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About this book

This innovative new text examines sport's relationship with politics and argues that sport has always been political, even as far back as antiquity. However, in the last 30 years there has been an unprecedented politicization of sport through increasing government intervention.

Jonathan Grix takes a comprehensive and engaging look at sport politics by examining state involvement in initiatives from sports mega-events through to grass-roots and community sport activities. Providing an accessible introduction to this growing area of study, the text examines a number of approaches to the topic – including theories from Political Science, Sociology and International Relations – and adopts a critical framework throughout. In doing so the text discusses the relationship between social capital and sport, how governments use sport for non-sporting objectives and the role of governance in sport policy. Real-world examples demonstrate just how entwined sport and politics are: from ardent soccer fans effectively 'locked-in' by ever-increasing ticket prices, to taxpayer's money funding ever more extravagant international sports mega-events, to the moral and political implications of doping.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Of ‘Politics’ and ‘Sport’

Abstract
The purpose of this volume is to introduce the reader to sport politics. It was not all too long ago that this phrase would have been considered contradictory, as ‘sport’ was widely believed to be something quite separate from ‘politics’. Avery Brundage, a former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), famously stated over 50 years ago that sport had little to do with politics and the former has no place in the dealings of the latter. He went on to suggest that ‘sport… like music and the other fine arts, transcends politics… We are concerned with sports, not politics and business’ (IOC, 1968: 10). Unfortunately, this view does not hold in the light of a history of boycotts (for example, the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics), murder (the 1972 Munich Olympics), and sports events mirroring political struggles (for example, Hungary versus the USSR in Water Polo, 1956). In what follows, it will become clear that sport has been always inextricably bound up with politics, from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the choice of Qatar as host for the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. Indicative of the intertwining nature of sport and politics are perennial debates about the rights and wrongs of Formula 1 taking place despite popular protests; discussions on the moral issues surrounding the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) overruling of the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) by-law that prevented British drug cheats from ever competing at the Olympics; and endless conferences, workshops and media coverage on whether sports mega-events (SMEs), such as the Olympic Games, really deliver value for (public) money.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 2. The Study of Sport Politics

Abstract
This chapter serves as an overview of sport politics. The increasing political salience of sport globally has given rise to a growth in interest among academics, commentators and the general public in this area. New journals and groups of scholars attest to this: the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics was launched in 2009, for example, three years after the creation of a ‘sport and politics’ specialist group of the Political Studies Association in the UK, which has grown from around five members to an annual conference with around 80 delegates. This chapter also functions as a brief survey of some of the mainstream literature that could be included under the rubric of ‘sport politics’. As will become clear, this is not intended as an exhaustive review of all literature related to sport and politics; rather it should be understood as indicative of the area of study to be outlined.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 3. Sport, the State and National Identity

Abstract
Throughout history, states have used and manipulated sport for political purposes. At different times in history, different regime types have drawn on sport as a resource to either entertain the masses and direct attention away from affairs of the state or unpopular wars, or as a vehicle to whip up domestic national sentiment and gain much needed international prestige and legitimacy. Sporting events and past glories occupy the ‘national narratives’ that make up a nation’s past. For Hall (1992: 293) such narratives are made up of ‘a set of stories, images, landscapes, scenarios, historical events, national symbols and rituals which stand for or represent, the shared experiences, sorrows, and triumphs and disasters which give meaning to the nation’. Australians hark back fondly to the 1956 Olympics — the ‘glory years of Australian Sport’ (Booth and Tatz, 2000, cited in Magdalinski, 2000: 306) — when re-telling their own national narrative, which has now culminated in the resurgence of their standing as a ‘sporting nation’ with the successful hosting of, and performance at, the Sydney 2000 Olympics. In New Zealand the All Blacks rugby team doing the ‘haka’ is an image that makes up a central part of the ‘Kiwi’ identity (New Zealand Herald, 2014). The ‘Big 4’ professional sports of American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Hockey are woven into many American citizens’ sense of their own national identity; key sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, act as pivotal and perennial moments within the US national narrative.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 4. The Political Economy of Sport

