Muirfield, golf and the myth of Scottish egalitarianism


Grant Jarvie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sport, poverty and education

By Grant Jarvie

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


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[]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.


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


Beyond a boundary


Grant Jarvie

On January 5th 2016 Temba Bavuma became the fist black African to score a Test century for South Africa. Bavuma is only the 5th black South African to play test cricket for South Africa in a country in which about 80% of the population is black.

Cricket as culture has a long history in South Africa from at least 1808, when one of the earliest cricket matches was recorded, to the present day. It has with other sports provided a voice for the voiceless, been a symbol of resistance to apartheid as well as being seen by the present South African government as means to achieving togetherness, mutual understanding and respect.

With South Africa being readmitted to international cricket in 1991, following the end of apartheid, Bavuma has long since been aware of the fact that for him and others cricket has a significance that goes beyond the boundary. Commenting upon making his debut Bavuma explained, “it’s not about me making my debut it’s about being a role model, an inspiration for other kids…black African kids”.

CLR James writing on cricket inspired Joseph O’ Neil to write Netherland, a novel dissecting American society whose touchstone was the cricket brought by immigrants to New York. It challenged the political barriers of class, race, culture and art.

In a different but similar way Bavuma’s triumph, like CLR James’s triumph in Beyond a Boundary, has contributed to reinvigorating cricket with a new political energy and for those who question the significance of sport as culture it is a reminder that the symbolism and lasting impact of playing sport can send powerful messages.

Cricket South Africa’s commitment to transformation is well served by Bavuma’s performance from the crease but his words, after his historic century, were much more about hope for the future.

FIFA, reform and women’s soccer

FIFA was recently asked to reform it’s governance structures  and become more representative and inclusive of women’s soccer.

It was also asked to reflect upon the fact that investment is world soccer is skewed.

Presented below is a summary of the case presented to the FIFA reform committee.

The case for reform prepared by Moya Dodd and Sarai Bareman 

The Academy of Sport was invited to support the bid by Monika Staab Global Fellow and FIFA ambassador for women’s football. 

Under pressure from authorities, commercial partners and stakeholders within, FIFA is in need of imminent change. The opportunity to reform and produce a more equitable governance structure exists now.

Women's World Cup Soccer

Women’s World Cup Soccer

Key facts at November 2015

• 111 years after FIFA was formed, women are still vastly under-represented at every level of the pyramid in the world game.
• The European Commission recently called for minimum 30% gender representation in international sports governing bodies, 40% in national sports governing bodies, with a minimum 40% in management.
• FIFA Women’s Football Survey 2014 shows CONMEBOL (2%) and UEFA (6%) have the lowest % of women on Executive Committees of member associations.
• FIFA’s first women’s football tournament was held in 1988; the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, and women’s football was first played in the Olympics in 1996.
• Currently, FIFA still holds only men’s competitions in club football, futsal, and beach soccer.
• In March 2015, FIFA signed the Brighton + Helsinki Declaration, affirming the organization’s commitment to gender equality.


McKinsey measured the “organizational excellence” of companies in Europe, North America, and Asia by evaluating them on nine organizational criteria. When they examined the senior management teams of these companies, they found that those with three or more women had higher scores, on average, than teams with no women.

McKinsey found that the score increased significantly once critical mass was reached—about one-third women (Women Matter: A Corporate Performance Driver, McKinsey 2007).

What is the problem?

Football today is overwhelmingly male – not because women and girls are inherently disinterested or but rather due to decades of institutional and social barriers that prevent them from playing. When girls don’t play, women’s equity in leadership in technical, administration and governance remains under-realized.

Too few decision makers in football appreciate the nature and scale of the issue. At the 2015 FIFA women’s football symposium delegates from 171 member associations presented calls for reform that would fundamentally alter football’s profile.


Given that women constitute an enormous opportunity with for football such measures would serve FIFA’S objectives.

Women are under-represented in decision-making

Women comprise only 8% of ExCo members globally. At Confederation level, only 8 women hold ExCo positions, and some Confederations have none.

Within FIFA itself, there are 3 women out of 26 ExCo members; the Standing Committees contain hardly any women (outside the women’s football committees) and only one Director is female.

Globally, just 2 of 209 Member Association Presidents are women – less than 1% of the voting population in FIFA Congress – and in the majority of Confederations there are none at all.

Only 7% of registered coaches are female, and they battle a “grass ceiling” despite their qualifications and disproportionate success.

