Football, The World Cup and the Black, Black Oil

By Grant Jarvie 

University of Edinburgh 

The journey to this World Cup has been attached with so much controversy it is necessary to ask what exactly would success be for this World Cup?

Normally the football excitement of a World Cup kicks in a lot earlier but this one is different. The challenge for Qatar is on two fronts: Firstly, can the country sustain the tournament’s value and therefore win friends and applause? Secondly will Qatar push ahead with social reforms after the gaze of the world has moved on?

The country recognizes football’s appeal. The event is one of the two biggest mega sports events in the world. However, the real struggle is over oil, security, defence and an attempt to change perceptions of Qatar. The West needs Qatar ‘s oil and gas. Qatar needs the West because, despite having immense wealth, it lacks sufficient security and defence capabilities.

Football has allowed itself to be drawn into a soft power battle. The assets at play include the World Cup, state ownership of Paris St Germain, a world class airline, an air traffic hub, the hosting of the most extensive US military base in the Middle East, sponsoring of high-profile cultural events, the acquisition of highly visible estate, the Al-Jazeera media company, investment in blue chip companies and oil.

The smallest country to host a World Cup needs an enlarged international community of friends. It needs places where informal conversations can take place to influence such friends. This World Cup is an arena where football and international affairs collide. Success for Qatar would include a controversy free November and December that convinced more of the world, particularly countries that Qatar needs, that significant social reform is taking place and will continue. That this is not sportswashing.

A successful World Cup is usually determined by how much entertainment it provides, the TV spectacle, viewing numbers, the fans facilities experience and the level of global fan engagement.

According to FIFA the stadiums and infrastructure are the most accessible in the history of the World Cup. The hotels are expensive. This World Cup is the most expensive to date. Success for most countries seeking to host one of the two biggest sporting events in the world usually comes in two forms, nation branding and regeneration. Qatar has the wealth to regenerate and is using the event for nation profiling. However, so much money has been spent on this World Cup that this alone is not a great return on investment or even success.

Success would also mean that the stadiums, although accessible, need to be full unlike the empty stadiums during the 2019 World Athletic Championships in Doha. A positive safe fan experience is an important factor in the battle for hearts and minds if Qatar is looking to influence the court of public opinion in the USA, Europe and Britain. In other words, those countries that could come to support Qatar militarily given that it is not likely to be China or Russia. The US thanked the Gulf State for helping the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Qatar is working with Europe and Great Britain to reduce their dependency upon Russian oil.

For some this tournament is already a partial success because it has assisted in leveraging reform; dismantling the Kafala sponsorship system; establishing the region’s first minimum wage; the setting up of tribunals to facilitate better access to justice; establishing an unpaid wages compensation fund and legislating to regulate conditions for live-in domestic staff.

The awarding of the competition to Qatar in 2010 hastened the downfall of the previous FIFA Board, the introduction of new governance arrangements and the introduction of human rights screening as part of the bidding process for future events. This was too late for those who lost their lives building the infrastructure for this event. Success will be saying no to future bids from countries with worse human rights records than Qatar. Success for social and political activists, protesting against Qatar, including the football players, fans and countries who will continue to speak out, is to keep alive the call for reforms once the football starts.

FIFA failed when they awarded the event to Qatar in 2010. The activists will have won if they keep alive the call for reform once the football starts. Qatar will have won if it convinces countries that it’s modernizing reforms will be continue. Both need to succeed. If they do both football and the world will be a better place and that would be success.


The Spirit of Eric Liddell

Grant Jarvie

The Spirit of Eric Liddell

The Chinese born Scottish athlete, Eric Liddell story is so in part captured by Zhang Huijie in The Routledge Handbook of Sport in Asia, edited by one of our conference hosts. An account that talks of Liddell making a significant contribution to promoting physical education. the Olympics in modern China and becoming a prestigious sporting icon with a legacy of facilitating sustained cultural communication between China and the UK.

A point that was amplified by the former Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liu Xiaoming, when he visited Scotland in 2017.

In his opening address the ambassador talked of the spirit of Eric Liddell a Scottish athlete, interned in a concentration camp in Weifang in the 1940s where he continued to support children during harsh times and where he was referred to by some as “Uncle Eric”.

He went on to suggest that while Liddell’s life was short, what he did was to provide an ode to China-Scotland friendship, co-operation and exchange. The athletes name and story has lived on providing a bridge for potential cultural relations building, a sustainable space for countries to talk to one another.

Charioteer of Fire
Liddell’s journey has been captured not just by the academy including historians from the west and east, political scientists, sociologists but also least we forget the Hollywood Oscar winning film Chariots of Fire.

In 2000 it was reported as being the twelfth ranked top-grossing sports movie of all time with a take of $62 million US dollars.

A film part fact, part fiction depicting vignettes of social class, gender, religion, Olympism, amateurism and professionalism and which revolved around the life story of two British track athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics, Harold Abrahams (an English Jew) and Eric Liddell depicted as a Scottish evangelical Presbyterian.

For the Glory
Arguably, the most complete account of the life of Eric Liddell is to be found in Duncan Hamilton’s New York Times Bestseller For the Glory. For sure there are many interested stakeholders in the life of Eric Liddell and the narrative that sits alongside this life .

Eric Liddell was born on the 16th of January 1902 in Tientsin (Tianjin) North China. The second son of James and Mary Liddell who were missionaries with the London Mission Society.

