The use of Sport initiatives to promote Human Rights in Palestine

By Asil Said 

 

Introduction

Books and Boxers and the Right to Movement are but two interventions aiming to make a difference to the lives of youth in Palestine. This Academy of Sport- Sport Matters blog provides an evidenced insight into the struggle for sport as a human right within Palestine. 

Sport, Palestine and the International Community

Sport and physical activity has international recognition as a simple, low cost and effective tool for development, and a means of achieving national and international development goals. The United Nations Agenda 2030 has provided sport with a mandate to contribute to social change.

In Palestine, due in part to the charged political situation and unrest in the region, sport has a significant opportunity and potential to be used as a tool for social change, promoting values such as gender equality, racial equality, health promotion, education, human rights awareness and social cohesion.

Sport has not claimed a position of priority within Palestinian policy agendas and it remains one of the least funded, supported and regulated sectors of development.

This is perhaps surprising given that youth (ages 15-29) comprise 30% of the total Palestinian population. All children and youth under the age of 29 comprise over 50% of the population.

The lack of sport activities and initiatives has contributed to an unhealthy environment that has led to participation in conflict and/or criminal activity.

Sport and Human Rights:

Participation in sport and physical activity is a recognised right to which people are entitled:

  • Article 1 of the Revised International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity an Sport adopted by UNESCO’s General Assembly (2015) states that:

“The practice of physical education, physical activity and sport is a fundamental right for all”.

  • Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities affirms the right of persons with disabilities to: “Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport”.
  • Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that: “Children have the right to relax and , and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities”.
  • Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) states men and women should have “the same Opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education”; and Article 13 states that: women have the “right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life”.
  • Sports has more recently been recognized by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee for its active role in contributing to Agenda 2030 and  the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sport and physical activity is also an important facilitator of a number of other internationally recognized human rights, including:

  • The right to participate in cultural life, enshrined in Article 27 of the UDHR and Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
  • The right to health, enshrined in Article 25 of the UDHR, Article 12 of the ICESCR, Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Article 11 and 12 of CEDAW.
  • The right to rest and leisure, included in Article 24 of the UDHR and Article 7 of the ICESCR.

With the goal of increasing the participation of young people in sport as a human right and using it to assist in the achievement of human rights for youth in Palestine, many private initiatives, (led mainly by NGOs, local community organizations and individual athletes) have advanced successful interventions linking human rights to sports and youth in Palestine.

Books and Boxers: 

ElBarrio Gym is a for-profit business established in 2016 aiming to enable and assist sport in Palestine. The initiative “Books and Boxers” focuses on male adolescents in Ramallah’s poorest public schools (ages 13-16). It teaches boxing through a programme implemented with the help of the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

The programme is implemented with the aim of lowering high school dropout rates in the city of Ramallah, which is 15% higher than the reported 2.4% dropout rate for males enrolled in secondary education institutions in Palestine. With a violent culture surrounding such areas and public schools, ElBarrio wanted to use sport as a means to an end and  to create a shift in the way boys felt about education.

In addition to boxing training, ElBarrio Gym looked to provide psychological support for the participants, giving them the privacy and space to share their feelings and thoughts, as well  providing academic and educational support to sustain enrolment in school.

The programme hopes to reiterate the success with boys by targeting female students of public schools not only working towards lowering dropout rates but also shifting socially constructed barriers and perceptions related to female participation in martial arts and violent sports.

Nader Jayousi, the boxing coach responsible of the programme stated in an interview:

“The programme aims to create a safe space for the kids to practice sport, release their anger and learn that being active can support them and offer them an alternative future from the one they think they will have”.

A picture taken from the after school program “Books and Boxers” implemented by ElBarrio Gym in Ramallah, aiming to lower the dropout level of secndary school boys using the sport of Boxing. Source: elbarrio.ps

Right to Movement: Running to tell a different story: 

 The Right to Movement Palestine (RTM) is an entrepreneurial, non-profit, social start-up, that is part of a global running community aiming to run for the basic human right to freedom of movement. The initiative was named after article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State and everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

In Palestine, RTM laid the foundation for what is now the annual Palestinian Marathon in the city of Bethlehem. The location highlights movement restriction imposed by Israeli occupation and the fact that West Bank Palestinians are unable to find an unbroken distance of 42.1km in any of their major cities.

The marathon runners must turn around after arriving at a checkpoint to complete the official distance.

In addition to their daily running tours in different parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, RTM aspire to establish a running culture in the Palestinian community through empowering young people to practice sports, supporting women’s access to sport and reinforcing the right to physical activity.

Diala Said, one of the organisers of the group in the city of Ramallah said in an interview

“Around the world, you can just put on your shoes and go running, this inspired me to claim not only my own right to move, but the right of my fellow Palestinians to exercise and move freely”.

A picture taken from the 2016 Palestinian Marathon organized by RTM, showing Palestinian athletes running alongside the Israeli “Separation Wall” in the city of Bethlehem, to highlight the lack of right to movement in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Source; Right to Movement Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/righttomovement.org/

What next?

To fully utilise sport as a tool for human rights, a change in national and international policies is fundamental. This change starts with increasing the involvement, investment and communication between sporting and human rights organizations, which will in turn support the sustainability of sports initiatives while emphasising a range of individual and collective benefits associated with participation in sport as a human right.

In addition,  advancing widening access to sport programmes and initiatives (current ones and ones to be developed) to financial, institutional and development support as well as effectively activating government resources needs to be fought for.

A recognition of the role that sport can play in advancing  human rights within the Palestinian community needs to take place alongside more deliberate and direct strategies and policies working towards the mainstreaming” of sport.

 

Clausewitz on ice: sports diplomacy and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games

By Stuart Murray

Introduction

The topic of sports diplomacy at the 2018 Pyeongchang ‘peace’ Winter Olympics has made headline news the world over. Newspapers, television and social media posts are full of stories about North Korean sport (sic.) diplomacy, Kim Yo-jong’s handshake with Moon Jae-in, the thawing of the frosty North/South relationship, a grim Mike Pence saying ‘we’re not playing’, and, of course, North Korea’s cheerleading squad. Most of these stories, however, miss the mark by quite some distance. There is nothing new about sports diplomacy nor anything genuine about the North’s attempts to build bridges with their sworn enemies. Dictators, it has to be remembered, love sport just as much as sports lovers or the general publics.

Sport and Diplomacy – An Overview

The relationship between sport and diplomacy can be traced back over millennia, way, way beyond the Ancient Olympiad. Games, play, running, sport are woven into human DNA, and can be evidenced across all periods of the human story. This is why modern humans still play, watch, and, arguably, enjoy running, wrestling, boxing, fighting, fishing, hunting, javelin and more.

Besides a bit of fun, sport also provides a vital diplomatic function. It sublimates conflict, transcends acrimony in hostile relationships, promotes comity over xenophobia, and helps mediate the estrangement caused by the political structures humans create, be they rudimentary or advanced. Again, this diplomatic function of sport is as ancient as the sport of running. The earliest human societies used sport for social, cultural and diplomatic purposes, especially to avoid inter-group conflict. This idea relates to the psychologist Gordon W. Allport’s classic Contact Hypothesis. Simply, sport provides a ‘level playing field’ for separated people to meet which, in turn, reduces tension, division, xenophobia, and the sort of misunderstandings that often lead to inter-group violence. From the First Peoples of Australia to ancient Egypt and the Cradle of Civilization, there is plenty of evidence of sport being consciously employed to increase contact, and, ergo, reduce the prospect of violence between disparate people, nations and city-states.

