Dr Dan Parnell



November 2016

Making a difference off the pitch the social and community contribution of sport in Manchester

As part of our ESRC Festival of Social Science event: Manchester: a global centre for sport, we delivered a session on Making a difference off the pitch the social and community contribution of sport in Manchester with colleagues from industry and academia. Below is our session, but the rest of the videos can be found here.


Manchester: a global centre for sport

Conference pre-amble for our ESRC Festival of Social Science event, here is my contribution, but the rest of the videos can be found here.

The value of golf to health

This article was original published on Connect Sport.

In a recent article in the British Journal of Sport Medicine researchers provided their findings on a scoping review exploring the relationship between golf and health. Here Dr Dan Parnell and Dr Paul Widdop, of ConnectSport, offer an insight into the research and its implications for community sport.

Golf is undoubtedly a global sport, played largely outdoors on open-air greenfield courses and involves striking a ball and walking (mostly), which makes it an interesting pastime to study health. Evidence suggests that the game is reputedly played by around 55 million people in 206 countries, but courses are concentrated in nations with larger GDPs, as are prestigious international tournaments. Those who participate in golf are demographically diverse, with a breadth of people playing from young and older age cohorts, and those with a range of abilities. Whilst this is true, certain sections of society are more inclined to participate in the sport, given its somewhat elitist nature, which we have discussed further in a previous post.

Why is golf of interest to health?

Golf has widespread international interest and appeal, emphasised by international tournaments and vast acres of land given over to private and publicly financed courses. Furthermore, as of 2016 it has been reintroduced as an Olympic sport, which it is hoped will raise the profile and participation of the game globally.

Golf does not offer the exercise intensity of cycling, swimming, football, tennis, but it still has an important role to play as the fifth most popular sport in England (behind football, cycling, athletics and swimming). Perhaps the low intensity is what makes it attractive to sections of society, for example older age cohorts, who might be unwilling or unable to participate in alternative sports. Furthermore, but not specified in the paper, are the social aspects of golf for health and mental well-being, that is the social capital generated, from a Robert Putnam tradition.  Perhaps, golf and its association with the 19th hole (slang term for the clubhouse) is unique in this aspect, as the end of the game is built on socialising.

The Health Survey for England 2012 data outlines that 2.2% of persons aged 16 and over reported playing golf in the four weeks prior to the survey, although participation levels are greater in higher socio-economic groups.

It has also been highlighted that older age cohorts play to a greater extent than younger groups (Scottish Health Survey, 2013), and to a greater intensity.  But there is a lack of evidence as to whether cost and other types of capital restrictions influences these findings.

Given the economic recession and challenges for keeping people active and recruiting new participants, making golf accessible for all is a key challenge for the industry. This is growing increasingly difficult given the counter-intuitive strategies of some elitist clubs, who embark on policies which detach themselves from communities, through excessive pricing structures.

The scoping review

This scoping review included published and unpublished reports of any age or language, identified by searching electronic databases, platforms, reference lists, websites and from consulting experts.

Using a three-step search strategy the authors identified relevant considerations. In all, 4944 records were identified, later filtered down to 301 studies, which met the criteria set by the research team.

What did the scoping review find?

The findings surround three keys areas and reflect a growing development in the breadth and depth of research undertaken in golf participation.

1 Physical health: Golf can provide moderate intensity physical activity and is associated with physical health benefits which include improved cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic profiles, and improved wellness.

2 Mental health: There is limited evidence related to golf and mental health.

3 Risk of injury: The incidence of golfing injury is moderate, with back injuries the most frequent. Accidental head injuries are rare, but can have serious consequences.

What are the implications for community sport?

We should take some encouragement that participation in golf is associated with improved physical health.

Providing evidence and placing golf at the forefront of the psyche of practitioners and policymakers, by identifying the social benefits associated with golf individually and collectively for communities, is essential. The following points illustrate where funding and evidence must be generated for programmes to support increased participation:

– improved physical health.

– improved mental well-being.

– contribute to increased life expectancy.

– increase community-level social capital.

This might be particularly relevant for older participants, where golf can contribute to increased muscle strength, balance and falls prevention (and mental health).

Risk of injury is rare, but remains a factor in golf, like other sports. It will be important for those in community sport to consider reduction strategies and pro-active support ahead of programme implementation.

Where possible, practitioners and policy-makers should seek to engage with universities to develop research and evaluation opportunities to fill the identified gap in our understanding of golf and health.

Community-level social capital through sport is often a throw-away line. But golf has a social aspect which community sport groups need to explore for the benefit of community cohesion and civic engagement.

This article is based on the following research article:

Murray, A. D.,  Daines,, L., Archibald,, D., Hawkes, R.A., Schiphorst, C.,  Kelly, P., Grant, L., and N. Mutrie. (2016). The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review. British Journal of Sport Medicine. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096625 (open access is 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.

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. Contact or follow @Fire_and_Skill on Twitter.

