounds of a lack of diversity.

Disclosure of salaries
This will happen on an annual basis for the FIFA president, all FIFA council members, the secretary general and relevant chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees.

Presidents limited to three terms of four years
This applies to the FIFA president, FIFA council members and members of the audit and compliance committee and of the judicial bodies. Sepp Blatter served five terms as FIFA president dating back to 1998.

Separation of political and managerial functions
The elected FIFA council will replace the executive committee and will be responsible for setting the organization’s overall strategic direction. The general secretariat will oversee the operational and commercial actions needed to implement the strategy.

Promotion of women in football
A minimum of one female representative will be elected as a council member per confederation.

Human rights enshrined in FIFA statutes


• FIFA Executive, 6 Confederations and 209 members.
• FIFA Executive of 24 members replaced by a FIFA Council of 36 members + President with a minimum of 6 seats for women representatives.
• New FIFA Council seen as strategic and supervisory, no direct influence over FIFA business, Non-Executive President with no casting vote, minimum of 6 female council members.
• FIFA confederations must a minimum elect one female member per confederation.
• FIFA Council separation of powers from Secretary general (CEO), FIFA compliance officer and FIFA Administration.
• Term limits 3-4 years.
• Annual compensation, disclosure and review of remuneration.
• FIFA council sets commercial strategy and FIFA congress budget. FIFA council sets strategy for development and governance of competitions. Development spending allocated by a further independent committee.


• FIFA standing committees cut from 26 to 9 to promote streamlining.
• Key committees to have at least 50% independent members covering finance, governance and development.
• New footballers stakeholders committee representing clubs, players, referees, coaches and leagues.
• Annual football conference for top executives of member associations.
• Promotion of women in football and more women in leadership.
• FIFA, confederations, and members associations to have a commitment – statutory obligation- to empower women in football.


• FIFA, contractors, competition organisers, member associations.
• Labour laws
• Children’s rights
• Justice
• Men and women
• Para athletes.

22 countries voted against the reforms . The reforms were carried on an 89% vote for.


Different regulations for different rounds of voting for the President.

Required 75% approval for the reforms to be passed. The reforms received unanimous support.

207 of 209 members vote with Kuwait and Indonesia suspended.

The winner required 138 votes in the 1st round; 105 votes in the second round.

Africa has 54 votes; Europe (UEFA) 53 votes; Asia 46 votes; North and Central America 35 votes; Oceania 11 votes; South America- 10 votes.

1st, 2nd and 3rd round voting options existed until a President was elected.

Different regulations for different rounds of voting for the President.


The new President’s incoming speech:

  • “ Desire that FIFA is fully respected again”
  • “ FIFA will be restored … and proud of what we will do together”
  • “We have just had a competition for Presidency but also a sign of our democracy”
  • “ I want to be the President of all of you”
  • “ The moment of crisis is over, we will implement reforms and new governance arrangements- but also win respect fro football”


Questions remain for the new President.

• Finance and sponsors, will they support FIFA or will FIFA have the same issues as the IAAF? FIFA estimated to be more than $US 250 billion dollar operation.

• The bidding process for 2018 and 2022 – will the new President review the situation and publish the full copy of the Garcia report?

• Trust in the new arrangements and people will be hard won and will the new reforms solve the problems facing FIFA?

• What is the first thing FIFA or the new President should do?

• Women are vastly under-represented in the decision making process. Globally just 2 of the current 2009 Member Association Presidents are women and the reforms are a long way from equality.

• Few fans or players recognise these individuals let alone know about or trust their policies.

• Too many it may not feel like change. All of the men running for President were/are from the football establishment.

The reforms need to be seen to be lived out on a daily basis might being more important than who is the actual President.



Gender equity, audits and the Olympic Games

All three parts have been produced as a result of  systematic auditing of the Olympic Games.

The research team for the Gender Audits of the London (2012) and Sochi (2014) Olympic Games was:

Professor Peter Donnelly, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Michele Donnelly, Kent State University, USA

Dr Mark Norman, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto, CANADA

The information provided was correct as at December 2015.


Professor Peter Donnelly will be talking about the Gender Audits of the Olympic Games at the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport Policy Seminar on 14th December at 12.30 – St Leonard’s Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh. 

