Dr Dan Parnell




Austerity, policy and sport participation in England

Widdop, P., King, N., Parnell, D., Cutts, D., & Millward, P. (2017). Austerity, policy and sport participation in EnglandInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. Online. 

Open access found on the above embedded link. Article also found in the journal here. 


Sustainability vs Accessibility

Very pleased to be invited by Jack Zuckerman to discuss the impact of funding cuts to sport and leisure services on the BBC Look North programme aired on 16 April 2017. The programme focuses on cuts to a sport and leisure facility in Lincoln, but is an example of a national trend. A trend that has seen public services (i) re-organised, (ii) reduced or (iii) cut. One of the main issues for me is the narrative around sustainability. Not all public services are meant to be profit making or to break even. Some are just to support the health and well-being of our local communities. Often when sustainability is the focus, it comes at the cost of accessibility.

Sustainability vs Accessibility

This might just be a sports hall, but for those that use it, this will be so much more. Beyond the physical activity, it is the networks, the friendships, the social support and sense of community that adds true value to such communities of people who engage in activities together in these places.  In this case, and across the country, breaking even or being sustainable, creates further barriers, both financial and time, to the accessibility of such important sport/social/community places, for those who need it most, from our most deprived communities.


Some of our research that might be of interest:

Parnell, D., Spracklen, K., & Millward, P. (2016). Special Issue Introduction: Sport management issues in an era of austerity. European Sport Management Quarterly. DOI:10.1080/16184742.2016.1257552

Parnell, D., Cope, E., Bailey, R., & Widdop, P. (2016). Sport Policy and English Primary Physical Education: The role of professional football clubs in outsourcing. Sport in Society, DOI:10.1080/17430437.2016.1173911

Parnell, D., Millward, P., & Spracklen, K. (2015). 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

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.

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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.

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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

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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—



Is austerity the biggest threat to sport of our time?

This article was originally published on Connect Sport here.

This is a short research note prepared by Dr Dan Parnell and Dr Peter Millward, of ConnectSport, which offers an insight into a recent special issue on sport management in an era of austerity, published in the European Sport Management Quarterly journal.

The research note is based on a special issue edited by Dr Dan Parnell, Professor Karl Spracklen and Dr Peter Millward, which can be found here: Parnell, D., Spracklen, K., & Millward, P. (2016). Special Issue Introduction: Sport management issues in an era of austerity. European Sport Management Quarterly.

What is austerity?

Following Blyth’s (2013, p.2) description, we see austerity as: ‘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’.

Why is this an issue for sport?

The impact of the economic crisis which has engulfed Europe since 2008 and the subsequent ‘austerity measures’ which have reduced local and national spending on many public services focused on the practices of sport management, has received only scant scholarly attention.

A previous ConnectSport article sheds some light on how austerity can impact sport. There is no doubt public, private and third sector organisations, from grassroots to elite levels have faced challenges as a result of austerity (Parnell, Widdop and King, 2015).

Reduced finances and significant changes to public funding has meant many within sport are being challenged to deliver more, with limited resources and evidence their successes. Indeed, the search (and scrutiny) for value for money is definitely on! As a result, the special issue is very timely for sport practitioners and policy-makers.

What does the special issue cover?

This special issue provides insights on the impacts of policy in an era of austerity utilising case studies from two sporting organisations in two different European countries.

The first paper, ‘Implications of austerity measures on National Sport Federations: The case of Greece’ by Chrysostomos Giannoulakis, Dimitra Papadimitriou, Konstantinos Alexandris and Shea Brgoch discusses the consequences of forced austerity measures, and the implications of having to cut jobs in order to help their heavily indebted economies.

In the second article, by Catherine Walker and John Hayton overview the situation of a third sector disability sport organisation in the United Kingdom (UK), describing how this organisation has navigated austerity by adjusting management practices.

The issues raised in these two contributions present a wide range of challenges and questions for those who research in, and on the impact of austerity in sport management.

