Scottish Football and Data Analysis

Grant Jarvie Jake Barrett, Ellen Frank Delgado, Neil McGillivray, Mason Robbins, Michael Rovatsos, John Scott, and Paul Widdop.

Scottish football is undoubtedly a real pillar of connectivity, both locally and internationally, something that is not always grasped, understood or capitalised upon by the Scottish Government or maximised by individual football clubs and we can and want to help both do better.

Football clubs and sport maximise the use data for on-field performance. They need to approach the use of off-field data in the same way. The Academy of Sport and the Bayes Centre partnership at the University of Edinburgh can help.

Covid 19 exposed all areas of public life, including Scottish football. The football habit was broken, clubs were worried about fan engagement, lost revenue and season ticket sales.

A study led by Professor Jarvie of the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Motherwell football clubs has traced fan engagement and mapped the localities of season ticket holders.

It also provided data on the international engagement resulting from the recent European Football Championships matches involving Scotland and Hampden.

36% of the season ticket holders across the four clubs resided in either the most deprived or second most deprived postcode districts.

At the same time 37% of season ticket holders, from the four clubs, resided in the 20% most affluent areas.

Scottish football crosses the wealth divide. Covid 19 did not respect local or national boundaries and disproportionately affected certain neighbourhoods while furlough and in many cases loss of jobs threatened available disposable income that might have been spent of football.

The decision to offer free season tickets to those who had purchased a season ticket the year before is but one example of a club understanding the Covid context, the issues in the community and this being reflected in the new season ticket offer and pricing.

Those who walk through the turnstiles remain local and, in some cases, very local i.e., within the vicinity of the stadium.

90.94% of Aberdeen season ticket holders come from AB postcodes;

88.84% of Hearts and 88.51% of Hibernian season ticket holders reside within EH postcodes while

79.88% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside within ML postcodes.

92.3% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside with Motherwell or Glasgow postcodes.

EH4 (NW Edinburgh, Cramond / Blackhall / Craigleith) is in the top postcode for both Hearts (5.79%) & Hibs (7.03% of sales).

Football supporters are known for their loyalty. This impact is economical but there is also a social dimension. Football clubs are cultural institutions and important in the meaning making of places, a sense of place pride and a focal point for the community. This is perhaps showcased in the relatively distance decay of season ticket purchases the further you move away from the football stadium.

Any disconnect between a football club and its community has social implications around social capital, wellbeing, and happiness. Football clubs thinking of re-locating stadiums need to think this through because it is not always the case that re-location works for those coming through the turnstiles.

Scottish football is more heavily dependent upon gate receipts (48%) than any other UEFA member. Five Scottish football clubs have asked accountancy firm Deloitte to grow their commercial income.

The extent to which clubs can grow the supporter base, provide fans what they want and increase revenue necessitates understanding fan engagement and satisfying the consumption of football both inside and outside of the stadium. Clubs have considerable international reach as do the Scottish national teams.

International relationships need to be constantly worked at if the desire is to grow and engage this audience. The benefits include minimising the risks associated with an over-dependency on a specific income stream such as gate receipts.

In one 5-week spell one club had an international following on you tube across 21 countries.

Hibernian have regular followers from Australia, Ireland, USA, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Poland and New Zealand. Regular followers of Aberdeen are from Germany, USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain and the Netherlands but also Nigeria and United Arab Emirates.

When it comes to the national men’s team Scotland’s regular weekly viewings during the European Championships extended beyond Europe.

International engagement with one match over one three days helps to illustrate the potential international connectivity that can be facilitated through football.

If Scotland is ambitious about foreign policy and international relations the political parties need to recognise the tools that they have, and football is one of them.

The Scottish Government is currently revisiting its national international engagement strategy it should find a space and resource to maximise football as a significant tool that it has at its disposal. Imagine, for example, if the football and the sport reach was greater than the diaspora reach?

Nor is building and sustaining relationships with fans an activity that occurs just in the stadium or just around match-day or during the season. Something that applies to both the men’s and women’s game.

Opportunities exist to grow meaningful conversations with and extend the football family through social media and digital platforms is a 24/7 – 52 weeks a year activity. The data below evidences the decline of activity post season and the differences between the SWPL clubs over one 12-week period.

Whether it be local or international, the club or the national team, men or women the pandemic has not gone but has created a set of circumstances which has forced Scottish football and society to reflect about what is important.

This needs to continue in an informed way. By doing so further safeguard’s footballs future while offering financial, economic and political benefits to the people of Scotland through football.

Data has informed Covid decision making. It can help secure better football futures by helping football clubs in Scotland and the national teams further understand who and where their audiences are and what they want.

Grant Jarvie,
University of Edinburgh

US Boycott and the Winter Olympic Games 2022

By Grant Jarvie


Once again, the phenomenal international reach and scale of sport to carry a political message hits the headlines as the United States fires the starting gun to boycott the Winter Olympic Games. Scheduled to take place in Beijing, it will be the first time that the Summer and Winter Olympics will have been hosted in the same city.

The State of Play

No country, as yet, has stated that it will not send athletes but the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Lithuanian, UK and Scottish Governments have all announced diplomatic boycotts.

Except for Lithuania, which is embroiled in an argument with China over its stance on Taiwan, the diplomatic boycotts all cite the issue of human rights and in particular the treatment of the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang. The countries exercising a diplomatic boycott are reinforcing foreign policy stances on human rights and sport is the messenger.

European Confusion

The European message is one of confusion. France, no doubt mindful of the fact that the Summer Olympics are to be held in Paris in 2024, indicated they were minded not to boycott but would prefer a European wide stance, something that is highly unlikely. Germany and the Netherlands followed, calling for European unity. Sweden announced it had not been invited while Greece, Hungary and Malta are unlikely to boycott due to the growing influence of China. Outside of the EU, Norway the most successful Winter Olympics nation will not boycott.

Real Politic

The real politic of sport in the third decade of the 21st century is that it is an invaluable tool for countries to deliver both sporting and non-sporting outcomes. Rather than complain about the role of politics in sport the different worlds of sport should simply live and work with the opportunities it opens up.

The modern sports administrator, CEO or chair of a governing body needs to operate in the world of sport and in the world of politics. The modern diplomat or foreign ambassador equally needs to fully grasp the capability of sport to deliver not just foreign policy but better cultural relations. Sport delivers on all of these fronts but rarely gets the credit and funding for doing so.

