Dr Dan Parnell




A networked view of the international mobility of minors in football

Originally published on The Football Collective here.

By Alex Bond, Paul Widdop and Dan Parnell

The recent CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report investigated the international mobility of minors in football. The findings suggest a trading or mobility network of under 18yr old male athletes. However, they do not necessarily interrogate and unpick this network, which might show how it is structured globally and locally. This short blog post aims to extend their findings and explore the structure of the trade network regarding minors within football. Indeed, there are many ethical, moral, economic and, of course, legal debates to be had on the matter (the latter two can be read further in FIFA’s regulations on the transfer of players and KEA’s and CDES’ report).

There is a long history of academic research focussing on the labour market within professional association football – especially in Europe. Walters and Rossi (2009) edited series of research papers investigating the issues and challenges of Labour Market Migration in European Football – focusing on concepts such as, muscle drain, feet drain and feet exchange. On top of this, Frick (2007) empirically inspected the major European leagues’ labour market. Other research has focussed on Africa’s role within the European labour market, such as – Poli (2007) who provides specific insight into Africa’s status in the European Football Labour Market; and Darby (2000; 2007) who looks at African football labour migration to Europe and African labour migration to Portugal respectively. More recently, Bullough, Moore & Goldsmith (2016) examined UEFA’s home-grown rule and player’s migration and opportunity, and Rossi, Semens & Brocard (2016) book which explored the role of sport agents within football’s labour market. Other useful books on the topic, consist of Maguire’s (2010) Sport and Migration: Borders, Boundaries and Crossings, Elliot & Harris’ (2014) Football and Migration: Perspectives, Places, Players and Tiesler & Coelho (2008) Globalised Football: Nations and Migration, the City and the Dream.

The recent CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report highlights a very controversial issue within the European Football Labour Market – namely the migration of minors. Of course, this raises moral and ethical implications, that will stir a range of opinions. Darragh McGee seems to be at the forefront of minor migration within sport, so readers are directed to his 2012 book Displacing Childhood: labour exploitation and child trafficking in sport, or his conversation article last year What the next FIFA president could do to tackle child trafficking in football. Additionally readers may find Brackenridge et al. (2013) Child Exploitation and the FIFA World Cup: A review of risks and protective interventions useful. Nevertheless, the purpose of this blog post is to further interrogate the network of minor migration presented by CIES, without providing judgement on the topic or its implications.

The CIES report that within the top 5 major European leagues (Premier League, Liga, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Serie A), the percentage of players migrating increased from 24.1% to 55.2% from 2009 to 2015. Additionally, over the same period the average age dropped from 23.2 to 21.1 respectively, which is attributed to the increase in minor migration figures, which in 1995 was 51 and in 2015 was 184, most of which the final destination was England. The report goes further to include a section on the ‘Networks’, and provides useful information regarding the relational direction, and flow of minor’s migration in football. Within this section they include information on minor’s migration across Europe in October 2016, but they don’t locate the work in a social network analysis framework, so therefore cannot show how the network is configured. Here we use the information in the report and place it with an SNA. The below figure shows the data held in the report in network form.


This is a small-scale network based on the information provided in the CIES report, relating to the movement of minors as of October 2016. So whilst it offers an insight into the migration flow, it doesn’t explain net migration and is only a snapshot in time.

Obviously, much of this network could have been deducted through Figure 7 in the CIES report. Including that England is the clear end destination. But SNA allows us to look a bit more critically at the structure.  In network terms England has the highest in-degree and betweeness values within the network – which is a characteristic of a star topology seen here – suggesting that the England node (represented as a circle) has the most connections going into it or in this case, the majority of minor migrants from other countries migrating to England. However, England has the smallest (or none to be exact) out-degree, meaning no minor football players migrate abroad. It is Belgium who has the largest out-degree value, as they have the largest number of minors migrating, primarily to The Netherlands, and secondarily France and England. Again, deductible from the report.