Returning to Scotland at the age of five he then attended Eltham College, Blackheath – a school for the children of missionaries. Whilst at school his parents returned to China where his youngest brother Ernest was born in Peking in 1912.

In 1920 Eric joined his older brother Robert at Edinburgh University to read for a BSc in Pure Science and graduating after the Paris Olympics of 1924.

Having launched his athletics career as a student on the grass track of Craiglockhart, Edinburgh in 1921, making his international rugby debut for Scotland one year later Liddell went on to win a gold (440yds) and bronze (220 yds) medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Famously the athlete refused to run on a Sunday because of his religious beliefs that Sunday was for God only.

After the Olympics and his graduation, he returned to North China where he served as a teacher and then missionary first in returning to the Anglo-Teaching College in Tientsin (Tianjin) in 1925 and later in Siochana.

In the same year as he returned to Tientsin (Tianjin) he had won three Scottish Amateur Athletic Titles and agreed to sit for a portrait in oils by Eileen Soper.

By the 1930’s Liddell had said no to competing in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, became engaged to Florence Mackenzie and joined the London Missionary Society.

By the middle of the same decade the Olympian had become ordained into the Ministry, lost his father James Liddell who died in 1933, returned to China where he married Florence Mackenzie in Tianjin’s Union Church in 1934.

Two of his daughter’s Patricia and Heather were born in Tianjin. The Liddell’s third daughter Maureen was born in Toronto in 1941. In 1941, life in China was dangerous and the British Government advised British nationals to leave. Florence and the children left for Canada in 1941 while Eric stayed in Tientsin (Tianjin) until 1943 .

From 1943 he was held with other foreign nationals in Weifang where he was sent to the Civilian Assembly Centre and died of a brain tumour in 1945. His mother Mary Liddell having passed away one year earlier in Edinburgh.

When the former Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom was addressing the assembled audience in 2017 and talked of the spirit of Eric Liddell, he was doing so some 72 years after the death of the athlete.

He drew upon the past when he talked of Liddell writing textbooks, continuing to teach children, organising sport and displaying a sense of humanity during harsh times in harsh places.

At the time, 2017, and looking to the future the ambassador talked of universities, sport, educational exchange and more as a means of enhancing not so much Chinese foreign policy but a plea for mutual cultural relations.

Eric Liddell 100 and the 2024 Paris Olympics
At the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 it will be 100 years since Eric Liddell, refused to run on Sunday and won gold and bronze medals at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. It provides an opportunity for countries to work together for an enlarged common good.

The French themselves have launched an impressive End Commun sports intervention, funded through a collaboration of thirteen public banks, designed to enable closer working relationships through sport between France and Africa. In simple terms Sport End Commun will fund, support, connect, advocate for and promote both French soft power and cultural relations building through sport.

It seems to many in the UK, including The Eric Liddell Community in Edinburgh and a number of partners, including the University of Edinburgh that the advent of the 2024 Olympics and the centenary of Eric Liddell’s Olympic success provides an opportunity to enable and build upon strong existing and new relationships through the spirt of Eric Liddell.

The spirit of Eric Liddell’s humanity can be an effective tool for the forging of better cultural relations, building bridges and enabling an enlarged common good. Something that is much needed in third decade of the 21st Century and a project that cannot be fully understood without understanding Scottish and Asian Cultures.

Sport itself should fully grasp the opportunity to be part of building more effective international and cultural relations and be seen to be contributing further to an enlarged common good.

Common Good
Matters of mutuality, trust, connectivity, long-term dialogue, and co-operation are important. Those working in sport and are well served by the notion of sport enabling cultural relations and striving to forge an enlarged common good.

As Ambassador Liu Xiaoming observed “We are living in a time of mutual learning for common progress”.

An opportunity presents itself with the advent of the 2024 Olympic Games to do just that through remembering and activating the spirit of Eric Liddell the Scottish athlete born in China. We should grasp the opportunity.

It is important to explore the world of Eric Liddell but also Eric Liddell as an enabler to a better world. There is a much needed and strong story to be told about how sport can bring us together, unify different groups and be part of what makes us human.

Glasgow 2014 Human Rights Policy: A Synopsis

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony

By Grant Jarvie

Glasgow 2014
Glasgow 2014 was to become the first Games to adopt a human rights policy.
The approach can be captured around four themes, humanity, equality, destiny and sustainability.


In 2013 the organising committee for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games approached the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) asking for advice about human rights issues These included five key areas:
• Forced evictions – would people be made to give up their homes to make way for venues for athlete’s accommodation?
• Forced labour and trafficking – would people be brought into Scotland, trafficked through Scotland or experience exploitative labour conditions.
• Procurement – would the money spent on the Games be used to buy goods and services from businesses that uphold high standards of human rights protection?
• Policing and security- would the public’s security be protected while respecting personal freedom?
• Legacy plans- would Scotland become a beacon to future Games when it comes to upholding high standards of human rights protection?


The commitment around respecting others as people was premised upon being legally compliant and upholding the spirit of legislation designed to protect individual rights.

The key instruments of legislation being the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998 which in terms of domestic legislation gave effect to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Three sub themes identified for action under this general theme were – labour, employment, health and safety, security and respecting freedoms.