Sport and Politics

So, this is not a question of keep politics out of sport, you can’t stop the politicization of sport and why would you want to? Sport has always been political and in being so it has done many good things. What the different national stances on the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics does is amplify that sport is a great pillar of connectivity and language on a scale that few other areas of public life offer.

The same sports tool has helped to shed a light on: the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai; the need for adequate funding for school meals through the work of the footballer Marcus Rashford; the alleged racism in Scottish cricket through the sportscotland investigation; the athlete Catherine Freeman as a symbol of reconciliation between aboriginal and white Australia and a country which had much to forgive; the value of sport in sustaining relationships in Scottish communities during the ongoing pandemic.

The Spirit of Eric Liddell

When visiting Scotland in 2017 the then Chinese Ambassador talked of the spirit and humanity of Eric Liddell, interned in a concentration camp in Weifang in the 1940s where he continued to support children. The athletes name and story has lived on, providing a bridge for potential cultural relations building, a sustainable space for countries to talk to one another. As the Ambassador observed “We are living in a time of mutual learning for common progress”.

In 2024 it will be 100 years since the Chinese born Scottish athlete Eric Liddell won Olympic gold at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Yet another opportunity for sport to deliver a message and play its part in helping to forge a common good for a better world.

Sport is a great toolbox that delivers so on many fronts both sporting and non-sporting and it deserves much more credit for doing so. Modern sports leaders need to work with the political space just as politicians and diplomats need to respect and recognise what sport does on and off-field.

Can Football Make Scotland a Fairer and Happier country?

By Grant Jarvie

University of Edinburgh and Toronto

Football, including Scottish football, can provide us with reasons to be cheerful. Along with other sports, football, by far Scotland’s most popular sport, can contribute to Scotland  being a happier place.

Sport is key element in New Zealand’s progressive march to making it a happier nation. No longer is progress measured as simply a contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is more than 2% in the case of Scottish sport.  Alternatively, progress is viewed in terms of the extent to which social, cultural, economic and physical capital can help to reduce the happiness and well-being divide in New Zealand.

The Scottish Captain Andy Robertson recently pointed out that “ football can only do so much when people have suffered loss like they have , made sacrifices for the greater good and we’re all slowly trying to rebuild”. 

A lot is made of Scotland bouncing back better from the pandemic. The next two weeks is an opportunity to be more positive about what football can deliver both on and off the park. .

The Scottish Government have allowed the football championships to go ahead. The Scottish Football Association have complied with what they have been asked to do. The football detractors will of course have their say but the proverbial bottle is  more than half full here.

The fact that Scotland is hosting 4 football matches at Hampden and assisting to deliver the UEFA Euros 2020 Football Championships is socially, culturally and economically significant.

One of the crucial lessons from the pandemic has been to fully recognise the importance of social relationships and networks particularly, but not solely, within underserved communities.

Families kept apart during the pandemic and most importantly generations of families have already started talked about great Scottish football moments. The winners here are less important than the fact that football has and is helping to facilitate conversations, contact and the social networks that have been affected so much by COVID. 

STV estimate that 1 in 5 Scots, at least 19% of the population will follow the championships on TV alone. It is estimated that up to 12,000 people may attend the matches at Hampden. Something that is a degree of economic relief to the SFA and the City of Glasgow.

The significance of Euro 2020  is reflected in the fact that both the BBC and STV in Scotland have unveiled a multi-platform bonanza of coverage.

The significance of the event is not just that it is the first time since 1998 that Scotland have qualified for a major men’s football championship finals. It builds upon the women qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the hosting of the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in 2016.

Scotland helping to host the Euros 2020 is no small thing. Even in a pre-pandemic world not every nation in the world had the capacity, capability and or opportunity to stage major sporting events.

Covid 19 has impacted upon the events business across the world. Many reports indicate that full confidence in the international sports events business will not be restored until at least 2023.

The events in Glasgow will remind international communities that Scotland is good at hosting major sports events. The Euro’s  not only enforces the contemporary reality that  Scotland is still a football nation but also that as a country the capability and knowledge to run successful international sporting events is something that Scotland is good at.

Football in particular and sport in general delivers social capital in Scotland’s communities in bucket loads.

The Beginnings of Commercialism in Sport (Or was it always There?)

By Professor Wray Vamplew

University of Edinburgh

Sports historians generally accept that ‘modern’ sport and commercial activity were intertwined from the mid nineteenth century, but I would argue that sport had a commercial aspect many centuries before if we accept that any of the following featured.

  1. An element of commodification in which someone was willing  to pay to play or watch sport.
  2. The employment of professional sportspersons, talented performers paid to entertain an audience, act as vehicles for gamblers, compete for prize money, and earn fees for coaching less-skilled athletes.
  3. The promotion of sports events to stimulate economic activity in a particular locality by attracting visitors to the area along with the spending involved in constructing facilities and putting on the show.

Bread and Circuses

Commercialisation of spectator sport need not involve the selling of tickets. The thousands of spectators who flocked to the Colosseum in Rome in the first century CE to watch gladiatorial combat were not paying for their pleasure. This day of thrills and deaths would have been funded by a patron. The profit-makers were gladiatorial managers who ran establishments of fighters and hired them out to promoters organizing combats. The hiring fee was 10% to 20% of the gladiator’s value, but the full cost had to be paid if he was killed or seriously wounded. This explains why less gladiators were killed than has been supposed.

Gladiators were highly-trained, skilled, professional sportsmen, but rarely free men. There was a career structure and a tyro, if successful, could work up four ranked grades to become valued at 15,000 sesterces. As well as being housed and fed by the stable manager, win or lose they were entitled to 20% of their hiring fee as a wage and often obtained a share of any prize money awarded. Taking around twenty bouts as a norm and applying the highest hiring rate available, career earnings come to just 60,000 sesterces, less than two year’s wages for an unskilled worker.

Gladiators were not the first professional sportsmen. They had been preceded by the Ancient Greeks as all Greek elite performers (athletes, wrestlers and charioteers) were professional, not in the sense of sport being their full-time occupation, but in that they competed for prizes, some of which could be valuable. The 100 amphoras awarded to the victor in the Panathenaic Games footrace was the equivalent of 847 days wages for a skilled craftsman of the time. Better than being a gladiator and less risky!

There were enough festivals available for freelance professionals to undertake tours combining local games with one of the more significant and highly lucrative events. Some cities even paid appearance money to attract star performers to their festivals. Evidence indicates that states would sponsor talented athletes and, for the more successful, who brought renown to their city, offer pensions after they retired from competitive sport.  So keen were some states to gain victories that they persuaded star performers to change their citizenship.

