Fresh winds for equity in the beautiful game but challenges remain

By Grant Jarvie – University of Edinburgh 

Almost four years ago the Academy of Sport was invited to contribute to the then calls for reform in world soccer and support for women’s soccer. A summary of the contribution can be found here. The case for support focused upon two key themes. Firstly, that women were under-represented in decision making in world soccer and secondly that women’s football was under-resourced.

At the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup held France a panel of experts on the women’s game both domestically and internationally gathered at the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport to both celebrate women’s soccer and reflect upon lessons and observations on the beautiful game.

Ebru Koksal one of only two women to have been the CEO of a Champions League Football Club and current chair of women in football championed the case for being bold for change.

2019 World Cup finance and equal pay
The 2019 World Cup is the first where the clubs will be compensated for releasing their players. Another gap closed in principle. The total FIFA input of £39 million is more than three times the amount made available for Canada in 2015. The total prize fund at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was more than £300 million. Lessons need to be learned in relation to how the Women’s World Cup rights are commercialised.

England’s Toni Duggan believes that the players should be paid more but not the same as men. Most of the professional women players with the big clubs in England will be on six-figure salaries. This is more than many SPFL men players and yet equality for Duggan is as much about pitches, facilities and parity of esteem. In Europe fans are much more open to supporting the club rather than the fact that it is the men or women’s team playing. In 2019 Duggan finished her second season with Barcelona and played in front of the then league record crowd of 60,739.

The five majors
The CIES 2019 demographic analysis of five major women’s football leagues (England, Germany, Sweden, France and the USA all of whom reached the quarter finals in France) can be found here. It concluded that the economic development occurring at the top of the pyramid of women’s professional football indicates that the age of players tends to increase as international mobility grows and that the concentration of the best footballers within a limited number of clubs in the best leagues remains concentrated in these five countries.

From the players playing in France 2019 Canada is the country with the biggest contingent of expatriate players in the championship with a total of 28. Canadians are particularly numerous in the United States with the National Women’s Soccer League, the majority of Scottish women head for England while half of the expatriate American’s play in Sweden.

Challenges and opportunities
Whether it be the domestic of international front fresh winds for more equity in the beautiful game are being called for. Along with challenges come opportunities argued Ebru Koksal. The UEFA women’s football strategy talks of : Doubling the number of women and girls playing football in UEFA’s member associations to 2.5 million; Changing the perceptions of women’s football across Europe; Doubling the reach and value of the UEFA Women’s EURO and the UEFA Women’s Champions League; Improving player standards by reaching standard agreements for national team players and putting safeguarding policies in place in all 55 member associations and doubling female representation on all UEFA bodies.

Progress but challenges remain.
At the first World Cup in 1991 the gender split of the coaches was 11 (men) and 1 (woman) while in France men continued to dominate 16 to 8.

The USA ranked number one in the world going into the tournament sees US soccer involved in a lawsuit accused of gender discrimination. 28 members of the USA World Cup Soccer squad filed the lawsuit on 8 March 2019 alleging institutionalised gender discrimination that included inequitable compensation when compared to their male counterparts in the USA.

Norway entered the tournament without Ada Hegerberg , the first female Ballon d’Or winner, who stepped away from the National team in 2017 because of the perceived or otherwise lack of disregard for women’s football in Norway.

Domestic insights
Domestically it was the first World Cup that Scotland had qualified for since 1998. The country has arguably witnessed a culture shift with taxi drivers talking excitedly about the game in a country that has no full-time professional league that women can play in.

Between 2015 and 2019 the number of registered female players in Scotland has risen to about 14,000. 6.1 million viewers watched Scotland v England. 18,555 attended the Scotland v Jamaica build up game at Hampden Park just prior to the World Cup – a record crowd for a women’s game at Hampden. The average attendance at women’s football matches in Scotland is about 1500.

Commentators on the women’s game regularly point to the fact that it is a cleaner and easier product to sell – no gambling, no alcohol sponsorship and not troubled by sectarianism.

Laura Montgomery, co-founder of Glasgow City, the most successful women’s team to date in Scotland and who according to Rachel Corsie – Scotland’s Captain has done more than anyone to advance the game for women and girls in Scotland also joined the University of Edinburgh discussion and provided a real insight into the challenge to grow and sustain the women’s game in Scotland while not compromising on the quality of input.

