Briefing on FIFA Presidency, 2016-2019 elections and reforms


Grant Jarvie

Facts as at 28 February 2016 


• FIFA still in a perilous position with on-going American and Swiss investigations into current and former officials. The extraordinary FIFA meeting in Zurich is an attempt to show the various legal authorities that FIFA can, with confidence and trust, regulate it’s own affairs.

• The Department of Justice if it does not believe FIFA is reforming could charge the organisation under US LAW with racketeering.

• The Swiss investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) competitions is still on going.

• 26 Feb 2016 FIFA elected the 9th President, the previous 8 have all been men and have reflected European power in world football. The new President will be the 7th President from Europe – excluding Switzerland- 8th if Switzerland included.

• The Presidential voting on the 26th February was by secret ballot. Many Candidates did not want to declare their hand for fear of affecting their countries opportunity to access FIFA resources.

• The Scottish and English FA backed the Gianni Infantino, the UEFA secretary general since 2009. Allegedly he had strong support from Europe, South America and the Caribbean and won after a second round of voting.

• The Presidential front-runner going into the elections was Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al- Khalifa of Bahrain and President of the Asian Football Confederation. Denies being involved in Human Rights violations and had to overcome the threat of this being the main story if elected. Had the backing of the Asian Confederation and Africa.

• The issues addressed by the FIFA Congress relate to reform, restoring trust, strengthening governance, and fostering diversity. Prior to the recent round of reforms only 2 of the 209 member organizations were led by women despite women’s football being one of the fastest growing games in the world.

• The package or reforms ratified involve the FIFA executive being replaced by a new FIFA Council that will include a minimum of 6 women, one from each of the 6 confederations.


  • FIFA is the main governing body of world football. An association governed by Swiss law with its headquarters in Zurich.
  • Founded in 1904 in Paris with the original 7 members, all being European, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • The English FA joined in 1905, Scotland and Wales in 1910 and Ireland in 1911. By 1914 FIFA had 24 members with 4 coming from outside of Europe, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and United States of America. Between 1950 and 1984 membership doubled from 73 to 150 and by 2014 FIFA had 209 member countries.
  • The previous 8 Presidents have all been men 3 from England, 2 from France, 1 from Belgium and Brazil and the outgoing President Sepp Blatter from Switzerland.
  • Friday 26th is a pivotal moment for FIFA with a new leader and a raft of new reforms.

Acting President- “ This is our opportunity to show we are united in building a stronger FIFA”


  • Gianni Infantino, Italian –Swiss, 45 UEFA General Secretary – has the backing of the Scottish and English FA.
    “ If we stop doing politics and start doing football, the world will admire us”
    Wants to expand the World Cup to 40 teams to ensure that a greater number of smaller countries can participate- he also wants to expand FIFA’S development plan by investing £860m and giving £3.6m to each member association.
  • Ist round votes gained 88.      2nd round votes gained 115.
  • Prince Ali of Jordan, age 40, called for a transparent ballot, possible a significant player in deciding the victor, the only candidate from a national association- Jordan.Wanted to quadruple the amount FIFA’S member associations receive but Wanted the money properly accounted for.
  • Ist round votes gained 27.       2nd round votes gained 4.
  • Jerome Champagne, age 57, former adviser to Sepp Blatter. Former FIFA executive from France.
    Wanted to modernise, introduce technology, rebalance inequality, help referee’s have women in key FIFA roles.
  • 1st round votes gained 7.        2nd round votes gained 0.
  • South Africa, Tokyo Sexwale’s, age 62, failed to win support from Confederation of Africa Football. Former political prisoner on Robben Island, not expected to win but crucial to where the votes go.
    Wanted to put sponsors on national team shirts to help raise money for football associations. Withdrew before the 1st round of votes.
  • Sheikh Salman, Bahrain, the favourite, is Asian Football Confederation President with support from Asia and most of Africa, age 50.

“ We want someone who is responsible and can deliver the promises”

Wanted to split FIFA in two with a business side handling commercial issues and a           football side organising World Cups and developing the game- believes the 2 sections apart will stop executives making self- interested decisions.

  • 1st round of votes gained 85.       2nd round votes gained 88.


Governance and diminishing levels of trust are at the heart of FIFA’s problems and are at the heart of the reforms. They have been criticised on the grounds of a lack of diversity.

Disclosure of salaries
This will happen on an annual basis for the FIFA president, all FIFA council members, the secretary general and relevant chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees.

