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Dr Dan Parnell

FOOTBALL, SPORT, SOCIAL CHANGE, POLICY, MANAGEMENT

Month

March 2017

Sporting Director: Football’s most misunderstood job?

What exactly does a Sporting Director do? And why does the role arouse suspicion and even hostility in this country?

 

Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo (above), better known as Monchi, is revered in Seville. English football has never had a Sporting Director who comes close to him in terms of public affection. We asked Dr Dan Parnell, who leads research on the Master of Sport Directorship course at Manchester Metropolitan University, for his lowdown on the role…

 

The full article is available on The Training Ground Guru, found here.

Open sesame to sports success: The guanxi of Alibaba

By Simon Chadwick, Paul Widdop and Dan Parnell – originally published here.

Jack Ma and Alibaba have forged global connections in sport. Simon Chadwick, Paul Widdop, and Daniel Parnell join the dots on a worldwide sports empire.

Ali Baba is a character from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, a woodcutter who gains entry to a den of treasure using the phrase ‘open sesame’. As the tale’s title suggests, the treasure is ill-gotten, accumulated by a gang of thieves who try to kill Ali when he finds it. A willing servant strikes first though, killing the thieves and saving Ali, who then unites her in marriage with his son. What this tale might tell us about sport in the 21st century is probably best left unexplored at this point.

However, a door to the treasures of the 21st century has just opened-up for e-commerce giant Alibaba. In a deal announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the company was revealed as a new sponsor of the next six Olympic Games, as part of International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) global The Olympic Partner (TOP) program. As part of the deal, Alibaba will provide the IOC’s official cloud services, be its e-commerce platform services partner, and contribute to the IOC’s digital TV service aimed at young sports fans.

Whether or not company founder Jack Ma uttered the words ‘open sesame’ before meeting IOC president Thomas Bach to finalise the sponsorship remains to be seen. However, the deal marks a meteoric rise for a company that was only formed in 1999, yet which also recently signed a deal with football world governing body FIFA to sponsor the Club World Cup (via its Ali E-Auto internet car brand).

For an ambitious corporation, particularly one with global intent, such deals can be seen as part and parcel of its marketing communications activities and more general strategic development. However, unlike some other Chinese businesses, for example Wanda, sport did not play such a prominent role in Alibaba’s early development. Even so, alongside its sponsorships, the corporation set-up a sport division in late 2015, and it remains a shareholder in the Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande.

In the same way as other Chinese companies, like Fosun, are locked into a guanxi network of connections and relationships, Alibaba too is in the same position. Indeed, by virtue of its new IOC deal, ‘open sesame’ does in fact seem to be an appropriate phrase given the access to people, properties, and places that it provides. On this basis, we ran a social network analysis in the same way we have previously, which revealed the following.

Alibaba guanxi visualisation

Unlike its Chinese industrial rival Wanda, which appears to view sport as an entertainment commodity, Alibaba seems to be more focused on both its sports network and on next generation developments such as e-sports. The company’s recent deal with the IOC has opened up a whole new network of prospective relationships, which arguably warrants a further network visualisation at some point in the future. Even so, there is still plenty of interest in Alibaba’s existing network, ranging from its obvious relationship with Ali Sports, through to its links with Sina and Le Sports.

Over towards the right of the visualisation, Guangzhou Evergrande appears alongside Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The reigning European champions Real have a long-standing relationship with the Guangdong province club, to help develop players. Alibaba is also now working with Madrid to run its online store in China, a relationship it also has with German club Bayern.

Over towards the left of the visualisation, there is an interesting array of relationships with the likes of CSM. Together with CSM, Alibaba will develop and run sports properties, which in turn will lead to the creation of mass participation events in China designed to foster the growth of grassroots and amateur sport. Given the nation’s sporting goals, this would appear to be an astute acquisition given CSM’s work with the clients such as US Club Soccer. The latter has 500,000+ members, from which Alibaba may be able to learn a great deal which is of relevance for soccer in China.

It is, however, the centre of the visualisation to which one’s attention is drawn, with Alisports and Le Sports clearly being important nodes in the overall network. Two years ago, the network would have looked very different, as Alisports and Le Sports were not actually formed until 2015 and 2014 respectively. Yet very quickly, through massive inward investments and ambitious external growth strategies, both companies have rapidly ascended to become important members of the domestic Chinese and global sports landscapes.