It is not only football that has disproportionately low female participation in decision-making: it is a pattern in society generally. Improving this ratio is now recognised as a major driver of social and corporate value.

A large body of emerging research shows materially positive effects of gender balancing, such as:

• 26 % better share price, where at least one women is on the board.
• 56% better EBIT and 41% better Return on investment than that achieved by all-male executive committees.
• reduced severity and frequency of fraud8.

Women’s football is under-resourced

The fan base exists but the resource distribution is skewed

The fan base exists but the resource distribution is skewed

Even though FIFA outlaws discrimination, it is still the case that many girls grow into women without having the chance to play in a team or know how it feels to score a goal.

Those who do get less opportunities, fewer competitions, reduced support and diminished rewards compared to their male peers, largely because historical, social and institutional bans have delayed competitions and affected development.

Barely 40% of member associations offer girls grassroots programs18 and all around the world, competitions and playing pathways are more limited. Even in FIFA itself, development funds dedicated to women’s football amount to only a modest share of the total.

Football’s stated ideal of ‘no discrimination’ has not yet translated into the active provision of equal opportunities for girls and women to participate in football.

As the biggest and most popular sport in the world, football is well-placed to invest in its largest, least-developed “greenfields” opportunity – the women’s game.

The fan base is international.

The fan base is international.

The impact would be transformative. With fair and proportionate resourcing, football can become the leading sport for women in the world – as it deserves to be, and as it already is for men.

Why is this a matter for the FIFA Reform Committee?

FIFA needs to rehabilitate its own image, and the image of football. Addressing gender imbalance is a visible and convincing means to demonstrate that this Reform Committee, FIFA and football are prepared to lead rather than lag society, and be a vehicle for progress.

It will build FIFA’s equity among the stakeholders of today and tomorrow, recognizing the fundamental shift in society’s expectations, and this will contribute enormously to rebuilding the credibility of FIFA, and football, in the eyes of the watching world.

Only 2 out of 209 member association Presidents are women.

Only 2 out of 209 member association Presidents are women.

Better gender balance of itself will deliver improvements in critical aspects of football’s governance by creating a better, more diverse decision-making environment and a culture that is less prone to corruption.



FIFA urgently needs both, and has been pressed by, and made promises to, various bodies.

• In March 2015, FIFA signed the Brighton + Helsinki Declaration, affirming the organisation’s commitment to gender equality. In pursuance of that commitment, FIFA should increase equality measures within its own governance systems.
• It has also been called upon by the European Commission to ensure better gender balance in decision-making, as well as members of the US Congress.
• FIFA has been urged to act by stakeholders within FIFA, including the Women’s Football Symposium in July 2015 and the Task Force for Women’s Football in August 2015.


Inclusion in decision-making

The Reform Committee is respectfully requested to recommend an immediate 20% presence of women on the FIFA Executive Committee, to be mirrored within a reasonable time at all levels (Confederations, MAs, clubs, etc) with a longer-term target of 30% gender balance.

Investment in the women’s game

The Reform Committee is respectfully requested to recommend an immediate requirement for all football stakeholders (including governing bodies and clubs) to actively resource participation opportunities for women and girls at all levels, without gender discrimination in fair financial proportion to its female participation and potential.

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.


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 [] 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’ [].

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.


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 [] and ultimately they have had tightened their spending [], which impacts frontline services and the experiences of people playing.


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 []. 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?


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.

Sport for peace in a post- conflict Colombia

Sport for Development and Peace programme in Ciudad Bolivar in Bogota.

Sport for Development and Peace programme in Ciudad Bolivar in Bogota.

By Dr Alexander Cárdenas, PhD

If properly managed and articulated, sport could make a modest, yet tangible contribution to Colombia’s post-conflict era. 

Colombia has experienced the longest-running internal conflict in the Western hemisphere. Extending for fifty years, the confrontation between government forces, guerillas and paramilitaries has caused a profound fragmentation of society and a devastating loss of human life. In 2012 a series of exploratory talks between the government of president Santos and the FARC guerilla began in Cuba with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. With Norway and Cuba as guarantors, and a number of governments supporting the talks, this has been the first serious attempt in a decade to bring the two major actors of the conflict to the negotiating table.

