Sports cuts will impact upon social opportunity and life chances

By Grant Jarvie and Dominik Birnbacher

The news that sport in Scotland is to be cut by 20% backs up research first released by Edinburgh University in the Scotsman back in December 2016.. Figures released by BBC indicated that in 2015 52 sports benefitted from a total revenue of £65.1million. A figure that by the end of 2018 will have fallen to £58.1 million, a fall of 20% in the three years between 2015 and 2018.

While the Sportscotland response to the cut in funding focused upon the impact upon elite athletes many other areas of Scottish life could be affected. All of this in a week when the Holyrood Health and Sport Committee considered barriers to involvement in sport and physical activity.

In 2016 the United Nations put sport on a statutory footing in recognition of the contribution it could make to the 2030 sustainable development goals. What was significant about this was that having evaluated the available evidence about sports contribution the conclusion was that sport contributes to development goals 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 16. The Commonwealth Secretariat has concluded the same.

The point being is that what has being evidenced here is not a sterile debate about sport v physical activity or medals v participation but that sport is a valuable social tool that contributes to development and as such merits statutory provision.

Sport in Scotland is not statutory and yet it contributes greatly to young people’s heath and therefore their development (Health). It involves young people in positive activity, thereby helping them avoid trouble (Social Cohesion). It encourages concentration, motivation and other learning skills that helps young people’s education and their working and social lives (Education).

Sport is not a magic social silver bullet. No one silver bullet exists but if you want a healthier, more socially cohesive, socially mobile Scotland where the educational attainment gap has been challenged and Scottish cities are much more connected internationally then Scotland has to value much more the social tool box that is sport.

Yes, world sport has challenges over integrity and governance and physical activity can be addictive as well as healthy but clearly sport based approaches to development have a valuable contribution to make in terms of resilience, rehabilitation, social cohesion, soft power and diplomacy, connecting cities and many social and development goals.

The initial total proposed spending plan for Scotland in 2017-18 amounted to £31.4 billion of which £13.1 billion (41.7%) is allocated to Health and Sport. This represented a decline in both cash and percentage terms from the £12.9 billion (42.5 %) of the overall £30.4 billion allocated for 2016/17.

The allocation of resource for sport through the Health and Sport budget has reduced year on year from £71.8m in 2015-16 to £45.6m in 2016-17 to £42.4m for 2017-18. While this does not represent the total money available to sport the crucial point is that the consistent trend in the total funding made available through the Health and Sport budget has in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games been a downward spiral.

In an austere Scotland sport, it is worth remembering, has not always been determined by power and privilege. The draft 2017-18 Scottish budget runs the danger of increasing inequality and displaying a real lack of knowledge about what sport can and is doing in other parts of the world.

The vision of a Scotland where more people are more active more often, underpinned by an Active Scotland Outcomes Framework which is underpinned by a commitment to equality, is not backed up in expenditure terms.

The vast majority of the money allocated to sport within the Health and Sport allocation goes to the national sports agency which has the unenviable task of delivering government objectives and using its resource strategically to cover over cracks in other parts of the system. The excellent Active School Sports Co-ordinators programme was introduced in the 1980’s to cover over the cracks in a school sport and physical education brought about by a teachers strike while the innovative and contemporary Community Sports Hubs initiative serves to cover up cracks in local authority provision for sport.

The allocation of funding to the national sports agency is in itself unfair given the role that it is asked to play by government. The Scottish Governments 2017-18 draft budget sees a fall of 7.02% compared to the 2016-17 draft.

The budget lines are split between sport and legacy funding and physical activity funding. The Sport and Legacy allocation is down 7.57%. The physical activity allocation remains static at a time when participation levels in sport and physical activity for 2-15 year olds have still to reach a 2008 high of 71% according to the Scottish Health Survey’s figures.