Abstract
Sport is big business — very big business. FIFA claimed that half the people on the globe watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup. Imagine what a sponsor or someone wishing to advertise goods for sale would make of that figure. The last game of the National Football League (NFL) in the USA culminates in the annual Super Bowl. Viewing figures for that nation’s favourite entertainment have risen from around 75 million in 1990 to a staggering 114 million record in 2015; a figure higher than that of church attendance once a week in the USA (Economist, 2015: 43). It is for this reason that a 30-second advert during the Super Bowl cost advertisers no less than US$4.5 million in 2015 (Time, 2015). The economic knock-on effect of such events as those above are equally staggering; for example, according to the Economist ‘more than half a billion chickens will have given their lives so that their wings might be dipped in barbecue sauce’ by the time the Super Bowl is finished (ibid.). The figures generated by English football’s Premier League are equally astonishing. In 2015 it signed a £5.14 billion television deal with Sky and British Telecom — up 70 per cent on the £3 billion from the previous deal — causing uproar among commentators who point to the simultaneous rise in soccer stars’ wages and the dwindling numbers and deterioration of grassroots soccer facilities.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 5. Sport and the Media

Abstract
The story of the commercialization of sport in Chapter 4 goes hand in hand with that of the development of the media: it is difficult to relate the one without the other. If the academic literature around the commercialization of sport has developed into a sub-discipline of its own, so too has that of sport and the media. This chapter can but briefly touch on some of the milestones in the development of the ‘sport-media’ relationship. In what follows, a brief discussion of the historical development of sport and the media will be outlined. The chapter then turns to the role the media plays in constructing a state’s national ‘narrative’, formed as it is around critical junctures in history and momentous, and usually glorious, occasions, of which sporting events and feats are part.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 6. A Politician’s Dream: Sport and Social Capital

Abstract
As discussed in Chapter 1,’ sport’ is a contested term. Increasingly, governments around the world understand ‘sport’ as a resource to invest in and utilize in the pursuit of a host of non-sporting social aims and objectives. If ‘sport’ has become a hot topic of late, the concept of ‘social capital’ has had an equally impressive rise in prominence in the past 20 years. It too has become a contested term that brings with it a great deal of hope for the betterment of society. It seems, therefore, inevitable then that both concepts would be taken together to form a concept cluster that makes politicians salivate: ‘sport and social capital’. Given the intuitive, self-explanatory and commonsensical understanding(s) associated with both concepts — that they are intrinsically ‘good’ for society — it is little wonder that literature on sport policy and development has sought to combine the two.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 7. The Politics of Performance Sport: Why do States Invest in Elite Sport?

Abstract
The quote above encapsulates at least four possible answers to the question posed in this chapter. Much of the thinking behind this volume has been driven by a desire to understand the relatively simple question: ‘Why do governments invest in sport?’ The current chapter alters this slightly and focuses on ‘elite’ or ‘performance’ sport (these terms are used interchangeably, although some prefer ‘performance’ as it has a less exclusionary ring to it than ‘elite’). Policy changes occur often across all policy sectors and while commentators have managed to skilfully outline the contours of an ever-changing sport policy (Houlihan, 1997; Green, 2004, 2006), the simple question as to why governments invest in elite sport in the first place remains inadequately answered. The reason why this is the case lies in the positive discursive nature in which elite sport policy is framed, allowing few possibilities for thinking ‘otherwise’ (Green, 2004: 367). That is, the question is rarely put, as ‘sport’ in and of itself is understood as an intrinsically ‘good’ thing; yet, investments of $55 billion for a Winter Olympics (Sochi, Russia), Australian $100 million in elite sport for the year 2013/2014 (Australian Institute for Sport, 2013) or around £350 million for a three-year period (for example, the 2012–2016 Olympic funding cycle) in the UK (UK Sport, 2014) in any other policy sector would command a great deal of explanation and justification.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 8. Governing Sport: Domestic and International Governance