Presidents limited to three terms of four years
This applies to the FIFA president, FIFA council members and members of the audit and compliance committee and of the judicial bodies. Sepp Blatter served five terms as FIFA president dating back to 1998.

Separation of political and managerial functions
The elected FIFA council will replace the executive committee and will be responsible for setting the organization’s overall strategic direction. The general secretariat will oversee the operational and commercial actions needed to implement the strategy.

Promotion of women in football
A minimum of one female representative will be elected as a council member per confederation.

Human rights enshrined in FIFA statutes


• FIFA Executive, 6 Confederations and 209 members.
• FIFA Executive of 24 members replaced by a FIFA Council of 36 members + President with a minimum of 6 seats for women representatives.
• New FIFA Council seen as strategic and supervisory, no direct influence over FIFA business, Non-Executive President with no casting vote, minimum of 6 female council members.
• FIFA confederations must a minimum elect one female member per confederation.
• FIFA Council separation of powers from Secretary general (CEO), FIFA compliance officer and FIFA Administration.
• Term limits 3-4 years.
• Annual compensation, disclosure and review of remuneration.
• FIFA council sets commercial strategy and FIFA congress budget. FIFA council sets strategy for development and governance of competitions. Development spending allocated by a further independent committee.


• FIFA standing committees cut from 26 to 9 to promote streamlining.
• Key committees to have at least 50% independent members covering finance, governance and development.
• New footballers stakeholders committee representing clubs, players, referees, coaches and leagues.
• Annual football conference for top executives of member associations.
• Promotion of women in football and more women in leadership.
• FIFA, confederations, and members associations to have a commitment – statutory obligation- to empower women in football.


• FIFA, contractors, competition organisers, member associations.
• Labour laws
• Children’s rights
• Justice
• Men and women
• Para athletes.

22 countries voted against the reforms . The reforms were carried on an 89% vote for.


Different regulations for different rounds of voting for the President.

Required 75% approval for the reforms to be passed. The reforms received unanimous support.

207 of 209 members vote with Kuwait and Indonesia suspended.

The winner required 138 votes in the 1st round; 105 votes in the second round.

Africa has 54 votes; Europe (UEFA) 53 votes; Asia 46 votes; North and Central America 35 votes; Oceania 11 votes; South America- 10 votes.

1st, 2nd and 3rd round voting options existed until a President was elected.

Different regulations for different rounds of voting for the President.


The new President’s incoming speech:

  • “ Desire that FIFA is fully respected again”
  • “ FIFA will be restored … and proud of what we will do together”
  • “We have just had a competition for Presidency but also a sign of our democracy”
  • “ I want to be the President of all of you”
  • “ The moment of crisis is over, we will implement reforms and new governance arrangements- but also win respect fro football”


Questions remain for the new President.

• Finance and sponsors, will they support FIFA or will FIFA have the same issues as the IAAF? FIFA estimated to be more than $US 250 billion dollar operation.

• The bidding process for 2018 and 2022 – will the new President review the situation and publish the full copy of the Garcia report?

• Trust in the new arrangements and people will be hard won and will the new reforms solve the problems facing FIFA?

• What is the first thing FIFA or the new President should do?

• Women are vastly under-represented in the decision making process. Globally just 2 of the current 2009 Member Association Presidents are women and the reforms are a long way from equality.

• Few fans or players recognise these individuals let alone know about or trust their policies.

• Too many it may not feel like change. All of the men running for President were/are from the football establishment.

The reforms need to be seen to be lived out on a daily basis might being more important than who is the actual President.



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.

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.


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 []

  • 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
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 (, 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.


  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:—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:—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:—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.—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 [ 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.

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.

Football, creating influence and shaping how others see us.

Scotland v Germany 1929-2015

By Grant Jarvie

It may have been a spirited 3-2 on the pitch but the morning after Scotland v Germany European Championship qualifier the National stadium hosted another event that examined not only Scotland and Germany ‘s footballing links but also how other countries are using sport to create influence on and of the pitch.

On September 8th the Centre for Cultural Relations and the Academy of Sport joined forces to hold a workshop entitled:

“Scotland and Germany: The Future for Sport, Cultural Relations and International Development “

The workshop was funded by the Scottish Government and kicked of a series of events that focused upon Scotland and Germany. The event was also supported by the National Football Museum at Hampden Park.Untitled

Richard McBrearty of the National Football Museum briefed those present on the history of Scotland V Germany. Scotland’s first tour of Europe involved a match against Germany in 1929; the teams have played 17 times between 1929-2015 with Germany winning 8, Scotland 4 and 5 being drawn.