The standard Scottish Government argument for Scottish funding ills is invariably that of UK austerity. An argument that fails to recognise that all main government funding streams into Scottish Sport are showing signs of decline. The advent of the 2014 Commonwealth Games perhaps masked the extent of the funding cracks for a while as the injection of funds to support the event and the creation of major capital builds such as Oriam, The National Performance Centre and the National Para sports centre help to conceal downward trends. Such developments can be seen to have delayed the onset of austerity in sporting terms.

The allocation of funding to the national sports agency consists of three main items Scottish Government funding made up from the General Fund and Grant in Aid and the share of National Lottery funding that is distributed through Sportscotland. The allocation of Cash back funding produced from the receipts of crime has from time to time augmented funding levels but such expenditure is difficult to plan since it may or may not be allocated to sport and lies within the Ministerial gift.

Scottish Government Funding for sport fell between 2015 and 2016 mainly due to the removal of capital funds between the two periods. According to Hudson and O’Donnell (2015) the allocation of funding in real terms fell by 36.5 % between 2015-16 and 2016-17 with the £71.8 million allocated in 2015-16 falling to £45.6 million in 2016-17.

Scottish Government Capital Funding fell to £2 million in 2016-17 compared to a high of £15.7 million in 2012-13 and the run up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The amount of revenue funding for sport has also fluctuated between 2011 and 2016-17 reaching a high of £33.7 million in 2015-16.

National Lottery Distribution Funding allocated to sport between 2007-8 and 2015-16 generally increased before decreasing.

The total resources distributed through Sportscotland generally increased up until 2015-16 and then decreased.

The proportion of the 2017-18 budget allocated to sport remains small compared to the total health and sport sector budget. The 2017-18 draft budget allocation of £42.4 million compared to £45.6 million in 2016/17 is a decrease of 7.0%. The Scottish Government’s sport budget as part of the health and sport portfolio, amounts to £13.1 billion or 41.7 % of the overall £31.4 billion Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL). This can be compared to £12.9 billion or 42.5 % of the overall £30.4 billion (DEL) for the year 2016/17. An increase in real terms and a fall in % terms.

The positioning of sport within the Health and Sport portfolio has been both enabling and constraining. The contribution that sport and physical activity has made to health has been grasped and prioritized. The sports contribution to Scottish society has at best been marginalized and least not provided with the space and resource to flourish. No where is this more evident than the allocation of time spent discussing the contribution that sport can make to Scottish Society within the overall business of the Holyrood Parliamentary Health and Sport Committee.

Admittedly Scotland does not control foreign policy but sport is one of the considerable avenues open to Scotland through which it can enable its influence on the world stage. The USA and parts of Canada tackle gender inequality in sport by legislating for it to be outlawed through Title IX provision as opposed to a £300,000 pa gender equality fund.

Norway and Holland have long since recognised the role of sport in International Development. The place of sport and physical activity within the challenge of educational attainment should be much more centre stage. Those lost safe common spaces for play could be recreated.

One respected political commentator has recently pointed out that football could actually be the conduit for breaking down barriers to tackling child abuse. All this and much more could emerge if sport was fully understood in terms of its full potential to Scotland.

The daily mile is to be applauded but daily enjoyable physical education provision should be recaptured and fought for not to mention the alternative education provision, such as the Spartans Academy, provided through sport in Scotland.

As China’s capacity supply of marathons, fun runs and building facilities for other countries outstrips demand and Australia’s development of it’s second sports diplomacy strategy begins to take on legs and arms it is doubtful if health and health alone is the main rationale.

In our sports stars Scotland has an an army of potential cultural ambassadors that with correct training could become potential diplomats and yet all of these potential possibilities and others could be lost if Scotland cannot find the space and political will to be far more politically aspirant and knowledgeable about what sport can do.

Yet the really sad thing about all of this is that sport used to be a proven pathway of social mobility and even an escape from poverty for a few. It reached into areas of multiple deprivation in a way that few other social tools can and yet falling trends of public funding for sport runs the risk of opening a social class divide in Scotland where cost and access to funds means that consumption of sport becomes the preserve of the leisure middle class,

The face of sport from the Health and Sport Committee Members, as opposed to substitute members, to Scottish Governing bodies remains almost entirely white and the real tools to create gender equality in and through sport such as a Scottish version of Title IX legislation is deemed to be too expensive.