Mandela captured the diplomatic essence of sport, famously, and correctly, noting in 2000 that it “has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This statement encapsulates both the spirt and purpose of Olympic Diplomacy. Perhaps the most well-know iteration is the concept of the Truce. During the Ancient Olympiad, the Truce (Ekecheria, the Greek word for ‘a staying of the hand’) afforded athletes, spectators and officials protection while travelling to and from the Games. The Ancient Games were also an expression of Pan-Hellenism. While Sparta, Argos, Athens and many others had their military rivalries and political differences sport was something they all had in common. It transcended politics, in other words.

The Olympics

The modern Games are similar in nature, spirit and purpose to their ancient predecessor. Their architect, the French educator and historian, Pierre de Coubertin, intentionally infused them with the ancient spirit. In Paris in the year1894 – and sounding very much like a Delphic priest – he raised a glass “to the Olympic idea, which has traversed the mists of ages like an all-powerful ray of sunlight and returned to illumine the threshold of the twenty first century with a gleam of joyous hope.”

These qualities are manifest in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, though sometimes it’s hard to detect them beyond the hype, razzmatazz, politics, mascots, diplomacy and rampant, rapacious commercialism. All athletes must, for example, swear an Olympic Oath that dates to the 1920 Antwerp Summer Games. And, curiously, every aspect of the Games – from security to athlete accommodation to the rules and regulations – are infused with the ideal of Olympisim, which seeks to “create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles (IOC 2015). In such a context, Olympic sport is much more than just competing, winning and representing a nation abroad. It is a both a vehicle to, and representation of, philosophy, education, social responsibilities, and universal and spiritual ethical principles.

The Games – ancient or modern, summer or winter – also have an overt political character. While clearly a sports-idealist, Coubertin was also a savy political operator. From the outset, he knew the Olympic Games could promote sport as a spiritual and diplomatic force for good but only if it worked with, and within, a world of nation-states. “The leadership of Coubertin”, as Beacom – author of International Diplomacy and the Olympic Movement – notes, was “inherently political with internationalist aspirations,” and, “sensitive to the power of nationalist aspiration.” The Olympics, in other words, are a classic example of sport, politics, and, by extension, diplomacy ‘mixing.’

North and South Sporting Detente

This brings us back to the North/South sporting detente occurring at the Pyeongchang ‘peace’ games. Before getting carried away by all the talks of ‘peace at last’ it is important to remember a few, hard truths about the relationship between sport, politics and diplomacy. The Games unite swathes of people but, in the hands of egotistical or savvy political operators they can be used to cast a spell over the global sporting public.

First, it must be remembered that sporting mega-events are often hijacked by political leaders for jingoistic purposes. Usually it’s the host nation showing off but in the case of the Pyeongchang Games, the potentially unruly, Stalinist and kleptocratic northern neighbour has played the better, nationalist game – the olive branch offered weeks before the game, the huge military parade complete with goose-stepping soldiers on the eve of the Winter Olympics, and the charm offensive of Kim Yo Jong, are but a few examples of classic hijacking.

Second, Kim’s sister, it must be remembered is no diplomat. She is Vice Director of the Workers Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, with a remit of pumping good propaganda that venerates her basketball-loving brother, as well as the beloved State. The objective observer is left with the impression that the North is playing a complex, multi-dimensional game aimed at different audiences: domestic, Korean, regional and international.

Third, the sports diplomacy on show in Pyeongchang is not new. It is downright old-fashioned, Machiavellian and traditional. Sport is being employed – by both the North, the South and the stony-faced Mr. Pence – as a ‘continuation of policy by other means’, to borrow from Clausewitz. The North hasn’t had a change of heart or policy because of some two-week snow festival on its doorstep.

Conclusion
The DPRK policy has not changed since the time of Kim’s grandfather: survive, profit, and drive a wedge between the American, Japanese, and South Korean alliance….by any means possible, sport included. Coubertin would, no doubt, be suitably appalled and thrilled at the same time.

Stuart Murray is an Associate Professor at Bond University and Global Fellow at The Academy of Sport, Edinburgh University, and author of Sports Diplomacy: Origins, Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018).

Sport for Development, Football and Chile: Voices from The Fútbol Más Program

By
Constanza Campos Correa
University of Edinburgh

The biography of the Chilean soccer star Alexis Alejandro Sánchez is indicative of the social and economic advantages that success in professional sport may bring to individuals who grew up in challenging circumstances. Football continues to be a social mobility pathway for the few and not the many. While wealthy transfers tend to be headline news what is less well known is the way in which football works for other people in Chile.

United Nations
The United Nations has recently (2015) provided sport with an international mandate to contribute to the 2030 Sustainable development goals. Sport for development and peace (SDP) and sport for change (SC) programmes differ from sport development programmes because they intentionally plan to deliver other outcomes through sport. One of the issues with such programmes is the lack of evidence involving participants who can testify to the extent to which the sports interventions have been effective after a period of time.

The Fútbol Más Program
The Fútbol Más Program was created in 2009, the organisation works in eight different countries along three continents, with around 5.000 kids and in 70 neighbourhoods. Their background of being an organisation created in the Global South, expanded to the rest of the world more than 10 years ago, and their international reputation, provided the perfect scenario to explore the impact of an SDP programme in Chile.

The Study
This small study explored the way in which one football programme worked for a group of young Chilean kids who participated in the Fútbol Más Program. Very few SDP and SC programmes systematically track over a period of time the benefits, successes and challenges experienced by the participants several years after they have left the programme.

This study worked with a group of nine kids who had left the programme five years ago with a view to listening to their accounts of how the programme had impacted upon their lives. This research worked with a specific group of nine young adults who, in 2012, won the national league of the organisation. The participants were between 17 to 19 years old from a small neighbourhood in the north of Chile.

Two waves or phases of analysis were undertaken. The first wave of analysis listened to the participants during three different phases of their lives in relation to the Fútbol Más Programme, before, during and after. The responses covered five different areas, education, health, inclusion and community building, mass participation in physical activity and social behaviour.

The second wave of analysis listened to feedback to the programme organisers.

The five areas mentioned above are covered in turn:

Education
One of the most important aspects observed in education is that six of the nine participants explained that they had learned new social abilities such as sociability and self-confidence with the programme and that these were especially useful and observable within the school.

These new skills gave rise to important changes in the personality of the participants, affecting them in positive ways, such as how to be part of a group, how to create correct interaction with their peers and how to express more personality within the classroom.

They described these new skills as being very useful in their day-to-day lives.

“They taught us values, so that influenced me to change some aspects of my personality. For example, I used to be very shy and I could not talk in front of the class. When I started to participate in the programme, I felt like I had more personality”.

Health
Although more difficult to measure, two of the participants described positive changes in their physical health after participating in the programme, such as weight loss and support to come through the experience of having heart disease.

In addition to this there were recorded some important changes to participants in relation to happiness and positive feeling, and in the majority of cases, those feelings were maintained over time. Consequently, the programme achieved one of their main goals, which is to contribute to the happiness of children.

“The motivation was different. I woke up to go to the school with a more positive attitude, and I waited for the Fútbol Más classes with a lot of expectation”.

Inclusion and Community Building
Participants perceived a significant change in the community as a result of the presence of the programme in the local neighbourhood.

They described a high level of the respect and support from the community towards the programme. Because of this, it could be observed that the programme created an impact in the community, integrating them into the project and creating a positive development of social capital such as stronger networks, higher levels of trust and pride in being part of the community.