Significantly she asked where would the women’s game in Scotland be now if it had not been banned?

Leeann Dempster CEO of Hibernian Football Club talking about the state of the women’s game in Scotland sees it as getting stronger but that does not mean that it is strong as it should be. For the CEO key questions remain:

• How do we fund the growth of the women’s game in Scotland?
• How do we bring in the commercial rewards it deserves?
• Who takes responsibility for the women’s game in Scotland? Where does it sit? Who takes the lead?

Concluding comment
Football, soccer remains one of the most visible areas of public life in many countries. The 50 page review of women’s football published just prior to the 2019 World Cup suggested that fresh winds of equity were blowing but that significant challenges remain- see here. Such a visible are of public life brings with it responsibilities for forging and enjoying the benefits that gender equality and diversity brings with and through soccer.

Who is on board in Scottish sport?

By Isabelle Boulert, Josh Emerson and Grant Jarvie
University of Edinburgh

Scotland could do more to end all white boards in sport.

Key Facts:

• An audit of Scottish sports boards (N=82) carried out between 2017-2018
• Composition of Scottish sports boards 99.5% white and 0.5% people of colour
• Availability of Board data – 10% no data.
• Chairs of Scottish Sports Boards 100% white and 0% people of colour
• 3 people of colour as board members out of 558 board members

The research findings presented acknowledges that the use of all encompassing terms to explain diversity in Scotland hides the richness of diversity in Scotland today.

That being said the findings from the review of Scottish sports boards evidences for the first time the fact that people of colour are under-represented in the decision making roles in sport in Scotland.

There is not just a social and political imperative for Scottish sports boards to be more representative of Scottish communities but a substantial body of evidence demonstrates that having diverse boards boosts recruitment, retention and productivity while reducing risk.

Nor is the lack of diversity on Scottish sports boards an issue that is unique to Scotland or sport. The 2017 Parker Review of Ethnicity and Diversity on UK Boards reported that only 2 per cent of all FTSE 100 board directors are UK citizens of colour, while the non-white population was 14 per cent and set to rise 20 per cent by 2030.

Only six people of colour held the position of Chair or Chief Executive while 51 of the FTSE 100 companies did not have any non-white people on Board.

Increasing participation and representation from under-represented groups in sport remains an urgent and complex issue that permeates the sports system. While there are many examples of remarkable initiatives enabling equality and diversity in and through sport there remains many areas where progress has to be made and where a co-ordinated and collaborative approach could lead to significant improvements.

Scotland’s diverse and ageing population has much to offer sport. From volunteers and coaches to being Board members, there are people with a wealth of knowledge and experience to be passed on to the next generation and the notion of their not be enough capable and qualified non-white applicants needs to be rejected.

Leadership in Scottish Sport needs to be much more innovative and pro-active to ensure it is representative and reflective of Scottish people and communities.

Leadership positions and boards in Scottish Sport are almost entirely white. The cost of accessing sport and facilities remains a significant barrier with sport being available to those from wealthier backgrounds. Many sports still have a gender imbalance while recognising that much progress has been made. The disability sports voice needs to be represented more.

Successful societies are inclusive societies and sport can act as a way to help bring communities together, if it becomes more inclusive at all levels.

The evidence does not discount the steps that have been accomplished to advance equality and reduce inequality gaps in Scottish sport but it does suggest that when Scottish sport boards tend to recruit to leadership positions this tends to result in, primarily if not exclusively in many cases, all white Scottish sports boards.

The Hampden Case

By

Grant Jarvie
University of Edinburgh

The Scottish Football Association decided to stay at Hampden and in this short review we consider some of the evidence, arguments and background to the decision.

While the costs of the Hampden v Murrayfield cases were different the final judgement may not have been just about economic costs but social, cultural, community and financial assets and voices that all needed to be listened too.

Prior to the decision The Scottish Football Association (SFA) rented the 115-year old ground from its Queen’s Park owners under the terms of a lease which expires in 2020.

In June 2017 the SFA reiterated that the preferred option was for Hampden Park to remain the home of the national game and that a decision would be made within 12-18 months.

14 months later and within the time scale set by the SFA the decision was made.