Abstract
There are, of course, many levels at which the ‘governance’ of sport could be discussed. In this chapter the focus is on the domestic national level of sports governance and the international level of governance. The former concerns itself with how sport policy is delivered, how sport is funded and which type of organizations make up the so-called ‘sportscape’, including NSOs. International governance of sport concerns itself with those organizations that are responsible for transnational sport, for example, WADA, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), FIFA and the IOC. Such global organizations set the context within which NSOs operate; decisions made at a supranational level often impact on and directly affect NGBs and their policies. The governance of sport is, therefore, not just a matter for individual nations. Key actors in world politics, for example, the United Nations, and increasingly the European Union and the Council of Europe, have a direct impact on national sport. An example of agenda setting policy at a supranational level is the European Commission’s 2007 White Paper on sport, which suggests member states ought to encourage a greater role for equal opportunities in sport.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 9. Doping Matters

Abstract
So long as there have been sporting competitions, some form of doping has taken place in order to enhance participants’ performance. Before looking at examples of historical precedents of doping, it is worth noting that in the twenty-first century it is difficult to disentangle the development and proliferation of doping in sport from the globalized nature of sport, the role the media play in sport, the commercialization and professionalization of sport and the politics of performance sport. This holds too for other forms of cheating in sport, for example, match-fixing and spot-fixing games and deliberately injuring opponents, which are clearly akin to doping. Globalization has aided the proliferation of doping in sport with the sharing of ‘best practice’ crossing international borders; athletes in one country receiving doping substances and advice from people in another. The increased commercialization of sport — linked, as discussed in Chapters 4 and 5, with the development of the media — acts as a driver behind reasons to dope. Lucrative pay-days and careers tempt athletes to cross the rubicon and take performance-enhancing drugs, attempting to gain an advantage in an ever increasingly professional world of sport. The stakes in sport are now much higher.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 10. Public Diplomacy, Soft Power and Sport

Abstract
Sport has often been used by states as part of their foreign policy objectives (see for example Merkel, 2008; Manzenreiter, 2010). Both elite sport performance and the staging of SMEs are seen as two potential sources of international prestige for states. Evidence suggests that international sporting success, whether by national teams and athletes competing abroad or by the effective staging of a SME, provides arenas for the deployment of soft power through which states seek to ‘attract’ others with their values and culture. States also seek to persuade the outside world to want what they want by projecting a specific ‘image’ to foreign publics and by creating ‘a favourable impression and increase[ing] understanding among foreign audiences’ (Potter, 2009: 51). This chapter introduces the use of SMEs by states as a public diplomacy tool. It does so by discussing the concept of ‘soft power’ which acts as a prism through which to grasp why states vie to host ever more expensive sports events. The concept of ‘public diplomacy’, nation ‘branding’ and ‘soft power’ all need some explanation as they are key to unpicking the rationale why states are prepared to invest scarce and finite resources into what often amounts to a few weeks of sporting action.
Jonathan Grix

Chapter 11. The Future of Sport Politics

Abstract
The intention is not to offer a blow-by-blow summary of the preceding chapters. Rather, a discussion of the overarching and often overlapping themes should aid understanding of the processes that have led to sport becoming even more political than it has been in the past. Simply put, this text is an introduction to understanding why sport has become more politicized in the past 30–40 years. In doing so, it is hoped that any doubts as to whether sport is political, or whether sport and politics ‘mix’ in the real world, should have been put to one side. The following broad-brush categories are a way of attempting to capture the wider processes influencing sports development. Houlihan and Green (2008: 9), in discussing factors that have impacted on the convergence of elite sport systems (see Chapter 7), suggest that ‘globalization, commercialisation and governmentalization’ are central. Each state is subject to similar pressures, yet not all react to them in a similar fashion. There is little doubt, however, that these three overlapping ‘pressures’ play a part in the politicization of sport. Globally, states now compete to host elite sport events or to showcase their nation through elite sport success; even effectively ‘buying-in’ foreign nationals and naturalizing them instantly, so that a Kenyan citizen, for example, can represent Qatar at distance running almost overnight.
Jonathan Grix
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