Additionally, the project affords the participants the opportunity to continue in the project as leaders and monitors, integrating and creating opportunities for the young people of the community as well.

“It is a big responsibility for me to still be involved with the community, because the parents want me to be the teacher of their kids, and they chose me as the best leader one year”.

Mass Participation in Physical Activity
It can be observed from the participants’ responses that currently eight out of nine young adults practiced the World Health Organisations (2017) recommended hours of PA in comparison with five out of nine participants that were practising the recommended hours of PA before Fútbol Más.

It might be perceived that Fútbol Más has the potential to make a good contribution in the area of Mass Participation in lower class income groups, which is the social group who participate less in PA in Chile.

Consequently, the programme could be creating or enabling sustained PA participation over a long term period (five years), and helping to achieve what sport policies in many countries fail achieve with lower class income groups.

This participation in PA is created at no monetary cost. This area is important to highlight, because football, especially in an unequal country such as Chile, is a good alternative as a social tool used to tackle poverty.

At the same time, this might give rise to illusions for young children and families to become famous football players, which just a small number of children manage to do. This illusion is not the sole problem, for this illusion might also be surrounded by business and the need to pay to play in football clubs.

That it is why Fútbol Más could contribute to create a participation in Physical Activity, with no cost to the government or families.

Social Behaviour
The main findings were associated with how the programme could be a means of prevention. Judging by the responses of the participants, all of them highlighted the main values of the programme (respect, responsibility, happiness, creativity and teamwork) as an important aspect of the programme that could influence their social behaviour in a positive way.

 

Also, most of the positive responses relating to the influence of those values in their actual lives were from participants who were no longer part of the organisation.

This could suggest that the main values taught to them by the organisation creates an impact on the participants across a long term period (five years), and could be discouraging them from participating in some forms of anti- social behaviour.

“I think Fútbol Más helped me to be a better person as a player. I learned how to be modest with my achievements in football, to be more generous with my teammates and respectful with the teachers. Also, they taught me to believe in me and to be sure of what I want to achieve in my life”.

Second phase analysis
This brief contribution will limit itself to making two further observations that can be drawn from the conversations with the programme participants.

Remarkable aspects
One of the most valuables characteristics of the programme described by the participants was the academic and human quality of the teachers. This aspect is very important for the purpose of the project, because it is this strong connection and impact (generated by the teacher towards the participants) that would contribute to making it possible to the long term impacts from the SDP programme for the participants.

Possible changes
The participants were also asked about their concerns about the programme, and one of the main topics discussed was related to the end of the project. This stage was for all of the participants, a hard one to accept, even when some of them continued in the programme and had a chance to develop within a new area in the organisation.

The main frustration from the participants originated from the impossibility to compete with the programme, and, at the same time, in this stage some of the participants felt frustrated about their dreams to become a professional football player. In this crucial stage for the participants, it would perhaps be beneficial to extend the categories so that the participants could continue until they were 18 years old and further sustain sustain the development of participants, and perhaps support the young adults in this complicated stage when they are dealing with important decisions about their futures.

“I really liked the competitive part of Fútbol Más, to have matches, to try to be the best and to play with other teams. I think this aspect motivates me the most to play football and to be part of a team”.

Concluding Comment
Very little has been written about sport for development in Latin America and this study makes a small contribution in trying to contribute to the gap in sport for development research in Latin America and in this case Chile.

Biography
The researcher herself is Chilean and the motivation behind the small study was to help to contribute to an area of knowledge about Chile and provide a further basis for dialogue about SDP in a larger Latin American set of contexts.

The researcher is grateful to the many people inside and outside of Chile who offered advice, support and knowledge. The researcher has worked both as a sports journalist in Chile and a research assistant with the University of Edinburgh.

Sport, poverty and women: Some African-American basketball voices

By Sheila Dixon and Grant Jarvie

“The program is a family and they work together to give girls ‘TWO’ The Way Out using basketball”.

“Where I come from it is really rough ……, it’s hard not to get involved in the streets. If it were not for basketball – I would not be here”.

Local and Global Poverty

As a local and global phenomenon, poverty, together with its eradication, remains a challenge of enormous proportions, despite levels of extreme wealth in parts of the world. The answer on how to eradicate poverty remains illusive. Attempts to redistribute wealth, develop capabilities, improve life- chances and narrow the inequality gap, all involve a raft of measures and the struggle to find out what works where and when and under what circumstances.

Typically, poverty is understood to be a lack of resources, but it can also mean inadequate outcomes or lack of opportunities (Mckendrick, 2016). It is not the same as income inequality or multiple deprivation, but it is closely related to both issues. Renewed attempts to think of poverty have been forthcoming (Banerjee and Duflo, 2011). The UN offers a Multidimensional Poverty Index while local contexts, such as Scotland, use measures such as the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The relationship between sport and poverty has been historically linked and yet contemporary social activists, policy formulators and parliamentarians often remain detached and aloof about the opportunities facilitated through sport.

Sport and Poverty
The relationship between sport and poverty is complex:
• Sport can be an escape from poverty;
• Sport assists with social mobility:
• The ghetto thesis suggests that poor living conditions foster tough sportspeople who can succeed and escape;
• Sport helps with educational achievement;
• Sport can carry social messages to raise awareness;
• Barriers to sports participation exist for those experiencing poverty;
• Sport builds capabilities, including confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy:
• Sport helps to provide a degree of normality when all around seems not to be normal;
• Children living in the poorest households in some countries may never experience sport;
• Sport contributes to the poverty of opportunity; and
• Poverty exists, not just in areas of multiple deprivation, but also in affluent areas, but the experience of sport in these two contexts might be different.

Some Basketball Voices

The study drawn upon in this blog gives voice to one inner city programme aimed at providing African-American girls and women alternative choices through basketball.

To some extent this research compliments similar studies and the disparities of gender, race and class that have influenced opportunities available to African- American girls and the long term benefits of participating in positive sport programmes like basketball.

The research supports the ideal youth development-specific sport programmes can provide young black girls with an outlet for physical activity but also provide them an avenue to challenge the norms and stigmas often placed on them while providing them opportunities to learn, grow and expand their social capital.

The work of Olushola et al (2013) identified four key components in developing a successful a youth programme that aimed to cater for black girls: (1) family; (2) education; (3) discipline; and (4) civic engagement (Olushola, et al., 2013).

Furthermore, the study concluded that sport must exist beyond the context of physical activity to combat the challenges that young minority girls face. Sport is flexible and can be incorporated as a tool to achieve the goals of youth development programmes (Olushola, et al., 2013).Yet as a social tool box the complexity of the sports offer requires a knowledge of what works, where and when and under what circumstances. In an of itself it is not a solution but it does offer the opportunity to develop capabilities in Sen’s sense of the term.

This girl’s youth basketball programme was established in 2004 in upstate New York. It is one of many basketball programmes – Peace Players International, Gainline Africa Basketball – that aim to further enable girls and women on the margins.

Listen to these basketball voices as some of the testimonies supporting this one New York local based programme for girls.