Roman charioteers also changed allegiances when the money was right. In Roman times chariot racing became systematically professionalised with its staging becoming the responsibility of four factions which procured the horses, maintained the stables, trained the drivers and provided the chariots. Drivers who survived the dangers of the racetrack could do well financially out of the prize money that they won. A prime example was the Spanish charioteer Diocles who, during a 24-year career won 1,462 of his 4,257 races and accumulated over 35 million sesteres.

Moving into the Byzantine era, the emperors dropped the Roman gladiatorial contents and brutal animal sports but continued the tradition of chariot racing. Emperor Constantine finished the construction of the Great Hippodrome in Constantinople, capable of seating over 100,000 spectators. Byzantium chariot racing became a government enterprise with emperors defraying the costs of some fifty racing venues including the salaries of the charioteers, the training of horses, interval entertainment, and the feeding of the audience.

Knights in Shining Armour and Tennis Players

A prevalent images of medieval sport is the knight on horseback ready to engage in jousting, but knights also took part in mock battles in which horses, equipment and men could be captured and held for ransom. Some of these events were large spectacles: that at Lagny-sur-Marne in 1179 had around 10,000 participants, some 3,000 knights and their retinues, the rest fighting mercenaries. Knights themselves were mercenary soldiers, so these tournaments enabled them to hone their martial skills with the bonus of making material gains. By the early fourteenth century the tournament was a well-established sporting fixture in virtually every corner of Europe: one estimate is that a knight could tourney once a fortnight or so.

In fourteenth century Europe knightly tournaments became widely publicised spectacles with spectators, some of whom had travelled considerable distances, attending specifically for the show. The number of spectators often necessitated the erection of grandstands and the fencing off of areas to accommodate them. By the mid fifteenth century short-term sports tourism was a common phenomenon in Europe. No one paid to watch the tournaments, but towns vied to host them because of the associated consumer spending of thousands of spectators. Others who took advantage of the commercial opportunities included vendors of a variety of merchandise, livestock sellers and horse traders, land agents, moneychangers, freelance blacksmiths, bonesetters, pickpockets and prostitutes.

In the meantime another set of professionals had emerged, those who taught sporting skills to private clients. Admittedly senior gladiators had acted as instructors to tyros but that had been an in-house service obligation. Some of these tutors taught non-utilitarian skills in tennis-like ball games such as the salaried resident professionals in the Italian princely courts in the late fifteenth century onwards. There were also freelance players who provided a betting market for their backers and onlookers


The author is working on a model to determine the level of commercialisation in sport historically. If it demonstrates a long-run involvement of sport with commerce, it may undermine the view that the modern influx of money into sport has changed the character sport as it used to be played. Moreover, if it shows that sport was a common exchange commodity well before industrialisation there will be implications for economic history not just sports history.

Sport and the 2021 Scottish Election : A Key Fact Check

By Grant Jarvie, Paul Widdop and Yuxun Xu

University of Edinburgh

Key Fact Check

  • Double the Scottish Government’s investment in sport and active living to £100 million a year by the end of the Parliament (SNP).
  • 10% of the transport capital budget on walking, cycling and wheeling (SNP).
  • £1 million to support more schools to open their facilities to the public during evenings and weekend (Conservatives).
  • Double sportscotland’s budget over the course of the next Parliament (Conservative).
  • Develop a new Active Scotland Plan, enabling councils to reintegrate local services (Labour).
  • Appoint a Minister for Sport (Greens).
  • Back the UK’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup and bid to hold the final in Scotland (Conservatives).
  • Extend opportunities for Gaelic sports (Liberal Democrats).
  • Appoint an Outdoor Recreation Champion (Liberal Democrats).
  • Participate in the UK-wide preparatory work for a 2030 Men’s World Cup bid being funded by the UK Government (Liberal Democrats).
  • Establish an island travel scheme for teams and individuals to compete in national events (Liberal Democrats).
  • Create a ‘Fan Bank’ to empower communities and groups and strengthen local decision- making by supporting communities to acquire a share or control of their local sports club (SNP).
  • None of the manifestos according have been adequately costed. (Institute of Fiscal Studies).
  • Every £1 spent on sport generates £1.91 in health and social benefits.
  • The importance of sport in the national economies usually varies between 1 per cent and 2.3 per cent in terms of gross value added and employment.
  • The education sector is the biggest sector overall in European countries; it is invariably one of the most important sport sub sectors globally. The virtual closure of the education sector during the lockdown had a strong effect on sport.
  • Sport is a major untapped Scottish resource in terms of international engagement.
  • Sport in Scotland should be supported far more in relation to helping Scotland achieve its environmental ambitions.
  • Sport in Scotland should be rewarded much more for its contribution to the SDG’s and sport in Scotland should make much more aware of the world mandate it has been given.
  • Scotland should use sport and sport should use current human rights legislation to enshrine a right to sport and safe places.


On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The party that wins the most seats will form the government. Given the multiple ways in which sport matters, nationally and internationally is sport in Scotland about to become an important political force field, control over which brings authority, visibility, and power but also delivers tangible outcomes for Scotland?


Why do manifestos matter?  They are an important guide to our politics and priorities in public life. For a governing party it sets priorities, once elected it becomes a programme of work for ministers and a means of holding administrations to account once elected. If required a manifesto can be an important element in reaching a coalition deal, although such a deal has not been needed at Holyrood for 18 years.


If the value of sport to Scotland were measured by manifesto space it would be hard not to conclude that sport is not important to Scottish political parties, but it should be.

Those working in or with sport recognise the value of sport but those working in other sectors or with other portfolios have still to be convinced. This is not a challenge unique to Scotland but sport both in and beyond Scotland needs to be much better at making the case for sport in a way that is understood by different Ministries or sectors of government.

Sport is effective in generating employment because it is community-based and depends on human interaction. As such, one policy implication is that investing in sport can be used as an economic tool to help a country reduce unemployment during a recession, which could be a valuable insight for the post COVID-19 period.

The internal characteristics of the sport economy imply that investing in sport can boost economic recovery and increase employment. However, the same characteristics also imply that sport is much more vulnerable during the pandemic/lockdown period compared with an average economic sector.

Other sporting nations have made the case for sport in a way that has enabled sport to gain traction, long term funding and profile across Government Ministries. Scottish sport must be better at making the case for sport outside of the sports world and beyond just the health portfolio in a way that releases funding for agreed outcomes across a much broader range of government budgets.

