Dr Dan Parnell



November 2015

‘Race’, racism and participation in sport


Follow here for the briefing.


This briefing outlines three propositions in what is an increasingly complex field of theory, policy and practice:

  1. ‘Race’ and ethnicity influence the way sport is accessed and experienced;
  2. Responses to racial disparities and discrimination require coherent and specific approaches at multiple levels (individual, organisational, structural);
  3. Race equality policies require clear thought but implementation needs thoughtful action.

This paper considers “sport” in both a formal context of active participation, and participation in physical activity more generally, considering possible preferences for informal or community contexts for some black and minority ethnic groups. It also explores the role that formal structures and bodies can play in increasing participation amongst these individuals.

Key messages

  • Racism and racialised inequalities significantly influence black and minority ethnic communities’ access, participation and experiences of sport.
  • Black and minority ethnic community experiences of racism differ within and across ethnic groups. Intersections between gender, class, age and disability also influence experiences and participation in sport.
  • In light of the existence of racism in sport, it is unsurprising that many black and minority ethnic groups favour physical activity (PA) and health programmes that can be pursued away from the mainstream.
  • Race equality in sport requires a critical approach that understands the nuances of tackling different experiences of racism in policy and practice. One size does not fit all.


  • Racism and racialised inequalities significantly influence black and minority ethnic communities’ access, participation and experiences of sport
  • Black and minority ethnic experiences of racism in sport differ within and across ethnic groups and intersect with issues relating to gender, class and disability
  • Many black and minority ethnic groups favour physical activity and health programmes that can be pursued in less competitive environments
  • One size does not fit all: achieving race equality in sport requires understanding of different experiences
  • Sport bodies and race equality
  • Case studies of sports bodies addressing race equality
  • Sport for All?


BurtonThis is an article I wrote with my colleague Dr Paul Widdop for the Sports Think Tank, which can be found here. 

Participation in sport once a week is down to 35.5% of adults (The Guardian, 2015), local authority spending on sport and leisure has been cut from £1.4bn in 2009-10 to £1bn in 2013 (The Guardian, 2015). There is no wonder that the UK media are beginning to challenge the value, impact and legacy of the £9.3bn London Olympics.

The dismantling of the structures concerned with community sport, spearheaded by austerity-driven policy measures, have without doubt contributed to this demise in participation. This includes the obliteration of the School Sport Partnerships (Sports Think Tank, 2015) and the decline in community sport facilities and activities (Parnell et al., 2014). Even those that do survive, such as those supporting our national game, football, are in need of greater care and investment (Parnell and Widdop, 2015).

As noted, by King (2012) (who has written extensively on local authority sport and recreation), the financial cut-backs on services delivered by local authorities has left a gap in delivery across key areas of sport and leisure. As further financial cuts are made, and as the gap widens, community sport organisations, both private and voluntary, have emerged in support of service needs.

Despite this, community sport organisations have also felt the pinch of austerity. Whilst many community sport and local authorities appear proactive to the Big Society agenda, there remains concerns of the capacity of organizations to genuinely deliver tangible outcomes (King, 2012).

These community sports organisations are no longer operating in the cozy environments (and support) of a New Labour Government. Amidst the ongoing economic austerity, many of these organisations have faced greater scrutiny from funders and grant-givers (Parnell et al., 2015).

As such, community sports organisations have began to reach out, to establish greater links with Universities and academic institutions to access support beyond traditional work placement students and align closer to strategic research and evaluation support (Parnell et al., 2015).

At the same time, universities across the higher education sector are facing their own challenges. The national economic climate has resulted in less financial support for universities who are experiencing reduced access to research council funding (Larkin, Richardson and Tabreman, 2012).

Moreover, many within higher education have felt a growing need to develop “impact” via their research activity (Parnell et al., 2015) and at the same time ensure such work reaches the right people through exchanges, platforms and networks (Fieldhouse, Widdop and Bunglawala, 2015).

There appears to be an opportunity for those within universities seeking to make a genuine impact. Through the development of real world, civically responsible research partnerships, universities and community sports organisations may be able to find common ground. This could be particularly important for community sports organisations within the third sector and those in need of support with research and evaluation.