Living Wage
As a living wage employer, the organising committee aimed to promote a living wage throughout the supply chain.
Health and Safety
The health and safety vision was to provide a harm-free environment. It had three objectives: to install at all levels a culture that health and safety was to be the first condition in everything that was done; to create a legacy of systems and processes that could be used in future Games and to encourage people to take the practices learned, because of Glasgow 2014, into their future work and home environments.
The Scottish Government delegated responsibility for all aspects of security for the Games to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland while overall accountability remained with the Scottish Government.
Games for Everyone
Glasgow 2014 was positioned as a Games for everyone and that respected freedoms for everyone. Multi-faith facilities and cultural dietary requirements were catered for in the Athlete’s village; multi-faith quiet spaces for prayer and reflection at venues and the accommodation of religious headwear was enabled; engagement within and between Glasgow faith communities and interfaith Games groups aimed to be welcoming throughout Games Time.

Sectarian and political chanting was not permitted in Games venues. The principle of legitimate peaceful protest in line with legislation was permitted. Ambush marketing was controlled through Glasgow Commonwealth Games Trading and Advertising Scotland Regulations 2013.

Glasgow 2014 wanted to send a message that sport was for everyone and to make Glasgow everyone’s Games.
• The sports programme was badged at the time as the most inclusive ever. Pride House was central to raising the profile of LGBT rights.
• An access, diversity and inclusion strategy was developed that had key strands which were: inclusive design and delivery service; inclusive and accessible communications; a diverse and aware Games workforce; supplier diversity and targeted engagement.
• Volunteers and paid staff were recruited from different background, cultures and career fields. The Games workforce received equality, diversity and inclusion training. Direct outreach and engagement with equality groups through sport was enabled.

Destiny was about contributing to improving the futures of the people of Glasgow, Scotland and the Commonwealth. Glasgow 2014 aimed to have an impact upon young people and sustainability.
• With education providers the education programme that accompanied the Games was aimed at young people aged 3-18 and used the Commonwealth Games as the context for learning.
• Lead 2014 a partnership between the Youth Sport Trust, sportscotland, and the OC aimed to harness the enthusiasm of Scotland’s young people to help create a future generation of sports leaders.
• A series of conferences were delivered by students from Scottish universities to young people from secondary schools to help the development and enhancement of leadership and volunteering skills.
• A partnership with UNICEF was formed to reach out to children in Commonwealth countries. In Scotland, UNICEF UK facilitated child rights education campaigns for children in schools, health settings and local government.

The objective was to stage a Games with responsible sustainability standards. This involved three things: to (i) minimise impact on the environment and, where possible, seek opportunities that will enhance the environment; (ii) create a new generation of sporting enthusiasts in Glasgow, Scotland and throughout the Commonwealth; and (iii) stimulate a positive social and economic impact from infrastructure development activities of the Games.

A procurement sustainability policy was forged. The importance of sound sustainability practices in the procurement processes was aimed at supporting the achievement of a wider Glasgow 2014 Environmental and Sustainability Policy goals.

The Games adopted The World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) Model Code of Conduct. The stated approach was that the relationship between companies following the WFSGI Code and their suppliers, and in turn any sub- contractors involved in the production process of the Games must be based on trust, mutual respect and common values.

The production of a Human Rights Policy for Glasgow 2014 represented a step in the CGFs commitment to embed human rights within the governance, management systems, development, events, fundraising and marketing. The aim was to apply The Human Rights Policy not just to the CGF’s leadership and all the staff but further influence the expectations of partners and other key stakeholders as their activities related to the CGF.

Concluding Remarks
Taking a human rights-based approach to Scottish sport is about making sure that people’s rights are put at the very centre of policies and practices. When SHRC in 2013 asked Scotland to become a beacon to future Games when it comes to upholding high standards of human rights protection Glasgow and the CGF grasped the opportunity.

When review of the Scottish Sporting Landscape asked Scottish sport if it aspired to be a world leader on sport and human rights an opportunity was lost. The Scottish Government has attempted to place Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of a Scottish Agenda. Brexit has reduced the layers of rights protection afforded to the UK, including Scotland.

The need for Scottish sport to work more closely with National Human Rights Associations has perhaps never been greater.

Call to Senior Leaders for Sports Ban Following the Invasion of Ukraine

Bruce Kidd, Grant Jarvie, Peter Donnelly

Resolution ES-11/1. The resolution was sponsored by 96 countries, and passed with 141 voting in favour, 5 against, and 35 abstentions.

Some Key Facts:

24 February 2022 The Government of Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

25 February, the United Nations Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution which would have “deplored, the Russian Federation’s aggression” on Ukraine.

Of the 15 member states on the Security Council, 11 were in support, whilst 3 abstained from voting. The draft resolution failed due to Russia’s veto.

March 2nd the eleventh emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly culminated with the adoption of Resolution ES-11/1. The resolution was sponsored by 96 countries, and passed with 141 voting in favour, 5 against, and 35 abstentions

March 8th Ministers from 37 nations signed a joint statement calling for sporting sanctions to be imposed on Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine “until cooperation under the fundamental principles of international law has become possible again.”

Signatories include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America.

The measures taken by sports bodies to date have included:

Condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

Cancelling & relocating events.

Preventing participation of athletes & team officials in competitions.

Allowing the participation of individuals on the conditions that no association with their country is made.

Suspending national sport federations’ membership.

Suspending leadership representation in governance structures.

Suspending and/or cancelling sponsorship contracts.

Withdrawing orders of honours from Government Representatives.

Arguing for the case of the Russian- Ukraine War as a case of “force-majeure” in world sport.

Seizing assets of Russian owners of sports clubs.

Political protest and support demonstrated at sporting events.