Chief Medical Officers have long since argued that it is social capital that is key to addressing poverty and health inequality and sport delivers this in spades.  

An incoming Government could enable Scotland to be a greater sporting nation by being aspirational and including a sports line in each of these budgets where sport delivers on much more than just health.  


For a more complete analysis of sport in the Scottish election see to our Sports Observations Briefing Paper on the University of Edinburgh – Academy of Sport Website.

The Dichotomy of Political Power and Political Position at the Olympic Games

Katharine Worth

In a world of ‘us’ and ‘them’, the Olympic Movement seeks to bring people together through the medium of sport. Peace, friendship, and fair play are the values perpetuated by the ideology of Olympism. Yet is this achievable? Are nationalism and politics interacting unfavourably within the Movement? The Olympics contains a dichotomic dynamic of political power and political position. This dichotomy sees nationalism and politics simultaneously weaken and endorse the Olympic Movement. Through developing the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) and the ties to the United Nations (UN), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has continued to consolidate its authority facilitating the spread and stability of the Movement.

Yet this, as well as nation-state structure and behaviours within sport, contradicts the IOC’s apolitical stance. A seemingly innocuous incident at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when politically and historically contextualised, demonstrates that the political environment influences the athlete’s interaction with the Games – compromising the values of the Movement. It is suggested the IOC needs to reconsider the apolitical tag and acclimatise to the inevitability of politics and nationalism at the Games.

Political Power
The Olympic Movement has established itself by controlling nationalism and being political. However, the use of politics does not necessarily discredit the values perpetuated by the Olympic Movement. Relations with the international community have afforded political power to the IOC to develop the Movement. This has strengthened, implemented and upheld some of its values of Olympism.

Political power is necessary for the IOC to uphold Olympism and stabilise itself within the international community. The actions and ideas of the IOC are a by-product of the state system. In a world of nations, being a nation (or nation-like in the case of the IOC) provides some security, the ability to build partnerships and the capacity to achieve actions. By aligning itself closer to the UN and promoting certain values, the IOC has developed a power which attempts to guard the image of the Movement and remove accountability from political protests that may occur at the Games.

This partnership saw the UN granting the IOC permanent Observer status in 2009. The political power afforded by the status has given the IOC an important stage to share and implement the values of Olympism. Furthermore, the IOC are able to interact directly with nation-states and their representatives, as well as purse political gains and agendas. The IOC uses its political power to not let excessive politics in, but simultaneously uses this same power to enforce ideals and construct a reputation. This behaviour of the IOC is not apolitical, but more focused on self-preservation and legitimacy.

The IOC chose to create the EOR and develop a relationship with the UN for the political purposes of developing international legitimacy and power. Legitimacy is required for the IOC as it enables them to be recognised as a prominent governing body able to influence and be authoritative if necessary. Constructing the EOR proved a monumental step in the inclusion of refugees by allowing athletes to compete without a nation. The team was constructed to fit seamlessly within the IOC’s ideals, reaffirm the IOC as an international leader and provide leverage for the Movement.

The involvement of the EOR and its ties the UN highlights several points regarding political power of the IOC:

• In 2015 the EOR was constructed as a natural progression of the IOC adapting to global situations – but why then? In 1952, the Council of Europe had requested that refugees be included – but this was deemed impossible due to the statelessness. 2015 saw the UN declare a refugee crisis, thus the IOC responded with the formation of the team. This aided in developing closer ties to the UN. By demonstrating that the IOC’s Olympism values are synonymous with the UNs beliefs, the Movement established itself as an “unimpeachable” and humanitarian organisation.

• The EOR athletes became embodiments of Olympism. It was constructed that sport had aided them in overcoming the adversity they faced. Additionally, it reinforced the UN’s acknowledgement that sport (and the Olympic Movement) are essential methods to promote health, education, development and peace. This partnership has facilitated the IOC in extending its influence on international society while still promoting the values of Olympism. As a non-governmental organisation which relies on appearance, reputation and legitimacy, the IOC needs this support and recognition.

• Selecting EOR athletes from Africa and the Middle East suggests the IOC was safeguarding itself from retaliation by powerful states and could maintain its benevolent character. The entire selection process was shaped by the political situation.

Political Position
The IOC’s political position is that sport is apolitical. Established in the Olympic Charter is the decree that the Olympic Movement shall remain politically neutral. This attitude extends to the athletes as seen with Rule 50 ‘Advertising, demonstrations and propaganda’. Both Rule 50 and the apolitical stance has been reinforced with the rise of athlete activism and political collusion of governments. Yet, the IOC’s apolitical position is challenged and needs to be reconsidered because of the natural involvement of politics within the Olympics. The “natural” structuring around the nation-state and the behaviour of sport inherently invokes politics and nationalism which can neutralise the Movement by challenging the values of Olympism.

The IOC has diverted from its ideals because Olympism is based predominately on an unreflective, national(ist) foundation. Opting to structure the Games on the nation-state unit has prevented Olympics from truly becoming apolitical. Nationalism and politics can be located in all facets of the Games including athlete and national team selection (or exclusion), host city selection, funding, etc. While attempting to promote Olympism, the overwhelming presence of the nation-state lures politics into the Games. The IOC’s prevalent rhetoric of internationalism is undermined by organising around and eulogising the nation-state. Thus, while striving to be apolitical, it is politicised. The banal nationalised structures which form the Olympics are generated and influenced by politics.

At the Rio Games on the 12th of August controversy was sparked when Egyptian Judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands or bow after his defeat to Israel’s Or Sasson. This match exemplifies that politics enters the Olympic arena because athletes are embodiments of the nation, and nations carry political ideologies/attitudes. While judokas are not required to bow or shake hands, the IOC deemed the action as bad sportsmanship and against the values of Olympism. Historical and political relations between Egypt and Israel explain the interaction at the event.

This case highlights several points:

• Sport is another means where politics is expressed. In this case, historical wars between Egypt and Israel as well as the “cold peace” (meaning that the countries abide by the peace treaty, but domestically Egypt still treats Israel with distrust) shaped the interaction. El Shehaby claimed to have no issue with Sasson or his religion, rather it was the nation-state he represented.

• Violence and disrespect can be easily enacted upon at the Games. Surrogate warfare describes the occurrence of violent or hate-fuelled actions in sport. Athletes become state representatives and transform the event into a fight between nations. Pressures from social media, spectators and the El Shehaby’s own attitude towards Israel as an Egyptian shaped the interaction. While unwanted, violence and disregard for fair play and sportsmanship go against the Movement and its aspiring utopian ideals.