What is not so deductible from the report is the structure of the network, so if we look a little closer, and apply K-core (clique of countries) (this establishes a core of nodes, or countries in this case, which are interlinked – this is a relaxed clique in that not every country (node) in the core is linked symmetrically), we find a number of countries (nodes) which were fundamental to the international transfer of minors across Europe as of October 2016. Therefore, we can depict that England, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany and the Republic of Ireland, are all embedded to the mobility of minor footballers within Europe. Thus, research is needed to track this network historically, and continuously to investigate net-migration of players over time – and account for the impact of huge political changes across Europe, such a Brexit and the right populist movement. Considering the centralised structure of the network, then political shifts affecting the (K-)core, such as Brexit, could have detrimental implications on the network robustness. Finally, research of this nature could aid policy decisions, by providing evidence of whether we need tighter interventions to control the movement of minors within football across Europe.


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

Football: the new drug in the fight against lifestyle diseases

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

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

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

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


Other related research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other related special editions

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on Connect Sport, here.

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

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

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

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

How can small-sided football training help children?

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

The conclusions are encouraging:

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

This article is based on the following research article:

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

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

This article was original published on Connect Sport, here. 

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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


Austerity Measures and Economic Recession: Financial Constraints in Sport

Call for Papers: Workshop

Austerity Measures and Economic Recession: Financial Constraints in Sport 

European Association for Sport Management Conference, 7-10th September, 2016

Warsaw Poland

We are inviting colleagues to submit abstracts for a workshop on austerity measures and financial constraints relative to the contemporary sport setting. As many countries worldwide have adopted austerity-related measures and the subsequent impact on sport is evident, facilitating a platform of debate on this issue is timely and of importance. This platform will serve empirical research, foster critical discussion, and ensure sport management academics and practitioners will attend to the contemporary and applied management issue of austerity in sport.

Aim and Content

Citizens throughout the Eurozone are constantly exposed to terms such as economic recession, austerity measures, deficit, and institutional reforms. This terminology has become prevalent in social, electronic, and print media, as European policy dealers are debating on possible solutions to the gradual and deepening financial issues in the continent (Sen, 2015). European governments have been forced to adopt austerity measures as a way out for their heavily indebted economies. Nevertheless, some economists argue that austerity is essentially anti-growth, since public expenditure decline contributes to private income reduction and increased unemployment rate. These two factors formulate the primary outcomes of austerity, causing losses on prosperity and leading a substantial segment of the population into poverty (Marmot & Bell, 2009). Overall, the impact of austerity on public health, social cohesion, and citizens’ wellbeing is well documented. In such 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 (Jones, 2008).

The overarching purpose of this workshop is to gather theoretical and practical perspectives on the impact of austerity measures on the sport sector within the Eurozone. Subsequent goals include: (a) sport development and sport-for-development issues in the austerity era, (b) best practices for administrators and policy makers as related to sport funding, (c) identification of relevant research on austerity measures and sport, and (c) theoretical and practical implications for sport management. Historical and critical “memories and identities” of the Eurozone as related to funding mechanisms of sport are also going to discussed.

Potential topics suitable for this workshop include (but not limited to):


  • Impact of public cuts on National Sport Federations and elite sport
  • Human resource management implications and utilization of volunteer groups in sport
  • National sport policies/strategies and institutional reforms
  • Impact of financial cuts on mass participation, amateur sport, sport clubs (including health/fitness), local authority sport programs, and nonprofit organizations
  • Interaction between private and local authorities (e.g., Municipality) on sport funding
  • Social responsibility/enterprise, sport-for-development, and sport-for-health
  • Reduced funding for youth, high school, and collegiate sport
  • Changing ideology/discourse of sport in the financial hardship context
  • Challenges and opportunities for the sport sector due to budgetary constraints


Small symposium, 20-minute presentation.

Expected demand for papers

It is encouraged that submissions emphasize and address management issues in sport as related to austerity, funding cuts, reduced public funding, and economic recession. Although this workshop has a more Eurocentric approach, submissions concerning global financial issues/constraints in sport are welcome.

Submission Deadline: April 1st, 2016

Online Submission Information


Dr. Chrysostomos Giannoulakis (lead convenor) / Ball State University

Dr. Dimitra Papadimitriou / University of Patras

Dr. Kostas Alexandris / Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Dr. Daniel Parnell / Manchester Metropolitan University

Outsourcing in PE and School Sport

Pleased to finally have this article published with Dr Ed Cope and Dr Richard Bailey.

Cope, E., Bailey, R., & Parnell, D. (2015). Outsourcing physical education: A critical discussion. International Journal of Physical Education, 52(4): 2-11.

Click here for the full article.


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