Sport, Covid Recovery and Building Back Better : Some Observations

Grant Jarvie
University of Edinburgh and Toronto

The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully confirmed what experts have warned against since the 2009 H1N1 and 2014-2016 Ebola pandemics: the world has been gravely under-prepared for large outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases.

This small contribution aims to add value to that which will be returned by individual clubs. The core observation being (i) that the relative closure of sport including clubs has affected those often on the margins of society disproportionately; (ii) that sport is an undervalued part of the social contract in Scotland that has punched above its weight in relation to responding to Covid; and (iii) that the opportunity for Scottish sport to help other countries through Covid has not been realised.

Many local governments and sports organizations have developed innovative approaches to the changed circumstances necessitated by the virus, creating programming that could be delivered on-line and by traditional media such as radio and loudspeakers; modifying and creating new activities appropriate to restricted environments, closing streets and opening new bike lanes to enable physically distanced walking, running and cycling, and working with public health experts to develop safe ‘return to play’ opportunities.

Nor is Scotland alone in needing support for sport. The sports and recreation sector contributes about $5 billion a year to New Zealand’s GDP and employs more than 53,000 people. A $265 million package over the next four years will be broken into:

• $83 million in short-term support to help sport and recreation organisations at all levels get through the initial impact of Covid-19.

• $104 million to help the sector rebuild in the medium term. This includes helping national and regional organisations make changes to operate successfully and support new operating models and more collaboration.

• $78 million to modernise the sector by finding innovative ways to delivering play, active recreation and sport by using new technology and research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the frailty of and the urgent need to re-make the social contract. Elderly people in long-term care facilities, low-income individuals, disproportionately women, working in low paid, essential jobs that expose them to risk, or those unemployed as economies have shut down, have been most likely to suffer and die from COVID-19. Countries with impoverished health systems and weak economies have suffered disproportionately from the virus.

Such issues relating to socio-economic status in Scotland, but not just Scotland, remains the strongest determinant of participation in recreational sport. As has been well documented, recreational sport and physical activity are important for individual and population health but not just health. Freely available sport has been replaced, in places, by various pay-to-play initiatives from the public and private sectors and non-profit organizations.

Internationally NGOs, supported by sponsorships, corporate social responsibility and charitable donations, have moved to provide recreational sport and physical activity opportunities as alternatives to comprehensive state programmes in many parts of the world. These programmes may well benefit those they reach yet they only cover a fraction of the population and are rarely sustained. Many rely primarily on well- meaning but inexperienced youthful volunteers.

Sport is not always prioritised appropriately. The current pandemic provides the opportunity to raise the sector’s profile and build on cross-sectoral links. Sport and physical activity need more than ever to be included in key strategic documents and embedded across different policy areas. Vital questions are being posed which the sport sector can help answer. How do we reconfigure our city spaces? What does a post- pandemic tourist industry look like? How do we encourage a sense of community? What obligations do we have to other countries given that Covid requires an international response?

In the context of Scotland (i) what impact has the reduction in access to sport had on, for example, the para sport community; the BAME community; the walking football community; and the sport for mental health groups; to name but a few. While dealing with the immediate pandemic and financial repercussions is the absolute priority, the opportunity to get involved in what building back better actually means for disadvantaged groups is now vital.

The opportunity exists for Scotland to advance its international relations reputation as a carrying country. Funding for sport events, sport ambassadors, sport visitors, the exchange of sports knowledge from Scotland can also help other places. The French for example are reaching out to the African Union through sport.

Sport is not necessarily part of the Scottish effort to help Rwanda, Zambia, Pakistan, and Malawi- but it should be. New Zealand’s approach to partnership, wellbeing and international co-operation is recognised by sportscotland but it is not necessarily funded to advance international relations through sport in the way that UK Sport is. No technical reason exists as to why sport, particularly in the context of the current situation can’t be funded and or assisted to help countries in need.

General Impact on Sport

Lockdown measures, other restrictions and the pandemic itself has impacted considerably on the sport sector as a whole. With there being several different ways that the sport sector can be affected by the current pandemic, different sub-sectors have been affected to varying extents, albeit all have been affected at some level.

As COVID-19 has had a widespread impact across the economy there are a variety of ways that organisers, federations, clubs, athletes, local grassroots sport clubs, associations, coaches and other employees have been affected or may be affected in the future. The following are real.

Broad economic changes: the wider economic changes were always likely to impact on the economic situation of the sport industry as a whole in a wide variety of ways. It was always likely that the demand for goods and services would be reduced due to unemployment, reduced working hours and/or fear of infection. Export slumps could also arise due to a lack of transport facilities and lower demand. Supply could be considerably affected by lockdown and social distancing measures affecting employment across the sector both in the short and long-term.

Reduced governmental income: reduced tax intake and increased fiscal measures to deal directly with COVID-19 may affect the amount that can be spent on sport and infrastructure. The extent to which sport has been supported through direct Holyrood funding or indirect Westminster funding has been uneven between sports, between parts of Scotland and different social groups.

Cancellation of events: has resulted in an immediate lack of income and directly affecting the financial situation of sport events, stadia, and tourism. This was always likely to affect all levels of sport, including both professional and grassroots levels but lessons need to be learned in terms of building back better and strengthening the resilience of the sports sector.

Sponsorship money: This in most cases has reduced in the short and potentially long term due to the economic downturn putting financial pressure on existing sponsors.

Member financing: research has suggested this may be affected by wider economic trends, with considerable impact among membership organisations. Individuals may look to save money by stopping memberships or ad-hoc payments to sport organisations. It is possible that this will be affected by the nature of social distancing requirements, with team-based sports being more affected than individual sports.

Sport broadcasting: suggestions were that broadcasting deals may be reduced. Television, radio, and Internet broadcasters all affected by COVID-19 through reduced income from advertising and from cancelled subscriptions, with reductions in income for sport leagues or clubs following as a result.

Sport tourism: the potential impact on sport tourism was widely reported, both because of cancellation of events and the pandemic and associated lockdown measures affecting the ability and/or willingness of individuals to travel and attend events.

Production and retail of sporting goods and equipment: impacted by wider economic trends, such as the closure of production facilities and the retail trade. As a result of the likely severe impact of the pandemic across all elements of the sport sector, several measures and initiatives had already been recommended or begun to be implemented. Participant organisations in the European SHARE initiative produced a position paper on the impact of COVID-19 on the sport sector, calling for EU and national authorities and sport stakeholders to quickly put in place a range of support measures for the sport sector. The point being made is the complexity of Covid and Brexit together is impacting upon the Scottish sport sector.

With key revenue streams affected different Scottish sports and clubs have been differentially affected as a result of:

Lost revenue. Organisations unable to provide their services to the public. This includes considerable reductions in income from across various sources, e.g., membership, licensing, participation, ticketing, broadcasts, sponsorship, or subscriptions.

Cash flow difficulties. Organisations have struggled to pay fixed costs, including wages, rents, and contractual obligations. Due to lost revenue to cover obligations, this risks cuts to staff numbers and activity in order to remain solvent.

Unemployment and insecure work. Employees, athletes, coaches, and other workers risk being laid-off, with subsequent loss of skills. Employees also generally feel less secure in their jobs.

Freelancers. As they are self-employed, freelancers are particularly vulnerable to losses in income, largely due to having fewer legal protections.

Athlete income. Athletes have been affected by loss of income due to lack of events, as well as the financial implications of reduced sponsorship, prize money and other public and private sources of funds.