The biggest threat of our time?

Some might reasonably argue that austerity-driven policy measures offer the key challenge to the sport disciplinary area so far in the 21st century – and yet, thus far, a clear gap in research around the issue exists.  Our scholarly and intellectual aim in collating this special issue is to trigger ideas, debate and interest with a view to filling this space.

How do we in community sport and research move forward?

Of particular interest, a non-exhaustive list of research ideas in this area might include:

   – Further empirical research on the impacts of austerity measures on sport policy cuts: There is a shortfall of quantitative and qualitative research that explores the physical impacts of austerity cuts to sport policy budgets across Europe.  The Continent has various levels of quality data which exist on this, but in countries such as England seemingly robust data of this nature exists in the Active People Survey.  Data of this nature needs to be utilised and mined to draw up a localised picture of whether or not – or to what extent – sport policy cuts have reduced sport participation at a grassroots level.

   – The impact of sport policy cuts on ‘hard-to-reach’ populations: Some sectors of European societies are well recognised to be ‘hard to reach’ with respect to facilitating physical activity, particularly including sport participation.  The evidence base that exists about those who have suffered through austerity measures might suggest there is overlap amongst the two groups.  Some state-resourced sport and leisure facilities have closed or had opening hours reduced as a result of reduced state resource, particularly if they are ‘committee-serving’ rather than ‘profit-making’.  We hope this special issue may support future research in listening to, and analysing the narratives of those who used those sports facilities that have closed as a result of budgetary cuts, especially if those populations are part of the ‘hard-to-reach’ populations.

   – Managerial dilemmas faced by decision-makers: The processes of gaining ‘more’ (or at least the same) for less presents real challenges for senior and middle managers of state sport facilities on all geographical levels across Europe. Yet their voices – as concerns and/or challenges – have so far not been heard.  A potential research avenue which could spring from this special issue might be to empirically and theoretically understand such dilemmas.

   – Opportunities for public-private partnerships: The reduction in public spending in areas such as sport facilities is assumed to be negative.  Yet such changes in the nature of budgets may open up possibilities for new public-private partnerships, which throw up a host of new questions for sport management scholars.  We hope this special issue might spur on future research in this area.

   – Challenges for elite sport provisions and future achievements: So far, the suggestions for further research have veered toward amateur sport participation.  Yet this is but one (sizeable) part of the web of sport in Europe.  How might budgetary cuts and changes affect elite sport provisions and impact of future achievements?  The voices of coaches and athletes need to be heard to understand this complex set of management issues.

   – Increased accountability of public resources on sport/sport-related projects: The public’s awareness of austerity measures has increased media scrutiny on the use of ever-scarcer state resources spent on sport and sport-related projects.  There have been widespread calls for ‘accountability’ of how such resources are spent.  What does this mean for those in sport management positions? Are new ‘surveillance’ measures put in place, are they helpful (and to who they are helpful/unhelpful?) and how are they managed by key stakeholders in the sport management process?

   – University and Third Sector partnerships: We suggest that this period of ‘super-austerity’ (2015–2020) (Parnell et al., 2016) could provide an opportunity or the platform for sport management to heavily influence the Third Sector sport industry. Academic institutes, particularly those in higher education, are facing their own respective challenges regarding reduced research funding and heightened need for impact. As such, universities may take opportunities to develop meaningful applied research activities and partnerships with Third Sector sport organisations (Parnell et al., 2015); developing university and Third Sector partnerships may help organisations respond to the economic downturn and in turn develop research outputs and tangible impact within the industry .


Our hope for the special issue is to trigger ideas and interest for a number of potential research contexts to develop and extend our understanding. Ultimately, we feel this important debate has just started and there is much more to add.

To do this, universities have a real opportunity to develop meaningful, collaborative, research-based partnerships that have a high probability of impact in sport-based organisations which need strategic and operational support (Parnell et al., 2015).