Key Facts at August 2015 

  • The National Center for Historical Memory indicates that between 1958 and 2010, 220,000 people have been killed in the Colombian conflict (with 81 percent being civilian casualties).
  • 5,7 million have been displaced.
  • 900,000 have been assassinated.
  • 147,000 have been victims of forced disappearance.
  • Because of the internal conflict and rural violence, Colombia is home to the second largest internally displaced population in the world.
  • A surveyed conducted during the 2014 Brazil World Cup and featured on the New York Times online edition set out to explore the perception of football fans in nineteen countries. In relation to Colombia, the study found that 94 percent of Colombians were interested in football, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed.
  • 94% percent of Colombians believe football is important or very important for the nation.
  • During 1949 and 1954, a period known as El Dorado, Colombia’s football league was the strongest and best-paid in the world.
  • Bogota, Colombia’s capital, is home to the largest bicycle network (ciclovía) in the world.
  • Colombia has a strong sport-for-development tradition which began more than two decades ago.


Columbia- national football stadium in Bogota

Columbia- national football stadium in Bogota

Peace-building and sport in Colombia

Efforts at fostering peace are not restricted to finding a political solution to the hostilities but a peace movement largely associated with civil society seeks the mobilisation of all sectors of Colombian society to act in favour of peace through a variety of efforts and initiatives.

Increasingly, cultural and artistic expressions and notably sport, have been acknowledged by political leaders, international organisations and civil society as powerful allies to advancing peace-building in this nation.

Interest in exploring the role of sport as a tool for peace within the particular conflict context of Colombia is gaining momentum. Evidence of this is provided by the increase in the number of sport-based programmes and interventions that use sport as a tool to promote peace in communities affected by violence and conflict, as well as by an upsurge in newspaper and magazine reports, TV and radio shows, seminars and forums informing the public on the sport for development and peace (SDP) phenomenon and showcasing the progress made by organisations operating in this field.

There are a variety of ways in which sport has made a contribution to building peace in this nation afflicted by five decades of violence and war. Sport-based initiatives promoted by NGOs (e.g. Colombianitos, Tiempo de Juego, Fútbol Con Corazón, Goles por la Paz), governmental programs (e.g. Golombiao, Gestores del Deporte) and the international community (notably UNDP, UNICEF, German International Cooperation Agency, Inter-American Development Bank, Peace and Sport) have all positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and youth across Colombia, while at the same time, raising awareness of the potential of sport as a vehicle to foster the values that are generally associated with peace such as non-violence, open dialogue, understanding and respect.

The enthusiasm and expectation that sport generates as a social cohesion tool must be coupled with a pragmatic understanding of the advantages and limitations of sport as a promoter of positive change within Colombia’s conflict dynamics, and even more so – since a peace deal can be reached as early as this year – within a potential post-conflict scenario.

Post-conflict and sport

There are critical issues that need to be addressed in order to take advantage of the opportunities that sport may offer in building a post-conflict nation.

Since sport is not a holistic peace-building and development tool, it is advised that SDP interventions and programmes should be embedded and operate within greater regional and national peace and development objectives and in conjunction with non-sport-based programmes.

The momentum that sport generates in Colombia as a peace tool needs to be sustained with substantive political reform. This may entail not only developing specific public policy on sport within the post-conflict context, but in addition, current programmes and interventions must be redesigned to meet the challenges that the post-conflict phase may pose.

Of particular interest is examining how sport can assist in reintegrating combatants back to civilian life and in providing psychosocial recovery and creating economic opportunities for victims of war.

A recent study conducted by the author found that SDP officials – including trainers and coaches – perceived themselves as peacemakers or peace facilitators.

Given this, officials and trainers operating with NGOs may enhance their peace-making skills by receiving formal instruction from academic institutions and practitioners whose work gravitate around areas such as peace-building and conflict resolution.

Collaboration between academic institutions (in training personnel and assisting foundations in designing, implementing and evaluating SDP programs) and NGOs operating in this field is yet to happen and is strongly recommended. Moreover, academic institutions can critically reflect on the possibilities and limitations offered by sport as a peace tool with the aim of improving sport-based interventions.

Finally, as the international community turns its eyes and resources on Colombia and its post-conflict era, material resources and technical assistance can be leveraged in order  to support post-conflict SDP initiatives via international cooperation schemes.


Sport will not put an end to Colombia’s five-decade war but it can make a modest and tangible contribution to building (and ideally, sustaining) peace in this nation.