Unpaid workforces. Organisations have lost capacity, with volunteers often restricted to their homes or having limited mobility or ability to continue work due to the pandemic.

The vast majority of sport, particularly recreation sport is delivered through the 27 local trusts. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the closure of many facilities and services across the country. The resulting loss in income has placed many trusts in a financially challenged position with a long road to recovery. Trusts vary in terms of size and focus and are partly paid for by a management fee by local authorities to deliver agreed services. For most trusts this is only part of their overall turnover. For example, the average management fee is £5.5million, compared to the average turnover of trusts being about £17.7 million.

The most resilient trusts are likely to be those where the trust and local authority have a close working relationship, mutual goals and a joined-up plan for sport. East Renfrewshire would be a good model to look at. The trusts deliver recreational sport and reach parts of the community that are not always cost effective for the private sector.

A recent report from Community Leisure UK indicate that the public sport and leisure sector will reopen in a phased approach, primarily driven by financial viability. The financial pressures on Leisure Trusts cannot be ignored, and there is a very risk that inequalities will be widened due to the limited way in which facilities and services may be provided for universally.

As has been pointed out many times the term adequate provision to describe local authority responsibilities remains problematic. The evidence and the argument for sport to be really valued in Scotland exists. This is not the place to assert the often-quoted discourse on sport as a low cost, effective popular intervention. The covid pandemic has done many things but one of these has been to expose how much sport and related areas are needed across society and particularly in hard-to-reach communities and groups.

The UK Government £300 million emergency sport fund plus other funds for sport do not equate to the £ 1.57 billion support package for the British arts industry. The Barnett consequentials do not recognise equity between sport and the arts but neither does sport figure greatly in Scottish discussions of culture and or funding and yet it is one of the most popular aspects of Scottish culture.

Rugby League has received at least £12 million of additional funding through DCMS but what would the equivalent sport be in Scotland be – shinty, football, some other sport that should funded at scale because it reaches traditional social class niches in communities but has been stopped because of Covid?

Football is Scotland’s most popular sport, and it delivers in communities and connects with those on the margins of society on a scale that other sports fail to match. One can accept the need for different governments to react differently to different government announcements but football in Scotland it seems has been treated differently from that in England both in terms of fans, funding, and pilots and in a way that is hard to explain in terms of the science or the logic. Women’s football in its first year of going professional in Scotland remains economically fragile.


This contribution to the call on the impact of Covid 19 on sports clubs, leisure venues and communities is not exhaustive but aims to be add value.

It places a particular emphasis on those on the margins of society and the organisations responsible for delivering, sport and recreation to those on the margins of Scottish society.

The vast majority of sport in Scotland is delivered through local authority trusts and while clubs have a vital part to play and play a vital part in recreational sport only a small amount of sports participation is delivered through clubs

It calls for greater recognition for the part played by sport before, during and after the pandemic.

A primary lesson of the pandemic within and beyond Scotland remains that any preventive strategy must begin with planning and investment.

The need to invest in community sport and sport for development as a strategy of prevention. Governments should plan for, fund, monitor and evaluate community sport and sport for development as essential components of national population health strategies, but not just health.

The importance of advancing international aid to grassroots sport in other countries during and beyond this crisis is an opportunity that Scotland should grasp and catch up with other countries who value obligations to other countries through using sport. Widening access to sport is a value that should be lauded both within Scotland and beyond Scotland. Scottish sport can help with both.

At the same time Governments across the world have committed to a set of aspirations captured in agreements such as the Human Rights Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accord. Each of these represent a relatively broad consensus on what national and international collaborative efforts should also work towards.

The Economics of the Sports Business

Professor Wray Vamplew
University of Edinburgh

The Economics of the Sports Business

Does the Business of Sport Differ from ‘Real’ Business?  

Much of the economics associated with sport are conventional. Funds have to be raised, wages have to be paid, and resources have to be allocated to the production process. Yet in some respects spectator sport has peculiar economics.

A major different is that many sports clubs are less concerned with maximising profits and prefer to focus on winning cups and championships what sports economists label utility-maximising. Now you might ask ‘doesn’t winning lead to larger crowds, greater revenue and profit?’ The answer is ‘not always’. The two objectives can require different economic behaviours. Profit maximisers are well aware that profit is determined not by revenue but by revenue minus costs. However, utility seekers will be willing to spend all (or most of) their income to improve the team.

Another significant difference is that while most manufacturers in the non-sport world sell the certainty of their output as being reliable, the uncertainty of the result is a bedrock of sport. Sport is a product whose result or quality cannot be guaranteed. There is no script, no template and no identical replication. Indeed ‘uncertainty’ is the selling point of the sport product and a maxim of most sports economists is that the more unpredictable a contest the greater the attendance. Hence promoters often take action to promote competitive balance by trying to equalise the playing abilities of teams through restrictions on player mobility or revenue redistribution.

A further difference is that becoming a monopoly is not an objective for clubs or individuals in sport whereas in the business world a firm can prosper if it can eliminate all competition and become a monopoly supplier as this will allow it to raise prices and increase profits. Such a position in the sporting world would be self-defeating as firms and individuals need a competitor before a sellable product is available. No other form of commerce requires rivals to work together to produce a saleable product.

That said, there can be a form of monopsonic behaviour at the level of leagues which often operate as cartels, something generally illegal today for conventional business. Yet this is precisely what has happened in most professional team sports. The sports industry has a history of regulations, determined by leagues, which have impacted on the free movement of labour and not allowed employees to choose where they want to work or for whom. Equality of competition has been promoted by weakening the stronger teams and strengthening the weaker ones by such methods as salary caps, reverse order drafts and various forms of revenue redistribution.  Moreover leagues can impose restrictions on new entrants to the industry. In other businesses if you can raise sufficient start-up funds you can become a new bank, an oil company, or whatever, but in sport your application to join a league can just be refused or you may have to join at the lowest level of the pyramid in a promotion/relegation system.

The Americans are Different

As a basic generalisation American professional sports teams have making money as their primary objective, whereas in Europe owners seek utility from their spending. Operators in America rarely receive less than a market return on their investment, generally make capital gains when they sell a franchise, and even poorly-performing teams can make profits.  In contrast few professional teams in Europe make consistent profits and rely on benefactors (wealthy individuals or supporters groups) to keep them afloat so that they can focus on winning championships, gaining promotions, and avoiding relegations.

Given their commercial proclivity, it is no surprise that to protect their investments American team owners opted for their leagues to be closed institutions of competing franchises in which the sole quality control mechanism was gate-money. In contrast meritocracy has been the key feature of European leagues which were generally open ones in which teams were promoted or relegated between divisions.

Another major difference between European sport and that of North America has been the development of pan-national team sport competitions. Entry to these comes from performing better than other clubs in their domestic leagues and cups of which there is a plurality at elite level across Europe. These European-wide competitions are additional (and significant) revenue generators for the clubs, giving them an added incentive to strive to win.

Among other differences are that:

Americans punish success (via the reverse order draft) whilst Europeans punish failure (via relegation)

Americans pursue the drafting and trading of players rather than a monetary transfer system

American leagues operate on a franchise system with territorial exclusivity granted so as to protect the investment of the owners whereas Europe has larger leagues with some cities having more than one team.

American clubs own teams in minor leagues so that in effect promotion and relegation applies to players not the clubs.

Revenue sharing is more common in North America whereas certainly in European football the only centralised sharing comes from television revenues but with no implication of equal shares.

There is significantly more intervention in the labour market in North America.