This can be said while still acknowledging that the advent of the National Para Sports Centre is progressive and groundbreaking, the potential of the Community Sports Hubs to the conduit for developing human capabilities in challenging environments is enormous but not as a replacement for school or after school activity activity but rather a complimentary resource.

It does not have to be this way and yet the spaces to enable the potential of sport to deliver more for Scottish Society are few and far between and the cutting of resources to national sports agencies, amongst others, means that the capacity to paint over the cracks is diminished, the invitation to increase private provision for some is increased and the capacity to influence other parts of the world through sport is seen as an add on.

The only winners if Local Authorities cut the resources given to Sport and Leisure Trusts are the private providers whose pricing structures tend to reproduce rather remove social class patterns of sports consumption.

One of the potential dangers of Brexit upon sport in Scotland is the further pealing away of human rights legislation and its impact upon the protection for para-athletes and disability in general. Sport can shed a real light on concerns over Brexit but is it discussed at all in white papers and the volume of Brexit briefing papers?

Genuine sport for all means people cannot be excluded by cost, by lack of safe places, by lack of quality sustained pre school school and post- school experiences, or by lack of legislation that protects involvement in sport at all levels. Genuine sports for all is worth fighting for.

The social returns delivered by this primarily devolved activity are as much about the political choices made in Scotland as they are about funding cuts. Sport requires greater agreed cross-party support, statutory protection and political understanding of what can be delivered.

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

By

By Dr Paul Widdop, Dr Dan Parnell and Tony Asghar

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The rise and role of the super-agent

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

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

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

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

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

What is the role of an agent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jorge Mendes – a man at the top of the pile

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

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

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

What does this tell us?

medes

[Click on sociogram to enlarge]

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

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

 From an Agents perspective

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

For Asghar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The future

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps the final word should be that of Asghars:

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

Dr Paul Widdop is a Global Fellow with the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport and to contact the authors please email: p.widdop@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

The Two Hour Marathon: Who is it for?

By Michael Crawley 

Athletes relaxing after training

Athletes relaxing after training

In a two-part series in the New York times entitled ‘Man vs Marathon,’ http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/sports/two-hour-marathon-yannis-pitsiladis.html?_r=0Jeré Longman has taken a thorough look at Janos Pitsiladis’ project to accelerate the process which will, almost certainly, eventually lead to a human being running the arbitrary distance of 26.2 miles in a nice even two hours.

In the article, Pitsiladis says that the most likely candidate to achieve this feat would be an Ethiopian or Kenyan athlete with a hard, rural upbringing, and that the best way for them to run that fast for that long would be for them to minimise the amount of weight on their feet, probably running barefoot or with merely ‘a film that covers the bottom of the foot.’

I read the first article whilst I was staying at a rural training camp in Gondar, Ethiopia, where I am doing anthropological fieldwork with aspiring young Ethiopian runners. They happen to fit Pitsiladis’ model: they come from remote rural areas and spent much of their childhood and adolescence running barefoot or in cheap plastic sandals.

Athletes training at the camp at Gondar,

Athletes training at the camp at Gondar,

I read the second article sitting at the side of a field in nearby Debre Tabor with some of the young distance runners from the camp, waiting for the start of the ‘cultural sports festival,’ where people from the nine different regional states in Ethiopia came together to compete in horse riding, gena (resembling hockey with rough hewn wooden sticks and fewer rules) and tigel, a form of Ethiopian wrestling.

We were sitting at the side of the field for the second time that day, having been told at the first-proposed start time of nine in the morning that people didn’t feel like it quite yet and we should come back at three in the afternoon. At three thirty, there was still no sign of any action. The runners had put on traditional Amhara clothing for the occasion and didn’t seem concerned. ‘This is cultural sport, Mike. This is the good life, no-one is in a hurry.’