Finally, we challenge researchers to extend this preliminary list of ideas and take up the challenge to address this gap in academic and policy understanding.

Forthcoming conference: Readers, whether researchers, policy-makers or practitioners may be interested in the forthcoming Sport and Politics Study Group Annual Conference at FC United, hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University: Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap. Sport and Politics Study Group Annual Conference, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March 2017 at FC United. To find out more – click here.

This research note is based on the following article: Parnell, D., Spracklen, K., & Millward, P. (2016). Special Issue Introduction: Sport management issues in an era of austerity. European Sport Management Quarterly – found here (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 Peter Millward is Reader in Sociology at Liverpool John Moores University.  Many of his research interests relate to sport and he has published widely in this area. or follow @PeteMillward79 on Twitter or access his research here.

Sport management issues in an era of austerity

Very pleased to present a recent research article, which introduces our special issue for the European Sport Management Quarterly. Together, with Karl Spracklen and Peter Millward we offer an insight to sport management issues in an era of austerity and an introduction to our special issue.

Read the article here and access it on academiaedu here.


Reflections on participation: Social or sporting capital?

This article was originally published here. 

ConnectSport Research Director, Dr Dan Parnell, of the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Louise Morby, Senior Lecturer in Sport Development at Leeds Beckett University and Equity Lead at the UK Sport Development and Research Network (UKSDN), provide some reflections on a recent conference focused on participation in sport and physical activity.

It is the end of the academic year and both Dan and Louise were at last free from teaching, marking and admin in general. The immediate items on their agenda were graduation, research and planning for next year (as well as some much-needed annual leave!) so it begs the question why are they attending conferences?

Dan said: “It’s really important that we take time out to focus on the purpose of our research and what it can achieve for society. Attending conferences offers me a chance to stop and think about what I have been doing, and think ahead to what I am going to do and with who.

“As such, when the opportunity to listen and discuss sport participation and social capital with Professor Fred Coalter (Visiting professor at Leeds Beckett University and the Free University of Brussels) and Nick Rowe (Visiting research fellow, Leeds Beckett University and former Head of Strategy and Research at Sport England) appeared, it was a no-brainer.

“As part of the UKSDN’s ‘Conversations with a Purpose’ seminar series, the event offered extensive insight from a leading researcher and expert with 20-plus years’ experience, and commissioner research within the industry. It clearly had a purpose – and I wanted in.”

Louise, who combines her academic work with her role as Equity Lead at the UKSDN, provided some more background on the Network.

She said:Although a new name to most, the UKSDN has existed since 2008, but was formally known as the European Sport Development Network.

“As Dan has said, the most important thing to some researchers is that their work is valuable to those within industry. In response to this, the Network was established in 2008, to build bridges between academia and sports industry practitioners. We are quietly proud that the Network has organised several successful conferences, published extensively in academic and professional journals and engaged in a variety of networking, advocacy and influencing work relating to sport development policy and practice in the UK.

“The Network is dynamic, flexible, inclusive – and growing. Whilst we have distinctive leads (my role is focused on equity) and extensive links, we encourage practitioners, managers and researchers to reach out and get involved. You can read more about the Network and our forthcoming conference here.


Nick Rowe kicked off the conference by presenting his work on ‘sporting capital’. Nick offered insights based on his recent research and experience working within the industry. He proposed that in order to increase participation in sport and physical activity, policy-makers and implementers need to have an understanding of the theory around sporting capital.

Nick defines sporting capital as: “The stock of physical, social and psychological attributes and competencies that support and motivate an individual to participate in sport and to sustain that participation over time.”

The presentation stemmed from Nick’s research recently published in the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. The article, entitled ‘Sporting capital: a theoretical and empirical analysis of sport participation determinants and its application to sports development policy and practice’, can be found here.