In a recent study, Parnell and colleagues (2015) described a current example of a university and community sports organisation partnership. Burton Albion Community Trust (BACT), the community arm and registered charity of Burton Albion Football Club deliver a range of community-based sport initiatives where themes include: women and girls, health, social inclusion and disability (BACT, 2014). BACT is a community sports organisation that is growing, despite the current economic climate, through the development of key partnerships that support the urgently needed and impactful programmes that deliver value for money (BACT Annual Review, 2015).

The development of the research and evaluation partnership whereby BACT enacted the support of a local university concerned the evaluation of BACTs football/sport-based, youth social inclusion project, “Albion 2 Engage” (Parnell et al., 2015).

The evaluation utilises an intervention mapping framework that works across three key areas: Evaluation Needs, Evaluation Planning, and Evaluation Implementation. The partnership seeks to support BACT, commissioners and funders to develop a better understanding of the impact and social value of the Albion 2 Engage project (Parnell et al., 2015).

At present, policy-makers need more evidence to understand what works for sport if we are ever going to convince them to invest more seriously and strategically. Both universities and community sports organisations have complementary and potentially overlapping needs (i.e., research “impact” and research and evaluation skills).

In order to counter the financial decline in investment for sport and leisure (alongside the participation decline and increasing ill-health), universities and community sports organisations have a real opportunity to collaborate, to gather evidence, make a difference and make an impact.

Without this, and multiple extended research partnerships of this ilk, we cannot expect to see much real, articulated, measured return on the £9.3bn Olympic investment.

This post is based on a recent open access published article for the peer reviewed journal Social Inclusion:

Understanding Football as a Vehicle for Enhancing Social Inclusion: Using an Intervention Mapping Framework

Dr Daniel Parnell, Dr Andy Pringle, Dr Paul Widdop, Dr Stephen Zwolinsky

The link to the article is here:

Dr Dan Parnell is a senior lecturer in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University and is an active researcher across the sport and leisure sectors in the UK and Europe. These opinions are expressly his and not those of his employer. Twitter: @parnell_daniel


Dr Paul Widdop is a research fellow at Leeds Beckett University. His research interests are in the consumption and production of sport, especially in relation to social networks, geography, and neighbourhood effects. These opinions are expressly his and not those of his employer. Twitter: @Fire_and_Skill


Football Fitness

Peter Krustrup’s research has shown that soccer is an effective weapon against lifestyle diseases. The project establishes the health effects of soccer for children, adult men and women, the elderly, and people with diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Football is an alternative to drugs in the fight against lifestyle diseases.

Peter and I are working on an exciting project that will bring together the latest thinking on sport and health.

Daniel Parnell 0006

My Background

I was born in Birkenhead, England, in 1985. I grew up in a football family, playing from an early age, being one of the first players to represent Glenavon JFC and attending my first Everton Football Club match at the age of 2. Today I’m an active researcher and senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.


My Academic Credentials

I received my PhD in sport science from Liverpool John Moores University in 2014 and had taught at the Liverpool John Moores University, Abertay University, Dundee, the University of Derby and Leeds Beckett University from 2006 until 2015. Since then, I have been a senior lecturer in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University actively leading and involved in a number of research projects.  I am also the Research Director of Connect Sport, a network that serves to raise awareness of and participation in community sport, and I help organise The Football Collective, a platform to share and engage in critical debate around football, both with my colleague Dr Paul Widdop.


My Areas of Research

I am primarily interested in the social role of sport (specifically football) through the evaluation of organisations and interventions using mixed and multi-method approaches both quantitative and qualitative.

Currently I conduct research with a number of football clubs in England and key strategic stakeholders in football (and sport), including the Football League Trust, the English Premier League, the English Homeless FA, International Olympic Committee and the Football Foundation (the UKs largest sports charity). This work concerns research with participants across the lifespan (including “hard-to-reach” groups), and extends to coaches, managers, chief executives, funders, policy makers and other stakeholders.


During this time I have also, led a number of club based interventions including those based within the Everton Active Family Centre (a unique centre based at Goodison Park the home of Everton Football Club), completed the national evaluation of the Extra Time programme, alongside the completion of a further three national evaluations concerning school sport, coach education and sustainable community facility investment. On top of this, I am interested in the impact of austerity driven policy measures on the provision of sport and leisure, sport management and Public Health.