• The legitimacy, influence, meaning and attention of the Movement attracts politics to enter the Games.


The behaviour of nationalism and politics are characterised as a dichotomy of political power and political position. Underlying the discussion is the need for the IOC to rethink its apolitical stance. Politics and nationalism have proved important for the IOC in propagating its message and establishing legitimacy in the international community. The political power wielded by the IOC has enabled the Movement to be the aspiration of sport.

Yet, this power is political – thus against its apolitical stance. To maintain an apolitical stance is nearly impossible with the unreflective structuring of the nation-state and the character of sport. This leaves the Olympic Movement, politics and nationalism at an impasse.

Points to reflect upon:
• While difficult, could altering the structure or alleviating the nation-state help? Or recognising the involvement in politics and nationalism combat some of the more virulent behaviours?
• Allowing political activism may be a pandora’s box. Sport shouldn’t be a political chamber for arguments. But what about athlete activism which supports the Movements goals?
• Sporting diplomacy needs to be recognised and observed. Both the IOC and the athletes have performed in acts of sporting diplomacy. Athletes and non-state actors can participate in diplomatic strategies with positive and/or negative agendas.

Sport, Covid Recovery and Building Back Better : Some Observations

Grant Jarvie
University of Edinburgh and Toronto

The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully confirmed what experts have warned against since the 2009 H1N1 and 2014-2016 Ebola pandemics: the world has been gravely under-prepared for large outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases.

This small contribution aims to add value to that which will be returned by individual clubs. The core observation being (i) that the relative closure of sport including clubs has affected those often on the margins of society disproportionately; (ii) that sport is an undervalued part of the social contract in Scotland that has punched above its weight in relation to responding to Covid; and (iii) that the opportunity for Scottish sport to help other countries through Covid has not been realised.

Many local governments and sports organizations have developed innovative approaches to the changed circumstances necessitated by the virus, creating programming that could be delivered on-line and by traditional media such as radio and loudspeakers; modifying and creating new activities appropriate to restricted environments, closing streets and opening new bike lanes to enable physically distanced walking, running and cycling, and working with public health experts to develop safe ‘return to play’ opportunities.

Nor is Scotland alone in needing support for sport. The sports and recreation sector contributes about $5 billion a year to New Zealand’s GDP and employs more than 53,000 people. A $265 million package over the next four years will be broken into:

• $83 million in short-term support to help sport and recreation organisations at all levels get through the initial impact of Covid-19.

• $104 million to help the sector rebuild in the medium term. This includes helping national and regional organisations make changes to operate successfully and support new operating models and more collaboration.

• $78 million to modernise the sector by finding innovative ways to delivering play, active recreation and sport by using new technology and research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the frailty of and the urgent need to re-make the social contract. Elderly people in long-term care facilities, low-income individuals, disproportionately women, working in low paid, essential jobs that expose them to risk, or those unemployed as economies have shut down, have been most likely to suffer and die from COVID-19. Countries with impoverished health systems and weak economies have suffered disproportionately from the virus.

Such issues relating to socio-economic status in Scotland, but not just Scotland, remains the strongest determinant of participation in recreational sport. As has been well documented, recreational sport and physical activity are important for individual and population health but not just health. Freely available sport has been replaced, in places, by various pay-to-play initiatives from the public and private sectors and non-profit organizations.

Internationally NGOs, supported by sponsorships, corporate social responsibility and charitable donations, have moved to provide recreational sport and physical activity opportunities as alternatives to comprehensive state programmes in many parts of the world. These programmes may well benefit those they reach yet they only cover a fraction of the population and are rarely sustained. Many rely primarily on well- meaning but inexperienced youthful volunteers.

Sport is not always prioritised appropriately. The current pandemic provides the opportunity to raise the sector’s profile and build on cross-sectoral links. Sport and physical activity need more than ever to be included in key strategic documents and embedded across different policy areas. Vital questions are being posed which the sport sector can help answer. How do we reconfigure our city spaces? What does a post- pandemic tourist industry look like? How do we encourage a sense of community? What obligations do we have to other countries given that Covid requires an international response?

In the context of Scotland (i) what impact has the reduction in access to sport had on, for example, the para sport community; the BAME community; the walking football community; and the sport for mental health groups; to name but a few. While dealing with the immediate pandemic and financial repercussions is the absolute priority, the opportunity to get involved in what building back better actually means for disadvantaged groups is now vital.

The opportunity exists for Scotland to advance its international relations reputation as a carrying country. Funding for sport events, sport ambassadors, sport visitors, the exchange of sports knowledge from Scotland can also help other places. The French for example are reaching out to the African Union through sport.

Sport is not necessarily part of the Scottish effort to help Rwanda, Zambia, Pakistan, and Malawi- but it should be. New Zealand’s approach to partnership, wellbeing and international co-operation is recognised by sportscotland but it is not necessarily funded to advance international relations through sport in the way that UK Sport is. No technical reason exists as to why sport, particularly in the context of the current situation can’t be funded and or assisted to help countries in need.

General Impact on Sport

Lockdown measures, other restrictions and the pandemic itself has impacted considerably on the sport sector as a whole. With there being several different ways that the sport sector can be affected by the current pandemic, different sub-sectors have been affected to varying extents, albeit all have been affected at some level.

As COVID-19 has had a widespread impact across the economy there are a variety of ways that organisers, federations, clubs, athletes, local grassroots sport clubs, associations, coaches and other employees have been affected or may be affected in the future. The following are real.

Broad economic changes: the wider economic changes were always likely to impact on the economic situation of the sport industry as a whole in a wide variety of ways. It was always likely that the demand for goods and services would be reduced due to unemployment, reduced working hours and/or fear of infection. Export slumps could also arise due to a lack of transport facilities and lower demand. Supply could be considerably affected by lockdown and social distancing measures affecting employment across the sector both in the short and long-term.

Reduced governmental income: reduced tax intake and increased fiscal measures to deal directly with COVID-19 may affect the amount that can be spent on sport and infrastructure. The extent to which sport has been supported through direct Holyrood funding or indirect Westminster funding has been uneven between sports, between parts of Scotland and different social groups.

Cancellation of events: has resulted in an immediate lack of income and directly affecting the financial situation of sport events, stadia, and tourism. This was always likely to affect all levels of sport, including both professional and grassroots levels but lessons need to be learned in terms of building back better and strengthening the resilience of the sports sector.