Untitled3Between 1906 and 1933 Celtic, Aberdeen, His, Rangers and Cowdenbeath all toured Germany.

The hosting of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was supported by the Scottish Football Museum who helped to transport the world’s oldest football as part of the 2006 Hamburg FIFA World Cup exhibition.

Yet the 2006 World Cup won by Germany was significant for other reasons. It highlighted the significance of long term planning if cities and countries were going to use the hosting of major sporting events to improve their image.

The Arnholt-Gfk Roper Nations Brands index, which measures external views of countries, showed that Germany went from seventh place in 2004 to first place in 2007 and remained in second place in 2011. The 2014 results showed Germany back in first place and Scotland in 17th place. Sporting excellence was a factor widely cited as working in Germany’s favour.

Long term planning and a cost effective model of delivery were some of the factors, acknowledged by Bridget McConnell that contributed to a successful Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Having played for Frankfurt, Glasgow ladies, Scotland and Germany Katarina Lindner championed the positive contribution that women’s football was having not just in Glasgow but that different forms of football might be needed to attract different segments of the community into the game.

Having a football team in a city certainly helps to position a city and country. A fact that was evidenced by Professor Jon Oberlander from the University of Edinburgh who cited examples of Manchester, London, Liverpool, Oxford and Glasgow as cities whose social media profiles and volume of twitter traffic were all influenced by having football teams and or hosting major sporting events in the city.

In a month when Louise Martin was elected Chair of the Commonwealth Games Federation the audience at Hampden Park were reminded that Scots and those leading Scottish sporting institutions are creating influence within sport and through sport. Louise Martin, Stewart Regan and Sir Craig Reedie are but three sports administrators working in an extremely competitive international arena.

Having taken over from Lord Coe as, Chair of the International Inspiration Programme, Sir Martin Davidson, cited the fact that this programme reached 25 million children and young people in 19 countries. The significant role that Scottish sport had to play in international development was acknowledged by Humza Yousaf Minister for Europe and International Development who opened the event organized by the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport and Centre for Cultural Relations.

An ever-increasing number of countries are using sport as a vehicle for cultural relations, diplomacy and international development. The Australian Government has a specific 2015-18 sports diplomacy strategy. It has suggested that 3% of GDP should be invested in 4 pillars of diplomatic activity through sport – Connecting people and institutions; enhancing sport for development; showcasing Australia and supporting innovation and integrity.

In 2018 Glasgow will co-host a multi-sports event with the city of Berlin. Football clubs from both Scotland and Germany have called for support to be given to refugees. Sporting events like the Scotland V Germany match provide opportunities for not just football but civil servants, ambassadors, governments, cultural agencies and foreign diplomats to meet and do business.

If football can make a broader contribution then why shouldn’t cities, countries and diplomats use it as tool not just to create influence but to make a contribution to the world being less tense and better place.

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.


Shinty and football bring the past into the present

Source: Shinty Archive

Source: Shinty Archive

By Hugh Dan MacLennan and Grant Jarvie

One of Scotland’s oldest and most valuable cultural assets is to be showcased from October 2015, for six months, in the award winning Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

Shinty – Irish missionaries probably introduced iomain or camanachd in Gaelic – to Scotland two thousand years ago, almost certainly along with the Gaelic language.

It is one of the few sports that can claim to be native to Scottish soil and has a significantly important cultural dimension through its Gaelic heritage.

It is also one of the cultural anchors that has offered the Scottish diaspora an historical link with their roots along with Gaelic and Highland Games.

The sport’s main trophy in the modern era is The Camanachd Cup – the national championship trophy, first played for in 1896.

Many of shinty’s great trophies will be on display on a planned rotation and clubs and Associations within the game are to be offered the opportunity to be part of the six-month exhibition.


Shinty has been played throughout Scotland, including St Kilda, but never in Orkney or Shetland.