Nick stated that there are three factors which determine how likely someone is to participate in sport: social, psychological and physiological (which includes physical health and physical competency). These three ‘domains’ interact and create someone’s level of sporting capital.

Nick outlined that the higher the scores within the three domains, the higher their sporting capital and therefore how much more likely they will be to sustain participation. It goes without saying that in contrast, a person with lower scores within the three domains are very unlikely to participate in sport, never mind sustain sporting participation. The model can be seen below:


The hypothesis that Nick presented was “increasing sporting capital within participants should lead to sustained participation”, which made us think that the model of sporting capital could be compared to previous tried and tested models of behaviour change, for example Dahlgreen and Whitehead’s 1991 ‘Social Model of Health’ or ‘Rainbow Model’. This model acknowledges that an individual’s health is determined by multiple influences and it goes wider than the three domains outlined in the model of sporting capital.

Dahlgreen and Whitehead’s model has been recently used to influence local health and wellbeing strategies. So the concept of applying theoretical models relating to behaviour change is not a new concept, but it is a topic which is currently very popular amongst policy-makers within the world of sport. Thanks to the efforts of organisations and bodies from other sectors who have previously invested heavily in this concept, there is a body of evidence to support the idea that such models are fundamental to sustained changes within an individual’s behaviour.

This leads us to ask if sporting capital is just another ‘model of behaviour change’ which looks to solve the problem of ‘not enough people are participating in sport’, rather than explore the root causes which lead to an individual not participating in sport.

At this point, it would be really useful to draw upon work carried out in another topic area, community development, in particular the work of Margaret Ledwith. Ledwith (2005) draws upon Hope and Timmel’s 1994 ‘six stages of questioning’ as a model for helping to get to the root cause as to why a particular issue within a community exists.

The model helps us to avoid superficial analysis and could help policy-makers and implementers meaningfully analyse why there is an issue in sports participation. The first step of the model encourages us to clearly frame the issue is which needs addressing – to be clear before any further analysis takes place. The second step suggests we then analyse why the issue exists in the first place. The third step deals with analysing where the issue tends to exist, is it geographical for example? The fourth step suggests that all problems related to this issue are further analysed; in other words, what are the consequences of the main issue existing? Which then leads to step five; what is the root cause of the issue? What is the main cause of ‘not enough people participating in sport’. Last but not least, this is bookended by step six, which is putting an action plan into place to tackle the issue.

Still with us? Well, what we propose is that models such as sporting capital may not be addressing the correct issue in the first place, so it is therefore impossible to get to the ‘root cause’ of the issue which such models are aiming to eradicate.

If we follow Hope and Timmel’s model, it could be argued that the issue up for analysis isn’t ‘not enough people are participating in sport’, but instead ‘why don’t some people want to participate in sport?’ which, in turn, may lead to step five and the root cause being ‘inequalities in society’. Consequently, the actions that lead on from here need to be around addressing these inequalities and the effect they have on sports participation.

However, let us be clear; we are not arguing that models like sporting capital do not have an important role to play in policy and programme formulation; indeed, we think they have a significant role to play. What we are proposing is that more attention needs to be given to addressing the preceding inequalities in society, which lead to low participation rates and ‘low sporting capital’. We are really interested in what is been done around why someone may score low in the three domains and how this can be addressed.

We think sporting capital could be an important consideration for sporting organisations, or organisations using sport to increase the impact of their projects, and for those aiming to get more people participating in sport. For an example of where sporting capital has been applied to programme design, check out Nick’s work with StreetGames.


Following Nick, Professor Coalter entered the discussion. It has always been a pleasure to gain insight into Fred’s expertise – in particular, check out A Wider Social Role for Sport: Who’s Keeping the Score?

Fred’s presentation at the conference used material from The Spirit Level (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009, The Spirit Level: why equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane). This is a book which explores the challenges of inequality and class across different social groups and countries.