Sponsorship money: This in most cases has reduced in the short and potentially long term due to the economic downturn putting financial pressure on existing sponsors.

Member financing: research has suggested this may be affected by wider economic trends, with considerable impact among membership organisations. Individuals may look to save money by stopping memberships or ad-hoc payments to sport organisations. It is possible that this will be affected by the nature of social distancing requirements, with team-based sports being more affected than individual sports.

Sport broadcasting: suggestions were that broadcasting deals may be reduced. Television, radio, and Internet broadcasters all affected by COVID-19 through reduced income from advertising and from cancelled subscriptions, with reductions in income for sport leagues or clubs following as a result.

Sport tourism: the potential impact on sport tourism was widely reported, both because of cancellation of events and the pandemic and associated lockdown measures affecting the ability and/or willingness of individuals to travel and attend events.

Production and retail of sporting goods and equipment: impacted by wider economic trends, such as the closure of production facilities and the retail trade. As a result of the likely severe impact of the pandemic across all elements of the sport sector, several measures and initiatives had already been recommended or begun to be implemented. Participant organisations in the European SHARE initiative produced a position paper on the impact of COVID-19 on the sport sector, calling for EU and national authorities and sport stakeholders to quickly put in place a range of support measures for the sport sector. The point being made is the complexity of Covid and Brexit together is impacting upon the Scottish sport sector.

With key revenue streams affected different Scottish sports and clubs have been differentially affected as a result of:

Lost revenue. Organisations unable to provide their services to the public. This includes considerable reductions in income from across various sources, e.g., membership, licensing, participation, ticketing, broadcasts, sponsorship, or subscriptions.

Cash flow difficulties. Organisations have struggled to pay fixed costs, including wages, rents, and contractual obligations. Due to lost revenue to cover obligations, this risks cuts to staff numbers and activity in order to remain solvent.

Unemployment and insecure work. Employees, athletes, coaches, and other workers risk being laid-off, with subsequent loss of skills. Employees also generally feel less secure in their jobs.

Freelancers. As they are self-employed, freelancers are particularly vulnerable to losses in income, largely due to having fewer legal protections.

Athlete income. Athletes have been affected by loss of income due to lack of events, as well as the financial implications of reduced sponsorship, prize money and other public and private sources of funds.

Unpaid workforces. Organisations have lost capacity, with volunteers often restricted to their homes or having limited mobility or ability to continue work due to the pandemic.

The vast majority of sport, particularly recreation sport is delivered through the 27 local trusts. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the closure of many facilities and services across the country. The resulting loss in income has placed many trusts in a financially challenged position with a long road to recovery. Trusts vary in terms of size and focus and are partly paid for by a management fee by local authorities to deliver agreed services. For most trusts this is only part of their overall turnover. For example, the average management fee is £5.5million, compared to the average turnover of trusts being about £17.7 million.

The most resilient trusts are likely to be those where the trust and local authority have a close working relationship, mutual goals and a joined-up plan for sport. East Renfrewshire would be a good model to look at. The trusts deliver recreational sport and reach parts of the community that are not always cost effective for the private sector.

A recent report from Community Leisure UK indicate that the public sport and leisure sector will reopen in a phased approach, primarily driven by financial viability. The financial pressures on Leisure Trusts cannot be ignored, and there is a very risk that inequalities will be widened due to the limited way in which facilities and services may be provided for universally.

As has been pointed out many times the term adequate provision to describe local authority responsibilities remains problematic. The evidence and the argument for sport to be really valued in Scotland exists. This is not the place to assert the often-quoted discourse on sport as a low cost, effective popular intervention. The covid pandemic has done many things but one of these has been to expose how much sport and related areas are needed across society and particularly in hard-to-reach communities and groups.

The UK Government £300 million emergency sport fund plus other funds for sport do not equate to the £ 1.57 billion support package for the British arts industry. The Barnett consequentials do not recognise equity between sport and the arts but neither does sport figure greatly in Scottish discussions of culture and or funding and yet it is one of the most popular aspects of Scottish culture.

Rugby League has received at least £12 million of additional funding through DCMS but what would the equivalent sport be in Scotland be – shinty, football, some other sport that should funded at scale because it reaches traditional social class niches in communities but has been stopped because of Covid?

Football is Scotland’s most popular sport, and it delivers in communities and connects with those on the margins of society on a scale that other sports fail to match. One can accept the need for different governments to react differently to different government announcements but football in Scotland it seems has been treated differently from that in England both in terms of fans, funding, and pilots and in a way that is hard to explain in terms of the science or the logic. Women’s football in its first year of going professional in Scotland remains economically fragile.


This contribution to the call on the impact of Covid 19 on sports clubs, leisure venues and communities is not exhaustive but aims to be add value.

It places a particular emphasis on those on the margins of society and the organisations responsible for delivering, sport and recreation to those on the margins of Scottish society.

The vast majority of sport in Scotland is delivered through local authority trusts and while clubs have a vital part to play and play a vital part in recreational sport only a small amount of sports participation is delivered through clubs

It calls for greater recognition for the part played by sport before, during and after the pandemic.

A primary lesson of the pandemic within and beyond Scotland remains that any preventive strategy must begin with planning and investment.

The need to invest in community sport and sport for development as a strategy of prevention. Governments should plan for, fund, monitor and evaluate community sport and sport for development as essential components of national population health strategies, but not just health.

The importance of advancing international aid to grassroots sport in other countries during and beyond this crisis is an opportunity that Scotland should grasp and catch up with other countries who value obligations to other countries through using sport. Widening access to sport is a value that should be lauded both within Scotland and beyond Scotland. Scottish sport can help with both.

At the same time Governments across the world have committed to a set of aspirations captured in agreements such as the Human Rights Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accord. Each of these represent a relatively broad consensus on what national and international collaborative efforts should also work towards.

The Economics of the Sports Business

Professor Wray Vamplew
University of Edinburgh

The Economics of the Sports Business

Does the Business of Sport Differ from ‘Real’ Business?  

Much of the economics associated with sport are conventional. Funds have to be raised, wages have to be paid, and resources have to be allocated to the production process. Yet in some respects spectator sport has peculiar economics.

A major different is that many sports clubs are less concerned with maximising profits and prefer to focus on winning cups and championships what sports economists label utility-maximising. Now you might ask ‘doesn’t winning lead to larger crowds, greater revenue and profit?’ The answer is ‘not always’. The two objectives can require different economic behaviours. Profit maximisers are well aware that profit is determined not by revenue but by revenue minus costs. However, utility seekers will be willing to spend all (or most of) their income to improve the team.