Writing to senior leaders-

February 27, 2022

President Joseph Biden
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Prime Minister Trudeau

Ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, coaches and sports managers from your countries

Dear Senior Leaders:

We write, as professors of sports and human rights, in the face of the unprovoked, illegal, and barbaric invasion of Ukraine by Russia, with the open, shameful complicity of Belarus. In addition to the sanctions and other actions you have taken, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to stop granting visas and work permits to sports persons from Russia and Belarus, effectively immediately. The ban should stay in effect until the invasion has ended and integrity and safety of democratic Ukraine has been fully restored.

The International Olympic and Paralympic Committees have condemned the invasion as a violation of the Olympic Truce, and have called upon the international and national federations to boycott events held in Russia and Belarus and to move those scheduled for Russia and Belarus to democratic countries.

While we support those actions, we feel they do not go far enough to demonstrate the sports world’s abhorrence of the invasion.

Since Russian and Belarussian sportspersons regularly travel to your countries for training, competition and employment, and such international sports participation serves as source of great pride to Russia and Belarus, it must be stopped. The precedent for this call is the international campaign against apartheid sport in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, in which representative South African athletes were banned from your countries, an embargo that brought home the sports community’s repugnance of apartheid to the White minority in South Africa and showed the Black majority that the international isolation of apartheid South Africa was tightening.

From our experience in the anti-apartheid campaign, we know you have the power to cancel the granting of visas and work permits to designated persons immediately. Please do that for Russian and Belarussian sportspersons.

Putin has always understood the soft power sport can play in politics. It has been central both to his image and to his core strategy of the reassertion of Russian power. Appropriate sport measures will have an effect.

Thank you very much for your consideration. If you have any questions, please let us know.


Peter Donnelly, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
Grant Jarvie, Professor, Universities of Edinburgh and Toronto
Bruce Kidd, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Sport in the War on Ukraine

By Grant Jarvie

As of February 28th 2022 sports reaction to the war in Ukraine has been good, sport usually waits and reacts, but there are times when it can do more, and this is one of these occasions.

Sport, Soft Power and Russia
Sport means a lot to Vladimir Putin and to Russia for its international legitimacy. They use sport to show how powerful and successful they are in the world. Putin has always understood the soft power role that sport can play in politics. It has been central both to his image and to his core strategy of the reassertion of Russian power.

Sport in the War between Nations
Nor is this the first time that sport has been implicated in a war between nations.

In countries where hope is needed sports stars have often walked the walk because sport has given them the platform to talk to the people.

Following the Ivory Coast’s qualification match for the 2006 World Cup, former Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker pleaded:

“please lay down your weapons and hold elections,”. Drogba and his team-mates didn’t single-handedly stop the civil war but they provided a country with a reason to hope.

in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, sport was centre stage in the fight against apartheid South Africa. The international ban was signed in Scotland at Gleneagles. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from this for the current situation.

While sport remains one of the world’s war without weapons platforms, the invasion of Ukraine is war with weapons.

Voices of Athletes from Ukraine
The popularity, scale and reach of sport won’t end this conflict but sport and the international community needs to listen to the voices of Ukrainian athletes and people and do the right thing regardless of commercial pain.

• “A nation of sincere, hardworking and freedom-loving citizens!” Today is a difficult time for all of us. But we must unite! Andriy Shevchenko, The 2004 Ballon d’Or winner.

• “Ukraine is not a ‘part of Russia,’’ Marta Kostyuk, Tennis Player.

• “At home in Ukraine it’s really nervous now, a lot of news about guns, about weapons, about some armies around Ukraine so it’s not OK. Not in the 21st century” Vladyslav Heraskevych, Men’s Olympic Skeleton team.

• “Let us unite in this extremely difficult time for the sake of peace and the future of our state,” Elina Svitolina, Tennis Player.

• “Democracy and freedom have no price… Ukraine wants, peace, freedom and sovereignty” Wladimir Klitschko, former world boxing champion.

On the 27th of February Ukranian athletes wrote an open letter to Thomas Bach President of the International Olympic Committee pleading for Russia and Belarus to be suspended from National and International Olympic and Para-Olympic Committees.

This was supported from athletes across Ukrainian sport , athletes, swimmers, tennis players, gymnasts, core winter sports such as bobsleigh and skeleton

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supported by Belarus is a clear violation Olympic and Paralympic charters .

It would seem contradictory that a nation be banned from the Olympics because of systematic doping is allowed to participate in sport having invaded a European state. We should not underestimate the soft power tool that sport is and can be.

Other Voices
Ukraine athletes are not alone , very brave Russian athletes have pointed out that this is Putin’s war not Russia war .

Fyodor Smolov, who plays for Dynamo Moscow, called for no war, Naomi Osaka tweeted “I can’t believe what I am seeing” and Sebastian Vettel has called early for the Russian Grand Prix to be cancelled and made it clear before it was cancelled that he won’t be going.

The Moscow native and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin asked for “no more war”…Please, no more war,” . In the past Ovechkin has been a Ovechkin has been a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin starting the PutinTeam social movement in 2017 to drum up support for the Russian President but the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the athlete said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the war, Russia, Ukraine, different countries. We have to live in peace and a great world” .

On the 26th February the German Athletic Association publicly called for a complete ban on Russia and Belarus from the International Sports system.

Quote” All societal subsystems have the responsibility to question their relations with Russia and to include tough sanctions – including national and international sport.