And running, I ask. Is that the good life too? ‘Sort of,’ I’m told. ‘But running is always about condition, every day worrying about condition, condition, condition.’

This seems to be a good time to ask them about the possibility of a two-hour marathon one day; is there a way for them to work even harder, to go even faster? ‘Two hours in the marathon?’ my friend Telahun* replies, before relaying the question for the others. ‘Yikabadal,’ they murmur together: ‘this is heavy…’ Telahun thinks for a while then adds, respectfully ‘maybe for Kenenisa,’ (Bekele, world record holder at 5,000m and 10,000m) he says, ‘but the Kenenisa of six or seven years ago.’

He then asks the question which Pitsiladis’ research seems to have missed, ‘why is this man so obsessed with that anyway? Aren’t we running fast enough already?’

I tell them that the project is looking for 30 million dollars of investment and they raise their eyebrows. Running clubs in Ethiopia pay modest salaries to their athletes of around 100 dollars a month. ‘So he’ll start a club with good salaries?’ Telahun asks. I’m not so sure about that, I tell them.

The irony is that the sub-2 hour project is focusing on cutting edge science to shave the remaining 177 seconds from the marathon world record. The project epitomises modernity’s project to keep pushing forwards, and to accelerate at all costs. And yet the life that Pitsiladis demands of his subjects is the opposite of this. His ideal candidate should avoid footwear at all costs. They should live off the land. Preferably they should live a life that enables them to practise discomfort, and they should have to walk long distances as well as run hard.

On our way back from a training session the other day we waited for an auto rickshaw to give us a ride back to the camp. A middle aged woman pushed in front of us in the queue, eying our tracksuits and saying, ‘you’re sportsmen, you can go on foot!’ No doubt Pitsiladis would agree. ‘Do you think she realises we got up four hours ago, at 5am, and that we’ve run 22 kilometers this morning?’ one of the athletes asked me.

When I asked my sub-agent friend Gebre about Pitsiladis’ project he told me that he thought it might be possible, but that you’d need to have a special training camp focused exclusively on that goal. ‘You’d have to lock them in,’ he told me, ‘and only let them out to fly to races. And after the race they’d need to be straight back on the plane and back to the training camp.’

He explained that most runners who run fast marathons and win good prize money want to enjoy life in the city a little bit. ‘They’ll buy a car, and drive back to Bekoji (the small town where much of Pitsiladis’ research is based), and then it’s finished for the two hour marathon for them,’ he told me.

But is there really anything wrong with these young men wanting to live their lives a little bit? One of the main problems with marketing distance running is that coverage fails to bring out the personalities of the athletes. Forcing an even more Spartan approach to training is hardly likely to solve this problem. Having become good friends with some Ethiopian marathon runners over the last year, this is a real shame for the sport.

My worry is that the obsession with the two hour marathon will lead to races where a phalanx of identically-dressed pacemakers attempt to escort one exceptionally talented athlete to a world record. The most exciting marathons in recent years, though, have been the duals, the tactical victories and the upsets; Wanjiru vs Kebede in Chicago 2010, Stephen Kiprotich’s Olympic title in 2012 or Meb Keflezighi’s 2014 Boston win. And given the problems with performance enhancing drugs both Kenya and Ethiopia are currently facing, now may not be the time to obsess over the watch. The athletes in Gondar were sceptical about the possibility until I mentioned drugs. ‘Well, yeah, with doping of course it’s possible,’ they said, ‘with doping you can run like a car.’

Training in Addis Ababa.

Training in Addis Ababa.

It is important to think about who the two hour marathon is for. At one point in the interview with Pitsiladis he talks about testing new and eccentric training theories, stating, ‘it may not work but let’s try it and see what happens’ and says he is a ‘risky person.’

This attitude is fine if we’re talking about an experiment in a lab, but these are young men from poor backgrounds whose livelihoods depend on their running. Are scientists taking risks with other people’s bodies? These athletes have hopes, dreams and often families and other dependents to support. They are not merely expendible sources of research data. Perhaps we ought to spend more time asking them what kind of sport they want to be involved in.