Another significant difference is that while most manufacturers in the non-sport world sell the certainty of their output as being reliable, the uncertainty of the result is a bedrock of sport. Sport is a product whose result or quality cannot be guaranteed. There is no script, no template and no identical replication. Indeed ‘uncertainty’ is the selling point of the sport product and a maxim of most sports economists is that the more unpredictable a contest the greater the attendance. Hence promoters often take action to promote competitive balance by trying to equalise the playing abilities of teams through restrictions on player mobility or revenue redistribution.

A further difference is that becoming a monopoly is not an objective for clubs or individuals in sport whereas in the business world a firm can prosper if it can eliminate all competition and become a monopoly supplier as this will allow it to raise prices and increase profits. Such a position in the sporting world would be self-defeating as firms and individuals need a competitor before a sellable product is available. No other form of commerce requires rivals to work together to produce a saleable product.

That said, there can be a form of monopsonic behaviour at the level of leagues which often operate as cartels, something generally illegal today for conventional business. Yet this is precisely what has happened in most professional team sports. The sports industry has a history of regulations, determined by leagues, which have impacted on the free movement of labour and not allowed employees to choose where they want to work or for whom. Equality of competition has been promoted by weakening the stronger teams and strengthening the weaker ones by such methods as salary caps, reverse order drafts and various forms of revenue redistribution.  Moreover leagues can impose restrictions on new entrants to the industry. In other businesses if you can raise sufficient start-up funds you can become a new bank, an oil company, or whatever, but in sport your application to join a league can just be refused or you may have to join at the lowest level of the pyramid in a promotion/relegation system.

The Americans are Different

As a basic generalisation American professional sports teams have making money as their primary objective, whereas in Europe owners seek utility from their spending. Operators in America rarely receive less than a market return on their investment, generally make capital gains when they sell a franchise, and even poorly-performing teams can make profits.  In contrast few professional teams in Europe make consistent profits and rely on benefactors (wealthy individuals or supporters groups) to keep them afloat so that they can focus on winning championships, gaining promotions, and avoiding relegations.

Given their commercial proclivity, it is no surprise that to protect their investments American team owners opted for their leagues to be closed institutions of competing franchises in which the sole quality control mechanism was gate-money. In contrast meritocracy has been the key feature of European leagues which were generally open ones in which teams were promoted or relegated between divisions.

Another major difference between European sport and that of North America has been the development of pan-national team sport competitions. Entry to these comes from performing better than other clubs in their domestic leagues and cups of which there is a plurality at elite level across Europe. These European-wide competitions are additional (and significant) revenue generators for the clubs, giving them an added incentive to strive to win.

Among other differences are that:

Americans punish success (via the reverse order draft) whilst Europeans punish failure (via relegation)

Americans pursue the drafting and trading of players rather than a monetary transfer system

American leagues operate on a franchise system with territorial exclusivity granted so as to protect the investment of the owners whereas Europe has larger leagues with some cities having more than one team.

American clubs own teams in minor leagues so that in effect promotion and relegation applies to players not the clubs.

Revenue sharing is more common in North America whereas certainly in European football the only centralised sharing comes from television revenues but with no implication of equal shares.

There is significantly more intervention in the labour market in North America.

The Future?

Has globalisation and hyper-commercialisation on both sides of the Atlantic led to a convergence of the two models? Certainly European clubs have sought to learn merchandising lessons from their American counterparts; the growing size of television contracts have encouraged equity capital companies to move into franchise sports like Formula 1; and some see the move of some American owners into European sport – or, more precisely, British football – as the thin end of the wedge. Things are changing but have they changed enough to render these models invalid? Closed competitions in team sports have been rejected in Europe (so far) and the franchise principle has not caught on (yet).

Sport and the 2020 United States of America Election

Grant Jarvie, University of Edinburgh
Luica Trimbur, New York City University
Yuxun, Xu, University of Edinburgh

In the 2020 election of the 46th President of the United States of America (US) sport matters, it is an important political force as it was in the 2016 election, so argues Grant Jarvie.

The voices and actions of athletes have become a powerful antidote to conservative reactionary policies of Republican sports owned franchises and the politics of sport in Trump America.

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States (US), the BBC asked how the election of the new US President would impact upon sport? Would talk of threatening trade deals, tariffs on imported goods, building walls and isolationist rhetoric affect the global ambitions of the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) or Major League Baseball (MLB).

The major sports owners showed their Republican colours during the 2016 election. The four major sports leagues all had Republican leanings. The total sport donations to Republican candidates or committees ($23,378, 415) swamped the contributions made to Democrat candidates and causes ($2, 728, 868).

NFL owners were the most prolific with $8, 052,410.00 going to Republican causes compared to $189.610.72 to Democrat causes. Baseball followed with $6,204,732.07 for the Republicans and $912,402.88 for the Democrats. NHL team owners donated a total of $4,613,232.76 of which $4,087,952 went to Republican efforts.

Trump wasted no time using sport to energize his base. His familiarity with American football, allowed him to further link patriotism to American football as he started to repeal Obama policies. But athletes have also used sport to resist Trump’s conservatism.

They have been playing baseball in Cuba since 1864. Ties with the US were severed in 1961. Obama restored diplomatic ties in 2015. It was baseball that brought Cuba and the US out from half a century of cold war deep freeze.  This was not just sport in action but soft power in action.

During the 2016 election campaign the president elect tweeted that he would “terminate” the policy on normalising relations with Cuba. On 16 June 2017, President Trump announced that he was suspending what he called a “completely one-sided deal with Cuba. Trump characterized Obama’s policy as having granted Cuba economic sanctions relief for nothing in return.

Eleven months earlier Colin Kaepernick’s had remained seated during the national anthem on August 26, 2016 and asserted that he would stand when the American flag represented what it was supposed to represent. 29% of Americans approved of the San Francisco 49ers action. 72% of African American men and women supported the protest. In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, 20 sports teams earned titles but ten of those teams either refused to visit the White House or were not invited. Two weeks after the US women’s football team almost shutdown the centre of Manhattan having won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Megan Rapinoe, the team’s co-captain talked openly about her public stand-off with the US President, who accused her of disrespecting her country, the White House and the flag.

It is important to reflect on the pace and extent of the change given that not so long-ago Colin Kaepernick was driven out of the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem and during the summer of 2020 the entire NBA took a knee. Whereas Trump likens Black Lives Matter to criminals and terrorists, ‘Black Lives Matter’ was emblazoned on every court as the remainder of the 2019-20 season played out with widespread tv coverage and every player wearing a social justice slogan as major sponsors ran advertising. In many ways this helped to legitimize the dissent that fuels the anti-Trump forces in the 2020 election.