  • Shinty was traditionally played as a social pastime and particularly in association with New Year celebrations, prior to its organisation as a sport with rules and regulations in the latter part of the 19th
  • Before the leather, stitched balls were introduced at the end of the 1800s, balls were made from wood, woven wool, sheep vertebrae and even dried seaweed stalks.
  • Several football teams and stadia in England have a shinty connection such as Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
  • Shinty has been played at Hampden Park in Glasgow and other stadia such as Parkhead and Ibrox on occasion.
  • On Sunday 2nd March 2014 the newly formed club, Krasnodar Camanachd, held what is believed to have been the first shinty match on Russian soil.
  • Shinty’s greatest ever goal-scorer was Kingussie’s Ronald Ross who amassed more than 1,000 goals in his playing career.
  • A number of top footballers were noted shinty players in their day, notably Duncan Shearer, ex Aberdeen and Chelsea, and Donald Park of Inverness Caledonian, Hearts, Hibs and Partick Thistle.
  • Shinty’s blue riband trophy and the Scottish championship is the SSE Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup, first played for in 1896.
  • A shinty stick is known by its Gaelic name, caman.
  • When Scottish emigrants left to the four corners of the globe in the 19th century in particular, they took their culture with them and traces of shinty are to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even in Montevideo.
  • During the two World Wars and the Boer War before that, Highland soldiers used shinty to help them maintain their links with home and keep their spirits up. Shinty is to be found at regimental camps, on the front line and in POW camps.
  • There currently is one player in Scotland’s Sporting Hall of Fame, Dr Johnnie Cattanach of Newtonmore. An all-round sportsman who distinguished himself at Edinburgh University, he holds the record of most goals scored in a Camanachd Cup Final (8) and was killed at Gallipoli in World War 1.

 Shinty Trophies

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

Source: Shinty Archive

The rich heritage of shinty, with its spectacular range of silverware, is a national cultural asset. Many of the sport’s most historic trophies are still used in competition, the oldest being the Glasgow Celtic Society Cup, dating from 1879. Others include Aberdeen University’s Littlejohn Vase (1905), a solid silver reproduction of the 400 BC Roman original that is in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated album of dedication.

 Shinty Milestones

  • 1272 earliest written reference to shinty.
  • 1589 Shinty banned from Blackfriars Kirkyard in Glasgow.
  • 1698 Martin Martin refers to shinty play on St Kilda.
  • 1820 Robert Chambers recorded shinnie playing in the borders.
  • 1842 Shinty in Sydney, Australia.
  • 1843 Argyll-shire Roads Act banned shinty play on streets.
  • 1851 Aberdeen University shinty club, oldest shinty club with written constitution
  • 1893 Camanachd Association, shinty’s governing body, formed.
  • 1924 First Shinty/Hurling international – Scotland v Ireland at Tailteann Games, Dublin.
  • 1953 Lovat Shinty Club first to win all six senior Scottish shinty trophies, a feat never repeated and now impossible.
  • 2005 Shinty moved to include summer play.

Shinty/Hurling matches have been played at various levels between Scotland and Ireland since the 1880s and the international fixture remains a vibrant link between Celtic traditions.

Shinty is a sport that has been at the heart of communities stretching from the Western Isles and North West Ross-shire to Caithness and the Mull of Kintyre and beyond to London, Manchester, Cornwall and the Scottish diaspora world-wide.

At least three sports shinty, curling and golf are regarded widely as but three of national indigenous sports of Scotland. They have all, at one time or another been played throughout the country and are recognized worldwide as iconic symbols of the country’s sporting heritage.

Alzheimer Scotland and the Camanachd Association have set up a special project for people living with dementia and other memory problems. Called Shinty Memories, it uses images of old players, teams, badges, trophies, grounds and memorabilia to improve recall, stimulate conversation and share memories of Shinty.


 The history of sport matters for a number of reasons:

It helps to avoid a parochial or insular understanding of sport.

It provides tools by which to evaluate change.

It helps to destroy myths.

It warns against an uncritical acceptance of heritage, tradition and identity.

It can add plausibility to not just sporting issues of the day but also broader problems and issues.

It can bring voices and records from the past to bear on contemporary challenges.


 You cannot understand Gaelic culture fully without recognizing the place of shinty in Gaelic speaking communities and you cannot understand Scotland or the Scottish diaspora fully without acknowledging Scotland’s cultural assets.

 The partnership between The Camanachd Association and the Scottish Football Museum helps to evidence that the sports past has much to offer contemporary Scotland.

 Shinty is a sport that values its tradition and heritage greatly and also its contemporary social and economic role in Scotland’s well being.

Read more about Sport on the Academy of Sport’s website.

Share Button

Sport making the art of the possible-possible?

Can sport make the art of the possible - possible?

Can sport make the art of the possible – possible?

Sport has a role to play in making the art of the possible, possible.

On June 2nd 2015 the New York Cosmos beat Cuba 4-1 in a friendly soccer match. The match symbolised a new era of foreign relations between the United States and Cuba.

