World Cup woes and social change

With the World Cup finals weeks away one cannot help, but get clawed into the buzz and hype of the beautiful game in some way shape or form.  Whether thats playing football or some other form of consumption like the Nike’s latest advert!  I know I have certainly been playing in the street more with my little boy, but maybe that’s because the football season is over and I am missing my weekly dose!  As most of ‘us’ will be discussing our respective national team selection permutations,  whether Van Gaal is thinking about Hollands performance or Man Utd’s pre-season transfer market antics, or whilst the academic ‘us’ discuss the latest innovative ambush marketing ploy or even the more social of ‘us’ the best World Cup selfie…we could be forgiven for forgetting or at least brushing off the drama that is unfolding on the streets of Brazil.


Whilst the riots have received plenty of coverage, we cannot forget the actual reality of the government spending money on a mega event like the World Cup when a nation is suffering (its not like we have seen this before either).  Without this World Cup having even kicked off, people are beginning to talk of the ‘power’ of football and the World Cup to create social change in Qatar.   This rhetoric is nothing new – many believe in the the power of sport and some people are more cynical (check much of Fred Coalter’s literature for the latter).  Forgetting the distant World Cup on far off shores – ‘us’ Brits could ask “what has this got to do with us?’.

In the United Kingdom, the British Government have positioned sport a key delivery agent on a number of major social welfare issues including education, crime, inclusion and health improvement.  Despite, relatively large amounts of Government funding proliferating from the public purse (through the Football Foundation, Sport England etc) into football based social change projects often delivered by professional football clubs – very little is actually known around how effective these projects are.

In this regard, there is very little evaluation in place across football based health interventions (and even fewer in sport based interventions).  This prompted my interest in developing and editing a Special Issue on Football and Inclusivity that is due for online publication in the Journal Soccer and Society in the coming weeks.  In preparation for this I offer a brief insight into the contribution list below, but will look to offer perspectives into each article over the coming months.

I have made it clear in previous posts that I do believe football can be a powerful tool to impact local communities.  Most of my research interests have surrounded this, whether its using football as a vehicle for health improvement or to tackle anti-social behaviour.  BUT there is clearly a need to better understand how football (and sport) can better help local communities and society. More importantly, this Special Issue highlights a landmark move on what I called for in my first ever blog post (approx. 2 years ago) – the NEED for researchers and academics to (amongst others including the Government and National Governing Bodies) TO provide MORE HELP to those delivering on the these social change projects.  Hopefully, this Special Issue and blogs begin’s the narrative for further research and action to help those working on the ground.


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