On Family

The philosophy was simple; the programme would be looked at as a “family”. Those individuals who were associated with the programme were a part of the family and that family extends to any and all people who had come through the programme (e.g. players, coaches, parents, sponsors, supporters, …

During observations, team huddles would finish with a “shout” on a 3-count in which all members of the huddle would shout “Family”. Huddles could happen as many as four times in a practice session and as much as ten times during a game

“The programme is a family and they work together to give girls ‘TWO’ (the way out) using basketball”

On Money

According to the director, they and others in the “family are able to make it work” meaning the programme and the demands of the programme, because they have built relationships in the community that affords them the chance to work with the area’s basketball trainers and use certain facilities at their disposal. One participant said:

“being able to train in different facilities helped us to get used to playing in different environments and allowed us access to equipment such as shooting guns that you only see in college practices which we would not have access to and are way too expensive to purchase personally”

The programme went beyond being just a basketball programme, one said:

“The programme made us better people and young ladies. It helped us get free money too, and by free money I mean scholarships. But, we had expectations to meet. There was a certain decorum we had to have as athletes of this programme… respect for ourselves and others. And learning that would be able to take us further than what basketball could ever do.”

On Staying Out of Trouble

Alumni participants who had come from particular backgrounds such as living in low income, single family neighbourhoods where crime and deviance was heightened believed that the programme and the sport kept them out of trouble.

“I believe, if I did not play in the programme, I would not have seen different than what I was surrounded by in my neighbourhood and most likely would have fallen into those same surroundings and not attended college”

On Social Capital

The primary social capital element that the programme focuses on is advancing educational attainment which is the greatest challenge that many individuals face. However, in order to optimize individual development capabilities, the programme must address the concerns of its players being females in sport.

The education attainment objectives in the programme are put forth through basketball yet the programme does not have the ability in and of itself to address all the potential scholastic challenges that individuals currently deal with.

The potential benefits of finding what works best and under what circumstances through, in this case basketball are not to be ignored-

Life, learning and work

¬ Improved confidence and self-esteem

¬ People are better equipped to make positive
choices in their lives

¬ Young people’s learning experiences and
attainment improves

¬ People develop their skills for life, learning and work

¬ People progress into learning, training, volunteering
or employment

Communities

¬ Increased connections and cohesion within communities

¬ Families have positive relationships

¬ Communities experience reduced anti-social behaviour and offending

Deficit models of culture, blaming the poor for their poverty, ignoring structural reasons for poverty and not acknowledging specific contexts are not options. Nor is the observation that while governments change and policies change more often that not the levels of need in many neighbourhood communities remain the same.

There is sufficient, consistent evidence to support the need to look at both an area approach to social interventions involving neighbourhood sports programmes, along with the call for more flexible, free, adaptable, informal, safe and interactive neighbourhood sports provision, if the thresholds on sports participation are to be lowered and the barrier of poverty is to be removed to allow increased access to sport for young people, the marginalised and the excluded.

Childcare, pre-school and extended school provision and serious investment in early intervention are some of the interventions that have been aimed at making a lasting difference. One of the most valuable lessons to be learned is that understanding the context is key to determining which tools in the social toolbox of sport can help and support the local context. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Basketball More than a Game

Basketball is not a solution but it provides resources for some individuals and communities. Classic studies of mid-night basketball leagues in Chicago and other cities have been careful to qualify grand claims and yet education through basketball studies have suggested change is possible on a number of fronts where basketball is a means to an end.

The basketball voices from this one New York based Basketball based programme testify in part to the potential of sport for change being be a part of communities that can create positive learning environments for individuals who face challenges based upon complex interactions, in this case of of class, gender and race.

Shaping alternative education through sport

By Neil Rankin

Is there now an opportunity to use sport to shape the provision of alternative education in Scotland?

From the Commonwealth, to the United Nations to more local national governments there is a growing awareness of and pressure for sport to deliver broader social outcomes. The advent of a mandate within the new 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals provides the opportunity to advance not so much sport for sport goals but sport for broader social goals and outcomes.

Based upon the premise that sport can engage, motivate and inspire not just those on the margins, the rise of sport-plus programmes has created a burgeoning sport-for-development sector. An expanding international community exists comprised of NGO’s, private enterprise and policymakers driven by the role sport can play in social change. This particular piece of research focuses upon on how community football can help with educational attainment.

Sport for Change
Sport-for-change projects are often a response to declining social and economic conditions. Neoliberalism has seen a gradual decline in the state provision of services. Education and social welfare have witnessed a reduction in state funding with the consequence being that all alternatives need to be considered. A traditional one-size-fits-all approach to education is no longer accepted as the only way.

As sport is increasingly being used for social good, there begins to be opportunities for sport to play a more significant role in education. Sport-for-change organisations praise the characteristics of sport such as cooperation, respect and discipline. These characteristics can be influential in areas of lower social capital and where expanding educational opportunity and attainment is viewed as a Scottish Government priority.

A sport-based alternative model of using popular aspects of sport to deliver educational outcomes has proven to be successful in many international contexts. The value of such models is in the engagement strategies of educators and programme managers. The non-conformity of alternative education is important in engagement. Building trust and confidence to build sustained educational support necessitates the building of caring relationships that work for people.

The Everton Free School, England
In England, Government funded, but privately operated, academies have been established. In Liverpool, The Everton Free School-[http://www.evertonfreeschool.com/] opened in 2012.  This was a social responsibility programme delivered by Everton Football Club. The initial project was aimed at engaging the most vulnerable and disengaged young people within the community. There was a strong focus on working towards physical education and other sport-based qualifications. The school helps students advance academic qualifications in maths, English and science. The academy is next to the club stadium, the uniform is Everton FC tracksuits and staff embrace the informal education ideology. Sport is engrained in everything they do at the school.

Child Resiliency Programme, Jamaica
The Child Resiliency Programme in Jamaica uses sport-based interventions to engage “at-risk” youth. Young people are identified early in their educational pathway and are given additional support in their personal development. This project aims to divert youth toward positive destinations and increase their resiliency to anti-social and criminal pathways. This style of intervention is an example of informal education, whereby the emphasis is not on improving attainment rather developing the character of young people and improving outlook. This style of intervention builds on characteristics of sport – teamwork, respect, cooperation – that can be important in developing the character of participants. This is a common theme in many sport for development projects across the world.

Spartans Community Football Academy, Scotland 
Research conducted in 2016 sought to shed light on the place of Spartans Community Football Academy [http://www.spartanscfa.com/] (SCFA) in north Edinburgh. A selection of responses provide insight into thematic areas.There are parts of north Edinburgh that are within the most deprived 5-10% of Scotland. High crime and unemployment rates exist, fuelled by educational attainment challenges. Disengagement from mainstream education can be a result of many socioeconomic factors:

 

  • “for a lot of people growing up in our area to break the cycle they think they have to leave because of what there surrounded with are evidence and examples of like what living in poverty is and what it looks like”
  • “looking at how deprived our area is and it’s not just financially, its things like single parent families, or looked after children with no parents, employment, people in prison, substance abuse, and those kind of things which are causing deprivation in people’s lives. Granton and Pilton are in the lowest 10%”
  • “you’re coming from a place where you had to get yourself and your siblings ready for school ……….and you come in and you’re told to get excited about a flow chart”

There is, in some cases falsely, a polarization between communities that creates stigmas of social deprivation and areas being troublesome:

  • “you don’t get the opportunity to read much good news about young people in this area, it’s not celebrated, there’s loads of young people in this area doing brilliant things, but there’s a small minority that are up to mischief that get a disproportionate amount of media coverage”

Since 2008, SCFA have been delivering community outreach programmes in north Edinburgh. They use their position as a local football club to engage young people in the area. SCFA recognise the popularity of football, and other sports, to young people in the area. The organisation advocates the positive impacts sport can have on development:

  • “I think you can learn a lot of life skills through sport in terms of respect and cooperation”
  • “sport is a great leveller, and it helps build communication between people”
    “sport is a fantastic tool for providing teamwork, companionship, common purpose, common goal, fitness, healthy living, healthy lifestyle, there so much, anything you can think of that can provide you endorphins can come through sport … it’s a way to channel emotions”

The attributes of the SCFA model align with theories of alternative education. Staff are recruited based on their background and personal ideologies on the provision of education. The complex consists of two full-size artificial football pitches:

  • “I think even just coming to a place like this with the big pitches is more engaging, it doesn’t seem like a school for them”

Creating a different environment also helps to break down barriers that previously existed between young people in deprived areas and wider society:

  • “the social work, the schools, the police and all those organisations were the enemy….. we have youth workers in the school, we have police at the youth centre, we all dovetail together so that you can say that the youth workers are at the school so therefore the youth centres are not bad therefore the schools are not bad so therefore it breaks down the enemy status”

The pupils also have a bigger say in the way lessons are delivered and what they learn about:

  • “if they are interested in Hearts FC then they can base their project they have to do for English around that which engages them a lot more”

The smaller class sizes at the alternative school support learning by giving teachers more time to spend with each pupil, meaning that each individual has the support he or she needs to focus and to understand the content of their curriculum:

  • “but it’s different from going and being in a room with 20 odd other kids and having to do a subject they have no interest in … they get more attention one to one most of the time, sometimes I maybe had two, then they would go and maybe do something with the youth worker, and what was really good as well was the rest of it, it wasn’t just Maths and English, they were learning to cook”

Overall, the programme managers and staff at SCFA recognise that the students they work with are no less talented than those in mainstream education. This is not a question about ability but about opportunity and support. The difference is the students get bespoke time and attention to help them with the development of education through the popular medium of football. For some this could be one of the first times that an adult in their life has shown belief in their abilities:

  • “it’s about how do you have different options that can coexist for young people that means every young person has got a potential pathway that allows them to develop and grow”
  • “I would say this pupil needs a bit of significant other support and they get paired once a week with a youth worker, we’ve had youth workers in the school, that’s something that the youth centre network is very good at – just creating that familiarisation”
  • “we have a transitions coordinator who will be in meetings at primary school and bring them though just to try and give them some stability and structure and continuity in their lives”

SCFA are providing a real service to the local community by attempting to enhance educational as this can have knock-on effect of improving employment prospects and reducing crime. The organisation are currently operating as a social enterprise but it is an aspiration to have their vision supported by the City of Edinburgh Council.

  • “we need to convince the local authority that we have a service and product worth paying for, that our proposition delivers results for these young people and its worth investing their pupil premium, I actually think we can get more for their money as well”

There is increasing recognition that a one size fits all approach to education is outdated in the 21st century. Education continues to be a major political issue in Scotland and across the UK. Alternative methods are being looked at by governments and the third sector across the globe. Harnessing the engaging power of sport could be an innovative and progressive method in developing alternative places to learn.

Football and peace in the Middle East

By Dr Joel Rookwood

How has football for peace worked in the Middle East?- Some observations:

The Middle East can be considered a transcontinental region comprising approximately 370 million people who speak more than sixty languages and live across seventeen countries. The Eurocentric term is of British origin and was coined and first applied as a prefix to ‘question’, as a mark of the strategic importance yet disputed understanding of the region. Its geopolitical, economic and cultural significance has been recognized for millennia. Numerous world religions trace their origins to the Middle East. The region, like others, has a long association with ethno-religious conflicts, ideological struggles and resource and territorial disputes.

Despite having fought wars with its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), civil conflict has perhaps proven the most consistent threat to peace and stability in Israel. Relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have frequently dominated international news. Few efforts to build peace across ethno-religious divides have proven successful, in Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

Some agencies have prioritized projects and campaigned for policies and provision which emphasize the identification of and focus on commonalities, mutual cooperation and equality. However, in a militaristic and splintered society, where ethnic divisions run deep and trust does not, encouraging Jews and Arabs to build meaningful, lasting and mutually beneficial relations has challenged those striving to contribute to peace building in the region.

Sports such as football has been employed in this context. The use of competitive invasion sports centred on binary oppositions has been contested. Israel’s capital city is home to Beitar Jerusalem, a football club whose supporter base includes dominant Jewish nationalist fractions strongly opposed to Muslims. Importantly, such racist attitudes and behaviours are certainly not held by all football fans in Israel.

As with most social and sporting activities, football is not a priori good or bad, but can produce a range of positive as well as negative outcomes. In relation to participation (both on and off the field), football’s potential as a vehicle to promote social construction or deconstruction is largely dependent on how related engagements are presented, perceived, experienced and remembered. The ‘pacifist potential of football’ to which the seminal work of Sugden is associated with has been crucial in a project that has been implemented in Israel since 2001.

For most of that period the ‘Football for Peace’ (F4P) initiative has been run by Professor Sugden and his colleagues from University of Brighton in collaboration with others from further afield. The project has been subject to valuable academic research, but Sugden’s editorial collection on the project perhaps best represents the diversity of disciplinary lenses through which the initiative has been scrutinized.

F4P has sought to make grass-roots interventions into Middle Eastern sporting culture, contributing towards peaceful integration in the often violent, mistrusting and detached Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. The initiative has employed a specifically designed value-based football coaching model, in which all aspects of the programme are underpinned by neutrality, inclusion, respect, trust and responsibility.

Working with mixed groups of Arab and Jewish boys or girls from a similar area, student coaches from Britain collaborate with local coaches and respected community leaders who also serve as translators. Each programme begins with trust building exercises and concludes with mixed-team tournaments on designated festival days. The project has also developed some year-round cross-cultural collaboration, whilst diversifying the locations (such as Northern Ireland) and sporting applications (including rugby).

Such initiatives present a number of inherent challenges, pertaining for instance to practical and linguistic issues, as well as monitoring and evaluation and risk management. I was among the group of fifty F4P students and staff who were checked in and waiting to board a flight to Tel Aviv in July 2006 when news broke of the Lebanon conflict that had begun hours earlier in northern Israel.

Engaging in complex and dangerous locations, it is difficult to demonstrate and prove that such initiatives work, and that they are worth the risks involved. Training volunteers is demanding and preparing personnel to work in potentially perilous environments is fraught with challenges – and the impact of a project will always depend in part on the effectiveness of its staff.

For the participants, some perceive and receive such initiatives as political engagements, others view them as programmes that ‘make a difference’ whilst some merely consider them an opportunity to play football. It is not possible to fully represent, reconcile or explain such diversity, but it is important to remember that even well-intentioned, effectively managed projects will not always have the desired impact on every recipient.

Setting such initiatives in context however, peace seems as elusive in Israel. There is a continual need for constructive, internationally mediated dialogue and collaboration, cross-cultural relationship building, mutually reliant and beneficial infrastructure, and meaningfully representative and constructive politics.

There is need for international pressure around a long list of issues which may include:

• Illegal Israeli Settlements in the West Bank;
• Sporadic Palestinian attacks on Jews living in Israel;
• Protection of the rights of Arabs living in both Palestinian and Israeli territories;
• An end to the forced reclamation of Palestinian homes;
• An increase in aid, support and peace building in Gaza;
• Reinstatement and then normalization of relations with Lebanon,
• Resettlement of Palestinian refugee communities currently residing in Lebanon and Jordan;
• A permanent ceasefire in Syria;
• The removal of land mines at the Golan Heights and other international borders;
• Increased security cooperation and diplomatic mediation with Egypt; an end to the construction (and eventual removal) of the West Bank Wall; and
• What improved economic ties with all neighbouring countries. Faced with such an array of challenges, micro-level projects might seem insignificant –

Other issues could be added to this list If they can be connected with other initiatives, a coalition for peace could grow in strength and increase in impact.