The Future?

Has globalisation and hyper-commercialisation on both sides of the Atlantic led to a convergence of the two models? Certainly European clubs have sought to learn merchandising lessons from their American counterparts; the growing size of television contracts have encouraged equity capital companies to move into franchise sports like Formula 1; and some see the move of some American owners into European sport – or, more precisely, British football – as the thin end of the wedge. Things are changing but have they changed enough to render these models invalid? Closed competitions in team sports have been rejected in Europe (so far) and the franchise principle has not caught on (yet).

Sport and the 2020 United States of America Election

Grant Jarvie, University of Edinburgh
Luica Trimbur, New York City University
Yuxun, Xu, University of Edinburgh

In the 2020 election of the 46th President of the United States of America (US) sport matters, it is an important political force as it was in the 2016 election, so argues Grant Jarvie.

The voices and actions of athletes have become a powerful antidote to conservative reactionary policies of Republican sports owned franchises and the politics of sport in Trump America.

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States (US), the BBC asked how the election of the new US President would impact upon sport? Would talk of threatening trade deals, tariffs on imported goods, building walls and isolationist rhetoric affect the global ambitions of the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) or Major League Baseball (MLB).

The major sports owners showed their Republican colours during the 2016 election. The four major sports leagues all had Republican leanings. The total sport donations to Republican candidates or committees ($23,378, 415) swamped the contributions made to Democrat candidates and causes ($2, 728, 868).

NFL owners were the most prolific with $8, 052,410.00 going to Republican causes compared to $189.610.72 to Democrat causes. Baseball followed with $6,204,732.07 for the Republicans and $912,402.88 for the Democrats. NHL team owners donated a total of $4,613,232.76 of which $4,087,952 went to Republican efforts.

Trump wasted no time using sport to energize his base. His familiarity with American football, allowed him to further link patriotism to American football as he started to repeal Obama policies. But athletes have also used sport to resist Trump’s conservatism.

They have been playing baseball in Cuba since 1864. Ties with the US were severed in 1961. Obama restored diplomatic ties in 2015. It was baseball that brought Cuba and the US out from half a century of cold war deep freeze.  This was not just sport in action but soft power in action.

During the 2016 election campaign the president elect tweeted that he would “terminate” the policy on normalising relations with Cuba. On 16 June 2017, President Trump announced that he was suspending what he called a “completely one-sided deal with Cuba. Trump characterized Obama’s policy as having granted Cuba economic sanctions relief for nothing in return.

Eleven months earlier Colin Kaepernick’s had remained seated during the national anthem on August 26, 2016 and asserted that he would stand when the American flag represented what it was supposed to represent. 29% of Americans approved of the San Francisco 49ers action. 72% of African American men and women supported the protest. In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, 20 sports teams earned titles but ten of those teams either refused to visit the White House or were not invited. Two weeks after the US women’s football team almost shutdown the centre of Manhattan having won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Megan Rapinoe, the team’s co-captain talked openly about her public stand-off with the US President, who accused her of disrespecting her country, the White House and the flag.

It is important to reflect on the pace and extent of the change given that not so long-ago Colin Kaepernick was driven out of the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem and during the summer of 2020 the entire NBA took a knee. Whereas Trump likens Black Lives Matter to criminals and terrorists, ‘Black Lives Matter’ was emblazoned on every court as the remainder of the 2019-20 season played out with widespread tv coverage and every player wearing a social justice slogan as major sponsors ran advertising. In many ways this helped to legitimize the dissent that fuels the anti-Trump forces in the 2020 election.

The sports industry itself has fallen out of favour with 2020 voters. For the first time in Gallup’s 20 years of tracking Americans’ views of various sectors, the sports industry is losing the most ground, with only the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government having worse negative views.

The change comes as professional and college leagues are struggling to maintain regular schedules amid the pandemic. It also comes as professional football, baseball and basketball games have been suspended to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement and as more athletes use their platform in sport to voice political perspectives, no matter the consequences.

As part of the reaction to COVID-19 many US Olympic athletes supported the call to postpone the 2020 Olympics in the interests of public health, and some US teams lent their arenas for shelters, food depots, testing sites and now voting stations. Something that implicitly challenges the Trump message that the virus is ‘no big deal’ and that voting is likely to be rigged.

Athletes at every level, coaches, some team owners, and fans are speaking out about the administration’s lack of transparency and antipathy toward equality. Major professional leagues saw wildcat strikes that temporarily disabled sports events, showing widespread discontent with Trump’s presidency and the flex of political muscle that athletes know they possess.,

In 2020, after a ground-swell of actions in sport at all levels, athletes making political statements, taking political positions, and engaging in political action has become acceptable. Politics in US sport is now ordinary.

Whereas the sports contribution to 2016 US election was remarkable for the amount of sports money that supported Republican causes, the 2020 election is remarkable for the impact that the athletes are having. The sports owned franchises are losing public support at the same time as the athletes are gaining it.

To be sure Republican affiliations in the NFL, the NCAA and major team owners continue to shore up aspects of the status quo and Trump’s worldview but the message in 2020 is different from 2016 in that significant components of mainstream sport support significant social change.

Athlete’s use the space, profile, and platform given to them to make a difference and challenge the narrative is a sporting political force that is needed as much as ever.


  1. This account draws on the report produced by The University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport on Sport, Presidents and the US Election. For full details contact

Can cultural relations through sport build bridges?


Grant Jarvie 

Sports News

The proposition is straight forward that sport is a tool to be exploited in the pursuit of building effective cultural relations.

The proposition is timely as;

  • The UK seeks to launch a new soft power strategy
  • Wales has produced a report outlining how Wales might maximise sport as a soft power asset.
  • Scotland has an international development intervention that , like other countries, has still to maximise or realise the capacity and capability to foster reconciliation, rehabilitation and or resilience


The Norwegian Minister for International Development says that The Norway Cup is one of the best tools Norway has to bring the youth of the world together and if in the future these kids remember that Norway helped them that is worth more than any money that they we put in.

Norway is good at using the standard tools of international development development assistance programmes; capacity strengthening initiatives; commercial investment initiatives and collaboration with donors.

If such interventions build bridges for Norway why would it not work for the UK and/or parts of the UK?

Cultural gatekeepers need to be less aloof

The challenge is a tough one for it requires cultural gatekeepers to be less aloof about what is seen as culture. It requires sport to deliver tangible outcomes. It requires both to seek mutuality and forge and extend the common good.

For after all is that not what cultural relations is all about the forging of better relations through culture.


 The promise, possibilities and limits that sport brings have been well documented if not fully accepted by the cultural world. If taken seriously the sports proposition is a real one. Some of the qualities of sport should be appealing to those wishing to build bridges. But why is this?

It is

  • a pillar of connection
  • It has popularity, scale and reach
  • It can be philanthropy and resource re-distribution
  • It is not just a commodity, it can be a powerful vector of change, value, principle and solidarity, “a symbol and means,” of cultural diversity and economic but not just economic links.
  • A cost-effective resource that assists with forging sustainable, lasting, mutually meaningful outcomes.
  • Marchesseault’s work on the role of the bike and the cyclist as a form of agency in the construction of a more peaceful Rwanda is fascinating work- but who provides the bikes?
  • Cardenas’s work on sports role in building resilience, reconciliation and rehabilitation

 Cultural Relations

For the world of cultural relations sport raises a number of questions Can sport offer a sustained continuum of solidarity, shared practice and international fellowship? Can the cultural gatekeepers embrace a more complete world and definition of culture –

  • It is suggested that cultural relations builds bridges between nations, individuals but also communities;
  • Is is effective when focusing on non-governmental territory
  • Is not a short-term fix but should be long-term, increase levels of trust, build upon mutuality

 In a word cultural relations needs to be seen to be forging and sustaining common ground.