The sports industry itself has fallen out of favour with 2020 voters. For the first time in Gallup’s 20 years of tracking Americans’ views of various sectors, the sports industry is losing the most ground, with only the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government having worse negative views.

The change comes as professional and college leagues are struggling to maintain regular schedules amid the pandemic. It also comes as professional football, baseball and basketball games have been suspended to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement and as more athletes use their platform in sport to voice political perspectives, no matter the consequences.

As part of the reaction to COVID-19 many US Olympic athletes supported the call to postpone the 2020 Olympics in the interests of public health, and some US teams lent their arenas for shelters, food depots, testing sites and now voting stations. Something that implicitly challenges the Trump message that the virus is ‘no big deal’ and that voting is likely to be rigged.

Athletes at every level, coaches, some team owners, and fans are speaking out about the administration’s lack of transparency and antipathy toward equality. Major professional leagues saw wildcat strikes that temporarily disabled sports events, showing widespread discontent with Trump’s presidency and the flex of political muscle that athletes know they possess.,

In 2020, after a ground-swell of actions in sport at all levels, athletes making political statements, taking political positions, and engaging in political action has become acceptable. Politics in US sport is now ordinary.

Whereas the sports contribution to 2016 US election was remarkable for the amount of sports money that supported Republican causes, the 2020 election is remarkable for the impact that the athletes are having. The sports owned franchises are losing public support at the same time as the athletes are gaining it.

To be sure Republican affiliations in the NFL, the NCAA and major team owners continue to shore up aspects of the status quo and Trump’s worldview but the message in 2020 is different from 2016 in that significant components of mainstream sport support significant social change.

Athlete’s use the space, profile, and platform given to them to make a difference and challenge the narrative is a sporting political force that is needed as much as ever.


  1. This account draws on the report produced by The University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport on Sport, Presidents and the US Election. For full details contact

Can cultural relations through sport build bridges?


Grant Jarvie 

Sports News

The proposition is straight forward that sport is a tool to be exploited in the pursuit of building effective cultural relations.

The proposition is timely as;

  • The UK seeks to launch a new soft power strategy
  • Wales has produced a report outlining how Wales might maximise sport as a soft power asset.
  • Scotland has an international development intervention that , like other countries, has still to maximise or realise the capacity and capability to foster reconciliation, rehabilitation and or resilience


The Norwegian Minister for International Development says that The Norway Cup is one of the best tools Norway has to bring the youth of the world together and if in the future these kids remember that Norway helped them that is worth more than any money that they we put in.

Norway is good at using the standard tools of international development development assistance programmes; capacity strengthening initiatives; commercial investment initiatives and collaboration with donors.

If such interventions build bridges for Norway why would it not work for the UK and/or parts of the UK?

Cultural gatekeepers need to be less aloof

The challenge is a tough one for it requires cultural gatekeepers to be less aloof about what is seen as culture. It requires sport to deliver tangible outcomes. It requires both to seek mutuality and forge and extend the common good.

For after all is that not what cultural relations is all about the forging of better relations through culture.


 The promise, possibilities and limits that sport brings have been well documented if not fully accepted by the cultural world. If taken seriously the sports proposition is a real one. Some of the qualities of sport should be appealing to those wishing to build bridges. But why is this?

It is

  • a pillar of connection
  • It has popularity, scale and reach
  • It can be philanthropy and resource re-distribution
  • It is not just a commodity, it can be a powerful vector of change, value, principle and solidarity, “a symbol and means,” of cultural diversity and economic but not just economic links.
  • A cost-effective resource that assists with forging sustainable, lasting, mutually meaningful outcomes.
  • Marchesseault’s work on the role of the bike and the cyclist as a form of agency in the construction of a more peaceful Rwanda is fascinating work- but who provides the bikes?
  • Cardenas’s work on sports role in building resilience, reconciliation and rehabilitation

 Cultural Relations

For the world of cultural relations sport raises a number of questions Can sport offer a sustained continuum of solidarity, shared practice and international fellowship? Can the cultural gatekeepers embrace a more complete world and definition of culture –

  • It is suggested that cultural relations builds bridges between nations, individuals but also communities;
  • Is is effective when focusing on non-governmental territory
  • Is not a short-term fix but should be long-term, increase levels of trust, build upon mutuality

 In a word cultural relations needs to be seen to be forging and sustaining common ground.

To talk of sport and the common good means that sport is part of a set of cultural commitments aimed at delivering public goods to people, regardless of personal identity, political affiliation or geographic location.

 If sport can help with the making of safe places, magic circles, in which things happen or if you have a tool that is a language, has characteristics of scale, popularity and reach then why would you not use it to build mutuality, trust and an enlarged common good.

Concluding Thoughts

SO a few points before concluding:

 Normatively and empirically spaces are desperately needed to open up the possibility of sustained dialogue involving the interests of more than one group or one state or one community. To talk of sport and the common good means that sport is part of a set of commitments and practices aimed at using public/private/personal power to deliver public goods to people, regardless of their personal identity, political affiliation, and/or geographic location. Sport working across groups, communities, non-state and state bodies as a cost-effective tool and resource.

Firstly, the use of sport is not new but the contexts in which we are working through are new. What is new is today’s fractured societies and communities and a realization that it is the local context often shapes sustainable peace and development processes. Top down interventions tend to be short-term fixes.

Secondly, sport is a space that you can build other things around, i.e. sport as a space, probably in the same way as other people have talked of the human rights space. The world of culture needs to embrace it and work with it in politically smarter ways.

Thirdly, a nudge for the academics since the question remains as to whether academics are involved in a project of critical mutual friendship to grow the common ground, or one of pure criticism that views all interventions as inevitably flawed without providing suggestions about what should be done. – Not good enough – we need solutions.

It was a welsh cultural writer who reminded us about the possibilities of culture as a tool that can be part of making the art of the possible, possible.

So can cultural relations through sport build bridges for the UK and parts of the UK? – the answer is yes. Should culture exploit the popularity, scale, reach and language that is sport the answer is yes. Should culture work in smarter ways and embrace sport yes.

 Sport can position itself in spaces where cultural relations can be forged. Thus, sport and the common good is best understood as a project of ongoing political construction and the UK should exploit it to the full to build bridges in a mutually sustainable way.