Raul, the former Real Madrid and Mexican star who played for the Cosmos commented that “It was an honor to play against the Cuban national team,” Raul said. “They have a talented team and we felt it was a very good game. Football brings people together and we saw it today.”

The match  was part of a broader range of interventions that have attempted to draw a line under five decades of estrangement.


  • 2nd June the USA and Cuba resume sporting relations
  • 1969 Pele compared Tuesday’s intervention to that of the Brazilian side Santos visiting Nigeria in 1969
  • 1978 the last time a US soccer team had played in Cuba
  • 1999 Baltimore Orioles (baseball) played in Cuba and in May (2015) Havana announced that the baseball team would return later in the year
  • 1999 Cuba had 1 physical education teacher per 458 inhabitants
  • In terms of soft power sport Cuba has used sport for utilitarian and ideological purposes including the promotion of national prestige, health, defence, labour productivity, and integration.
  • 2014 -215 Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro pledged full restoration of ties on 17 December. The two leaders met in Panama in mid-April
  • 2015 Cuba completed the release of 53 political prisoners
  • 2015 Cuba, in May, was formally removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a critical step toward rapprochement 54 years after Washington cut off relations at the height of the cold war and imposed an economic embargo
  • At June 4th the FIFA World Rankings for Men and Women saw the USA ranked at 27 (Men) and 2 (Women) and Cuba 107 (Men) and 96 (Women).

Some analysts warn that as the two countries move to re- open embassies, the Republicans still pose a potential hurdle in the agreement to end more than 50 years of hostility.


 It is more than 50 years since Chataway and Goodhart produced their account of international sport in A War without Weapons (1968).

Victor Cha, the former Director of Asian Affairs for the White House, in Beyond the Final Score (2009) has penned one of the few inside accounts of sporting diplomacy and argued that:

  • Sport matters because it can provide opportunities for interventions
  • Sport matters because it can be less aloof than some forms of diplomacy

The UK House of Lords report on Persuasion and Power in the Modern World (2014), pointed to the necessity of balancing hard and soft power tactics and the role that sport could play.

Grix et al (2015) have interrogated the way in which some countries have utilized sport as part of a soft power strategy.

Hard and soft power is often seen to be  what one country does to another. International cultural relations can potentially go well beyond this because of the emphasis on mutuality.

There is a plethora of research from which politicians, civil servants and sports administrators can learn.

Sport matters because it has (i) universal appeal that crosses language and cultural barriers; (ii) the capacity to develop temporary feel good factors; (iii) the ability to foster conversations between countries that take place around sporting events and the capacity to develop some human capabilities.

BUT we need to know in a much more nuanced way what works and what does not work.


If  sport can make the art of the possible, possible and we should exploit it to the full. It provides a potential space around which other resources can be brought into play. It is not a solution in and of itself.

 It is not as if the world has its problems to seek. What is new is the contexts in which we live today and what tools we have to resolve these problems and issues.

The world economic forum identified the top four international trends are worsening income inequality; unemployment; rising geo-strategic competition, and intensifying nationalism. Additional concerns included rising population levels; weakening of democracy; climatic change, health and increasing water stress.

 With each world problem there is a temptation to simplify matters, find a quick solution, identify, sometimes wrongly, aggressors, transgressors and or victims.

But humanity like power politics is not that simple. The issues we must confront, while imposing in their scale are expansive in their reach, must be faced with fortitude and with a co-operative, collaborative spirit.

Consequently foreign diplomats, ambassadors, civil servants, cultural agencies, communities and countries need to have a wide variety of tools at their disposal.

Why would you not use anything if it can be evidenced that it can make a contribution?

Sport should be one of these tools. We need to take advantage of sports’ global currency, and further the part that sport can play in winning friends for countries.

We need to find an effective framework, language, set of principles through which international cultural relations can and should operate through sport and other facets of culture.

To forge long standing meaningful international cultural relations issues of mutuality, reciprocity, trust and co-operation have to be further enabled.

 The role played by non-state institutions and agencies working below the level of government is crucial.

Sport has a role to play in making the art of the possible, possible. Making sports policy, sports investment, sports research, sports advocacy, commitment, alignment, and the power of universities and civil society working for people, places and communities.


As a policy tool sport has a long history of opening doors for countries. It is a tool that foreign diplomats and civil servants should not forget but they need to understand in a more nuanced way what works where and when and under what circumstances.


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.