To talk of sport and the common good means that sport is part of a set of cultural commitments aimed at delivering public goods to people, regardless of personal identity, political affiliation or geographic location.

 If sport can help with the making of safe places, magic circles, in which things happen or if you have a tool that is a language, has characteristics of scale, popularity and reach then why would you not use it to build mutuality, trust and an enlarged common good.

Concluding Thoughts

SO a few points before concluding:

 Normatively and empirically spaces are desperately needed to open up the possibility of sustained dialogue involving the interests of more than one group or one state or one community. To talk of sport and the common good means that sport is part of a set of commitments and practices aimed at using public/private/personal power to deliver public goods to people, regardless of their personal identity, political affiliation, and/or geographic location. Sport working across groups, communities, non-state and state bodies as a cost-effective tool and resource.

Firstly, the use of sport is not new but the contexts in which we are working through are new. What is new is today’s fractured societies and communities and a realization that it is the local context often shapes sustainable peace and development processes. Top down interventions tend to be short-term fixes.

Secondly, sport is a space that you can build other things around, i.e. sport as a space, probably in the same way as other people have talked of the human rights space. The world of culture needs to embrace it and work with it in politically smarter ways.

Thirdly, a nudge for the academics since the question remains as to whether academics are involved in a project of critical mutual friendship to grow the common ground, or one of pure criticism that views all interventions as inevitably flawed without providing suggestions about what should be done. – Not good enough – we need solutions.

It was a welsh cultural writer who reminded us about the possibilities of culture as a tool that can be part of making the art of the possible, possible.

So can cultural relations through sport build bridges for the UK and parts of the UK? – the answer is yes. Should culture exploit the popularity, scale, reach and language that is sport the answer is yes. Should culture work in smarter ways and embrace sport yes.

 Sport can position itself in spaces where cultural relations can be forged. Thus, sport and the common good is best understood as a project of ongoing political construction and the UK should exploit it to the full to build bridges in a mutually sustainable way.

Sport and the environment in Germany: a comment and critique

Christian Cannarella

Sport has been recognised by the United Nations’ (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a crucial tool to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 13 – to take urgent action on climate change. This recognition indicates that there is an international mandate for sport to become a climate leader, by reducing its environmental footprint, acting as a vehicle to raise climate change awareness and encourage climate action.

Existing research is critical of the impact of sport on the environment. The sports industry requires excessive travel, construction and consumption of natural resources, indicating that sport first needs to be greener itself in order to act as a transformative force.

Transport, in particular, has been recognised as the main source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within sport. Sports organisations have been accused of using sustainability mainly at a discursive level, with little evidence of real climate action. Reducing the sports industry’s carbon footprint remains a challenge.

Climate change interventions has repercussions for different sports.

• Extreme temperatures, droughts and floods are damaging playing fields and disrupting sport events.
• Low levels of snowfall are threatening winter sports.
• Heatwaves increase health risks for athletes and spectators.
• Sea level rise is threatening sport facilities and organisations in coastal areas.
• Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives sometimes use sport to mask real organisational sustainable action around SDG 13.

Germany’s environmental agenda
As a leading global economy and country within the European Union (EU), Germany has a major role to play in achieving the 17 SDGs and the EU 2030 climate targets, which include reducing GHG emissions by 40%. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) is responsible for shaping and implementing policies to achieve targets related to environmental sustainability. These involve ensuring sustainability within urban development, construction and transport infrastructure.

Sport is increasingly interrelated with the above sectors. The current model of sports mega-events (SMEs), such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, involves the reinvention of urban landscapes and transport networks. Trends from recent SMEs evidence suggests that the staging of these events generates an increasing amount of GHG emissions.

The BMU policy direction indicates that urban development, construction and mobility play a key role in reducing GHG emissions and achieving environmental goals. Thus, the BMU legal framework has important repercussions on sport, which is required to play its part in reducing the above sectors’ emissions.

German football and sustainable mobility

German football has long since been involved in evidencing reduced transport emissions. That is to say this is not new. Bundesliga clubs have offered free public transport on matchday to ticketholders since the 1980s, an initiative known as Combi-Ticket. The 2006 FIFA World Cup hosted by Germany acted as a catalyst to improve sustainable mobility. Germany 2006 was the first world cup with a clear environmental strategy – Green Goal – aimed at improving the sport sector’s sustainability during and after the event. By offering Combi-Tickets, 70% of spectators used public transport to reach the stadium. To meet the increasing demand of public transport during the event, significant investments in infrastructure were made.

With the infrastructure in place, more Bundesliga clubs were able to offer Combi-Tickets to their supporters. As of today, every Bundesliga club offers Combi-Tickets, with the exception of Bayern Munich. This initiative led to declining car traffic in neighbourhoods around stadiums and raised awareness on climate change amongst German football supporters. Yet, 70% of Bundesliga supporters still travel by car, suggesting that more initiatives are required.

UEFA Euro 2024
Euro 2024 will be hosted by Germany and offers an opportunity to establish environmental benchmarks for subsequent SMEs. Plans for this tournament are centred around environmental sustainability. Germany’s well-established stadium and transport infrastructure requires little investment. The event does not involve the construction of new stadiums, which are easily connected by existing rail networks. Along with classic Combi-Tickets, offering free inner-city transport, supporters will also be offered Combi-Tickets Plus, allowing them to cheaply use sustainable transport between host cities.

This mega-event will also feature dedicated learning programmes on environmental sustainability for fans and volunteers. Through its immense reach, Euro 2024 can act as a realistic and effective vehicle to advocate climate action, if the environmental standards are met.

Concluding comment

While sport has been recognised as an important tool for climate action, it often engages in environmental sustainability only at a discursive level, while failing to validate claims. Sport has to play its role in lowering emissions related to transport, urban development and construction, in order to act as a truly effective vehicle for climate action.

Its well-established stadium and sustainable transport infrastructure enable Germany to host ‘greener’ SMEs. However, with sport being a global industry, solutions to make it more environmentally sustainable are required globally. That is to say that addressing sport and SDG 13 require multi-national not uni-national co-ordinated effort.

Sport and physical activity participation in Chile: Some Observations

By Josefina Rioseco Vallejos


Between 2006 and 2016 the Chilean government increased its investment in sport as part of an overall Sport and Physical Activity (PA) Policy aimed at improving infrastructure, participation and the promotion of sport and PA.

By 2017 the government had established national minimum activity guidelines for participation as 75 or 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous PA a week for those over 18, and 60 minutes of moderate activity a day for those under 18.

In one year alone, 2018, the equivalent of £50 million had been invested in the development of seven projects.

The 2018 national PA activity survey for over 18s, identified that 8 out of 10 Chilean over 18 are physical inactive, while the report card for PA for children and youth identified Chile with the lowest overall average participation rate amongst the 40 countries included.