In 2015, Alisports’ website was a hollow shell that left one asking ‘what does it do and where is the business going to come from?’ A naïve question perhaps, as the company has rapidly become active in boxing, basketball, American football and more. Interestingly, while some of its Chinese industrial counterparts have become embroiled in a headlong dash to acquire soccer properties, Alisports appears to have gone in a different direction, contributing to China’s broader sporting goals.

No less intriguing, though apparently very different from its connections with Alisports, is Alibaba’s relationship with Le Sports. As the visualisation shows, this brings the company into direct contact with Wanda, which was set-up and is owned by Jack Ma’s Chinese corporate rival Wang Jianlin. Unsubstantiated rumours have circulated that the two of them have a somewhat fractious relationship; whether or not this is true, Ma and Wang have routinely traded places over recent years as China’s richest man.

The connection of China’s two mightiest corporations came about in early 2016 when both of their founders helped pump US$1.23 billion into Le Sports – Wang through Wanda, and Ma via his Yunfeng Capital investment vehicle. This has enabled the two to further build their own networks, as Le Sports has a diverse array of established relationships with the likes of the United States’ National Basketball Association (for which Le Sports serves as NBA China’s official smart TV and over-the-top broadcast partner) and boxer Manny Pacquiao (who will work with the company to open 400 Pacquiao-branded boxing clubs in China).

‘Open sesame’ indeed: the connectedness of Chinese sport and its embeddedness in the principles of guanxi never ceases to amaze. Alibaba’s IOC deal marks yet another marriage in the development of his corporation’s sports portfolio. There is treasure in the sports network, and Jack Ma knows it.

Hitting the bar: How can we promote healthy drinking in sporting settings

I am delighted to be invited to speak at Alcohol Concern Cymru’s Annual Conference 2017, Hitting the bar: How can we promote healthy drinking in sporting settings? on Tuesday, 26 September 2017, at Cardiff City Stadium.

This is a great opportunity to share insight from our understanding around healthy stadia and health promotion through sport. My presentation is on How can sport organisations promote health? The programme is outlined in full below and you can participate/get involved here.
09.30 – 10.00 Registration
10.00 – 10.10 Welcome – Andrew Misell, Director of Alcohol Concern Cymru

10.10 – 10.20 Keynote address – Rebecca Evans AM

10.20 – 10.50 Alcohol sports sponsorships and their impact on consumption – Dr Pat Kenny, Dublin Institute of Technology

10.50 – 11.20 Alcohol marketing during Euro 2016 – Dr Richard Purves, University of Stirling

11.20 – 11.40 BREAK

11.40 – 12.10 Alcohol consumption: a core part of the sporting ethos – Dr Carwyn Jones, Professor in Sport Ethics, Cardiff Metropolitan University

12.10 – 12.40 Does participating in sport mean higher consumption? A mixed methods study of British young people – Dr Britt Hallingberg, Cardiff University

12.40 – 13.30 LUNCH

13.30 – 14.00 A personal reflection – Christian Roberts (ex-professional footballer)

14.00 – 14.30 The role of sport in the development of substance addiction – Dr Camilla Knight, Swansea University

14.30 – 15.00 BREAK (with mocktails)

15.00 – 15.30 How can sport organisations promote health? – Dr Dan Parnell, Manchester Metropolitan University

15.30 – 16.00 A community mobilisation intervention to reduce alcohol consumption amongst sports players – Prof Shane Allwright, Trinity College Dublin

16:00 – 16:30 The ‘Good Sports’ project – Melanie Kingsland, Newcastle University (Australia)

16.30 CLOSE

Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap

Last week we hosted the 11th Annual conference of The Sport and Politics Study Group, as part of the Politic Studies Association. The conference: Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap was hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University and held at FC United on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March 2017.

PSA Conference 138.JPG

The conference brought together an a breadth of sports covering grassroots to elite contexts across a number of disciplines. The keynote speakers, Damian Collins MP and Dr Geoff Pearson (University of Manchester) offered insight into sports governance and research into football hooliganism. We have also had some of the presentation details shared online via Connect Sport and The Football Collective. Any presenters can share their presentations or short blogs on these sites in the future too.