Professor Bruce Kidd and Professor Peter Donnelly are both Global Fellows of the Academy of Sport.

In 2014 the Universities of Edinburgh and Toronto signed an agreement to work more closely together. See the joint Edinburgh-Toronto Public seminar series on sport and physical activity []

  • Contact Professor Grant Jarvie for further details of the event.

Gender equity, audits and the Olympic Games is presented in three parts:

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

Part 2: Gender Equality and Opportunities to Participate: Not the End of History

Part 3: Differences in the Ways that Women and Men Participate

All three parts have been produced as a result of a systematic auditing of the Olympic Games

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

Sport is one of the remaining areas of human activity that is still primarily segregated by gender. In this era of equality and human rights, sport remains segregated based on the understanding and the assumption – both implicit and explicit – that it is ‘separate but equal’.1

In fact, that is the only possible justification for segregation. However, reams of research evidence comparing women’s and men’s sports in terms of funding and sponsorship, publicity and media representation, sex testing, and leadership (coaching and administrative) show that sport is separate, but it is far from being equal.

The Centre for Sport Policy Studies (CSPS) at the University of Toronto has been carrying out a series of gender audits of Major Games’ events.2 This project grew out of the triumphalist announcements of gender equality during the London 2012 Olympics.

London 2012 Olympic Games

There was much to applaud with regard to gender equality achievements at the London Games – a higher proportion of women athletes than at any previous Olympics; women competitors in every sport; and no country deliberately excluded women competitors from its Olympic team. Jacques Rogge, then President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), called the Games “a major boost for gender equality;” and a number of media outlets began to refer to the London Olympics as “the Women’s Olympics.”

Our skeptical selves suspected that this was not ‘the end of history’ for women at the Olympics. And since the claims by Rogge and the characterisation by some media were based on the structure and rules of the Olympics as they affect women and men athletes, we decided to focus our audits on that aspect of equality.

The research questions

We asked one basic question – what remains to be done in order to achieve gender equality at the Olympic Games?

We operationalised that question in two parts, the first with respect to opportunities to participate and win medals (structure) and the second with regard to the ways in which athletes are able to participate (rules):

  • How equal are the Olympics in terms of: the total numbers of women and men?; the number of opportunities men and women had to win medals (i.e., how many medal events were there for women and for men)?; and the proportional distribution of women and men among those events?


  • What differences are there between men’s and women’s sports in terms of the rules of competition? In other words, what does their relative participation look like?, how is it experienced?, and we offer some speculations about how the different rules for women’s and men’s competitions are justified?

Part 2: Gender Equality and Opportunities to Participate: Not the End of History

This series of gender audits begins at a point where there has been a long history of increasing women’s participation at the Olympics, and an associated increase in the number of Olympic events for women. For example, some 40 years ago only approximately 1 in 5 Olympic athletes were women.

The 1976 Olympic Summer Games were held in Montréal, where 20.7% of the athletes participating were women (1,260 athletes); and Olympic Winter Games were held in Innsbruck where 20.6% of the athletes participating were women (231 athletes). The number of women Olympic athletes at each Games has now increased to just over 2 in 5. In the Summer Olympics, the proportion increased at every Olympics since 1976, and reached 44.3% (4,835 athletes) of the participants in London 2012.

At the Winter Olympics, increases in the proportion of women athletes have not been so linear, with women constituting 40.4% (1,158 athletes) of the participants in Sochi 2014, down slightly from 40.7% — the highest ever proportion of women Winter Olympic athletes in Vancouver 2010.

There has been a similar increase in the number of events in which women are able to participate – 49 of 198 events in Montréal (24.7%) to 136 of 302 event in London 2012 (45%); 15 of 37 events at the Innsbruck Olympics (40.5%) to 45 of 98 events in Sochi 2014 (46%). These data also indicate the significant increases in the overall size of the Games and, as noted subsequently, that as women’s participation opportunities have increased, so have men’s.

Equality is far from being achieved

While acknowledging these increases it is also clear that, despite the three milestones achieved at London 2012, equality is far from being achieved. In fact, there are some indications (outlined below) that progress toward gender equality has slowed, and perhaps even reached a plateau. This slow progress contradicts the fact that, following years of lobbying by women athletes and women’s organisations, the IOC made a commitment to increasing gender equality that it has been working toward since the 1994 Olympic Congress held in Paris.