The Battle for Badges

This article was originally published on The Football Collective.

By Alex Bond, Dan Parnell and Paul Widdop

Football and competition are synonymous. Scan the terrain and conflict is everywhere, from Mourinho v Conte, Messi v Ronaldo, Germany v England, Everton v Liverpool, fans in the pub, fellas in their Sunday league teams or a random group of kids in the park with an hour to spare and ball to share – we – the football mass love competition – it’s an embedded part of game. However, the (radical) commercial actors embedded in the game are also infatuated with competition, creating aggressive commercial competitiveness between players, clubs and leagues on a local and global scale.


Buying leadership

Chelsea FC recently became the second best commercial performer in the Premier League with a new £900m deal with Nike, representing an income of £60m a year for the blues and a £30m a year increase on their previous deal with Adidas. Add this to their £57m a year shirt sponsor deal with Yokohama Rubber and you can see why Chelsea will be challenging for a top 4 place in commercial revenue across Europe.  Therefore, it is understandable why Chelsea FC want lucrative commercial contracts, however it is not so clear why Nike (and Adidas) are willing to commit multiple millions (and in some cases billions) to secure kit manufacturing rights.


Looking back to look forward

The current domestic TV rights deal for the English Premier League, in the region of£5billion, has heightened scrutiny and discontent of fans and commentators alike. Among other factors inflating broadcast revenue, one main contributing factor is the competition between BskyB and BT to secure the domestic rights.

This fierce competition is mirrored in the present battle between Adidas and Nike to secure the kit manufacturing rights for football clubs. The competition between the two giant sportswear manufactures has caused similar radically inflated price tags.


Demand conflates the market

The most obvious rationale for this shirt battle is sales. Whilst it is relatively straightforward to measure shirts sales. When trying to calculate the overall quantitative elements of a return on investments are problematic, given the way sport brands report their sales accounts and their global reach through similar sponsorships.

However, last season Chelsea sold 1.65 million shirts, selling for around £50 and depending on their split they could profit £10-£15 million on replica shirts alone. Adding sales of other fashion garments this figure is likely to escalate rapidly – as football clubs look to capitalise on emerging markets, notably the global south.


Brand recognition

A more quantifiable motive is competitive advantage – until Nike secured Chelsea’s kit deal, Adidas had six of the top jersey selling clubs, with Nike only having three.Therefore, this is a strategic move to ensure they are not left behind its main competitor.

Similarly, Chelsea – behind Manchester United – are the only other English Premier League club with real global exposure and distribution possibilities (based on global shirt sales). For example, 76.9% of the Chelsea squad is made up of non-UK players, all bar one plays for the representative national team – not to mention names that are celebrity brands in themselves, namely Hazard, Costa, Courtios, Luiz and Oscar, who also akin to pop-stars and carry their own fan bases.

This paints a idealised world for the sports brand looking to invest, until sports brands, such as Adidas, lift their head up and consider the uncertain BREXIT implications on visas and finances for players such as Hazard, Costa, Fabregas – although this is a discussion for another day.


Brand loyalty

One of the most unique features of sport, which provides commercial organisations the biggest rationale for investing money, is the favourability fans express towards those brands who invest in their team.

The idea generally revolves around the fact fans ‘love’ their club, we have an emotional and psychological connection to them at least – this love and connectedness is transferred to the sponsoring brands. Whist this isn’t always the case – take for example Newcastle United and Wonga – generally research shows fans have a more favourable attitude and likeliness to purchase sponsoring brands of our favourite team or athlete. This can be observed in the dizzy height of the Premier League, but also in other leagues in over the decades – for example, T-Mobile experienced increased profits when associated with Bryan Robsons West Brom of the 2004-05 season ‘Great Escape’ from relegation.


Beyond the team: looking within

This idea extends to all areas of commercialisation of football essentially. This concept has propelled the explosion of footballers being marketing instruments for corporations to create a brand image and hopefully shift more products. Not only for sport products such as Nike and Adidas, but literally any company in any industry.

Joe Hart and Head and Shoulders for example, or Gillette affinity with sport using top professional sports people – Lionel Messi amongst them. Indeed, this has led to sportsman becoming brands themselves, David Beckham exemplum – arguably bigger than some of the brands themselves – Forbes have him earning $50.6m a year in endorsements still at the age of 37 and effectively retired from sport. Not to mention Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi earning $32m and $28m respectively.


The future of football

Given the money involved in the game, one would expect the so-called golden days of Gazza scoring for England and running to celebrate in a choreographed position in close proximity to an UMBRO or Carlsberg hoarding sign to be drifting away. But forget it. As global competitiveness and exposure for football continues to grow, expect brands to continue to ramp up the investments and to intensify competition. We will see this more frequently on and off the pitch, as brands become more heavily embedded in the economic and commercial game of capitalising on players and football clubs.


@AlBondSportBiz @parnell_daniel @fire_and_skill

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