The historic case is no small thing. This is not just about the fact that: the origins of the relationship between football and Hampden go back to at least 1873; the oldest football international in the world is associated with Hampden; or that Hampden is part of the story of Glasgow at play that cannot be simply be relocated.

Scotland has given a lot to the world of sport and the relationship between football and Hampden is an important part of that success story. Glasgow has established itself as an emerging international sporting city and Hampden is part of that success story. It is the only Scottish city and one of only two UK cities in the top 20 sportcal index of international sporting cities. Hampden helps to connect Scotland and Glasgow with other parts of the world.

While Italy does not have a national football stadium a survey of FIFA members showed that 65% of UEFA members (Europe) 83% of CONCACAF (North, Central America’s and the Caribbean); 81% OF CAF(Asia); 80% of CONMEBOL (South America) and 41% of AFC (Africa) members all have national football stadiums.

The attempt by the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) to shift the football powers from Glasgow to Edinburgh was ambitious and the decision to bid may still have spin offs for the SRU. The competitive advantages of ground ownership, greater stadium capacity allowed the SRU to offer the SFA financial inducements of up to £2 million per annum.

The SRU recognise the pull of football. Global impact studies will show that one in five people around the world connect with football is someway or another. It has a pull and attraction that is unparalleled and Scotland has an internationally recognised foothold in this world that many sports would like to tap into.

The fact that football playing members of football governing bodies are more than double that of rugby would not have gone unnoticed. The gradual increase in playing members sees football growing from 120,000 playing members in 2014 to 137,134 by 2017 compared to rugby’s modest growth from 47,598 in 2014 to 48,654 in 2017. In terms of adult men and women and junior boys and girls football numbers are far higher than rugby.

This is not the golden age for opinion pols. A 2017 survey of Scottish football fans showed that: 15% of the 2,923 involved wanted Hampden Park to continue as the national stadium; 34% of fans favoured a move to Murrayfield; playing at grounds across Scotland was the preference of 25%; 24% wanted a “new Hampden” built while 97% believed fans should have input to the decision. But what were the views of the 67,887 Scottish Football Supporters Association members who didn’t take part in the survey? Were the views represented mainly those of the bigger clubs who would financially benefit from the demise the National Football Stadium?

The prospect of regular Old Firm football matches being played at Murrayfield prompted the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) to put a marker down about the additional human and financial costs associated with policing the M8 corridor should the move to Murrafield have been sanction by the SFA Board. It is one thing for an Edinburgh Tory councillor to suggest that this is just a matter of resources but it is another thing entirely to find such resources on a regular basis.

The SFA would certainly have had to contribute to the cost of Murrayfield policing. It is a matter of judgement as to whether scarce SFA resources should be spent on policing or grassroots community developments given the proven benefits of football in relation to social cohesion and crime reduction.

In a nation that believes that devolved power and voice should be listened to the Mount Florida Community Council made their views known. The third Hampden Park, located on Mount Florida some 500 yds south of it’s predecessor opened in 1903. In a letter to Hampden Park Limited the Mount Florida Community Council put forward the case for remain on the grounds of the cost to local heritage, the local economy and local identity.

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken warned of a historic stain that would be impossible to erase should Hampden, Queens Park, King’s Park and Mount Florida be abandoned. The promise of increased capacities through the introduction of safe standing, improved transport links and a user friendly council to assist the SFA with any stadium alterations were all forthcoming. Glasgow City Council need to stand by promises made.

In someway Hampden suffered, as does Scottish sport, from not having a unified voice fighting and advocating for Hampden. The danger would be that Hampden and Scottish Football did not fully realise what it had until it was too late.

The reason why Hampden had to remain the national home of Scottish Football is that Hampden is the national and international recognised home of Scottish Football. Most FIFA member countries have national football stadiums. Hampden can and should be improved but it would have been be cultural theft and vandalism to move it out of it’s current location. Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen and the SRU may have gained financially in some small way if football moved away from Hampden but Scotland as a whole would lose nationally and internationally.

Scotland has a recognised base, role and reputation through football and therefore why would and should it have moved to a base where in the words of the SRU’s chief operating officer ‘Rugby has to take priority’. This is not mutuality, this is not equality, and it would not have been good for Scotland or Scottish football.