The rate of increase in women participants and women’s events in the 20 years following the 1994 Congress is not really any greater than the increases that occurred in the previous 18 years (since the 1976 data, above). By 1994, women’s participation had increased to approximately 30% at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. In the 20 years since 1994, and following the explicit IOC commitment to equality, women’s participation has only increased to approximately 40% of Winter Games athletes and approximately 44% of Summer Games athletes (see Table 1).

For both the Summer and Winter Olympics there was a significant increase in the proportion of women athletes in the Olympics that immediately followed the Paris Congress (participation increased 5.2% and 6.2% respectively). However, the rate of increase has slowed significantly, especially at the Winter Games.

With regard to the number of events for women (i.e., the number of opportunities to win a medal) there has been an increase, parallel to the overall increase in women’s participation opportunities, in the proportion of women’s events at the Summer Olympics (from approximately 32% in 1992 to 45% in 2012). However, the proportion of women’s events at the Winter Olympics, while starting higher (44.3%), has increased less than 2% over the same 20 years.3

Table 1. Event and participation increases since 1994, Summer and Winter

Summer Olympics       %events       %women       % increase/decrease in

                                                                athletes         athletes (from previous Games)         

 Barcelona 1992              31.9                28.8                 +2.7

Atlanta 1996                    34.3                34.0                  +5.2

Sydney 2000                   38.7                38.2                  +2.5

Athens 2004                    40.2                40.7                  +2.5

Beijing 2008                    40.7                42.4                  +1.7

London 2012                  45.0                44.3                  +1.9

Winter Olympics       %events       %women        % increase/decrease in

                                                             athletes          athletes (from previous Games)

Lillehammer 1994          44.3             30.0                         +2.9                       

Nagano 1998                  45.6            36.2                         +6.2

Salt Lake City 2002        46.2             36.9                         +0.7

Turin 2006                      46.4             38.2                         +1.3

Vancouver 2010             46.5             40.7                         +2.5

Sochi 2014                     46.2             40.4                          -0.3

Accounting for the failure to achieve equality:

The IOC commitment to gender equality since 1994 is outlined in the Olympic Charter as follows:

            The role of the IOC is: […]

  • (6) to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement;                                              
  • (7) to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all                                                     levels of and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of                                       equality of men and women.

There are at least three interconnected reasons for the failure to achieve gender equality, despite this mandated commitment:

First, new sports and events have been added since 1994 primarily on the basis that both men’s and women’s events must be added equally (e.g., mountain biking, beach volleyball, curling, snowboarding, etc.). So, although some women’s events or sports have been added to match the already existing men’s events (e.g., women’s ice hockey, women’s pole vault), and even though there are two women-only sports at the Summer Olympics (rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming), there are still more men-only events at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Thus the new men’s events, introduced on the premise of equality for men and women, have served to reduce, or at least slow, the possibility of achieving equality in either the proportion of events or the proportion of participants.

Second, a significant number of sports and events stipulate a lower quota of women athletes than men athletes. For example, in team sports the Olympics football (soccer) tournaments were played with 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams; and the water polo and ice hockey tournaments were played with 12 men’s teams and eight women’s teams – but while the number of players on the men’s and women’s teams was equal in the two Summer sports, Olympic ice hockey was played with teams of 25 men, while women were limited to 21 players per team.

In the more individual sports, boxing had an overall quota of 250 men and 36 women; rowing had an overall quota of 353 men and 197 women; and luge had an overall quota of 78 men and 28 women. Some sports had an equal quota for men and women, and in some of the individual sports quota differences were a consequence of the fact that the sport has more events for men than for women. The stipulations for gender quotas originate with the International Federations (IFs) that govern each of the sports, but they are approved in a formal process prior to each Olympic Games by the IOC.

Taken in combination, the way that new sports and events are added to the Olympic Games and the gender quotas that exist in many Olympic sports, help to account for the fact that in 2015 (some 20 years since the gender equality reforms began in earnest), almost 60% of the athletes at Winter Olympics are men, and over 55% of the athletes at Summer Olympics are men.