This echoes Fred’s research which challenged the UK Government sport policy GamePlan’s use of certain Scandinavian countries as comparators and as a basis for setting aspirational targets for sporting participation. It illustrated the robust and consistent relationship between sporting participation and social class in the UK (Coalter, 2013).

Fred argues in this research that there are different levels of participation across a number of countries and that these countries are substantially different to the UK in terms of distribution of wealth, income inequality, general inequality, educational access and social mobility and gender. Fred asked how these countries can be true comparators to the UK?

He highlighted that the economic and social features in these countries, which may help to explain their higher sporting participation rates, are well beyond the control of sports policy. This left us challenging whether sport policy does, and could make a difference.

Much of this echoed other prominent discussions by Dorling (2014) and Standing (2014), who provide an analysis and insight into inequality and class. In a time of growing inequality in the UK, with Brexit on the horizon and within an age of ‘super-austerity’, this raises serious concerns for those in sport.


1 Sporting capital could offer a new way to understand sporting participation and help to get more people active.

2 The influence of sport policy on sporting participation may be a hostage to levels of inequality in our country.

Our final thoughts

As researchers we feel that the area of sport, class and inequality is under-researched. Further, there is a need for more research on the impact of the economic recession on sporting participation. For those seeking to contribute to the latter, please see this call for papers.

We also wish to highlight the seventh annual UKSDN conference on September 16, 2016. This conference aims to build on other events we have attended. Importantly, it aims to bring together academics, researchers, students and practitioners in the area of sports development. Get involved and please reach out to us if you have any questions.

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., follow @parnell_daniel on Twitter or access his research here.

Louise Morby is a Senior Lecturer in Sport Development at Leeds Beckett University and Equity Lead at the UK Sport Development and Research Network. Her research interests include gender and sport, policy formulation and implementation and the wider role sport can play. Contact or follow @loumorby on Twitter.

Relevant research:

Coalter, F. (2013). Game Plan and The Spirit Level: the class ceiling and the limits of sports policy? International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 5, 1: 3-19. Found here.

Rowe, N. (2015). Sporting capital: a theoretical and empirical analysis of sport participation determinants and its application to sports development policy and practice. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 7, 1: 43-61. Found here.

Golf: widening the gap between those who can and cannot

This article was originally published here.

By Dr Paul Widdop and Dr Dan Parnell 

Golf is a multi-million pound industry. We have just seen the open in Scotland that will do much for raising the profile and interest in the sport. Indeed, the Open in the UK is one of the four big annual major tournaments, with Sky paying a reported £15m a year to broadcast the event, which itself can be worth some £140m to the local host economy (Wilson, 2016). A report by Sheffield Hallam also highlights that UK golfers spend a whopping £4billion per year. Despite this golf still has its problems with gender inequality and falling participation.

Given the limelight associated with The Open and in-turn Golf, Dr Paul Widdop (Leeds Beckett University) and Dr Dan Parnell (Manchester Metropolitan University) take a close look at golf to help better understand the current landscape.

Eminent sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1984) once stated that the practice of sports such as tennis, riding, sailing or golf doubtless owes part of its ‘interest’, just as much nowadays as at the beginning, to its distinguishing function. More precisely, to the gains in distinction which it brings. It is no accident that the majority of the most select, i.e. selective, clubs are organized around sporting activities which serve as a focus or pretext for elective gatherings. Certain sport like the arts is then used as a symbolic marker (distinct from other less worthy forms of sport) used to reinforce and reproduce the class position. Furthermore, through relational mechanisms individuals can use access to certain sports as an instrument to develop social capital and access to lucrative job market. This is certainly true of golf, where certain clubs put economic barriers up through obtrusive membership fees and strict rules of etiquette, to remain exclusive and exclude those not worthy of membership. Clearly for Bourdieu the taste for the game will be consumed by members of the higher classes, due to the social profit that it brings (such as building new networks, enhancing social capital, both of which can be exchanged at a later date for economic benefit). In other words as in other leisure and cultural fields, sporting taste and sport participation is intertwined with social class, or the symbolic meaning a given sport presents to others, which brings us to golf.