Scotland’s future with football looks bright and the most recent Social Return on Investment Report highlighted the fact that football was worth £1.25 billion to Scottish Society. At least four things are worth highlighting:

GIRLS’ AND WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
Continues to grow and develop, inspired by the Scottish Women’s
National Team qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019.
The Scottish FA have some ambitious targets to develop the game on and off the pitch. We have some of the best players in the world who act as role models for players and young people across Scotland.

HAMPDEN AS HOME
Ownership of Hampden Park will enable the Scottish FA to control the future of the stadium. It will open up opportunities to continue to develop the infrastructure and create a national stadium that could engage the next generation of football fans.

FOOTBALL FOR ALL
The Scottish FA are committed to working with clubs and partners to make football accessible for all. It aims to make our game as diverse as possible to represent our communities.

COMMUNITY CLUBS
Scotland has some of the finest examples of community clubs in Europe. As clubs continue to grow and develop football has been working hard with the football family to
offer advice and guidance, both on and off the pitch, to allow clubs, no matter their place in the pathway to fulfil their ambitions.

FOOTBALL SRI FACTS
£200m to the economy
£300m worth of social benefits, including crime reduction
£700m worth of health benefits

Professor Grant Jarvie
University of Edinburgh

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.

 

United States Sport Diplomacy under 3 Presidents

By Joe Marro

For decades, the U.S. has aimed to use sport as an effective aspect of diplomacy and cultural relations efforts with a view to establishing deep, meaningful relationships with local stakeholders.

America’s use of sports diplomacy involves the work of influential athletes, local programmes and partnerships around the globe.

Sport has played an important role in developing America’s international image. This was evident in the American boycotts of some Cold War era Olympic Games, the work of Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Billy Jean King, Arthur Ashe and NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in China.

The Sports Diplomacy Division

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush’s Administration created Sports United, now the Sports Diplomacy Division (SDD), to use sport as a way to conduct diplomatic outreach between the U.S. and countries in the Middle East.

These efforts included sending U.S. athletes and coaches overseas as well as the Sports Visitor Program, which brings non-elite athletes and coaches to the U.S. for a training and development programme.

SDD made significant strides during the Obama Administration, including the creation of two new programmes aimed at increasing access to sport participation for women and girls and developing female emerging leaders in sport.

In a 2013  study  conducted by Management Systems International and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of Policy and Evaluation, 92% of respondents said that their views of the American people had improved after participating in SDD programming.

The Sports Diplomacy Division consists of several programmes which aim to use sports as a platform for addressing foreign policy priorities across the globe.

SDD programmes have been growing and enhancing their impact. In the period from 2010 through 2013, the Sports Visitor, Sports Grants, and Sports Envoy programs all experienced significant growth.

  •  The Sports Visitor Program increased their impacted countries by 229% and experienced a 142% increase in the number of Sports Visitor participants.
  •  The Sports Grants program’s number of participants from 2010-2013 was 85% of their total participants in the eight years prior.
  •  The Sports Envoy Program had 179% more coaches and players in this four-year range than the previous eight years and reached 59% more countries than reached from 2005 to 2009.

Using sport to tackle global issues

Sports and Gender Equality

The work of the SDD is critical in improving opportunities for girls and women to participate in sport around the world.

In 2012, the State Department partnered with espnW to establish the Global Sports Mentoring Programme, which pairs emerging international women leaders with leading American female sports executives.

SDD’s Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative works to engage with underserved youth, particularly girls, in order to increase sport participation levels, raise levels of self-esteem, and increase focus on access to quality education.

This presents an opportunity for female leaders to participate in a five-week mentorship in the U.S. and allows them to bring lessons back into their communities with a view to promoting and fostering the growth of more female sport leaders.

Sport and Global Health

Physical activity has been shown to be an important part of preventative strategies to address global health. SDD works to increase physical activity through programmes like the International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI), which awards grants to U.S. non-profits working in 10 countries. This programme benefits both its international participants and U.S. non-profits, with 57 grants implemented through 38 different NGOs in the period from 2002-2009.

Since the programme’s introduction in 2002, there have been 862 Americans engaged in sport for development programmes overseas, and 1,462 foreign participants who have travelled to the U.S. to gain knowledge of the sport for change infrastructure.