 The third reason involves IOC concern about gigantism – about the growing size and cost of the Olympic Games. As a consequence, the IOC has remained cautious about adding new events and additional athletes, which has had a consequence for gender equality.

As noted, no new sports may be added unless it is open to both women and men, making it more difficult to achieve greater equality without adding additional women’s events that are equivalent to current men-only events, and without increasing the quota of women in many of the sports and events where there was a lower quota for women athletes.

 Before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, concerns about gigantism at the Summer Olympics led the IOC to attempt to cap the number of athletes at approximately 10,000. This has been achieved in the ways noted above, with the number of athletes remaining steady at approximately 10,500 since Barcelona 1992.

Thus, athletes do not account for ‘gigantism’, and the IOC should look to other areas of the Games to control the size of an Olympics. For example, over 20,000 media personnel have been present at recent Summer Olympics (24,272 in London); and the total growth in the number of accredited persons at Summer Olympics has increased from 196,000 in Sydney 2000, to 223,000 in Athens 2004, to 349,000 in Beijing 2008 to, reportedly, 510,000 in London 2012.

This reluctance to increase the number of athletes at an Olympics, while at the same time permitting exponential growth in terms of other accredited persons, creates a situation in which attempts to increase gender equality pit men and women against each other. That is, in order to increase the number of women’s sports and women athletes, men’s sports and the number of athletes will have to be cut.

This has already occurred. For example, the boxing federation (AIBA) dropped one men’s weight category in order to add three women’s weight categories in London 2012. But women’s positions have also been cut in an attempt to meet the cap in the total number of athletes. For example, the cycling federation (UCI) reduced women’s positions from three per country to two per country in mountain biking at London 2012, while men still were still permitted three riders per country.

We do not advocate achieving gender equality by reducing men’s opportunities in order to increase those for women. We need to recognize that men and women athletes are not the ones responsible for gigantism or for gender inequality at the Olympics, and should not be the ones to suffer (by having events or positions cut) through resolving one problem by creating another.

If achieving gender equality means adding women’s events so that there are an equivalent number of women’s and men’s events, and if it means increasing the quota of women athletes in sports where there is a lower quota for women, then this achievement is worth increasing the size of the Olympic Programme.

 Olympic Agenda 20+20:

The current IOC reform agenda (Olympic Agenda 20+20), released in 2014, offers recommendations concerning gender equality and gigantism – but it does so in a way that may not resolve the problems noted here. For example, Recommendation 11 states that the IOC will “Foster gender equality” by (1) working “with the International Federations to achieve 50 per cent female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women’s participation and involvement in sport by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games;” and (2) encouraging “the inclusion of mixed-gender team events.”

However, Recommendation 9 imposes quite strict limits on the total number of athletes and events at future Olympic Games, with a small increase for Winter Olympics, but more or less the status quo for Summer Olympics: “The IOC to limit the number of athletes, officials and events for the Olympic [Winter / Summer] Games to approximately: 2,900 / 10,500 athletes; 2,000 / 5,000 accredited coaches and athlete support personnel; [and] 100 / 310 events.”

We are pleased that Recommendation 11 of Olympic Agenda 20+20 directly supports one of the main recommendations of our gender audits – “Establish near equivalence in the number of men and women who are permitted to compete at the Olympic Games, and in specific Olympic sports/events.”

However, the only way to achieve the goal of Recommendation 11, under the limitations imposed by Recommendation 9, will be to cut men’s sport and events, and to reduce the quota of men athletes. As noted, this is a less than ideal way to achieve gender equality.

The IOC has already begun to implement the second part of Recommendation 11 – the inclusion of more mixed-gender events – but it is difficult to see how this will help to achieve “50% female participation” since mixed events involve both men and women, and those in the mixed events in London and Sochi were athletes already involved in the individual events in their sports.

 For example, three new mixed gender events were included on the Sochi 2014 programme (in addition to figure skating pairs and ice dance): biathlon mixed relay (2 men, 2 women per country); luge mixed relay (3 men, 1 woman per country); and figure skating team competition (3 men, 3 women per country). Our Sochi audit determined the actual number of opportunities created for women and men athletes as a consequence of the addition of these events.

