Sport-for-Change: Some Thoughts from a Sceptic

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Commentary | Open Access

Sport-for-Change: Some Thoughts from a Sceptic


  • Fred Coalter Leeds Beckett University, UK


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Abstract:  Sport’s historic attraction for policy makers has been its claims that it can offer an economy of remedies to seemingly intractable social problems—“social inclusion”, “development”. Such usually vague and ill-defined claims reflect sport’s marginal policy status and its attempts to prove its more general relevance. The dominance of evangelical beliefs and interest groups, who tend to view research in terms of affirmation of their beliefs, is restricting conceptual and methodological development of policy and practice. There is a need to de-reify “sport” and to address the issue of sufficient conditions—the mechanisms, processes and experiences which might produce positive impacts for some participants. This requires researchers and practitioners to develop approaches based on robust and systematic programme theories. However, even if systematic and robust evidence is produced for the relative effectiveness of certain types of programme, we are left with the problem of displacement of scope—the process of wrongly generalising micro level (programme) effects to the macro (social). Although programme rhetoric frequently claims to address social issues most programmes have an inevitably individualist perspective. Further, as participation in sport is closely related to socially structured inequalities, it might be that rather than sport contributing to “social inclusion”, various aspects of social inclusion may precede such participation. In this regard academics and researchers need to adopt a degree of scepticism and to reflect critically on what we and, most especially, others might already know. There is a need to theorise sport-for-change’s limitations as well as its “potential”.

Keywords:  displacement of scope; programme theory; scepticism; sport-for-change

Published:   25 June 2015


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v3i3.222


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