Michael Crawley is an Edinburgh University  PhD student in International Development, studying the links between distance running and development in Ethiopia. Here he reflects on the much talked about two-hour marathon, using interviews with young runners in Ethiopia.

* The athletes’ names are changed to protect their anonymity.

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.

English Premier League Trading Study – Preliminary Findings

By Dr Paul Widdop and colleagues

A preliminary study into the trading networks of English Premier League Football Clubs suggests that West Ham United might have the most to learn from this data.

Dr Paul Widdop, along with colleagues at the University of Konstanz (Prof Ulrik Brandes); the Mitchell Centre (Prof Martin Everett); and Alliance Manchester Business School (Prof Adam Leaver) examine the structure of the transfer system of the English Premier League from 1992 – 2015; and professional clubs position in it. Evidence shows that trading patterns are not random rational acts; rather, they show a more highly structured network with differing levels of power and centrality.

received_10209605720564984[1]

Click on diagram or link to enlarge.

Trade-Networks[7] diagram

A recent FIFA report highlighted the significance of the global trade network in ‘Association Football’. Indeed, football clubs around the world spent a record  $4.1bn (£2.7bn) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30998454 on international player transfers during 2014. A significant proportion of this £2.7bn is accountable to the English Premier League (EPL). In total England was the world’s biggest spender in 2014, with its clubs paying $1.2bn (£795m) during the year. Furthermore, with the recent signing of new broadcasting rights 2016-2019, EPL clubs are set to share £8.3bn TV windfall [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/12141415/Premier-League-clubs-to-share-8.3-billion-TV-windfall.html] this has major implications not only on the international transfer market system but also the domestic one.

In this study we take a historical approach to the macro trading system to uncover patterns of connectivity, whilst also examining clubs position within the structure and what this means to their success and failure. It is a study of the domestic transfer system. The study is ongoing, but this overview gives good insight into how this system operates and the fragility of some clubs within its dense structure. A good way to measure and visualise this system is through a social network analysis approach, where links are forged between football clubs through trade in players. Furthermore, if we examine each EPL club and its transfers, making links between them, since the formation of the premier league the result would be a network: the EPL trade network.

Before we highlight our initial results, there is a need to put the sociogram (network map) into context. The nodes (squares or rectangles) represent football clubs, the line linking the two is an edge, an edge represents a transfer between clubs. The direction of the edge (arrow) represents which way the transfer (player(s)) flowed –seller to buyer.

Furthermore, the node height and width is weighted in and out-degree (in = incoming transfers; out =outgoing transfers; where degree means the number of ties that a node has). Edges are sized by number (sum) of transactions between two clubs, that is, the more transfers between the same clubs the greater the arrow (edge).

As can be discerned from this basic sociogram link above , a complex network structure exists. We identify six points to think about in this brief insight into this network.

• First, there is evidence of a core periphery structure.

• Second, although they share geographical propinquity there is little trade between clubs that operate in the same foci; this is especially true in the North West of England.

• Third, one pattern that emerges is the trade flow or indirect supply chain between Liverpool FC or Newcastle United FC via West Ham United to Queens Park Rangers.

• Fourth, of all the clubs operating in this market, perhaps West Ham United have the most obvious stability issues, in that there is constant trading in and out of the club.

• Fifth, successful teams in this time period are relatively small players in this domestic market, they are more dependent on the international global world system and are therefore less involved (net senders are wider than they are high).

• Finally, trading may not equate to success but it may equate to an ongoing sustainability and maintenance of position.

As identified this is our basic sociogram of the domestic transfer system in England, as part of our wider project we are also exploring other networks which include, the global transfer system; manager and directors; managers; agents, super agents and plyers/managers. Finally, we are exploring the flow of money in these systems.

Brexit and sport: who is keeping the score?

By

Grant Jarvie and Paul Widdop

What does Brexit mean for Scottish sport?