Social and Demographic Background

With a population of about 18 million people, Chile is a socially, culturally and demographically rich and diverse country. The different ethnic groups as a % of the population includes:  white and non-indigenous 88.9%, Mapuche 9.1%, Aymara 0.7%, other indigenous groups 1% (includes Rapa Nui, Likan Antai, Quechua, Colla, Diaguita, Kawesqar, Yagan or Yamana), unspecified 0.3% (2012 est.) A rich group of languages that reflects its history and cultures including Spanish 99.5% (official), English 10.2%, indigenous 1% (includes Mapudungun, Aymara, Quechua, Rapa Nui), other 2.3%, unspecified 0.2% (2012 est). In terms of religion from largest to smallest groups Chile consists of Roman Catholic 66.7%, Evangelical or Protestant 16.4%, Jehovah’s Witness 1%, other 3.4%, none 11.5%, unspecified 1.1% (2012 est.)

Chile is in the advanced stages of demographic transition and is becoming an ageing society – with fertility below replacement level, low mortality rates, and life expectancy on par with developed countries.

Nevertheless, with its dependency ratio nearing its low point, Chile could benefit from its favourable age structure. It will need to keep its large working-age population productively employed, while preparing to provide for the needs of its growing proportion of elderly people, especially as women – the traditional caregivers – increasingly enter the workforce.

Over the last two decades, Chile has made great strides in reducing its poverty rate, which is now lower than most Latin American countries. However, severe income inequality means it has a low rank among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Unequal access to quality education perpetuates this uneven income distribution.

Sport and Physical Activity Trends

The National Sport and PA survey (2018) for over 18 years, showed that 66.2% of people in this category were physically inactive. A position that had slightly improved when compared to 2006.

For those aged between 5 and 18 years , the“Report card on PA for children and youth” 2018, graded Chile with the lowest overall average (“D” of a “A” to “D” scale, with A being the highest and “D” the lowest) among 40 evaluated countries.

A grade that was based upon 20% of the age range meeting PA requirements, and only 14,4% (Girls) and 26,3% (Boys) having participated regularly in organized sport.

Also, 1 out of 5 children from 8 to 18 years were physically active.

For adults aged between 18 and 39 participation rates rise to 43% representing the largest physically active age segment of the population. It then decreased to 32,5% and 21,9% for 40-49 and 50-59 respectively. Only 25% of the elderly are deemed to be active.

Regarding to gender differences, Chilean men adults are generally more active than woman adults (45,3% vs 25,6%). As for youths the trend is similar, been boys more active than girls (45% vs 16%).

Lastly, socioeconomic status (SES) in Chile is directly related to rates of physical inactivity: 82,5% of the lower-incomes population are physically inactive (82,5%). This gradually improve throughout the higher-incomes status (51,9%).


The reasons given for such rates of activity and inactivity vary between different sections of the population.


Some of the key cited reasons within the national survey for over 18 years included: “lack of time” due to work is the most popular reasons for refusing PA for both genders.

Besides working schedules, women are often also responsible of child-caring and house duties, reducing time for other sport activities.

Furthermore, “lack of motivation” is given as a common reason in woman who are more likely to spend their free time watching TV rather than exercise than men.

Lastly, women tend to assume PA as a health constructor rather than contributing as an entertainment element- a factor that the survey cites as a reason for decreased engagement.


As for youths some of the key cited reasons in The Report Card, included stereotypes about men and women, being self-conscious over appearance, lack of support by peers and schools and the fact that sport and PA opportunities provided did not match the tastes and preferences wanted by Chilean youth.


As for elderly some of the key cited reasons within the national survey included illness and disease that rendered some of the elderly inactive. Other reasons include lack of support provided either by their family or communities or both and having limited spaces to be safely active. Lastly, the adverse effect of having low-incomes due to an unsatisfactory pension system meant that some choices open to others were limited including the cost of access to sport venues.

Socio-economic status

Some determinants of lower SES on PA and sport have been recognised with the differences in annual incomes (£2,000 vs £17,000) having consequences for those on lower incomes as it leads, for example, to limited access to PA facilities when compared with the most affluent groups.


While recognising that contexts are vitally important to fully understanding what is happening in country X or Y and what the solutions might be. A number of suggestions might be considered by the Chilean Government.

  • Schools and teacher’s commitment are needed to create life-long motivation, habits and wider participation in physical activity and sport for all children and youths.
  • Safe and accessible and spaces should be improved, expanded, and accompanied by a range of activities delivered qualified staff to engage elderly in sport participation.
  • Social support for programmes are vital for all age ranges, and can be addressed by getting families, friends and peers involved.
  • Woman’s participation rates need to be increased in schools, by choosing sports and modes of delivery according to woman’s preferences and needs.
  • Educational workshops also need to address negative attitudes by males towards female sport participation. An increase in the number of leadership roles for women in sport in Chile needs to be advanced. Equality in sport necessitates not just equality in terms of participation but also representation on boards and the media.
  • Workplaces should consider implementing strategies to enhance sport and physical activity in the workplace, joining local sport leagues, hosting internal sport leagues, taking work team off-site for lunch workouts and hosting wellness workshops.
  • It is necessary to address the barriers contributing to low participation amongst low socio-economic groups including facilitating greater access to sport venues, fitness classes, hosting local leagues, delivering sport workshops, increasing opportunities for engagement by firstly recognising and then addressing structural barriers to involvement.
  • Committed long term public and private sponsors to support lower SES population would be a significant enabler.

Concluding Remarks.

With population of about 18 million total Chile has an issue with physical inactivity in specific demographic populations, as 8 out of 10 Chileans over 18-year-old are physical inactive. If government funding targeted an increase in the PA and sport budget for specific populations (youths, women, elderly and low-SES), the physical inactivity levels could be reduced.

Increasing levels of PA and sport participation, can not only help with the development of life-long habits, facilitate preventative spend, a healthier overall population, while supporting evidenced outcomes in other areas of social life such as education, labour, and reducing an inequality gap.

Some observations on sports and physical activity in Chile is the most recent of the Sport Matters research blogs that has focused upon aspects of sport in Chile. It adds to the information provided about  The Fútbol Más Program covered in the January 2018 edition of Sport Matters.

A lesson in international sports leadership from Canada

By Grant Jarvie 

University of Edinburgh and Toronto 

At a time when international leadership in sport is called for Canada has just made a collective gesture on behalf of the whole world through sport, writes Grant Jarvie.

Over the weekend of March 22nd Team Canada alerted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it would not be participating in any Olympics beginning in July. By March 23rd Dick Pound, Canadian IOC member, stated that the Olympics would be postponed by one year because of coronavirus and by March 24th  in a joint statement released by the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics had been postponed.

A decision which undoubtedly leaves questions about: cash flow to Olympic sports federations; sponsors contracts that expire as of December 31st; when will the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2012 be; what will the advertisers do in the new 17-day hole in the summer programming; tickets and hospitality and what of all the promotional spending that the 66 local Japanese, 14 global and 19 US sponsors know have to figure out?

The Olympics remain the only forum where the world gets to compete on a multi sport basis; it has stimulated government’s investment in women’s and para sports; it contributes significantly to the development of sports around the world, especially around the poorest countries that share in the redistribution of television money – US$ 509 million from 2017-2020.

It has never been postponed, with each of the stakeholders avoiding the right decision while trying to figure out the safest, least reputationally damaging solution for the IOC and Japan, but it was the Canadians who forced the change. In the words of Globe and Mail reporter Cathal Kelly Canada “didn’t just tip the first domino but they set the domino’s up” and the others followed suit.

The British and Olympic Committee (BOA) and UK Sport followed several National Olympic Committee’s requesting a postponement. Norway, Brazil and Slovenia had pressed the IOC to postpone. The United States governing bodies of swimming and track and field pressed their Olympic committee’s to press for a delay, but it was Canada who were first over the fence to say we will not be sending athletes if the games start on July 24th.

