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Dr Dan Parnell

FOOTBALL, SPORT, SOCIAL CHANGE, POLICY, MANAGEMENT

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Inequality

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—

 

 

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.

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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.

Class

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’.

Golf-participation-graph-475x322[1]

Geography

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-participation-graph-2-475x576

Inequality

“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.

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