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

As at June 2016 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Movement and Risk 

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

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

Work Permits

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

Player Transfers and Worker Rights

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

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

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

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

Youth 

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

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

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

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

Rugby

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

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

More Expensive Players

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

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

Funding for Scottish Sport

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

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

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

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

The Olympics

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

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

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

Student Sport and Knowledge Exchange

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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.

 

Sport, poverty and education

By Grant Jarvie

Access to sport can alter life chances and advance educational achievement.

PastedGraphic-1-1

Sport provides for both formal and informal education. The potential of sport to improve lives, help with the means to escape poverty and enhance educational achievement has yet to be fully realised and understood in Scotland. Sport can be a multi-faceted force for change and have far-reaching and multiple influences. It can help peoples’ development, raise aspirations, and be a source of hope across different demographics in society.

Sport should be embedded at every level of Scottish education particularly in areas of concentrated poverty. Universities are well placed to continue playing an integral part in developing the role of sport in the Scottish education system. Sports’ ethos and potential to improve life chances fits well with the ethos of Scottish Universities. Universities and sport are resources of hope. Universities are part of the fabric of Scottish life, fulfill the aspirations and hopes of many and because they have stood the test of time are ideal for building other things around them.

As Scotland strives to tackle poverty and boost educational achievement rarely do sport based interventions appear centre stage, but they can make a difference.

Access to sport can alter life chances and advance educational achievement but the power of education working with and through sport is something that Scotland has still to optimise.

Evidence exists to build such a case but does the political will? Education through sport is one of the most powerful local and international social tools that Scotland has but fails to fully use.

The challenges facing Scotland have been well documented and evidenced. Scotland does not face these challenges alone and it can certainly learn from looking at education through sport interventions used in other countries.

Key facts at March 2016

• Children born into poverty are 50% more likely to miss education milestones.
• 11% of children from the poorest areas leave school with no qualifications compared to 3% of the rest of Scotland.
• Schools (both sectors) Universities, Colleges, 151 Community Sports Hubs, Football Learning centres and 42 stadia embedded in Scottish communities.
• 210,000 children live in poverty in Scotland.;
• 2418 council run schools and an independent sector that uses sport to unlock potential and develop capabilities.
• Low incomes and debt problems often mean that small additional costs make some activities unaffordable. 14% of the Scottish population according to Scottish Governemnt 2016 figures live in low income poverty.

Sport, poverty and education

povertyday_2014-1 copy

The popularity of sport combined with carefully crafted education through sport interventions is not a solution but an important part of a solution. Build other things around it and sport can be a resource of hope. For some it can be an escape from poverty, for those involved it develops capabilities, its reach is rarely optimised and new sports are something all 3-18 year olds should have not the chance the right to learn. 

Sport matters and education through sport matters. Sport matters not just for sport per se but because of what it can do for other areas of public life and provision. It can reach areas where other policy areas struggle to reach. Combined sport and education interventions make a difference.

The social impact of sports based interventions including education through sport interventions tell us a lot..

  • Concentrations of poverty in areas of multiple deprivation impacts upon education. Education through sport interventions matter because they are proven to boost educational capability, confidence, mental health and other learning skills that help not just education levels but working and social lives.
  • The LSE study of poverty and access to sport talked to young people perceived not to be interested in sport “ it was an eye opener to learn how much joining in matters to young people, how much informal games, outdoor activity and sport can inspire and motivate them, and how many young people are held back from actively getting involved”.
  • Edinburgh (Moray House) and Oxford University studies of International women runners not only evidence how some women runners not only run to escape poverty but redistribute athletic wealth from running into social causes thus helping to build schools, provide scholarships and bursaries provide educational opportunity.

Scottish sport has historically contributed greatly to the social welfare of Scotland Education through sport is one of the most powerful local and international tools that Scotland has but fails to optimise.