Shalke O4 in Germany are but examples of Russian sponsorship money being dropped, Manchester United have done the same and UEFA were moving down the same track.
International sports organisations have withdrawn events from being held in Russia.

This is fast moving territory, cancelling sponsorship, some sports moving events from Russia, asking for games to be played on neutral grounds but Russia and Belarus have not been banned from international sport.

Barcelona and Napoli lead football’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by standing in front of ‘Stop War’ banner before their Europa League match a day after the invasion.

Sports Isolation of Countries
It is not a precedent for sport to isolate countries. It is not a precedent for visas to be withheld or not granted to sports stars.

It would be unfair to punish Russian athletes already in other countries but the option exists to not distribute sports work permits to athletes from Russia and Belarus – that worked in the past.

Ukrainian athletes and beyond are asking sport to do everything it possibly can to halt Russia and make it accountable.

Ukraine’s athletes should be listened too, and sports bodies should do the right thing, even if it means loss of earnings. Sport is not the solution, but it can give a country reason to hope.

Sport organisations can do more to capitalise upon the lead given by many brave athletes. Occasionally sport can and should lead the politicians and not hide behind the politics of sport.

Scotland has the opportunity to cement solidarity with Ukraine in the World Cup Play qualifier at Hampden on March 24th. The Ukrainian team manager has voiced support for the fixture to go ahead.

Key Messages
1. Putin invests heavily in sport and the politics of sport to present Russia to the world.
2. All areas of civil society should respond and not just leave it to financial sanctions.
3. Sport is soft power tool in a situation that has gone beyond a war without weapons
4. What is being said here is not a precedent.
5. The West has made a political calculation to stay out of Ukraine for fear of the consequences and one suspects that Russian leaders have calculated that the West will not enter Ukraine for fear of the consequences.

Consequently, every other avenue of protest should stand up and be counted, including sport. Given that hard power levers have been ruled out because of fear of World War Three then soft power levers become even more important.

Scottish Football and Data Analysis

Grant Jarvie Jake Barrett, Ellen Frank Delgado, Neil McGillivray, Mason Robbins, Michael Rovatsos, John Scott, and Paul Widdop.

Scottish football is undoubtedly a real pillar of connectivity, both locally and internationally, something that is not always grasped, understood or capitalised upon by the Scottish Government or maximised by individual football clubs and we can and want to help both do better.

Football clubs and sport maximise the use data for on-field performance. They need to approach the use of off-field data in the same way. The Academy of Sport and the Bayes Centre partnership at the University of Edinburgh can help.

Covid 19 exposed all areas of public life, including Scottish football. The football habit was broken, clubs were worried about fan engagement, lost revenue and season ticket sales.

A study led by Professor Jarvie of the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Motherwell football clubs has traced fan engagement and mapped the localities of season ticket holders.

It also provided data on the international engagement resulting from the recent European Football Championships matches involving Scotland and Hampden.

36% of the season ticket holders across the four clubs resided in either the most deprived or second most deprived postcode districts.

At the same time 37% of season ticket holders, from the four clubs, resided in the 20% most affluent areas.

Scottish football crosses the wealth divide. Covid 19 did not respect local or national boundaries and disproportionately affected certain neighbourhoods while furlough and in many cases loss of jobs threatened available disposable income that might have been spent of football.

The decision to offer free season tickets to those who had purchased a season ticket the year before is but one example of a club understanding the Covid context, the issues in the community and this being reflected in the new season ticket offer and pricing.

Those who walk through the turnstiles remain local and, in some cases, very local i.e., within the vicinity of the stadium.

90.94% of Aberdeen season ticket holders come from AB postcodes;

88.84% of Hearts and 88.51% of Hibernian season ticket holders reside within EH postcodes while

79.88% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside within ML postcodes.

92.3% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside with Motherwell or Glasgow postcodes.

EH4 (NW Edinburgh, Cramond / Blackhall / Craigleith) is in the top postcode for both Hearts (5.79%) & Hibs (7.03% of sales).

Football supporters are known for their loyalty. This impact is economical but there is also a social dimension. Football clubs are cultural institutions and important in the meaning making of places, a sense of place pride and a focal point for the community. This is perhaps showcased in the relatively distance decay of season ticket purchases the further you move away from the football stadium.

Any disconnect between a football club and its community has social implications around social capital, wellbeing, and happiness. Football clubs thinking of re-locating stadiums need to think this through because it is not always the case that re-location works for those coming through the turnstiles.

Scottish football is more heavily dependent upon gate receipts (48%) than any other UEFA member. Five Scottish football clubs have asked accountancy firm Deloitte to grow their commercial income.

The extent to which clubs can grow the supporter base, provide fans what they want and increase revenue necessitates understanding fan engagement and satisfying the consumption of football both inside and outside of the stadium. Clubs have considerable international reach as do the Scottish national teams.

International relationships need to be constantly worked at if the desire is to grow and engage this audience. The benefits include minimising the risks associated with an over-dependency on a specific income stream such as gate receipts.

In one 5-week spell one club had an international following on you tube across 21 countries.

Hibernian have regular followers from Australia, Ireland, USA, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Poland and New Zealand. Regular followers of Aberdeen are from Germany, USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain and the Netherlands but also Nigeria and United Arab Emirates.

When it comes to the national men’s team Scotland’s regular weekly viewings during the European Championships extended beyond Europe.

International engagement with one match over one three days helps to illustrate the potential international connectivity that can be facilitated through football.

If Scotland is ambitious about foreign policy and international relations the political parties need to recognise the tools that they have, and football is one of them.