A total of four athletes (2 men, 2 women) across the three events (168 athletes in total) did not compete in already existing, single gender events at Sochi. Thus, mixed gender events did not contribute to increasing gender equality at Sochi, and there does not seem to be any logical way that they could, unless we consider the way that the IOC reports the proportion of women’s events at Olympic Games (see Table 2- below).

Women's participation in the Olympic Winter Games

Year Sports Women's eventsTotal events% of Women's eventsWomen's Participants% of Women's participants
An audit of women's participation and medals in the Winter Olympic Games
* including mixd events


In the most recent report of women’s participation provided by the IOC (, the column listing the number of women’s events at each Olympic Games is marked with an asterisk indicating that the number includes mixed events. In other words, events in which both men and women participate are included as women’s events, but are not also included as men’s events.

Thus, the luge relay, an event with three men and one woman on each team is only counted as a women’s event in this IOC version of statistics. So, while our gender audit calculated that there were 7.5 more events for men than for women and 7.5 more opportunities for men to win a medal than women, the IOC reports that 50% of the events in Sochi were for women (our data indicate that 46% of the events were for women).4

It is not misleading for the IOC to report that women participated in 49 of the 98 events; however, it is misleading to claim that that represents 50% of the events by not showing that the mixed events were also men’s events.

 Part 2: Conclusion

 This audit of the gendered structure of the Olympic Games is grounded in a liberal feminist perspective. It fails to take account of the intersectional differences that are perhaps an even stronger indicator of which women participate in Olympic Games – namely, that the participants and medal winners are primarily white women from high income countries.

However, we argue that if an organisation claims (liberal) gender equality as one of its principles and goals, and continually fails to achieve or provide means to achieve that goal, then it is unlikely to give any serious attention to more fundamental forms of inequality.

It is time for the IOC to honour its own Charter and reform recommendations, and the principles of human rights and gender equality, by making a serious commitment toward achieving gender equality at the Olympic Games – even if that means increasing the overall number of athletes and events. It is not necessary to add or establish the same (equal/identical) events for women and men; however, it is necessary to add equitable (similar) events and to achieve the same number of events (opportunities for medals) for women and men at the Olympics.

The following analysis of differences in the ways that men and women compete at the Olympics provides further insight into the politics of gender.

Part 3: Differences in the Ways that Women and Men Participate

 At the outset it should be noted that the rules for many men’s and women’s competitions at Olympic events are identical – for example, most of the running and swimming events, short track speed skating, volleyball, curling, and many others take place under identical rules. However, the second part of our gender audits examines the rules of competition, focusing on those sports/events that are essentially equivalent (e.g., men’s and women’s speed skating events; women’s and men’s tennis, etc.), and identifying the remaining differences that exist between the rules that govern women’s participation and men’s participation.

Our findings indicate that many of these differences are grounded, often in inconsistent and sometimes contradictory ways, in stereotypical assumptions about bodily size and/or shape and about the respective physical capacity of women and men. These differences in the rules of competition were categorized as follows:

  • races in which women compete over a shorter distance than men;
  • events that involved different weight categories or weight restrictions for women and men;
  • events where there were differences between men’s and women’s competition in terms of the height, weight, size and spacing of equipment, or the size of venue; and
  • an ‘other’ category to capture any other differences in rules or form of competition between the men’s and women’s events.

[The following differences are developed more comprehensively in the London and Sochi Reports cited in Note 2.]

Distance raced:

In many Olympic events that take the form of a race, especially athletics and swimming, women and men race the same distance. For example, in athletics every race is the same distance for men and women, except the hurdles sprint in which men run 110m and women run 100m; however, there is one additional race for men, for which there is no equivalent for women – the 50km race walk.

The contradiction in this case emerges when we consider that both men and women run over 40km in the marathon, but only men are permitted to race walk 50km. Similarly in swimming, the competition is identical for women and men except for an 800m freestyle race for women only and a 1500m freestyle race for men only.

At the other extreme, in all 12 events (six men’s and six women’s) in the biathlon, and 10 of 12 events (five women’s and five men’s) in cross country skiing, the men’s races are longer than the women’s races. This is also the case with the course length in all but one of the downhill ski events. The implicit rule in this case is that, if there is a difference between equivalent men’s and women’s races in the distance raced, the men’s race is always longer.