Imagine a more healthy Scotland where all people can increase educational achievement, access sport, and alter life chances. .There is arguably few positive spheres of national life that can compete with the combined power of sport and education to make a real difference for health, education, social mobility, and winning friends though cultural relations initiatives.

Not affordable is an excuse- it is about political choice

Community groups fighting to have car free streets to allow children to play outdoor sport are thwarted on grounds of cost. It is not a question of cost but political choice.

The knowledge to unlock the potential of sports social toolbox exists but it needs to be much more of a priority through making braver political choices.

Creating hope where once there was despair

Great politicians, visionaries and inspirational leaders understand what sport can do. Mandela understood it but do our politicians believe Mandela enough to commit and act on his guidance.  

Creating opportunities for social mobility, education and altered life chances

While the case is not typical it is both timely and insightful as football and the world of football both celebrates and mourns the loss of the late Johan Cruyff.

For some football has been the informal education that has assisted with social mobility. As the obituaries for the great Johnan Cruyff rightly acclaim the great contribution that he made to world football it is perhaps easy to forget both the journey travelled and the importance of both the informal football education and a formal higher education to the three times world player of the year. He was the second son of Hermanus and Petronella Cruyff, brought up in Betondorp, a poor Amsterdam suburb and enrolled into the Ajax youth section at the age of 10. His mother worked for Ajax as a cleaner, his father a greengrocer died when he was 12 and his mother re-married to the groundsman at the Ajax club.

Cruyff was closely associated with the ideal and methods of total football which he took with him into a successful managerial career. Cruyff was fiercely conscious of the education and altered life chances that football had given him. He was also justifiably proud of his foundation that raised enormous funds to help sports participation of handicapped youngsters on an international scale. He was also proud of the Johan Cruyff Institute[http://johancruyffinstitute.com/en/]that looked to educate the next generation of leaders in sports management. The institute was founded in 1999 as a project of Johan Cruyff to train athletes in the world of management.

The passion for sport is used to drive education and development but also to provide opportunities.

To return to Scotland – What needs to be done?

Just Imagine:

  • If safe, supervised  parks and spaces to support sports activity flourish in all neighbourhoods.
  • If Game Changer initiatives to help sustain health and education were accessible through all local football stadia
  • If every child had the right, not just the chance to learn and sustain 3 sports by 3, 5 by 5 and 10 by 10 including swimming , recreational running and a team sport.
  • Free access to some forms of culture exist in Scotland but not others.
  • Building a world class community sports system which was the envy of the world with educational achievement and sports activity opened up through every, for example, community sports hub and care home.
  • If grassroots sports initiatives ,such as Spartans or Crags Community Centre in Edinburgh, were able to be sustained in every area of multiple deprivation.
  • If like some other countries one hour daily active quality physical education was sustained in every primary school.
  • Enabling a greater scale of early years interventions and affirming the right of every child to access sports’ activities such as swimming, recreational running, team sports and more.
  • Maximising the lure and adventure of sport reading to boost reading levels.
  • If Scotland had its own international inspiration sports programmes or its own equivalent of the Norway Cup.
  • If free accessible sports and education provision helped to address the issue of young people living in poverty and dropping out of sport after leaving school.
  • If we harness technology and accessibility to maximise the potential of popular sport and physical activity such as Football More than a Game.
  • The outreach work that Universities are doing through sport was both recognised and increased .
  • If an expanded Winning Students Bursary Scheme was able to support at least 2 students per year from each of Scotland’s 100 data zones from which the majority of children are deemed to be living in poverty.
  • School partnerships between the different school sectors and shared access to sports facilities.

Conclusion

Education is one of the greatest drivers to eradicate poverty and the concentration of poverty in areas of multiple deprivation. Sport can play a major role in Scottish education if the political will is there to unlock the potential of the social toolbox that is sport.

 Scotland is rich with policy ideas and opportunities do exist to build upon existing infrastructure, institutions and policy directions.     Further investment is necessary but the educational potential of sport should not be decided on grounds of cost but on its effectiveness and ability to transform lives.