Sport for Community

Since 2012, alumni from SDD’s “Sport for Community” programme  have mobilised close to 5,000 volunteers and impacted nearly 100,000 people through sports workshops, clinics, and conferences at the local level.

The Sport for Community programme partners with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee (UTK) to deliver these services across the country.

These partnerships with Universities like UTK, as well as the University of Kentucky’s  Global Centre for Sport Diplomacy are a sound method for delivering critical sport for development and social change programmes around the country.

These partnerships work to address pressing challenges both within the U.S. and abroad, in addition to serving a crucial role in helping to develop future leaders in the field.

American Professional Sports and Diplomacy

The United States Sports Diplomacy and cultural relations efforts also include harnessing the worldwide popularity of American sports leagues and athletes. In the past, athletes have visited countries where engagement with populations through traditional methods of outreach has proved challenging.

In early 2016, the SDD brought stars like NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to Cuba to engage directly with Cuban youth and build upon the work of people-to-people exchanges. Sport is seen as a natural avenue for engaging Cuban youth and encouraging a closer relationship between the two nations in the decades to come.

These efforts can be replicated in countries where direct public engagement is needed to foster relationships.

Along these lines, the National Basketball Association has made significant progress in growing the game of basketball and the American basketball product globally, especially in Europe and Asia. In China, the NBA has worked with the Chinese Ministry of Education to administer a programme focused on basketball and physical fitness that it is anticipated to be taken up by some 2,000 schools across China.

The U.S. government has a unique opportunity to partner with U.S. based professional sport leagues like the NBA who have already made significant strides in growing their international influence. These types of partnerships help to advance U.S. cultural relations efforts abroad, deliver key services to countries in need, and, where appropriate, help in growing meaningful relationships with governments.

Where are we now?

Despite the many successes of the SDD and the proven track record of sport for development around the world, the current Administration has proposed wide-scale cuts to the State Department’s appropriations, the federal funding source for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, of which SDD is a part.

Given the scope and impact of its programmes, the Sport Diplomacy Division boasts a significant return on investment, spending just .0001% of the State Department’s budget.

This month’s shakeup at the State Department, resulting in the ouster of Secretary Rex Tillerson and President Trump’s appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement, raises several questions for America’s diplomatic strategy going forward.

Mr. Tillerson presided over and supported proposed deep cuts to the Department’s budget and diplomatic corps. The first fourteen months of the Trump Administration have demonstrated an expected move away from soft power, creating a cloud of doubt around the role of diplomacy, including sport diplomacy and it’s place in America’s foreign policy over the next three years.

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 for Change : Some Women’s Voices from the Street

By Grant Jarvie and Alex Richmond 

Sport for change is sometimes taken to mean sporting activities that are intentionally used to deliver social impact for individuals and communities beyond increasing participation or performance. The logic of Sport for Change needs a clear set of outcomes stating the intentional wider social impacts that intervention a, b or c aims to achieve. The ground is then cleared for initiatives that are focused upon producing change in areas such as health, education, community empowerment, justice, safety, enterprise, employability and much more.

Accessing programmes for change through sport is complex and requires an understanding of groups, contexts and individual fears and barriers to participation.

For example, Sport in Focus 1:1 provides an insight into some of the barriers facing some women from disadvantaged backgrounds aiming to access street soccer in one country.

SPORT IN FOCUS 1:1 Women’s Voices from the Street 

Self-Selection

Quite often a lack of confidence can be a barrier to involvement in street soccer

■    I challenged myself by One- getting on the bus to come here to the other side of town and two – to discipline myself to come every week because it is only 6-weeks but that is a goal in itself”

■    “It’s about balancing the stuff going on in your head and with some of the exercises deal with coordination- you can’t have that little voice in your head telling you you’re no good at it”

Fear of the unknown

Quite often fear of the unknown can be a barrier to involvement.

■    She used to do sport activities on a regular basis and she liked the community around them. So there is something to hold on to but it takes people some time to do it and believe they can do it

■    “…and going of my own experience- you’re like that sounds cool and I want to do it. But I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what I am going into. Too many fears. Too many barriers holding me back….”