To bring this together, I am interested in utilising various communication methods to share and raise the awareness of the findings of my own and others research to the general public (individuals, families, communities, organisations, commissioners and policy makers). Which supports my role with the fabulous Public Engagement and Performance Conference!


All my publications appear in academiaedu profile found here or on this site here. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter @parnell_daniel or via email


Pleased to join the board for this open access journal. Articles can be published in Spanish, Portuguese and English – a great outlet especially for those researching and interested in Latin America. Would also be an interesting and positive outlet for those researching in physical education, school sport and sport.

Read more here.


The 2nd Public Engagement and Performance Conference

First call for submissions: The 2nd Public Engagement and Performance Conference

Date: 18th/19th March, 2016
Venue: The Conference Centre, YHA York

Last years conference:

This is an interdisciplinary conference that provides a supportive forum to share, discuss and learn about diverse approaches to performing research and engaging the public. Last year’s conference drew delegates from fields as diverse as Anthropology, Clinical Trials Research, Counselling & Psychotherapy, Dance, Drama, Education, Health & Social Change, Nursing, Sport & Exercise Science, and Business Management & Marketing.

Our aim once again is to bring together people from across the arts, humanities and social sciences who are at various stages of the research process, and with different levels of expertise and experience. Our purpose is to support, present, develop, and foster greater awareness around engaging the public through research [re]presentations that are ethically sensitive, relevant, timely, and imaginative.

Full details are available at:
If you would like to get a feel for the conference, click this link to see delegates discuss last

year’s conference:

4 Ways to Participate:

1. Submit in-progress research/ideas for the opening workshop which provides an opportunity to discuss different communication and dissemination strategies including arts- based and performative methodologies. The workshop will provide an opportunity to draw on the expertise of our panel and other delegates to explore: ethical challenges in performative research; practical solutions to public engagement challenges; questions relating to specific projects. This participation route is ideal for those new to public engagement and performance who would like to develop potential ways of disseminating their work:

2. Submit a performance to the evening showcase. This provides an opportunity to showcase finished projects/performances in a supportive and public setting:

3. Submit a paper or conference presentation on any issue concerning public engagement and performance (e.g., community participation, autoethnography, evaluation criteria):

4. There is no requirement to present or perform! If you are interested in any or all of the above and would simply like the opportunity to question, watch and be informed you would be very welcome. Please register as a delegate here.  

If you have any questions or queries please contact the administration team by emailing

New campaign to stop cuts to sport and leisure


The Sport and Recreation Alliance have launched the #GetYourKitOn and help protect grassroots sport funding. Call for support from ‘the people’ the SRA are look for people to help reduce George Osbournes attack on sport in the Comprehensive Public Spending Review.

See more here. 

Also read about other related sport and austerity articles here. 

Sport for peace in a post – conflict Colombia

This is an article by my colleague Dr Alexander Cárdenas who wrote on Sport for Peace in a post-conflict Colombia. We are currently visiting INDER Medellín exploring their sport based initiatives.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 09.10.45

If properly managed and articulated, sport could make a modest, yet tangible contribution to Colombia’s post-conflict era. 

Colombia has experienced the longest-running internal conflict in the Western hemisphere. Extending for fifty years, the confrontation between government forces, guerillas and paramilitaries has caused a profound fragmentation of society and a devastating loss of human life. In 2012 a series of exploratory talks between the government of president Santos and the FARC guerilla began in Cuba with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. With Norway and Cuba as guarantors, and a number of governments supporting the talks, this has been the first serious attempt in a decade to bring the two major actors of the conflict to the negotiating table.

Key Facts at August 2015 

  • The National Center for Historical Memory indicates that between 1958 and 2010, 220,000 people have been killed in the Colombian conflict (with 81 percent being civilian casualties).
  • 5,7 million have been displaced.
  • 900,000 have been assassinated.
  • 147,000 have been victims of forced disappearance.
  • Because of the internal conflict and rural violence, Colombia is home to the second largest internally displaced population in the world.
  • A surveyed conducted during the 2014 Brazil World Cup and featured on the New York Times online edition set out to explore the perception of football fans in nineteen countries. In relation to Colombia, the study found that 94 percent of Colombians were interested in football, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed.
  • 94% percent of Colombians believe football is important or very important for the nation.
  • During 1949 and 1954, a period known as El Dorado, Colombia’s football league was the strongest and best-paid in the world.
  • Bogota, Colombia’s capital, is home to the largest bicycle network (ciclovía) in the world.
  • Colombia has a strong sport-for-development tradition which began more than two decades ago.

