Dr Dan Parnell



July 2016

Politics and policies of austerity and their impact on sport, leisure and public health

Read the full call for papers for this on the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, here. 

The aim of this special issue is to encourage critical discussions about the relationships between austerity driven policy and changes in sport, which can extend to local government or municipality provision, leisure and public health contexts.

Since 2008, the economic downturn has had significant and widespread impacts globally, across Europe and other regions, and within specific countries. Terms such as economic recession, austerity measures, deficit, and structural reforms have dominated media narratives. Whilst European policy makers debate possible solutions to the gradual and deepening financial issues in the continent (Sen, 2015), some national governments have been forced to adopt austerity measures as a way out for their heavily indebted economies. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK), have adopted austerity as a policy of choice.David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK at the time, stated that there is a need for “a leaner, more efficient state” in which “we need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently” (quoted in Krugman, 2015, p.1), ensuring that an age of austerity would continue. Many countries and economies appear now to face a continued period of ‘super austerity’ (Lowndes and Gardner, 2016; Parnell et al., 2016).

Following Blyth’s (2013, p.2) description, austerity is ‘a form of voluntary deflation in which the economy adjusts through the reduction of wages, prices, and public spending to restore competitiveness which is (supposedly) best achieved by cutting the state’s budget, debts, and deficits’. Despite this, some economists argue that austerity is essentially anti-growth, since public expenditure decline contributes to private income reduction and increased unemployment rates. These two factors give rise to particular outcomes of austerity, causing losses on prosperity and leading a substantial segment of the population into poverty (Marmot & Bell, 2009). The challenge against austerity driven policy is given some impetus by a recent International Monetary Fund research report which specifically highlights the (negative) impact of austerity and suggests that neoliberal economic agendas promote inequality and jeopardize durable expansion (Ostry, Loungani and Furceri, 2016).

In these environments of reduced public spending and fiscal consolidation, funding mechanisms for sport also become complex, thus resulting in consequences relative to governance, management, power, and policy-making. However, the results of austerity on sport and leisure are only beginning to emerge although, in the UK, there are some indications that local government provision of sport and leisure has been heavily impacted (Parnell, Millward and Spracklen, 2014).

In this special issue of the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics we invite articles from a variety of disciplines and different global, regional, national and local contexts. We would also wish to include work that engages in critical examinations of the impact of austerity driven policy on various aspects of sport and related leisure and public health contexts. Papers based on empirical research should be presented within an appropriate conceptual and theoretical framework. If there are sufficient papers of a high standard the guest editors will discuss the possibility of also publishing the collection as a subsequent edited book with Taylor & Francis. The intention is to select 6-8 full papers (between 8,000 and 10,000 words, inclusive of references) that are theoretically and methodologically diverse. Specific reviews or shorter research notes (up to 2,000 words) are also invited.

Although not exhaustive, the topics covered in this special issue could include:

  • Changes in responsibility for sport across local government and the private sector,
  • The role and service needs of volunteers and coaching staff in austerity contexts,
  • Funding for elite sport and impacts on sport policy,
  • National Governing Body strategies to deal with austerity funding,
  • Austerity funding for grassroots sport and its impact on lifelong participation,
  • The state of school sport in austerity contexts,
  • The emergence of social enterprise as a consequence of austerity,
  • Austerity as a potential driver for innovation,
  • Successful and unsuccessful attempts to navigate austerity,
  • The politics of austerity and its impacts on elite sport,
  • The politics of austerity and its impacts on community sport, physical activity, leisure and public health
  • The politics of austerity and sporting mega-events (including legacy),
  • The politics of austerity and the impact on sport organisations across different (public, private or third) sectors.

We invite submissions drawing on range of policy and politics related theoretical and methodological perspectives to advance knowledge and understanding in the field.


Blyth, M. (2013) The History of a Dangerous Idea, Oxford University Press.

Krugman, P. (2015) The austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s all about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs, New York Times.