In 2015 UNESCO issued a call to action for international policy makers in invest further in sport and physical education on the grounds that it was integral to greater educational attainment.   In Scotland we should rise to that challenge.

There are few spheres of our national life that can compete with the combined power of sport and education to make a real difference. Sport can be a resource of hope, it can assist with advancing educational achievement.

 Great leaders understand this.   “Sport has the power to change the world …..and create hope where once there was despair”[1].   Nelson Mandela, May 25th 2000.

[1] See http://www.scotsman.com/news/grant-jarvie-we-have-sporting-chance-of-a-better-world-1-3951043

 

Gender equity, audits and the Olympic Games

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

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

Professor Peter Donnelly, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Michele Donnelly, Kent State University, USA

Dr Mark Norman, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto, CANADA

The information provided was correct as at December 2015.

WomenRunners

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

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

In 2014 the Universities of Edinburgh and Toronto signed an agreement to work more closely together. See the joint Edinburgh-Toronto Public seminar series on sport and physical activity [http://www.ed.ac.uk/education/institutes/spehs/academy-of-sport/dialogue/edinburgh-toronto-public-talks]

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

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

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

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

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

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

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

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

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

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

London 2012 Olympic Games

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

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

The research questions

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equality is far from being achieved

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Olympics       %events       %women       % increase/decrease in

                                                                athletes         athletes (from previous Games)         

 Barcelona 1992              31.9                28.8                 +2.7

Atlanta 1996                    34.3                34.0                  +5.2

Sydney 2000                   38.7                38.2                  +2.5

Athens 2004                    40.2                40.7                  +2.5

Beijing 2008                    40.7                42.4                  +1.7

London 2012                  45.0                44.3                  +1.9

Winter Olympics       %events       %women        % increase/decrease in

                                                             athletes          athletes (from previous Games)

Lillehammer 1994          44.3             30.0                         +2.9                       

Nagano 1998                  45.6            36.2                         +6.2

Salt Lake City 2002        46.2             36.9                         +0.7

Turin 2006                      46.4             38.2                         +1.3

Vancouver 2010             46.5             40.7                         +2.5

Sochi 2014                     46.2             40.4                          -0.3

Accounting for the failure to achieve equality:

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

            The role of the IOC is: […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Olympic Agenda 20+20:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women's participation in the Olympic Winter Games

Year Sports Women's eventsTotal events% of Women's eventsWomen's Participants% of Women's participants
1924121612.5114.3
1928121414.3265.6
1932121414.3218.3
1936231717.68012
1948252222.77711.5
1952262227.310915.7
1956272429.213417
19602112740.714421.5
19643143441.219918.3
19683143540.021118.2
19723143540.020520.5
19763153740.523120.6
19803153839.523221.7
19843163941.027421.5
19883194641.330121.2
19924265745.648827.1
19944286145.952230.0
19986326847.178736.2
20027377847.488636.9
20067408447.696038.2
20107418647.7104440.7
20147499850.0112040.3
An audit of women's participation and medals in the Winter Olympic Games
* including mixd events

 

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

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

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

 Part 2: Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distance raced:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Weight categories/restrictions:

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

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

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

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

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

 Differences in equipment and playing area:

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

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

Other differences:

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

 Final Comment

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

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

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

Notes: 

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

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

Available at:

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/csps-pdfs/donnelly-donnelly—olympic-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

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

Available at:

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/csps-pdfs/kidd-norman—commonwealth-games-gender-equality-report-part-1.pdf?sfvrsn=2

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

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

Available at:

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/csps-pdfs/kidd-norman—glasgow-2014-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Donnelly, M., M. Norman & P. Donnelly (2015). The Sochi 2014 Olympics: A Gender Equality Audit. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/csps-pdfs/the-sochi-2014-olympics—a-gender-equality-audit.pdf?sfvrsn=2

In progress:

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

  1. Our calculation of the proportions of women athletes and events for women differs from that of the IOC [www.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Women_ in_Olympic_Movement.pdf].

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.