Indeed, inclusivity did not appear at the forefront when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (Scotland) admitted females to its membership for the first time in history. The first female being, The Princess Royal, reaffirming the class orientations and distinction of the sport (Widdop and Parnell, 2015). Despite this, the future might offer some hope, with another ‘THIS’ branded initiative, This Girl’s Golf, which was launched in 2015, to change female perception of and participation in golf. Nigel Freemantle, chairman of the British Golf Industry Association (BGIA), said “Females are getting more and more into the game…Also, if we can get women with children to take up the sport, then they might bring their youngsters to the club and get them into the game too.” Freemantle also offers further positivity suggesting golf is not in a bad place.

Despite the positivity, and the excitement and grandeur associated with The Open 2016, we are reminded of our colleague, Professor Jim McKenna’s comments on the legacy of the Grand Depart in Leeds. McKenna draws on the work of Dennett to help us consider the ploy of ‘using lay audiences as decoys’. So, a big sport event may get the audiences, public attention and the associated media spreads, pages, tweets and likes. It is all too easy to follow, enjoy, consume and applaud who ever heads the leader board. Therefore, as easy audiences we act as decoys.

Like the Grand Depart, The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and no-doubt The Open 2016, we will adopt what Dennett terms ‘Occam’s broom’; when this broom is being used it whisk inconvenient evidence under the carpet. Freemantle and others offering positivity, might just be well-intended advocates of the broom, whisking the broom clearing inconvenient truths about golf and the more genuine and likely impact and non-impacts of a this event away.

Much work has been undertaken to ensure golf accessibility to the masses in terms of class and geography, despite persistent regulations and codes, such as the firmly enforced attire and etiquette, which are hard to decipher for those lacking in the prerequisite cultural credentials, creating symbolic boundaries of exclusion.

Yet, according to KPMG, England reported a decline of 2.4% in registered players in 2015, while Scotland recorded a drop of 0.8%, although it may be that golfers prefer to play on an increasingly ad hoc basis, paying for golf per round rather than registering with a club or course (Wilson, 2016). This is not just about participation, it is about class, geography and inequality.


Using data from the DCMS, Taking Part Survey (2006-2010) a worrying trend had emerged. Indeed, rather than a systematic narrowing of class inequalities, there is in fact a growing disparity. Figure 1 below illustrates, from 2006 to 2010 salariat classes (i.e., the professional and managerial occupations) have an upward trend in the consumption of Golf, whereas in comparison, the working class consumption rate is decreasing systematically year on year. Clearly more evidence is needed to determine if this trend is continuing. However what is not in any doubt is that there are major class disparities in the game that need to be addressed, to rid it of elitist connotations’.



Alongside class, gender, and ethnicity, there are hidden spatial inequalities that impact upon consumption, which includes golf. Mapping the aggregate data from the Taking Part Survey (2006-2010) against Government Office Regions of England, highlights these spatial inequalities in Golf participation. Individuals residing in the affluent South East, and East of England make up 33% of golf participants. There is a fraction of evidence that points at the much debated North South divide. Whilst we must be aware of the limitations of inferring from a large spatial scale, the data supports the finding that you are more likely to participate in Golf if you reside in the South of England.



“Golf is still too often wrongly stereotyped as something from yesteryear, but it is not a sport from bygone days or just for old boys in funny trousers,” says Mr Freemantle (in Wilson, 2016).

Freemantle offers a hope that golf doesn’t cost too much, suggesting a basic set of children’s golf clubs costing around £50 (Wilson, 2016). Whilst this doesn’t account for club fees, other equipment and balls (the authors were often explorers of the ‘rough’ during golf and after hours to retrieve their or others balls!)