Football

Quiet often football is a barrier

■    “I think that’s a difficult thing as I come from a generation where football just was not…”

■    “…. that like me when I was a kid… I was the only one that played football… the rest of my friends didn’t play…”

■    “That’s usually the first thing some say. If I speak to people, with girls about Street Soccer, they’ll say I can’t play football… I don’t know how to play football…”

Structural barriers

Quiet often the type of activity and the location of the activity can be a barrier

■    …with temporary accommodation, it is usually around the city centre so it’s not an issue to get to places. But very often when people get Council housing they are outside, so coming into the city centre without having a bus pass or being on very limited benefits, that’s a barrier itself

The practical lessons learned from change interventions are varied and context specific.   Sport in Focus 1:2 provides an insight into some of these responses around three areas: Sport for Health; Sport for Social Inclusion and Sport for Conflict Resolution and Peace.

SPORT IN FOCUS 1:2 SPORT AND SOCIAL INTERVENTION

 – Lessons to be passed on

Health

■    “Our intervention taught us to always look beyond the obvious, that we set our goals from day one with community members and that we use our child protection policy and measurable activities to ensure that we are making positive differences in children’s lives.”

■    “The power of parents, parents and dedicated community members are integral to creating community ownership of a health problem that has dramatic impact on their children’s wellbeing.”

■    “The biggest practical lesson we have learned and already shared is the use of local talent who are hungry for opportunities to learn and succeed. As Rwanda is experiencing high levels of youth unemployment participants graduating from our programmes are in desperate need to support themselves and their families, retaining them within our programme has enabled us evolve, increasing the number and quality of services while at the same time supporting local communities and national goals for youth engagement”.

Social Inclusion

■    “The single biggest learning is that the significant challenges faced by a programme and or organisation will have solutions, but you need to engage members and those involved to find solutions from within rather than look to external agencies for support. Believing in each other and providing the resources and tools primarily from within provides the platform from which sustainability is created”.

■    “Our biggest single insight is local ownership of the programme which for us involves a blend of sport development and sport for development”.

■    “We learned that volunteer coaches need more than just initial training but ongoing support to foster their development, confidence and effectiveness”

Conflict Resolution and Peace

■ “A wide network, a willingness to be transparent and strong partnerships are vital” The ethos of sharing and partnership increases our ability to help refugee”

■ “Young leaders who are free of the baggage that so many of this and the past generations carry with them are ideally placed to actively contribute to creating a more stable and peaceful society – in our context they are the fourth vital pillar of community relations”

■    “Start small- because we started small and listened to the community we could identify strengths to build on like recognizing that many people believed in themselves”

■    “While conflict resolution content is crucial high calibre competition is no less important- it helped us engage participants on a long-term basis – an essential factor in effecting meaningful positive change”

■ “We have learned that success of our intervention in a conflict environment is dependent on long term activities that adapt to change on the ground. Long term programming is essential in order to support and gauge the gradual process of perception change among people and communities”

Sport for Change

While Sport for Change can be a resource of hope for many individuals, communities and groups, it should not be at the expense of recognizing the capabilities that are demonstrably delivered through sports participation or performance, nor should it be at the expense of the role of sport in voicing social alternatives, or being a critique of the triumph of capitalism.

The humanitarian aspect of the Olympic movement should perhaps come more to the fore ahead of medals or hosting major sporting events that many cities and countries cannot afford.

There is a substantial body of work that shows sporting mega events as adversarial sites and draws these into the politics of place and time. There needs to be at least a common narrative throughout these events if they are going to live up to the promise of the term social movement or a humanitarian resource of hope.

They certainly need an alternative to the neo-liberal narrative. Forms of activism around major sporting events invariably fall into categories such as spontaneous uprisings, grass-roots mobilisation and protest and special interest groups. Such events can act as soft power through arguing for transparency, accountability, local involvement and increased capability in community outreach with measured intentional social impacts.

Their needs to be more agreed common ground about sport for change and the language of sport for change where it is agreed that sporting initiatives unwittingly or otherwise should not produce harm while any divisions within sport about the language of sport needs to be inclusive and recognise that sporting factions are stronger together than apart. We should not underestimate the capacity of sport to collapse social barriers, nor should we ignore the lack of access to sport for youth living in poverty in many parts of the world. It is crucial to acknowledge the capacity of sport to facilitate social change.