During the process of working on football-based peace building projects I have interviewed dozens of local and international advocates in Israel, and in nations such as Liberia, Azerbaijan, Rwanda, Bosnia and Russia. If intra- and inter-project analysis produces robust evidence that sporting programmes such as F4P are worth the risk and resources, that football can reach beyond the political rhetoric and actually contribute to peace building, then long may these programmes develop.

It is worth remembering however, that whatever vehicle is used to drive Israel in the direction of peace, however well intended ‘cultural engagements’ such as F4P might be, coverall responses rarely solve complicated problems, especially at the intersection of ingrained mutual distrust and fragile peace.

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

By Stuart Murray

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

Sports News

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

Popular assertions are common place:

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

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

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

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

In this contribution three observations from recent fieldwork are offered.

Sporting habitus

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

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

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

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

Has a bag of money ever scored a goal?

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

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

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

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

Sports diplomacy with Chinese characteristics

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

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

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

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

A land of sporting oddity and mystery

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

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

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

The future?

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

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

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

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

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

Golf: widening the gap between those who can and cannot

By Dr Paul Widdop and Dr Dan Parnell 

Golf is a multi-million pound industry. We have just seen the open in Scotland that will do much for raising the profile and interest in the sport. Indeed, the Open in the UK is one of the four big annual major tournaments, with Sky paying a reported £15m a year to broadcast the event, which itself can be worth some £140m to the local host economy (Wilson, 2016). A report by Sheffield Hallam also highlights that UK golfers spend a whopping £4billion per year. Despite this golf still has its problems with gender inequality and falling participation.

Given the limelight associated with The Open and in-turn Golf, Dr Paul Widdop (Leeds Beckett University) and Dr Dan Parnell (Manchester Metropolitan University) take a close look at golf to help better understand the current landscape.

Eminent sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1984) once stated that the practice of sports such as tennis, riding, sailing or golf doubtless owes part of its ‘interest’, just as much nowadays as at the beginning, to its distinguishing function. More precisely, to the gains in distinction which it brings. It is no accident that the majority of the most select, i.e. selective, clubs are organized around sporting activities which serve as a focus or pretext for elective gatherings. Certain sport like the arts is then used as a symbolic marker (distinct from other less worthy forms of sport) used to reinforce and reproduce the class position. Furthermore, through relational mechanisms individuals can use access to certain sports as an instrument to develop social capital and access to lucrative job market. This is certainly true of golf, where certain clubs put economic barriers up through obtrusive membership fees and strict rules of etiquette, to remain exclusive and exclude those not worthy of membership. Clearly for Bourdieu the taste for the game will be consumed by members of the higher classes, due to the social profit that it brings (such as building new networks, enhancing social capital, both of which can be exchanged at a later date for economic benefit). In other words as in other leisure and cultural fields, sporting taste and sport participation is intertwined with social class, or the symbolic meaning a given sport presents to others, which brings us to golf.

Indeed, inclusivity did not appear at the forefront when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (Scotland) admitted females to its membership for the first time in history. The first female being, The Princess Royal, reaffirming the class orientations and distinction of the sport (Widdop and Parnell, 2015). Despite this, the future might offer some hope, with another ‘THIS’ branded initiative, This Girl’s Golf, which was launched in 2015, to change female perception of and participation in golf. Nigel Freemantle, chairman of the British Golf Industry Association (BGIA), said “Females are getting more and more into the game…Also, if we can get women with children to take up the sport, then they might bring their youngsters to the club and get them into the game too.” Freemantle also offers further positivity suggesting golf is not in a bad place.

Despite the positivity, and the excitement and grandeur associated with The Open 2016, we are reminded of our colleague, Professor Jim McKenna’s comments on the legacy of the Grand Depart in Leeds. McKenna draws on the work of Dennett to help us consider the ploy of ‘using lay audiences as decoys’. So, a big sport event may get the audiences, public attention and the associated media spreads, pages, tweets and likes. It is all too easy to follow, enjoy, consume and applaud who ever heads the leader board. Therefore, as easy audiences we act as decoys.

Like the Grand Depart, The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and no-doubt The Open 2016, we will adopt what Dennett terms ‘Occam’s broom’; when this broom is being used it whisk inconvenient evidence under the carpet. Freemantle and others offering positivity, might just be well-intended advocates of the broom, whisking the broom clearing inconvenient truths about golf and the more genuine and likely impact and non-impacts of a this event away.

Much work has been undertaken to ensure golf accessibility to the masses in terms of class and geography, despite persistent regulations and codes, such as the firmly enforced attire and etiquette, which are hard to decipher for those lacking in the prerequisite cultural credentials, creating symbolic boundaries of exclusion.

Yet, according to KPMG, England reported a decline of 2.4% in registered players in 2015, while Scotland recorded a drop of 0.8%, although it may be that golfers prefer to play on an increasingly ad hoc basis, paying for golf per round rather than registering with a club or course (Wilson, 2016). This is not just about participation, it is about class, geography and inequality.

Class

Using data from the DCMS, Taking Part Survey (2006-2010) a worrying trend had emerged. Indeed, rather than a systematic narrowing of class inequalities, there is in fact a growing disparity. Figure 1 below illustrates, from 2006 to 2010 salariat classes (i.e., the professional and managerial occupations) have an upward trend in the consumption of Golf, whereas in comparison, the working class consumption rate is decreasing systematically year on year. Clearly more evidence is needed to determine if this trend is continuing. However what is not in any doubt is that there are major class disparities in the game that need to be addressed, to rid it of elitist connotations’.

Golf-participation-graph-475x322[1]

Geography

Alongside class, gender, and ethnicity, there are hidden spatial inequalities that impact upon consumption, which includes golf. Mapping the aggregate data from the Taking Part Survey (2006-2010) against Government Office Regions of England, highlights these spatial inequalities in Golf participation. Individuals residing in the affluent South East, and East of England make up 33% of golf participants. There is a fraction of evidence that points at the much debated North South divide. Whilst we must be aware of the limitations of inferring from a large spatial scale, the data supports the finding that you are more likely to participate in Golf if you reside in the South of England.

Golf-participation-graph-2-475x576

Inequality

“Golf is still too often wrongly stereotyped as something from yesteryear, but it is not a sport from bygone days or just for old boys in funny trousers,” says Mr Freemantle (in Wilson, 2016).

Freemantle offers a hope that golf doesn’t cost too much, suggesting a basic set of children’s golf clubs costing around £50 (Wilson, 2016). Whilst this doesn’t account for club fees, other equipment and balls (the authors were often explorers of the ‘rough’ during golf and after hours to retrieve their or others balls!)

Despite this, we believe the much of the nation, whether related to general house-hold responsibilities or participation choices, are ‘tightening their belts’ or just have less to spend. Austerity has had a real impact on the lives of people and research has shown that spending on sport per household has been negatively impacted as a result (Eakins, 2016).

The price to play may have got higher. Like others sports such as swimming (Parnell, Millward and Spracklen, 2014), municipal golf has faced financial changes. With many municipal golf courses, who mainly cater for the working class golfers up and down the country, either under threat, have been sold (sometimes for housing) or have been left in disrepair (see the below case studies).