A thorough analysis of the advantages and limitations of sport as a viable peace tool is necessary. It is also paramount to successfully mobilize the diverse stakeholders involved in the SDP sector and develop clear policy on the social role of sport with a focus on Colombia’s post-conflict phase.


FIFA 2015, myth, equality and women’s football

The progressive march of women’s football offers a different story from that of corruption, governance and the FIFA arrests of May 2015.

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place in Canada from 6th June.

10 key facts at June 2015

  • 30 million participants world wide and growing
  • FIFA global investment in women’s football, in one year, amounted to $38,934,824 US
  • Estimated economic impact of $337 across Canada
  • 1991 inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup
  • 2015 twice as many teams have qualified when compared to 1991
  • 1795 reference to a women’s football match, Musselburgh, Scotland
  • The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the largest single sporting event in the world for women
  • 8 FIFA Presidents since 1904, one more to be elected, all men and the co-option of women onto the FIFA Executive Committee did not occur until 2012/13
  • At June 2015 Germany was top of the FIFA Women’s Rankings which are made up from 138 countries
  • Since 2008 FIFA have targeted have targeted, grassroots development programmes for women in Jordan, Syria, Myanmar, North Korea, Eritrea and Palestine to name but a few places.

Myth no 1: Women’s football is not global

 While 12 teams competed in 1991, 24 teams, from six confederations [Africa, Asia, Europe, North, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and South America], qualified for the event in Canada: USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, England, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and the hosts Canada.

The FIFA Women’s World rankings include 138 countries and of the teams ranked in the top 20 in the world only Italy and Iceland will not be present in Canada.

 Myth no 2: Women’s football is not popular

 The 2014 FIFA survey indicates that women’s football has more than 30 million participants worldwide and that FIFA is responsible for the largest sporting event in the world for women.

We regularly hear that in the USA more women play football than men.

The number of registered players is estimated to be about 4,801,360.

 In absolute terms, Turkey (46,353) and the Netherlands (11,734) have shown the biggest increase in the number of players.

Europe (UEFA) recorded 1,208,558 registered female players in 2014.

FIFA indicate that the number of registered women players is 4,801,360.

 Myth no 3: Women’s football is new

 It is myth to suggest that women’s football is new, for clearly it is not.

  • 1795 One of the earliest references to a women-only football match is recorded near Musselburgh, Scotland.
  • 1881 Britain’s first recorded international women’s football match played in Edinburgh. A team representing Scotland beat one from England 3-0, with Lily St Clair scoring the opener.

The first FIFA Women’s World Championship was held in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1991, fulfilling a pledge made by then FIFA President João Havelange at the 1986 FIFA Congress in Mexico City.

The next hosts of the FIFA flagship competition for women were Sweden (1995), the USA (1999 and 2003), PRC (2007) and Germany (2011).

 Myth no 4: Women’s football has no economic impact

 The impact of major sporting events upon local economies is one of the popular arguments used by cities and governments to rationalize such events. The rationale should not be gender specific.

The Minister of Health and Regional Affairs for Northern Alberta, Rona Ambrose, noted that this is the first major sporting event hosted from coast to coast in Canada, with matches to be played in: Vancouver, British Columbia; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Ottawa, Ontario; Montreal, Québec; and Moncton, New Brunswick.

It is estimated to have an economic impact of $337 million across Canada.

Inequality continues to persist- for winning the FIFA Men’s World Cup Germany received £22 million while the winners in Canada will receive about £1.2 million.

Myth no 5: The FIFA Presidents men have championed equality

 FIFA maybe a multibillion-dollar organization with estimated reserves of $1.5 billion US dollars, govern the worlds most popular game, but since its foundation in 1904 all 8 Presidents have been men.

Yet the tipping point to opening up the possibility of further progressive change may have been triggered when US Attorney General Loretta Lynch ordered the arrests of top FIFA officials.

  • The co-option of women onto the FIFA Executive Committee did not occur until 2012/13

 In claiming to be global, football has to continue to press the case to avoid the charge of being football for some and not all.

It would be clearly be a further myth to accept that equality exists in world football for as current events clearly demonstrate it is inequitable, facing corruption charges, and in simple governance terms lacking in transparency, accountability, and levels of trust that football enthusiasts all over the world can buy in to.

Yet the progressive march of women’s football is impressive and is much needed in the aftermath of FIFA’s corruption scandal.

Read more about Sport, Inequality and Social Justice on the Academy of Sport’s website.