The Scottish Government is currently revisiting its national international engagement strategy it should find a space and resource to maximise football as a significant tool that it has at its disposal. Imagine, for example, if the football and the sport reach was greater than the diaspora reach?

Nor is building and sustaining relationships with fans an activity that occurs just in the stadium or just around match-day or during the season. Something that applies to both the men’s and women’s game.

Opportunities exist to grow meaningful conversations with and extend the football family through social media and digital platforms is a 24/7 – 52 weeks a year activity. The data below evidences the decline of activity post season and the differences between the SWPL clubs over one 12-week period.

Whether it be local or international, the club or the national team, men or women the pandemic has not gone but has created a set of circumstances which has forced Scottish football and society to reflect about what is important.

This needs to continue in an informed way. By doing so further safeguard’s footballs future while offering financial, economic and political benefits to the people of Scotland through football.

Data has informed Covid decision making. It can help secure better football futures by helping football clubs in Scotland and the national teams further understand who and where their audiences are and what they want.

Grant Jarvie,
University of Edinburgh

US Boycott and the Winter Olympic Games 2022

By Grant Jarvie


Once again, the phenomenal international reach and scale of sport to carry a political message hits the headlines as the United States fires the starting gun to boycott the Winter Olympic Games. Scheduled to take place in Beijing, it will be the first time that the Summer and Winter Olympics will have been hosted in the same city.

The State of Play

No country, as yet, has stated that it will not send athletes but the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Lithuanian, UK and Scottish Governments have all announced diplomatic boycotts.

Except for Lithuania, which is embroiled in an argument with China over its stance on Taiwan, the diplomatic boycotts all cite the issue of human rights and in particular the treatment of the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang. The countries exercising a diplomatic boycott are reinforcing foreign policy stances on human rights and sport is the messenger.

European Confusion

The European message is one of confusion. France, no doubt mindful of the fact that the Summer Olympics are to be held in Paris in 2024, indicated they were minded not to boycott but would prefer a European wide stance, something that is highly unlikely. Germany and the Netherlands followed, calling for European unity. Sweden announced it had not been invited while Greece, Hungary and Malta are unlikely to boycott due to the growing influence of China. Outside of the EU, Norway the most successful Winter Olympics nation will not boycott.

Real Politic

The real politic of sport in the third decade of the 21st century is that it is an invaluable tool for countries to deliver both sporting and non-sporting outcomes. Rather than complain about the role of politics in sport the different worlds of sport should simply live and work with the opportunities it opens up.

The modern sports administrator, CEO or chair of a governing body needs to operate in the world of sport and in the world of politics. The modern diplomat or foreign ambassador equally needs to fully grasp the capability of sport to deliver not just foreign policy but better cultural relations. Sport delivers on all of these fronts but rarely gets the credit and funding for doing so.

Sport and Politics

So, this is not a question of keep politics out of sport, you can’t stop the politicization of sport and why would you want to? Sport has always been political and in being so it has done many good things. What the different national stances on the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics does is amplify that sport is a great pillar of connectivity and language on a scale that few other areas of public life offer.

The same sports tool has helped to shed a light on: the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai; the need for adequate funding for school meals through the work of the footballer Marcus Rashford; the alleged racism in Scottish cricket through the sportscotland investigation; the athlete Catherine Freeman as a symbol of reconciliation between aboriginal and white Australia and a country which had much to forgive; the value of sport in sustaining relationships in Scottish communities during the ongoing pandemic.

The Spirit of Eric Liddell

When visiting Scotland in 2017 the then Chinese Ambassador talked of the spirit and humanity of Eric Liddell, interned in a concentration camp in Weifang in the 1940s where he continued to support children. The athletes name and story has lived on, providing a bridge for potential cultural relations building, a sustainable space for countries to talk to one another. As the Ambassador observed “We are living in a time of mutual learning for common progress”.

In 2024 it will be 100 years since the Chinese born Scottish athlete Eric Liddell won Olympic gold at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Yet another opportunity for sport to deliver a message and play its part in helping to forge a common good for a better world.

Sport is a great toolbox that delivers so on many fronts both sporting and non-sporting and it deserves much more credit for doing so. Modern sports leaders need to work with the political space just as politicians and diplomats need to respect and recognise what sport does on and off-field.

Can Football Make Scotland a Fairer and Happier country?

By Grant Jarvie

University of Edinburgh and Toronto

Football, including Scottish football, can provide us with reasons to be cheerful. Along with other sports, football, by far Scotland’s most popular sport, can contribute to Scotland  being a happier place.

Sport is key element in New Zealand’s progressive march to making it a happier nation. No longer is progress measured as simply a contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is more than 2% in the case of Scottish sport.  Alternatively, progress is viewed in terms of the extent to which social, cultural, economic and physical capital can help to reduce the happiness and well-being divide in New Zealand.

The Scottish Captain Andy Robertson recently pointed out that “ football can only do so much when people have suffered loss like they have , made sacrifices for the greater good and we’re all slowly trying to rebuild”. 

A lot is made of Scotland bouncing back better from the pandemic. The next two weeks is an opportunity to be more positive about what football can deliver both on and off the park. .

The Scottish Government have allowed the football championships to go ahead. The Scottish Football Association have complied with what they have been asked to do. The football detractors will of course have their say but the proverbial bottle is  more than half full here.