Columbia- national football stadium in Bogota

Peace-building and sport in Colombia

Efforts at fostering peace are not restricted to finding a political solution to the hostilities but a peace movement largely associated with civil society seeks the mobilisation of all sectors of Colombian society to act in favour of peace through a variety of efforts and initiatives.

Increasingly, cultural and artistic expressions and notably sport, have been acknowledged by political leaders, international organisations and civil society as powerful allies to advancing peace-building in this nation.

Interest in exploring the role of sport as a tool for peace within the particular conflict context of Colombia is gaining momentum. Evidence of this is provided by the increase in the number of sport-based programmes and interventions that use sport as a tool to promote peace in communities affected by violence and conflict, as well as by an upsurge in newspaper and magazine reports, TV and radio shows, seminars and forums informing the public on the sport for development and peace (SDP) phenomenon and showcasing the progress made by organisations operating in this field.

There are a variety of ways in which sport has made a contribution to building peace in this nation afflicted by five decades of violence and war. Sport-based initiatives promoted by NGOs (e.g. Colombianitos, Tiempo de Juego, Fútbol Con Corazón, Goles por la Paz), governmental programs (e.g. Golombiao, Gestores del Deporte) and the international community (notably UNDP, UNICEF, German International Cooperation Agency, Inter-American Development Bank, Peace and Sport) have all positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and youth across Colombia, while at the same time, raising awareness of the potential of sport as a vehicle to foster the values that are generally associated with peace such as non-violence, open dialogue, understanding and respect.

The enthusiasm and expectation that sport generates as a social cohesion tool must be coupled with a pragmatic understanding of the advantages and limitations of sport as a promoter of positive change within Colombia’s conflict dynamics, and even more so – since a peace deal can be reached as early as this year – within a potential post-conflict scenario.

Post-conflict and sport

There are critical issues that need to be addressed in order to take advantage of the opportunities that sport may offer in building a post-conflict nation.

Since sport is not a holistic peace-building and development tool, it is advised that SDP interventions and programmes should be embedded and operate within greater regional and national peace and development objectives and in conjunction with non-sport-based programmes.

The momentum that sport generates in Colombia as a peace tool needs to be sustained with substantive political reform. This may entail not only developing specific public policy on sport within the post-conflict context, but in addition, current programmes and interventions must be redesigned to meet the challenges that the post-conflict phase may pose.

Of particular interest is examining how sport can assist in reintegrating combatants back to civilian life and in providing psychosocial recovery and creating economic opportunities for victims of war.

A recent study conducted by the author found that SDP officials – including trainers and coaches – perceived themselves as peacemakers or peace facilitators.

Given this, officials and trainers operating with NGOs may enhance their peace-making skills by receiving formal instruction from academic institutions and practitioners whose work gravitate around areas such as peace-building and conflict resolution.

Collaboration between academic institutions (in training personnel and assisting foundations in designing, implementing and evaluating SDP programs) and NGOs operating in this field is yet to happen and is strongly recommended. Moreover, academic institutions can critically reflect on the possibilities and limitations offered by sport as a peace tool with the aim of improving sport-based interventions.

Finally, as the international community turns its eyes and resources on Colombia and its post-conflict era, material resources and technical assistance can be leveraged in order  to support post-conflict SDP initiatives via international cooperation schemes.


Sport will not put an end to Colombia’s five-decade war but it can make a modest and tangible contribution to building (and ideally, sustaining) peace in this nation.

A thorough analysis of the advantages and limitations of sport as a viable peace tool is necessary. It is also paramount to successfully mobilize the diverse stakeholders involved in the SDP sector and develop clear policy on the social role of sport with a focus on Colombia’s post-conflict phase.

Link to the original article is here.

INDER Medellín: The Life Units: changing life

The INDER Medellín Life Units change things drastically. As part of broader public policy initiatives, the Life Units sit in the heart of the community.


From the mountain:


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