Lowndes, V. and Gardner, A. (2016) Local governance under the Conservatives: super-austerity, devolution and the ‘smarter state’. Local Government Studies. DOI:10.1080/03003930.2016.1150837

Marmot, M., and Bell, R. (2009). How will the financial crisis affect health? British Medical Journal, 338:b1314

Ostry, J.D., Loungani, P., and Furceri, D. (2016) Neoliberalism: Oversold? Finance & Development, 53, 2.

Parnell, D., Millward, P. and Spracklen, K. (2014) Sport and austerity in the UK: an insight into Liverpool 2014, Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 7, 2, 200-203. DOI: 10.1080/19407963.2014.968309

Parnell, D., Cope, E., Bailey, R. and Widdop, P. (2016). Sport Policy and English Primary Physical Education: The role of professional football clubs in outsourcing. Sport in Society. In Press.

Sen, A. (2015). Amartya Sen: The economic consequences of austerity. New Statesman:

How to submit your paper

Deadline for submission of abstracts (max 250 words): Friday 23rd September 2016

Confirmation of invitations to submit full papers: Friday 7th October 2016

Deadline for submission of full papers: Friday 3rd February 2017


All submissions must be sent jointly to: Guest Editor – Dr Daniel Parnell and Co-editor Dr Iain Lindsey

All submissions should follow the journal’s Instructions for Authors, and the submission of full papers should be made through the journal’s online submission site

Editorial information

  • Guest Editor: Daniel Parnell, Manchester Metropolitan University (
  • Guest Editor: Peter Millward, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Guest Editor: Paul Widdop, Leeds Beckett University
  • Guest Editor: Neil King, Edge Hill University
  • Guest Editor: Anthony May, Coventry University

Football: the new drug in the fight against lifestyle diseases

England’s poor performance at Euro 2016, declining grassroots football participation and The FA under pressure to reform; it all paints a sorry state of affairs for the national game. Despite this, football remains high on the agenda for development agencies.

In recent months Dr Dan Parnell, Research Director at ConnectSport, travelled to Denmark to meet Professor Peter Krustrup of the University of Copenhagen to discuss the role of team sports in health promotion. A key part of the conversation was the role of (i) professional football clubs and (ii) football as an activity in tackling lifestyle diseases.

Football and team sports are becoming a key interest for policy-makers and health professionals aiming to influence physical activity levels and tackle lifestyle diseases. This is a result of the growing amount of research on football and health.

This short article seeks to highlight the body of work undertaken by Peter and his colleagues. Peter’s research has shown that football is an effective weapon against lifestyle diseases. Their research establishes the health effects of football for children, adult men and women, the elderly, and people with diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Peter provides an insight into his work in the video below which champions football as “an alternative to drugs in the fight against lifestyle diseases”.


Other related research:

Bangsbo, J., A. Junge, J, Dvorák, and P. Krustrup. 2014. “Executive Summary: Football for Health–Prevention and Treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases across the Lifespan through Football.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 24 (S1): 147–150.

Hunt, K., S. Wyke, C.M. Gray, A.S. Anderson, A. Brady, C. Bunn, P.T. Donnon et al. 2014. “A Gender-sensitised Weight Loss and Healthy Living Programme for Overweight and Obese Men Delivered by Scottish Premier League Football Clubs (FFIT): A Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial.” The Lancet 383: 1211–21. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62420-4.

Krustrup, P., P. Aagaard, L. Nybo, J. Petersen, M. Mohr, J. Bangsbo. 2010. “Recreational football as a health promoting activity: a topical review.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science Sports 20 (1): 1–13.

May, A. and D. Parnell. 2016. “The community impact of football pitches: a case study of Maidstone United FC. Sport in Society DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2016.1173921

Mckenna, J., T. Quarmby, N. Kime, D. Parnell, and S. Zwolinsky. 2016. “Lessons from the field for working in Healthy Stadia: physical activity practitioners reflect on ‘sport’.” Sport in Society doi: 10.1080/17430437.2016.1173913

Milanović, Z., S. Pantelić, N. Čović, G. Sporiš, and P. Krustrup. 2015. “Is Recreational Soccer Effective for Improving VO2max A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Sports Medicine45 (9): 1339-53.