The fact that Scotland is hosting 4 football matches at Hampden and assisting to deliver the UEFA Euros 2020 Football Championships is socially, culturally and economically significant.

One of the crucial lessons from the pandemic has been to fully recognise the importance of social relationships and networks particularly, but not solely, within underserved communities.

Families kept apart during the pandemic and most importantly generations of families have already started talked about great Scottish football moments. The winners here are less important than the fact that football has and is helping to facilitate conversations, contact and the social networks that have been affected so much by COVID. 

STV estimate that 1 in 5 Scots, at least 19% of the population will follow the championships on TV alone. It is estimated that up to 12,000 people may attend the matches at Hampden. Something that is a degree of economic relief to the SFA and the City of Glasgow.

The significance of Euro 2020  is reflected in the fact that both the BBC and STV in Scotland have unveiled a multi-platform bonanza of coverage.

The significance of the event is not just that it is the first time since 1998 that Scotland have qualified for a major men’s football championship finals. It builds upon the women qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the hosting of the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in 2016.

Scotland helping to host the Euros 2020 is no small thing. Even in a pre-pandemic world not every nation in the world had the capacity, capability and or opportunity to stage major sporting events.

Covid 19 has impacted upon the events business across the world. Many reports indicate that full confidence in the international sports events business will not be restored until at least 2023.

The events in Glasgow will remind international communities that Scotland is good at hosting major sports events. The Euro’s  not only enforces the contemporary reality that  Scotland is still a football nation but also that as a country the capability and knowledge to run successful international sporting events is something that Scotland is good at.

Football in particular and sport in general delivers social capital in Scotland’s communities in bucket loads.

The Beginnings of Commercialism in Sport (Or was it always There?)

By Professor Wray Vamplew

University of Edinburgh

Sports historians generally accept that ‘modern’ sport and commercial activity were intertwined from the mid nineteenth century, but I would argue that sport had a commercial aspect many centuries before if we accept that any of the following featured.

  1. An element of commodification in which someone was willing  to pay to play or watch sport.
  2. The employment of professional sportspersons, talented performers paid to entertain an audience, act as vehicles for gamblers, compete for prize money, and earn fees for coaching less-skilled athletes.
  3. The promotion of sports events to stimulate economic activity in a particular locality by attracting visitors to the area along with the spending involved in constructing facilities and putting on the show.

Bread and Circuses

Commercialisation of spectator sport need not involve the selling of tickets. The thousands of spectators who flocked to the Colosseum in Rome in the first century CE to watch gladiatorial combat were not paying for their pleasure. This day of thrills and deaths would have been funded by a patron. The profit-makers were gladiatorial managers who ran establishments of fighters and hired them out to promoters organizing combats. The hiring fee was 10% to 20% of the gladiator’s value, but the full cost had to be paid if he was killed or seriously wounded. This explains why less gladiators were killed than has been supposed.

Gladiators were highly-trained, skilled, professional sportsmen, but rarely free men. There was a career structure and a tyro, if successful, could work up four ranked grades to become valued at 15,000 sesterces. As well as being housed and fed by the stable manager, win or lose they were entitled to 20% of their hiring fee as a wage and often obtained a share of any prize money awarded. Taking around twenty bouts as a norm and applying the highest hiring rate available, career earnings come to just 60,000 sesterces, less than two year’s wages for an unskilled worker.

Gladiators were not the first professional sportsmen. They had been preceded by the Ancient Greeks as all Greek elite performers (athletes, wrestlers and charioteers) were professional, not in the sense of sport being their full-time occupation, but in that they competed for prizes, some of which could be valuable. The 100 amphoras awarded to the victor in the Panathenaic Games footrace was the equivalent of 847 days wages for a skilled craftsman of the time. Better than being a gladiator and less risky!

There were enough festivals available for freelance professionals to undertake tours combining local games with one of the more significant and highly lucrative events. Some cities even paid appearance money to attract star performers to their festivals. Evidence indicates that states would sponsor talented athletes and, for the more successful, who brought renown to their city, offer pensions after they retired from competitive sport.  So keen were some states to gain victories that they persuaded star performers to change their citizenship.

Roman charioteers also changed allegiances when the money was right. In Roman times chariot racing became systematically professionalised with its staging becoming the responsibility of four factions which procured the horses, maintained the stables, trained the drivers and provided the chariots. Drivers who survived the dangers of the racetrack could do well financially out of the prize money that they won. A prime example was the Spanish charioteer Diocles who, during a 24-year career won 1,462 of his 4,257 races and accumulated over 35 million sesteres.

Moving into the Byzantine era, the emperors dropped the Roman gladiatorial contents and brutal animal sports but continued the tradition of chariot racing. Emperor Constantine finished the construction of the Great Hippodrome in Constantinople, capable of seating over 100,000 spectators. Byzantium chariot racing became a government enterprise with emperors defraying the costs of some fifty racing venues including the salaries of the charioteers, the training of horses, interval entertainment, and the feeding of the audience.

Knights in Shining Armour and Tennis Players

A prevalent images of medieval sport is the knight on horseback ready to engage in jousting, but knights also took part in mock battles in which horses, equipment and men could be captured and held for ransom. Some of these events were large spectacles: that at Lagny-sur-Marne in 1179 had around 10,000 participants, some 3,000 knights and their retinues, the rest fighting mercenaries. Knights themselves were mercenary soldiers, so these tournaments enabled them to hone their martial skills with the bonus of making material gains. By the early fourteenth century the tournament was a well-established sporting fixture in virtually every corner of Europe: one estimate is that a knight could tourney once a fortnight or so.