One month earlier in February 2020 it was another Canadian, and Olympian former Bruce Kidd who called for the IOC to be on the right side of history and rule out sex testing at the Tokyo Olympics. He went on “to empower unaccountable sports bodies, advised by self-appointed physicians, to exclude some women on the basis of their personal perceptions of womanhood is both wrong-headed and unfair”.

In 2014 IOC President Bach responded to Russia’s persecution of LGBTQ people during the winter Olympic and Paralympic Games by revising the Olympic Charter to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2016 when the IAAF was preparing its policy against Caster Semenya, the IOC announced that there would be no gender testing prior to the Rio Olympic Games and such an action argues Kidd should be announced for Tokyo to put the IOC on the right side of history.

It was the same Canadian who as Chair of the Commonwealth Advisory Board on Sport advocated successfully for sport to have much more of a development role in supporting grass roots sports NGO’s such as Magic Bus in India, Mathare Youth Sports Association in Kenya and Go Sisters Go in Zambia.

A role that helped to place sport at the forefront of the Commonwealth’s aspirations to help enhance human development and support agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals and attempt to make the world a better place.

Anyone who reads the early pages of the Olympic Charter is reminded that the Olympics first and foremost are a movement that respects and enables the right to sport and “places sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”

While athlete opinion is understandably mixed about the decision to postpone, the actions of the Canadians have perhaps helped to uphold some of the ideals of the Olympic charter and have delivered the correct humanitarian response to coronavirus pandemic.

Canada like Scotland is not a big player at the Olympic table. Canada like Scotland punches over its global weight in terms of the sports it claims to have invented. Scottish athletes and clubs have not been alone in leading the local and national response to the health crisis we are facing but for all of us Canadian sport has led us, once again, to a collective humanitarian intervention and the right decision.

Canada has also demonstrated that sport can actually lead on real global agenda’s and there are clear lessons here for both Scotland and the Olympic movement.

Grant Jarvie

Professor and Director with the Academy of Sport at the University of Edinburgh.

25 March 2020

Why we need quantitative sports history


Professor Wray Vamplew
University of Edinburgh

Individuals are important in sport but sports history should be more concerned with the collective and the countable. The biography of golfer Harry Vardon, the Tiger Woods of his day, contributes to the understanding of an early champion golfer troubled by tuberculosis and marital difficulties. Although interesting, it is more useful as sports history if it is contextualised into asking if tuberculosis was an industrial disease of professional golfers and whether the marriage problems emanated from the time away from home making a living as an elite professional designing courses and playing in championships. These are statistical issues: how many other golfers had tuberculosis and how did this relate to the general population; how much time did top professional golfers spend on the road? Qualitative history such as biographies at best supply examples with which to illustrate an argument and at worst provide the personal experience of one person without noting its typicality

Unfortunately in a host of academic areas there has been a move away from quantification to the qualitative in both epistemology and methods, a shift from which sports history has not been immune. An obvious reason for not using a quantitative approach is that some topics are not suited or relevant to a statistical slant. Numbers are the essence of that history which looks at collective experiences such as sports crowds or groups of professional players and counting might be seen as less necessary by those more concerned with the experience of the individual. However, argument by individual example is no real substitute for the use of hard, quantified data which enables us to determine what is typical and what is unusual, the whole basis of social science theory.

Another reason for the growth of qualitative history, however, is that counting often involves substantial hard work, something which too many sports historians shy away from. They have preferred the easier (which is not the same as saying ‘easy’) qualitative methodologies. Quantification has a high research time/word output ratio: counting can be a laborious, time-consuming, often ‘tedious’ process with hours of work resulting in just one table or even a mere sentence. In the same way that academe tends to distinguish between the hard sciences (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the soft ones (social sciences), perhaps it is time to distinguish between the hard (quantitative) and soft (qualitative) sports history.

It could be a lack of confidence in their ability to manipulate numbers in a meaningful way that deters some sports historians from venturing into the quantitative jungle. The author can accept that some sports historians will have difficulty in coping with higher order statistical operations, but not all quantified work needs to be complicated. Even those who believe that four out of three sports historians have trouble with math should, simply by the nature of studying sport, have at least a passing acquaintance with basic statistics. Knowing whether the mean, mode or median is the most appropriate calculation to make should not be beyond most of us. Even basic percentages can improve our understanding. Descriptive statistics, suitably organised, can add to our understanding and allow a great deal of informationto be given in summary form. Moreover statistical displays can have instant, eye-catching impact.

To turn away from the use of statistics is to reject the opportunity to produce papers that provide more specific answers than gut feeling. A recent study of jockeys in the United States, undertaken by creating a data base of 4,794 jockeys, was able to show that in 1880 African-American riders were over-represented in the jockey profession (22%) relative to the proportion they occupied in the general population (13%) and that the decline in African-American jockeys over time was less precipitous than had been conventionally assumed. By use of quantitative techniques they were able to offer more precision than those historians relying on intuition, emotion and non-statistical evidence. It was meticulous counting of the occupations of 500 players from the first two decades of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland using census returns, land valuations, trade directories and other sources that destroyed the foundation myth that it comprised mainly landless labourers.

There are two situations where the use of numbers is almost inevitable. Any financial information must involve figures. The other is that the establishment of growth or decline in any variable requires figures to justify the direction of change.

Yet numbers are important more generally. Measurement can allow historians to be more precise in their answers and figures can add strength to an argument by providing a statistical basis for historical assertions. Statistics can be used descriptively to set the historical scene and show the (relative) importance of a particular incident, event or theme being studied; for, example, studying the environmental impact of golf will be enhanced by a preliminary discussion in statistical terms of the number of golfers, the growth rate in participation, and the consequent rise in demand for golf facilities. Researchers should consider comparative work and look at other sports, other venues, other countries so that [they] can put [their] own case study into context and distinguish what is specific and unique from what is general and measurement is crucial for comparisons. In the author’s own work counting enabled the relative dangers of flat and jump racing to be compared via rates of injury. Associated with comparison is the issue of perspective, of putting something to do with sport in the context of non-sporting matters so that its relative importance can be gauged. It is impossible to demonstrate the economic significance of a sporting event without resort to figures. The cost of staging the 2004 summer Olympics was in the region of $20-$40 billion, equal to about one twentieth of one per cent of annual global GDP and substantially less than the $2,000 billion required to bail out US banks in 2009.

Academic sports historians appreciate statistics when they appear as lists of their citations on Google Scholar and seem capable of understanding what is meant by an ‘h-index’ and an ‘i10-index’. So why don’t they take their quantitative sense into their actual research. In modern sport, analysts would not consider the impact of a policy to increase grassroots participation or the influence of a new manager on a team’s performance without resort to measurement. So it should be when looking at the past. Moreover if non-quantitative sports historians fail to educate themselves in basic statistical techniques or methodology, they run the risk of disenfranchising themselves from a corpus of knowledge within the subject.


Sport, disability and gender: Voices from sub-saharan african girls and women

By Susanna Neumann

“Girls and women with disabilities should not be ignored because sport is their right!” (Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

“Sport is the key; it is the main key of everything! Sport brings us together, no matter the disability, no matter the gender, no matter the status, no matter where you come from. Sport will always unite us together!” (Interviewee 9, 08.08.2019)

People with disabilities (PWD) are considered as the largest, poorest and most marginalised minority. More than a billion people – corresponding to 15% of the world’s population – are living with some form of disability, out of which half are women and girls (WHO & World Bank, 2011).