Despite this, we believe the much of the nation, whether related to general house-hold responsibilities or participation choices, are ‘tightening their belts’ or just have less to spend. Austerity has had a real impact on the lives of people and research has shown that spending on sport per household has been negatively impacted as a result (Eakins, 2016).

The price to play may have got higher. Like others sports such as swimming (Parnell, Millward and Spracklen, 2014), municipal golf has faced financial changes. With many municipal golf courses, who mainly cater for the working class golfers up and down the country, either under threat, have been sold (sometimes for housing) or have been left in disrepair (see the below case studies).

Case examples

There are examples across the country of courses closing or under threat of closure. Indeed, Western Park Golf Course in Leicestershire is one such example of a golf course under threat of closure (Leicester Mercury, 30th July 2013). A further example is Amington Golf Course, which has been lost because of funding cuts by Tamworth Borough Council (BBC, 28th September, 2014). Many municipal courses have also been sold to private companies and enterprises, for example, Wirral Council and neighbouring West Cheshire have agreed to sell-off seven municipal golf courses: Arrowe Park, Brackenwood, Bebington, The Warrens, Hooton, Knights Grange and Westminster Park. Tenders have been invited although it is not known what will happen if the council does not receive any attractive bids. Councillor Chris Meaden, Wirral’s cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: “Along with our colleagues in Cheshire West and Cheshire, we are keen to continue pay to play provision, and are confident this combined package across the two boroughs will attract customers and operators who will be able to put those courses on a sound and sustainable financial footing.” (Golf Club Management, 2nd February, 2015). The most disturbing case may well be Keele Golf Course in Staffordshire. RMW Ltd, fronted by Masters winner Ian Woosnam was due to take control of the course, but the deal with Newcastle Borough Council collapsed after the councillors claimed the company had begun making unreasonable demands. Since then, the course has remained closed (The Sentinel, 10th March, 2014). The only activity on the course is the opportunistic local entrepreneurs who have ploughed the overgrown fairways. The council is considering a number of options including a housing and golf re-development (The Sentinel, 10th March, 2014), yet at the time of writing the course remains closed (and overgrown).

The future

What does the future hold for golf? The announcement of opening up the game to female golfers should see a spike in participation for this group, and this should see a diversification in Golf consumers. However, there remains concerns this just reinforce the growing class and spatial inequalities currently inflicting the game. As we move towards greater levels of unease at what appears to be institutional inequalities, it is difficult to envisage a future whereby Golf can free itself of elitism. Despite this, England Golf (the national governing body for the sport) recently recruited a new Chief Executive. Nick Pink, who steps into this role offers some hope for those wanting to raise participation in the sport. Pink, who in his past role as European Manager of the International Cricket Council was able to able to claim a 35% in participation in cricket in the Europe. A laudable achievement that may serve England Golf well during this difficult fiscal period.

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

Austerity: local and global

Austerity:  local and global

Humanities in Public, MMU

27th April 2016, 70 Oxford St. M1 (the old Cornerhouse Building)

As poverty, inequality and precarious employment spread across the globe, the word ‘austerity’ has been transformed in academic and political discourse from a description of temporary hardship, into a political and economic neoliberal agenda. Is austerity really the only long-term future? Is it merely a temporary hiccup in global /local policies? How can we bring into being, another and more equal world?

Austerity MMU 2016 brings together a panel of scholars from a diverse range of disciplines to explore the origins, local and international formats, and potential trajectories of the austerity agenda. With keynote presentations from Prof. Guy Standing (SOAS), Prof. Sylvia Chant (LSE) and Prof. Raymond Tallis (University of Manchester), this promises to be a lively and informative conference. The event will also feature a postgraduate and activist panel, including a guest speaker from the Manchester People’s Assembly.

Flat fee charge is £5, including coffees/teas and snacks.