Case examples

There are examples across the country of courses closing or under threat of closure. Indeed, Western Park Golf Course in Leicestershire is one such example of a golf course under threat of closure (Leicester Mercury, 30th July 2013). A further example is Amington Golf Course, which has been lost because of funding cuts by Tamworth Borough Council (BBC, 28th September, 2014). Many municipal courses have also been sold to private companies and enterprises, for example, Wirral Council and neighbouring West Cheshire have agreed to sell-off seven municipal golf courses: Arrowe Park, Brackenwood, Bebington, The Warrens, Hooton, Knights Grange and Westminster Park. Tenders have been invited although it is not known what will happen if the council does not receive any attractive bids. Councillor Chris Meaden, Wirral’s cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: “Along with our colleagues in Cheshire West and Cheshire, we are keen to continue pay to play provision, and are confident this combined package across the two boroughs will attract customers and operators who will be able to put those courses on a sound and sustainable financial footing.” (Golf Club Management, 2nd February, 2015). The most disturbing case may well be Keele Golf Course in Staffordshire. RMW Ltd, fronted by Masters winner Ian Woosnam was due to take control of the course, but the deal with Newcastle Borough Council collapsed after the councillors claimed the company had begun making unreasonable demands. Since then, the course has remained closed (The Sentinel, 10th March, 2014). The only activity on the course is the opportunistic local entrepreneurs who have ploughed the overgrown fairways. The council is considering a number of options including a housing and golf re-development (The Sentinel, 10th March, 2014), yet at the time of writing the course remains closed (and overgrown).

The future

What does the future hold for golf? The announcement of opening up the game to female golfers should see a spike in participation for this group, and this should see a diversification in Golf consumers. However, there remains concerns this just reinforce the growing class and spatial inequalities currently inflicting the game. As we move towards greater levels of unease at what appears to be institutional inequalities, it is difficult to envisage a future whereby Golf can free itself of elitism. Despite this, England Golf (the national governing body for the sport) recently recruited a new Chief Executive. Nick Pink, who steps into this role offers some hope for those wanting to raise participation in the sport. Pink, who in his past role as European Manager of the International Cricket Council was able to able to claim a 35% in participation in cricket in the Europe. A laudable achievement that may serve England Golf well during this difficult fiscal period.

Athlete and Activist – Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

By 

Grant Jarvie

Although he won  56 out of  61 fights,  the Olympic title, was crowned world champion three times and acclaimed athlete of the 20th century, it was the combination of athleticism. humanitarianism and activism that made Ali the greatest.

In his later years the athlete and activist softened some of his views. He rejected the racial separatism promoted by the Nation of Islam. The American establishment, rather than fearing him, came to love him. But, by then, he had already made a matchless contribution to American history as an athlete who changed his sport, and as an activist who contributed to changing his country and spoke out against injustices when others did not.

He was courageous inside and outside of the boxing ring. 

He was an athlete and an activist and those athletes in the contemporary era who take on social and political responsibilities should be respected as both athletes and activists. 

 Impact and Inspiration

 “Muhammad Ali let me know I could have opinions and express them. I cannot do justice in words to express what that meant to a young black kid growing up in Alabama”

Basketball great Charles Barkley talking of Muhammad Ali’s impact on his life 

 “At a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labelled uppity and often arrested under one pretext or another, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right. In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller. I may be 7ft 2in but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.”

Former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

In his own words:

 Ali on racism

 “Giving up a chance at the Olympics and a gold medal is a big sacrifice but anything they do that’s designated to get freedom and equality for their people, I’m with 1,000 per cent”.

Talking about the the Olympic Project for Human Rights and the 1968 Mexico Protest

“Hating people because of their colour is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which colour does the hating. It’s just plain wrong”.

“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free. I ain’t free”.

On Vietnam War and the Supreme Court

 “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”.

“I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.”

“I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality”.

 Tributes to Muhammad Ali 

 Al Sharpton

“To my generation he made it real,” Civil rights leader.

Nicola Adams

“Boxing’s greatest of all time, an inspiration to me and so many people”- Flyweight World Champion.

 Bernice King

“You were a champion in so many ways. You ‘fought’ well. Rest well.” – Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King

Martin Luther king Jr

“He is giving up millions of dollars to do what his conscience tells him is right”.

Angelo Dundee

“Cleveland Williams, that was a great fight but the greatest he ever looked was against Folley and if he had gone on from there, there is no telling”.

Angelo Dundee talking about the last fight before the 3-and-a-half-year exile.

Hugh Mcilvanney

“He was the greatest figure in my professional life”.

Michelle and Barak Obama

“A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us to get used to the America we recognise today- he spoke out when others would not”

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/sports/president-obamas-statement-on-muhammad-ali.html?_r=0

Barak Obama on what Muhammad Ali meant to me

http://www.khou.com/news/obama-what-muhammad-ali-meant-to-me/231069392

 Cathy Freeman

“Muhammad Al represents and symbolises greatness for all the world over”.

Hilary and Bill Clinton

“We watched him grow from the brash self-confidence of youth and success into a manhood full of religious and political convictions that led him to make tough choices and live with the consequences. Along the way we saw him courageous in the ring, inspiring to the young, compassionate to those in need, and strong and good-humored in bearing the burden of his own health challenges”.

The Brief Fact File

1942

Cassius Marcella Clay born 17 January in Louisville and named after a prominent 19th century abolitionist.

1954

Amateur boxing debut.

1960

Wins Olympic Gold Medal, Rome.

Makes his professional boxing debut.

1961

Attends first Nation of Islam meeting.

1962

Meets Malcolm X.

1963

Fights Henry Cooper in the UK.

1964

Becomes world heavyweight champion after being 7-1 underdog.

Joins the Nation of Islam.

1965

Re-match with Sonny Liston in front of only a few thousand people.

1966

Defends his title 5 times.

Re-match with Henry Cooper.

1967

Stripped of heavyweight title for refusing US draft, handed a five year suspended sentence, a 10,000 US dollar fine and banned from travelling abroad. Remains free while appealing the conviction.

New York State Athletic commission suspends his boxing licence.

1968

Speaks at anti-war rally in San Francisco.

1970

US supreme court hands back his boxing licence.

1971

Loses world title to Joe Frazier.

Conviction for draft dodging reversed by US Supreme Court.

1972

By November had won ninth comeback fight since losing to Frazier.

Visits the Republic of Ireland, defeats Al Lewis at Croke Park.

1974

Wins back world heavyweight title from George Foreman.

A man denounced as anti-American in 1967 is now invited to the White House.

1975

Wins rematch with Joe Frazier.

1978

Loses his title to Leon Spinks in February and regains it seven months later.

Becomes first man in the world to win Heavyweight Championship of the World three times.

1979

Announces retirement for the first time.

1980

Loses to Larry Holmes his former sparring partner, in a fight that many state should never have taken place.

1983

Public learn of the athlete and activist suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

1990

Helps in the release of 15 hostages from Iraq.

1993

Visits Glasgow for the second time, the first being in 1965.

1996

Lights the torch at the Atlantic Olympic Games and is returned his Olympic medal thrown away or lost in 1960.

1998

Visit to deliver humanitarian aid to Cuba. Ali was on his second visit to Cuba  in two years, where he delivered to a Havana hospital a donation of more than $1.2 million of medical aid from a U.S. humanitarian organisation, the Disarm Education Fund.

Named UN messenger of peace for his work in developing countries.

1999

Named BBC Sports personality of the 20th century collecting more votes than George Best, Pele, Sir Donald Bradman, Jack Nicklaus and Jesse Owens put together.