The strength of sport’s capacity to produce change lies in its popularity in different parts of the world, its capacity to symbolise graphically but more poignantly work for social and political change, acknowledge success and learn the lessons from political failures through sport. Such alternatives both influence and are influenced by different visions of a world that continues to struggle with inequality, turmoil and lack of clarity about the nature of both capitalism and democracy. Contemporary researchers, teachers and thinkers about sport in the world today, and those working with sport are having an impact but more needs to be done.

Endnote

If those supporting sport for change move Beyond Sport as it is currently operating, invoke the idea of intentionality, maximise the social tool box that is sport then it might just be that an aspirational politics of the possible might be grasped if not realised.

 

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.

Sports diplomacy as an untapped source of globalised integration

By Stuart Murray

Sports News

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

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

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

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

Sports diplomacy, Ver 2.0: definitions and practical examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why sports diplomacy now?

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

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

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

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

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

The final whistle

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations for governments

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

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

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

smurray@bond.edu.au ; Twitter – @Diplomacy102

Selected references

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small steps can make a big difference

By

Pete Allison

Penn State University and the University of Edinburgh

European press coverage of the Middle East often portrays images of a war stricken region where women are oppressed and religious values contribute to intolerance. If dominant press narratives of the ‘middle east are not challenged the chance to provide alternative visions of this part of the world is problematic.

Sport has long since been used as tool for personal and social development (PSD)- something that this author strongly supports. I am interested in the contributions that sport can make to society and have spent much of my life leading and researching interventions that invoke the power of outdoor sports, expeditions and education.

Connecting cultures

In 2005 Mark Evans MBE was working as a Geography teacher in Saudi Arabia. Becoming disillusioned with UK media coverage of the Middle East and its incongruence with his own experience of living there he decided to advocate change.

A year later, several meetings with Kofi Annan (then secretary to United Nations) and the Sultan of Oman saw the start of Connecting Cultures (CC). A proactive approach to bring together young people from different countries across Europe and the Middle East to learn about each other’s cultures and carry that learning back to their communities and forward in their lives.

National UN offices identify future leaders through their in country networks and encourage them to apply to join a CC programme.

The hearth councils
The idea draws on TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who explains in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. 

“For the ordinary Arab, the hearth was a university, around which their world passed and where they heard the best talk, the news of their tribes, its poems, history, love tales, lawsuits and bargainings. By such constant sharing in the hearth councils, they grew up masters of expression, dialecticians, orators, able to sit with dignity in any gathering.”

The road from Oman: process, dialogue and outcomes
Successful applicants join 17 other young people (all from different countries) in Oman for 5 days of walking and talking in the Desert. This is definitely NOT boot camp. Bags are light, support vehicles work hard and all systems and structures are designed to maximise discussion and debate. Walking for around four hours every day in the Desert participants walk in pairs, small groups, ride camels and sometimes walk alone to reflect on their learning thus far. Questions are provided and afternoon workshops in the shade during the heat of the day focus on topics such as stereotypes, values, culture and community, media, dialogue and world leadership.

The ends is a focus on personal action, contributions to local community and how individuals or groups can ‘do their bit’ to make the world a better place.

At first sight this may seem a simple model … but there are multiple complex processes at play.

As a researcher this has challenged my own thinking about numerous methodological challenges. What is success for a programme like this? On what time scale? What can reasonably be attributed to the programme? People who go are a self-selecting sample – does that matter? How to frame the work – sociologically, psychologically, and philosophically. Which body of literatures both from inside and outside of communities to draw upon – international relations, expeditions, outdoor education, group dynamics, youth work, youth studies, peace building, tourism, recreation and more.

One answer is that all or any of these might be useful considerations and if money were no object then drawing upon all of them as part of a large mixed methods piece of work would be ideal.

How others see us and different ways of knowing
Above all – through thinking about this work and enjoying the process of pondering different epistemic choices I am reminded of the value of multiple different ways of knowing.

Especially important when working across cultures and in contexts that are under researched and in some ways novel.

Sometimes the most meaningful things are the most challenging to research. Some people might say that it is not possible to research this kind of work empirically but the purpose has never been to just gather evidence, frame arguments and advocate and lead change but rather the dependent and inter-related nature of all of these.