Girls and women with disabilities (GWWD) face many barriers and obstacles in their struggle for (basic) human rights including equality in and access to sports. They are subject to multiple instances of discrimination, on the grounds of both gender and disability (UNDESA, 2016).

While a substantive body of work has focused upon gender and disability discrimination in and through sport in high income countries and wealthy contexts there is less evidence about GWWD’s sport experiences in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). 80% of the world’s disabled people live in LMICs (UNDESA, 2019; Connell, 2011; Grech & Soldatic, 2014; Karr, 2011; WHO, 2005).

The Study
The small qualitative study informing the research in this blog aimed to add to a limited body of knowledge of the sport experiences of GWWD in SSA, and Uganda in particular. Voice was given to nine (former) female athletes with different physical disabilities, as well as related stakeholders from Uganda (four interviewees), Kenya, Benin, Nigeria, the Netherlands and the United States of America. In total, six women and three men were interviewed.

Barriers and Challenges
Those interviewed gave voice to a number of barriers and challenges faced by girls and women’s experiences of sport within this context. These were as follows:

I. Cultural Barriers and Negative Perceptions
Cultural factors and negative attitudes were identified as the greatest barriers facing PWDs’ to participation in sport. All interviewees indicated that GWWD in SSA experience multiple instances of discrimination based on gender and disability due to “a deeply rooted patriarchal ideology”.

“That particular cultural factor is a big problem. Because when you have not accepted that this category of human beings has a lot to contribute to the society, you don’t see anything good that can come from that section of the population.” (Interviewee 3, 24.07.2019)

“Perception is what we need to change to overcome those challenges. When it comes to women and girls, oh it is terrible!” (Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“The complexity of culture and tribal, religion – all these elements make it hard for women.” (Interviewee 5, 01.08.2019)

II. Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
A lack of self-esteem and self-confidence among GWWD, which prevents them from participating in sport and physical activity was also highlighted.

““Oh a women with disability, how are you going for sitting volleyball, how are you going to run?” It is even: “In our culture it is not allowed, how are you going to compete with men?” Things like that. So for the women, they completely think it’s impossible. They make them loose their self-esteem and once they lose that, it gets really, really difficult.”
(Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“Me, personally, I used to play rugby and because of the outcomes of, you know, having muscles I stopped. Just like that. Because I did not want to have that body”
(Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

III. Lack of Awareness and Visibility
The lack of awareness and visibility of disability sport in SSA was seen as a further barrier. The importance of educating and sensitising the public, not only to overcome negative perceptions but also to show that GWWD can play sports was strongly emphasised.

Sport is an effective tool to overcome these barriers. Various scholars have noted that sport provides a context to highlight ability rather than disability. This increases the self-confidence of GWWD as well as enabling sports based interventions aimed at challenging and changing the negative attitudes of society (Bantjes et al., 2019, Albrecht et al., 2019, de Cruz et al., 2019, Bantjes & Schwartz, 2018, Corazza & Dyer, 2017, Devine et al., 2017, Silva & Howe, 2016; Martin, 2007, 2013; Kosma et al., 2007; Giacobbi et al., 2006; Farias-Tomaszewski et al., 2001; Taub & Greer, 2000).

Through sport, “we can demonstrate what these folks are capable of and then it opens doors to do other things including employment, access to voting and things like that.”
(Interviewee 1, 01.07.2019)

“It is important to engage different stakeholders in different activities, like awareness creation, like advocacy and lobbing, like showcasing their ability within disability.” (Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“Sport has contributed a lot to changing the general perception of PWD in this country.” (Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“It was not easy for me to begin sport. It is after a lot of programs of awareness raising like demonstrations or film projections that I decided to practice sport. I’m from the first generation of women doing sport.” (Interviewee 4, 27.07.2019)

“They need to be educated on the benefits of sports, and on what happens when they participate in sports. And also see that they are responsible of their lives, so it shouldn’t be their husband or parents or any other person’s fault.” (Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

IV. Sexual Harassment and Abuse
The results of this study emphasised the importance of providing safe spaces as well as support systems for GWWD in sport. The voices asserted that participants face a high risk of gender-based violence and sexual harassment by their coaches and/or managers. This has been identified as “one of the biggest problems” faced by GWWD.

“They are harassed, sexually harassed by their fellow sportsmen or team leaders or coaches or managers. It keeps them away, disabled or not.” (Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

“If the facility is far away from where they are coming from, because anything can happen along between the facility and the home of the athlete. So they need to know that they are safe. They need to know that they won’t be sexual harassed or abused. By probably their coaches, or managers, or anyone in charge. … Provision of safe spaces would be good. But sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes men washrooms and female washrooms, they are close to each other.” (Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

V. Structural Barriers
Lack of money and the insufficient implementation of rights and legislations regarding PWD such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are structural barriers that make it more difficult for PWD to claim their right to participate in sport. It was stated that various national legislations and policies regarding PWD in Uganda exist. However, the right of PWD to participate in sport is still not guaranteed. Addressing these issues will also require a stronger effort to reduce corruption, which remains a problem in many African countries (Chiweshe, 2014; Kakonge, 2016; Mwisukha & Mabagala, 2011).

“There is just so very little money and there is so much corruption, that often money goes into the pockets of those that are not always the most reliant and so it really depends upon who gets elected and who ended to run these Paralympic Committees.”
(Interviewee 1, 01.07.2019)

“Most of the women are single mothers. They really focus on how to make money. Or how to parent, or how to make sure they raise their kids they have given birth to.”
(Interviewee 6, 01.08.2019)

“They are the poorest countries but there are some very, very, very rich bastards. Most of the time they are also in the top and in the governments.” (Interviewee 5, 01.08.2019)

The integration of GWWD in sport in Uganda and other parts of SSA has not yet been achieved because of a number of obstacles and barriers. According to Marshall (2018), gender parity in sports will not be achieved any time soon, especially for GWWD – neither in SSA nor in other parts of the world. However, in the last few years, countries have begun to adopt measures to improve gender equality in sport.

Sport for Change in Uganda
Although this study is small, it is the first to report that such trends and experiences are also apparent in Uganda. By drawing upon the traditionally marginalised voices and experiences of female athletes with disabilities and related stakeholders, several progressive, and previously unexamined efforts made by the Paralympic movement in Uganda to address the discrimination of GWWD in sport were revealed.

Quotas and Gender Parity
Recently, the Uganda Paralympic Committee (UPC) applied a top-down approach by introducing quotas to increase the number of WWD in sport leadership positions. The most recent approach involved an explicit demand to nominate a female vice president for every male president in office. Quotas were also applied at the athlete level during sport competitions.

“(…) at least 40 percent of the leadership goes to women. From the Paralympic Committee and the 19 sport organisations. So those 19 sport associations, when they are electing their leadership, 40 percent must be women.” (Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“If we are sending for example, four athletes, two must be women, two must be men. If we are sending three, then two must be women and one must be a man. It has helped us to address such issues.” (Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

More emphasis is being placed on increasing awareness and visibility. Nationwide sensitisation campaigns involving the media are being conducted to change the public perception of what GWWD are capable of and how sport can be a tool for prosperity. A recent achievement in this regard was the collaboration of the UPC with universities in the form of sport scholarships.