Please register for the event at:


The anticipated schedule for the day is below:

2:00-4:45  Postgraduate and activist panel:

2:00-2:05      Welcome

2:05 -2:20   Steph Pike, Manchester People’s Assembly

2:20-2:35    Emma Bimpson (Univ. of Leeds)

“Moral and Political Economies of Welfare – Contesting directions in Local Housing”

2:35-2:50    Jon Las Heras (Univ. of Manchester)

“The Insubordination of a Basque Trade Union:  Collective Bargaining Strategies in the

Automotive Value Chain”

2:50-3:05   Sam Strong (Cambridge University)

“Shameful Subsistence:  Encountering the lived experiences of austerity at the Food Bank”

3:05-3:25     Discussion


3:25-3:45    BREAK/ teas + coffees


3:45-4:00    Rowan Sandle (Leeds Beckett University)

“The Psychological Cost of Austerity:  a Focus on Lone Motherhood – Experiences and Representations”

4:00-4:15    Brigitte Lechner:

“Activism and Solidarity:  the Campaign for the Stockport Wellbeing Centre”

4:15-4:30    Dr. John David Jordan (Manchester Metropolitan Univ.)
“Welfare’s Austerity Regime?  Exploring Ideology and Reality in the UK Government’s

‘Work  Programme’”

4:30-4:45    Discussion

4:45-5:45  break/ snacks


Evening session:  5:45-8:00 pm

          Prof. Raymond Tallis (Univ. of Manchester)

“The Dismantling of the NHS: from Lord Howe’s Wicked Dream to George Osborne’s   Austerity”

Prof. Sylvia Chant (Geography, the LSE)

“Questioning the ‘Feminisation of Poverty’ in the Global South, and the Wisdom of Feminised Anti-poverty Policy Approaches”

Prof. Guy Standing (SOAS) The Precariat: Why Rentiers thrive and Work does not Pay”

7:30- 8:00    Discussion



Prof. Guy Standing

Guy Standing is Professor of Development Studies at SOAS (London).  He is a co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, which campaigns for universal basic income for all; he served as Director of the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the ILO between 1999-2006.  A major theme of his current work is the emergence of a new class of worker – the ‘precariat’ – characterised by ‘flexible’, intermittent and insecure employment conditions. He has served as consultant to many policy bodies (e.g. the EU; the ITUC; UNRISD; DfID in the UK) as well as to government in South Africa and elsewhere.  His most recent books, published by Bloomsbury Academic, are Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India  (written with S. Davala, R. Jbabvala and S. Kapoor, 2015), A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (2014) andThe Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011).

Prof. Sylvia Chant
Sylvia Chant is Professor of Development Geography, the LSE.  Prof. Chant is a global expert on gendered poverty and has consulted for a number of international agencies including the UNDP; UNICEF, the ILO and ECLA.  She has conducted research in Mexico, Costa Rica, the Philippines and the Gambia, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  Among her many authored and edited books are:  Women-Headed Households (Macmillan, 1997); Gender in Latin America (with Nikki Craske) (Lat Am Bureau, 2003); Gender, Generation and Poverty (Elgar, 2007) and editorship of two different 4-volume collections on gender and poverty – the latter (Gender, Poverty and Development) published by Routledge, 2015.  Cities, Slums and Gender (with Cathy McIlwane, Routledge) is forthcoming in 2016.

Prof. Raymond Tallis

Professor Raymond Tallis is a prominent campaigner against privatisation of the NHS and is co-editor of NHS SOS, a critique of the Health and Social Care Act 2013. He is author of  three volumes of poetry, 23 books of philosophy, literary theory and cultural criticism and two medical textbooks. Prof Tallis was professor of geriatric medicine at Manchester University and  Consultant Advisor in Health Care of the Elderly to the Chief Medical Officer. He has held many national roles advising on gerontology and public health and is is a patron of Dignity in Dying.  His latest publication is The Dark Mirror (2015) is a reflection on the process of dying.


Organiser:  Dr. Susie Jacobs, Reader in Comparative Sociology


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