2001

Awarded President’s Citizens Medal.

2002

Visits Kabul as UN Peace ambassador.

2003

Joins Mandela ay the special Olympics held in Dublin.

2005

Awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2009

Attends Barack Obama’s inauguration having saluted him at celebratory party days before.

2012

Makes appearance at the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games

2016

Muhammad Ali passed away 4 May in Phoenix, Arizona, aged 74.

 

Austerity and sport for health

By Dr Dan Parnell and Dr Paul Widdop

Austerity has impacted upon the real life experiences of communities. Sport and recreation has not been immune from austerity.

PastedGraphic-1-1

Against a volume of evidence citing the rising number of food-banks, homelessness, an increasing inequalities gap and the privatisation of the National Health Service it is hard to place sport in the austerity debate. Yet investment in sport for social agendas has evidence of producing a social return, which is not always recognised.

Sport encompasses physical activity and the relationship between the two has long since established the awareness of the health costs of inactivity (WHO, 2010). The World Health Organisation estimates that physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, responsible for 6% of deaths globally. That is 3.2 million deaths per year. Including 2.6 million in low-and-middle-income countries. In 2012, ‘The Lancet’ medical journal, noted that the impact of inactivity on mortality could be greater still – 5.3 million deaths per year – rivalling tobacco for causes of death.

Promoting physical activity is not just key, but critical in tackling Public Health issues. A challenge for physical activity researchers and policy makers is reducing inactivity levels within hard to reach communities and in a format that is attractive to fit the consumption needs of local people. Ultimately, sport for health has a role in Public Health in making physical activity more amenable, desirable and attractive to many, including those on the margins.

An insight into the sport and leisure industry

Public Sector provision for sport and leisure has changed and in some cases disappeared since the introduction of austerity driven policy measures.

A report by King for the Association of Public Service Excellence [http://www.apse.org.uk/apse/index.cfm/research/current-research-programme/local-authority-sport-and-recreation-services-in-england-where-next/local-authority-sport-and-recreation-services-in-england-where-next/] pre-empted these reductions in services and highlighted that certain parts of England are being disproportionally affected (APSE, 2010). Austerity has contributed to a fragmented landscape of provision.

Much of the report predictions for 2015; including, falling revenue budgets, staff cuts, increased charges, reduced opening hours, facility closures and reduced commitments to parks and pitches utilized for organised and casual participation; have become a reality. A clear example of this is the fight to ‘Keep Park Road Baths Open’ [http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/news-and-comment/fight-to-save-dingle-pool-gets-thumbs-up-from-beth-tweddle].

In a localised context, Liverpool (UK), which is home to some of the most deprived communities in Britain, evidences high levels of obesity and decreasing fitness levels amongst children across the city. Despite this, its Local Authority service provision for swimming has been severely threatened. Both the Everton Park Sports Centre (within the deprived L5 area) and the Dingle areas Park Road swimming baths were threatened with closure. Further, radical changes to opening times have been imposed on the Austin Rawlinson centre in Speke.

Swimmer

The reported rationale for closures were related to high operating and maintenance costs, which contributed to the budgetary deficit of £7.3 million in the year 2013/2014. Whilst local councillors have looked for options such as community transfer, the swimming pools remain open and under Local Authority management.

This was due to the campaigners who fought the council at every step, yet the safety of the site remains unclear. Whilst the council have committed to the short term future of the site, opening hours have been reduced and key services have been moved to other sites – all contributing to a more subtle withdrawal by the council and lesser services for local (and severely deprived) communities.

Furthermore, what may happen in communities that have a less cohesive network structure that facilitates mobilisation is that they could ultimately lose essential services in sport and leisure which as noted elsewhere impacts upon society and community social capital.

Austerity is real, observable and experienced

Whilst the rolling back of the state will impact Local Authority leisure centres across England and potentially other parts of the UK, the impact of reduced opportunities for communities, families, people and children to participate in sport and physical activity is not certain. What is clear, observable and experienced is that the consequence of austerity has a real impact on real people, across communities.

Is austerity influencing sports participation?

Participation figures for sport and physical activity across Local Authorities in England shows a significant decrease during a period of austerity (2008-2013). Using a pooled logistic regression model of two waves of the Active People Survey, Widdop et al (forthcoming) found that evidence clearly suggests a statistically significant difference in participation in sport for women, younger people and non-white individuals between 2008 and 2013.

In simple terms, there is clear statistical evidence that women participation rates in sport were significantly lower in 2013 than 2008 – a similar pattern is found for both young people aged 14-29 and non-white individuals. This is a worrying development as during this time period we have had major sporting Mega Events happening across Britain, with a participation legacy in place, a legacy that has been systematically challenged by austerity measures. Local Authorities are bracing themselves for more austerity constraints placed upon them, and with sport not being part of core services, it is likely to face further cuts.

Sports which rely heavily on local authority provision especially in grassroots delivery are particularly susceptible to a change in funding structures and support. Indeed, football is such a sport that is mainly dependent on Local Authority provision. Yet, it is this time of year, that football managers, coaches, players and officials dread, as many matches will no-doubt be called off due to poor weather conditions and unplayable surfaces.

Local Authorities are core providers to grassroots sports, through pitch maintenance, development, facilities and upkeep.

Local authorities are experiencing many problems relating to the current economic climate [http://www.academia.edu/8813171/Sport_and_austerity_in_the_UK_an_insight_into_Liverpool_2014] and ultimately they have had tightened their spending [theconversation.com/austerity-cuts-to-local-leisure-services-is-a-false-economy-33320], which impacts frontline services and the experiences of people playing.

2015-02-11113333StreetfootballTHM

A result of this is reduced investment in grassroots sports provision and/or increases in pitch fees and the cost of facility hire. This coupled with the closure of sport and leisure facilities will undoubtedly impact upon the opportunities for sport and physical activity, especially football [www.sportsthinktank.com/blog/2015/03/postponed-due-to-pitch-conditions-grassroots-football-and-sport-participation]. Whilst it is difficult to measure the impact this has on society, it will certainly have a negative impact on social capital, belonging, and well-being, detaching communities from each other, and increasing social tensions.

So why is sport important?

iStock_000002733128[GreenPimp]

So we return to the question set out at the start of the blog, why are we interested in sport for health? Without sport and physical activity we can expect to see an increase in lifestyle related diseases, especially those within our deprived communities. This will have huge impacts on Public Health, none more recognisable to those in government than the financial one. Some politicians could still stand to gain from this, as the privatisation of the NHS will benefit from more people needing support, especially as we know the financial costs inactivity can create.

Whilst, we might struggle to ‘make the case’ for sport, we do know the cost of inactivity, currently standing at £940million per year, with a serious risk of increasing. It has never been more important to invest in sport, leisure and physical activity. An approach that is both preventative and low-cost.

Perhaps it is time for government, LA and those in Public Health to get serious about the current state of Local Authority sport provision, which is slowly but alarmingly disappearing. As it does, we can expect to lose the subsequent physical activity opportunities and gain the consequences of extended inactivity.

Changing the policy story

Underlying all such policy initiatives relating to sport, recreation and health is that the costs of increasing revenue to support young people will prove an excellent investment compared to the scale of future health costs.

The consequence of cutting funding for Local Authority sport and leisure may be one of the major false economies of our time. The debate should not be about how much it will cost today but how much it will cost if no action is taken.

A fundamental paradigm shift is needed in terms of how sport and recreation provision in local authority areas is played out.