“If a PWD is engaging in sports at any level the competition of entering universities becomes then very easy for those in sports. So that one has opened up the eyes of the public. Oh, let my child go and participate in sports, because there is this opportunity.”
(Interviewee 2, 03.07.2019)

“We can sensitize these parents by having door-to-door meetings or creating something, like a festival for girls, and we can invite parents to come and see what their children can do.” (Interviewee 8, 07.08.2019)

This study confirmed that GWWD face a great deal of discrimination in SSA. Various contextual and cultural barriers and challenges hinder GWWD in realising and enabling their right to participate in sport. One of the remarkable findings of this study is the efforts being made to overcome gender inequality in and through sport for GWWD in Uganda.

This research based blog provides insights into some of the factors that should be taken into account when addressing gender discrimination in disability sport in SSA:

• Cultural beliefs and viewpoints of disability must be understood because they are so influential that in some cases they are limiting PWD more than the impairment itself (Groce, 1999, Haihambo & Lightfoot, 2010).
• Raising awareness and providing education about sport opportunities for GWWD are crucial to overcome cultural barriers and to change the perception of society, especially parents. Sport festivals have proven to be a good medium for this purpose. Particular attention should be paid to communities in rural areas, where the rights and opportunities of PWD are less well known.
• Workshops should be conducted and further measures should be taken to empower GWWD and to increase their self-esteem.
• Safe spaces and (social) support systems for GWWD should be provided to minimise the risk of sexual harassment.
• Schools are the main facilitators of inclusive sport opportunities and for many disabled girls, schools are the easiest and first point of contact with sport and PA. For this reason, it is important to ensure that GWD attend school. Further, schools need to be educated about inclusive sport and adapted physical activity.
• Governments should update their commitments to the cause of PWD, and GWWD in particular because most existing policies and legislations have not been translated into reality (Onyewadume, 2007, Aldersey, 2010).

Sport, modern slavery and human rights: reflecting upon 2019 and 2020.

By Grant Jarvie

In 2019 the relationship between sport, modern slavery and human trafficking once again emerged as a significant concern. Much of the existing research has focused upon a limited number of areas. Sports and the sports industry have been actively seeking solutions to problems. A number of multi-lateral organisations that have championed the use of sport as an enabler.

In this final sports matters blog of 2019 we take a brief look at some key events of 2019 and aspirations for 2020.

The Modern Slavery Act

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) was introduced to bring together anti-slavery and human trafficking offences into one piece of legislation. Accordingly, it is an offence to: hold a person in slavery or require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour; facilitate the travel of any person across borders with a view to that person being exploited; or commit an offence with the intention to commit human trafficking.

The International Labour Organisation in 2017 estimated that at any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. This means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world. 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors.

Sport, modern slavery and human trafficking

In July 2019 the interim findings of the UK cross party group on sport, modern slavery and human trafficking reported that it intended to bring forward recommendations in the following areas:

  • Companies working on the construction of sports venues and in the supply chains of major events to report under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act;
  • In relation to the supply chains of public authorities as well as private companies, the UK Government’s full implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act which reported to Parliament in May 2019;
  • Ensuring adequate child safeguarding for every event hosted in the UK, particularly for youth events;
  • Encouraging sports bodies to consider human rights from the outset and integrate them into bid requirements;
  • When hosting an event, supporting the Local Organising Committee by allocating budget and resource to facilitate human rights due diligence processes;
  • Strengthening the Ofcom Broadcasting Code to consider social media outlets as broadcasters, particularly in cases of live streaming sport;
  • Public authorities to start quantifying who is using what when it comes to public spaces and logging this information in a central database – for example, are boys teams using communal football pitches significantly more than girls teams;
  • Considering enacting legislation similar to Title IX in the United States which views sport as an educational opportunity for girls and key to their future career success;
  • Reviewing the reporting of gender in sport to include other diversity metrics in recognition of the inter-sectionality of several forms of discrimination.

The Sporting Chance Forum, held on 21st and 22nd November in Geneva in the historic Room XX of the UN Palais des Nations, served as a powerful opportunity to discuss the key human rights issues, and their solutions, that exist across the world of sport. Hosted by The Centre for Sport and Human Rights, International Labour Organization, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UN Office in Geneva, the programme explored how different actors in the world of sport can use their individual and collective leverage to achieve a world of sport that fully respects human rights.

The cross-party group noted that one of the biggest human rights risks in commercial relationships surrounding sport, particularly regarding MSEs, relates to the construction of venues. When looking at the worst violations of workers rights in the construction of stadiums at MSEs, this can mean fatalities – 50 people died in construction activity for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, 9 people ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 21 for the 2018 Russia World Cup, 2 so far for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and a wide range of estimates for Qatar 2022, from a few dozen to a few thousand when estimates include non-World Cup projects. London 2012 is the only major IOC or FIFA event in recent years to have zero fatalities.

The human rights risks in the sports supply chain are much the same as the human rights risks in any other supply chain and include:

  • Health and safety
  • Decent working conditions
  • Decent wages.
  • Forced labour
  •  Child labour – Child rights can be impacted if they work illegally including their right to health, right to education and to go to school, right to play, and their right to an adequate standard of living and adequate care.

Sport, humanity and human rights

It is not as if the world of sport is inactive in addressing the challenges that it faces as it enters the third decade of the 21st Century.

If sport connects with so many people internationally then how powerful can it be in the advancement of human rights? The recent case of the Australian footballer Hakkeem Al-Araibi is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved through the fusion of sport and rights. It is incredibly exciting to reflect upon what could be achieved in a bold new world where sport must uphold the universal values which are in reality anything but universal. The case of Hakeem Al-Araibi for Australians is a reminder of what a football and rights movement can achieve together and what the high profile of sports and athletes can enable when they raise their voice in support of the humane treatment of all as they did for Hakeem. This is not conventional politics this is pure human rights and it is a space where athletes can ground their advocacy for a better world.

Should we not understand what human rights policy obligations and due diligence means when applied in such a specific context as sport? It is here that the potential of National Human Rights Associations (NHRI’s) have not been fully realized or utilized by sporting partners. In 2015, the Merida Declaration set out the role that NHRI’s should play in the implementation of the 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals. The statutory role that they have in advising national governments of their statutory obligations while remaining independent and reporting to the UN is a resource that sport in Scotland might make more use use of.

However, the argument that is put forward here is more than the above.  While accepting that international sport is far from perfect and that the global sports industry needs to be challenged further there is also credence in the argument that sport can play more of a leadership role through (i) the social currency of athletes to amplify important discussions and (ii) a sports and rights movement that gives further credence to the athlete’s message, brings sport and athletes together in a shared advocacy that is enabling the promotion of international human rights instruments on a global level.

When a Tanni Grey Thompson or a Gordon Reid or a Kurt Fearnley challenge perceptions of what an athlete can do in a wheelchair and advocate for the rights of the disabled they are advocating for the rights of others. Sport can help to shift conversations and in the case of Hakeem mentioned above we have the case of a successful campaign to free a footballer who had a greater recourse to international standards as a registered footballer than he did under Australian, Bahraini or Thai domestic law.

When sport uses its new found humanitarian muscle the effects can be powerful. Child labour, supply chain abuse, construction worker deaths, displacement of vulnerable people, burying of human rights abuses and the general sport-washing of mega sports events are no longer just considered the host nation’s problem for sport must increasingly account for its own business and force states to adapt.

Hopes for 2020 and beyond

As international sports calendars unfold year after year it is worth remembering that while there is no single agent, group or sports intervention that can carry the hopes of humanity there are many points of engagement through sport that offer good causes for optimism, that things can get better, that we can move beyond a world paved with good intentions and that sport is a valued part of the mix in making the politics of the possible, possible.