Oja, P., S. Titze, S. Kokko, U.M. Kujala, A. Heinonen, P. Kelly, P. Koski, and C. Foster. 2015.“Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: systematic review of observational and intervention studies with meta-analysis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine49: 434–40.

Other related special editions

Bangsbo, J., P. Krustrup., and J. Dvorak. 2014. “Special Issue: Football for Health – Prevention and Treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases across the Lifespan through Football.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 24 (S1): 1.

Parnell, D., K. Curran, and M. Philpott. 2016. “Healthy stadia: an insight from policy to practice.” Sport in Society doi:10.1080/17430437.2016.1173914

Parnell, D., and A. Pringle. 2016. “Football and Health Improvement: An Emerging Field.”Soccer & Society 17 (2): 171–174.

Parnell, D., and D. Richardson. 2014. “Introduction: Football and Inclusivity.” Soccer & Society 15 (6): 823–7.

Dr Dan Parnell is Research Director at @ConnectSport and an active researcher and senior lecturer in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests cover the sport and leisure sectors within the UK and he works globally on a number of projects, in particular the social role of sport. Contact or follow @parnell_daniel on Twitter or access his research here.

This article was originally published on Connect Sport, here.

Heads up! How small-sided football can help the nation’s health

Dr Dan Parnell, of the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan University, offers some thoughts on recently-published research which highlights how small-sided football training can contribute to the health of the nation.

In England, we have observed the growth of professional football clubs as deliverers of Primary Physical Education (PE) (Parnell et al., 2016). Whilst Primary PE has been outsourced to a range of willing providers, recent research suggests that football could offer some real answers to tackling the health of the nation.

In June 2016, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published an editorial by Peter Krustrup, Juri Dvorak and Jens Bangsbo, which discusses the role of small-sided football training in schools and leisure-time sports clubs, and how it improves physical fitness, health profile, well-being and learning in children (Krustrup, Dvorak and Bansgo, 2016).

How can small-sided football training help children?

The editorial highlighted that of the research on Football for Health (about 100 scientific articles from 2009 to present), approximately one third have investigated football training in schools and in sports clubs.

The conclusions are encouraging:

  • small-sided football training induces high heart rates, a large number of intense actions along with high involvement, technical success rates and training effects for boys and girls irrespective of body mass index, fitness level or prior experience with football;
  • 98% of children who are members of football clubs live up to the physical activity recommendation of health authorities and they have stronger bones, less fat and greater aerobic fitness than non-sport club members, and
  • small-sided school-based football interventions with just 2×30, 3×40 and 2×45-minute weekly games improve bone health, heart health, physical capacity and learning in children aged eight to 12 years old.

This provides a clear message for all stakeholders from policy-makers to headteachers: Football has the potential to get children fit and healthy! 

What can we do?

We have already highlighted the lack of research and understanding of the role of professional football clubs in the delivery of Primary Physical Education (Parnell et al., 2016). But that aside, those involved in (and genuinely interested in) getting our children fit and health need to, in football terms, ‘get their heads up’.

We need to deliver high-quality, focused programmes which use small-sided football training to deliver health targets. And this needs to be supported with clear research and evaluation, to make sure we are getting this right in practice (Lansley and Parnell, 2016). The evidence is there – we just need to make this happen.

This article is based on the following research article:

Krustrup, P., Dvorak, J., and Bangsbo, J. (2016). Small-sided football in schools and leisure-time sport clubs improves physical fitness, health profile, well-being and learning in children. British Journal of Sports Medicine, doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096266 (open access here).

Dr Dan Parnell is an active researcher and senior lecturer in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests cover the sport and leisure sectors within the UK and he works globally on a number of projects, in particular the social role of sport. or follow @parnell_daniel on Twitter or access his research here.

This article was original published on Connect Sport, here. 

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