In fourteenth century Europe knightly tournaments became widely publicised spectacles with spectators, some of whom had travelled considerable distances, attending specifically for the show. The number of spectators often necessitated the erection of grandstands and the fencing off of areas to accommodate them. By the mid fifteenth century short-term sports tourism was a common phenomenon in Europe. No one paid to watch the tournaments, but towns vied to host them because of the associated consumer spending of thousands of spectators. Others who took advantage of the commercial opportunities included vendors of a variety of merchandise, livestock sellers and horse traders, land agents, moneychangers, freelance blacksmiths, bonesetters, pickpockets and prostitutes.

In the meantime another set of professionals had emerged, those who taught sporting skills to private clients. Admittedly senior gladiators had acted as instructors to tyros but that had been an in-house service obligation. Some of these tutors taught non-utilitarian skills in tennis-like ball games such as the salaried resident professionals in the Italian princely courts in the late fifteenth century onwards. There were also freelance players who provided a betting market for their backers and onlookers


The author is working on a model to determine the level of commercialisation in sport historically. If it demonstrates a long-run involvement of sport with commerce, it may undermine the view that the modern influx of money into sport has changed the character sport as it used to be played. Moreover, if it shows that sport was a common exchange commodity well before industrialisation there will be implications for economic history not just sports history.

Sport and the 2021 Scottish Election : A Key Fact Check

By Grant Jarvie, Paul Widdop and Yuxun Xu

University of Edinburgh

Key Fact Check

  • Double the Scottish Government’s investment in sport and active living to £100 million a year by the end of the Parliament (SNP).
  • 10% of the transport capital budget on walking, cycling and wheeling (SNP).
  • £1 million to support more schools to open their facilities to the public during evenings and weekend (Conservatives).
  • Double sportscotland’s budget over the course of the next Parliament (Conservative).
  • Develop a new Active Scotland Plan, enabling councils to reintegrate local services (Labour).
  • Appoint a Minister for Sport (Greens).
  • Back the UK’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup and bid to hold the final in Scotland (Conservatives).
  • Extend opportunities for Gaelic sports (Liberal Democrats).
  • Appoint an Outdoor Recreation Champion (Liberal Democrats).
  • Participate in the UK-wide preparatory work for a 2030 Men’s World Cup bid being funded by the UK Government (Liberal Democrats).
  • Establish an island travel scheme for teams and individuals to compete in national events (Liberal Democrats).
  • Create a ‘Fan Bank’ to empower communities and groups and strengthen local decision- making by supporting communities to acquire a share or control of their local sports club (SNP).
  • None of the manifestos according have been adequately costed. (Institute of Fiscal Studies).
  • Every £1 spent on sport generates £1.91 in health and social benefits.
  • The importance of sport in the national economies usually varies between 1 per cent and 2.3 per cent in terms of gross value added and employment.
  • The education sector is the biggest sector overall in European countries; it is invariably one of the most important sport sub sectors globally. The virtual closure of the education sector during the lockdown had a strong effect on sport.
  • Sport is a major untapped Scottish resource in terms of international engagement.
  • Sport in Scotland should be supported far more in relation to helping Scotland achieve its environmental ambitions.
  • Sport in Scotland should be rewarded much more for its contribution to the SDG’s and sport in Scotland should make much more aware of the world mandate it has been given.
  • Scotland should use sport and sport should use current human rights legislation to enshrine a right to sport and safe places.


On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The party that wins the most seats will form the government. Given the multiple ways in which sport matters, nationally and internationally is sport in Scotland about to become an important political force field, control over which brings authority, visibility, and power but also delivers tangible outcomes for Scotland?


Why do manifestos matter?  They are an important guide to our politics and priorities in public life. For a governing party it sets priorities, once elected it becomes a programme of work for ministers and a means of holding administrations to account once elected. If required a manifesto can be an important element in reaching a coalition deal, although such a deal has not been needed at Holyrood for 18 years.


If the value of sport to Scotland were measured by manifesto space it would be hard not to conclude that sport is not important to Scottish political parties, but it should be.

Those working in or with sport recognise the value of sport but those working in other sectors or with other portfolios have still to be convinced. This is not a challenge unique to Scotland but sport both in and beyond Scotland needs to be much better at making the case for sport in a way that is understood by different Ministries or sectors of government.

Sport is effective in generating employment because it is community-based and depends on human interaction. As such, one policy implication is that investing in sport can be used as an economic tool to help a country reduce unemployment during a recession, which could be a valuable insight for the post COVID-19 period.

The internal characteristics of the sport economy imply that investing in sport can boost economic recovery and increase employment. However, the same characteristics also imply that sport is much more vulnerable during the pandemic/lockdown period compared with an average economic sector.

Other sporting nations have made the case for sport in a way that has enabled sport to gain traction, long term funding and profile across Government Ministries. Scottish sport must be better at making the case for sport outside of the sports world and beyond just the health portfolio in a way that releases funding for agreed outcomes across a much broader range of government budgets.

Chief Medical Officers have long since argued that it is social capital that is key to addressing poverty and health inequality and sport delivers this in spades.  

An incoming Government could enable Scotland to be a greater sporting nation by being aspirational and including a sports line in each of these budgets where sport delivers on much more than just health.  


For a more complete analysis of sport in the Scottish election see to our Sports Observations Briefing Paper on the University of Edinburgh – Academy of Sport Website.