The single exception to this rule was in the Sochi Super Giant Slalom] event – the women’s course was 4m longer than the men’s course – although the men’s vertical drop, from start to finish, was 7m more than the women’s. In fact, the vertical drop was more for the men’s races than the women’s races in all of the downhill ski events, and all of the sliding events. Similarly, the elevation gain stipulated in all of the cross country and biathlon ski races was always more for men than for women.

Kayak, speed skating and cycling events all had longer events for men than for women, although the most extreme cases were in cycling. For example, in the road racing events, the men’s road race was 250k while the women’s was 140k; and the men’s time trial was 44k while the women’s was 29k.

There are two potential and related reasons for these remaining differences.

The first may involve some ongoing concerns (among some men) about men’s and women’s competitions and achievements being directly comparable, with the inevitable possibility that, at some point, the performance of the ‘fastest’ woman may exceed that of the ‘fastest’ man. However, if this is the case, then the large number of directly comparable races that now exist suggest that the remaining differences represent some form of residual culture.

The second is that the differences that still exist represent the remaining vestiges of men’s assumptions about women’s frailty that, earlier in the 20th century, prevented women from running races longer than 800m, and even into the second half of the 20th century excluded women from running 10,000m races or marathons.

 Weight categories/restrictions:

Weight categories exist mainly in the Summer Olympics, in combat/martial arts events, and in weightlifting and rowing. The categories are presumably intended to provide fairness in competition by having same-sex competitors who are not mis-matched in terms of their body mass. In the Winter Olympics sliding sports, greater weight gives more momentum to the sled so there are weight restrictions associated with the combined weight of the athlete(s) and the sled (bob, luge and skeleton).

In all cases, there is an assumption – perhaps based on an anthropometric ‘average’ – that men are heavier than women; there has been no evident or recent attempt to determine if the weight categories established over time are still relevant – for men and women; that is, if they represent the current range of human athletic physique?

Both within sport and between sport comparisons indicate that there is often no rational or consistent reason for the categories or the range of categories. For example, the maximum weight of the sled and athletes in the sliding sports is always heavier for men – but in luge athletes are allowed to carry additional weight on their sleds to bring them up to a maximum of 75kg for women and 90kg for men.

But if extra weights are permitted, why not permit (or at least consider) the possibility of both women and men having the same combined weight for sled and athlete; and why not carry that consideration over to the other sliding sports?

In the weight category events, tae kwon do has four weight categories for men (with a range of +21kg) and four categories for women (with a range of 18kg). This 3kg difference in the range of weights for women and men is the smallest of all the weight category sports; in boxing the difference in range is 18kg; in judo it is 10kg; in freestyle wrestling it is 41kg; and in the non-combat sport of weight-lifting it is 22kg. This results in participation opportunities for men from a wider range of weights, and much more limited opportunities for women in the same events.

 Differences in equipment and playing area:

These differences are again grounded in assumptions about the smaller size and physical capacity of women compared to men. Differences include, in athletics, the height of hurdles and steeplechase barriers, and the weight and size of javelin, shot, hammer and discus (always smaller and/or lighter for women). Differences in other sports include a smaller permitted sail area for women than men in two of the sailing events, a smaller sized pool for women than men in water polo, and lighter guns for women in two of the shooting events

The contradictions begin to emerge when we consider the sports where there are no stipulated differences in equipment and playing area. For example, women compete with a smaller ball in handball and water polo, but not in basketball or the two forms of volleyball. And women compete with a lower net than men in volleyball but not in basketball. A similar, although perhaps even more complicated set of differences exist for the Winter Olympic sports with regard to equipment size and competition areas.

Other differences:

The other differences between men’s and women’s competitions range from the rules that govern the form of competition (for example, the number of rounds of competition in rowing, judo, boxing, diving; the number of sets played in tennis; the number and length of rounds in boxing; the duration of the free programme in figure skating), to rules that determine which techniques may or must be used (for example, in wrestling, ice hockey, and figure skating), to rules determining what may or must be worn (for example, in figure skating, and all skiing events). Again, these remaining rule differences are grounded in assumptions about the shape, size and stamina of women compared to men, and again they must be compared to those events (e.g., freestyle skiing) where rules and uniforms are basically identical.