Personally, I would like to thank keynotes for their insight, time and support; the PSA Sport Politics Sub Group for the opportunity to host the conference; Routledge for their contribution, presence and continued support for sport; Dr Peter Millward for his continued guidance and support; to Professor Julia Clarke and Professor Mark James for their support; the Lorganising Team: Catherine Elliot; Anne Thompson, Dr Annabel Kiernan, Dr Sara Ward, Dr Paul Widdop, Jon Sibley, Dr Kate Themen, Dr Chris Porter & Professor Mark James – for helping make this happen; to Gary Lindsey and Katherine Roycroft from the Business School at MMU for their sterling and collegiate efforts around the conference; FC United for their hospitality; and Catherine Elliott in particularly for being a great friend and colleague.

PSA Conference 160.JPG

My final thanks goes the the PSA Sport and Politics collective, the delegates, the people who make the group what it is. I hope everyone can take some time to reflect on and be pleased with their contribution. The enthusiasm and effort will be felt by all present on the days and will no-doubt prove impactful for the new, emerging and establish scholars that make up the PSA collective. My good friend, Kitrina Douglas highlighted on Saturday that if we want to live in a world where people matter, then we have to create that world ourselves. I am pleased that we, collectively, have contributed another year to the history of the PSA conference where people come first.

Follow the PSA Sport group here: @PSASportPol

PSA Conference 029

 

 

Conference overview:

We live in unprecedented times, super austerity, growing income and wealth inequality, Brexit, nationalist political agendas, a rise of the right and left political ideologies, and mass population diaspora have created a vacuum of moral panic and self-reflection. The global and national landscape of sport are not immune to these processes and in many ways prefigures the society it represents.

Traditional powerbases in sport are shifting, the global south with economic resources and political will have a growing influence over sport regionally and internationally. In amongst all of this, the current climate of political instability, scratch the surface and sport has been at the forefront of the political discourse. Perhaps this is embodied in the decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Whilst elements of the country has cheered both the imminent BREXIT of the UK from the European Union, and the athletes leading success after millions invested in Olympic and Paralympic sport at Rio 2016. Other factions of society have expressed counter dismay at the potential negative impact of BREXIT on the economy, how the nation can accept the public funding of elite sport during the harsh reality of austerity measures including public sector funding cuts and cuts to the disability allowances of the most in need across our communities.

At the same time, sport is receiving unprecedented internal investment alongside foreign investment and TV rights deals seeing many of sporting social institutions under the stewardship of foreign owners of investment. This can only widen the disparity and disconnect between elite and grassroots sports and see sport mirroring public policy, where the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is widening. Yet sport, as many have argued could have the power to unite, to be a resource for hope, to be a source of refuge to the poor and even new migrants. Many in sport are waiting in anticipation for continued elite sport funding and the following investment in community and grassroots sport. Whilst others recognise this could only be start of one of the most damaging public policy eras of our time, with consequences both in the imminent and future decades – something that the power of sport simply cannot reverse.

Manchester is a global city that offers a creative and vibrant environment for cultural and sporting consumption. Nationally, the discourse surrounding ‘DevoManc’ or the city’s  key role in developing the Northern Powerhouse agenda – alongside Liverpool [capital of culture 2008], Hull [capital of culture 2017], Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle – all of which make significant contributions to what many would refer to as the holy trinity of football, music and fashion.  Manchester, however, punches above its weight, particularly in cultural production. The city’s sports offer range from football teams offering a local and global profile through, from Pep Guardiola and fan ownership, through to Chinese investment. With links to the Middle-East, urban regeneration and a number of innovative sport-based public sector health partnerships. Yet, Manchester is a city of great contrasts, where cultural consumption and vast inequality meet; where significant homelessness persists in parallel with the forward march of gentrification. In sport too, the new powerhouse of English football and arguably the richest club in the World resides within one of the most deprived areas of England. Manchester is a city where sport cuts across policy and politics and where change has happened and is happening.

The Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap Conference 2017 intends to provide a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination of these issues and more. The conference aims to explore the inter-relationship between sport policy and politics by drawing on research from politics and political science and a variety of academic fields, including: sociology, social policy, philosophy, criminology, community and youth work, history, law, geography, and sport studies. Beyond this, we hope the conference is another chapter in the PSA Sport sub-group journey in developing critical debate in a supportive collegiate environment, and that the event creates new ideas, collaborations and research.

 

 — ENDS—

 

 

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