 Final Comment

 It is entirely possible that some of these rule differences will be considered appropriate by competitors and officials in the sports involved. However, given the contradictions, and the fact that athletes are rarely involved in determining the rules by which they must compete.

We recommend that all of the remaining rule differences that apply to men’s and women’s competitions be revisited, and reconsidered in the light of:

  • the best available scientific and anthropometric evidence, and
  • the contradictions that exist between sports.


  1. For example, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, points out that, in the USA: “Athletics is the only formally sex-segregated department in education. As such, it sends important messages to the entire nation about how it will treat men and women” (2011).
  1. The following CSPS Gender Audits are available:

Donnelly, P. & M. Donnelly (2013). The London 2012 Olympics: A Gender Equality Audit. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—olympic-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Kidd, B. & M. Norman (2014). Gender Equality at the Commonwealth Games, Part 1: Historical Perspectives. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—commonwealth-games-gender-equality-report-part-1.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Kidd, B. & M. Norman (2014). Gender Equality at the Commonwealth Games, Part 2:

Glasgow 2014. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—glasgow-2014-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Donnelly, M., M. Norman & P. Donnelly (2015). The Sochi 2014 Olympics: A Gender Equality Audit. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.—a-gender-equality-audit.pdf?sfvrsn=2

In progress:

Audits of the PanAmerican and Para PanAmerican Games held in Toronto (2015).

  1. Our calculation of the proportions of women athletes and events for women differs from that of the IOC [ in_Olympic_Movement.pdf].

Although our calculations led us to report a slightly higher percentage of women participants at both London 2012 and Sochi 2014, our calculation of the proportion of women’s events differs markedly from the IOC. We have assigned 0.5 of a mixed medal event each to men and women where the number of men and women in the event is equal.

However, the luge mixed relay at Sochi involved three men and one woman on each team: therefore, we assigned 0.75 and 0.25 respectively to men and women. An alternative would have been to count mixed events as an event for both men and women, but this would have artificially increased the number of events. By dividing a mixed event between men and women, we maintained an accurate total number of medal events.

  1. At the London 2012 Summer Olympics, there were 30 more events for men than for women (136/302 for women; 166/302 for men); at Sochi 2014, there were 45.25/98 women’s events and 52.75/98 men’s events.

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.





Old College, The University of Edinburgh ©


I am writing to introduce you to The Academy of Sport at the University of Edinburgh.

SPORT MATTERS is the blog that supports the work of the Academy of Sport.

The Academy of Sport is a network of collaborators both within and external to the University of Edinburgh that provides a gathering place for the worlds of sport.

Building upon a remarkable sporting heritage dating back to at least 1591, the Academy of Sport, established in 2014, was born from a desire to serve communities locally and globally.

Two premises guide our work. Firstly that sport has a part to play in addressing the challenges that face humanity in the 21st century and secondly to serve as an independent think tank that addresses these challenges through evidence, dialogue and advocacy.

As a gathering place for the exchange of ideas and sporting enlightenment we are neutral, inclusive and at the heart of an international sporting landscape.

The Academy builds upon three pillars of activity: impact, study and dialogue.

We aim to:

  • Engage a critical mass of knowledge, research, strategic collaboration, influence, access and opportunity through sport.
  • Provide an independent sports observatory to address problems and suggest solutions.
  • Advance an understanding of sport’s contribution in addressing global, local and international issues.
  • Influence future agendas policy making and its impact through advocacy and evidence based interventions.
  • Advocate the potential of sport and education to make a difference to people’s lives.
  • Provide access to the University of Edinburgh and sustain a commitment to exploring the potential of sport to reach disadvantaged communities.
  • Engage with governments, international sports organizations and those who seek to influence the world through sport.
  • Build a better understanding of the role of sport in diplomacy, cultural and international relations, and foreign policy.
  • Promote the links between research, evidence, education and advocacy.

Our work supports independent research about issues and problems within sport and where sport is part of a broader solution or intervention.

The SPORT MATTERS blog aims to provide an honest, open, evidenced, safe space for dialogue about the value and potential of sport.

I hope you will join us.

You can get in touch with us directly at

or by calling +44 (131) 651 6577.

Professor Grant Jarvie

Chair of Sport and Head of Academy of Sport
The University of Edinburgh