Sports Development students receive University Excellence Scholarships

Three final year Sports Development students were recently awarded excellence scholarships after being selected from amongst nominated students from across the University. The students received their scholarships at an awards ceremony on 4th November.

Samantha Day was awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship which is given to students who help raise the profile of Edge Hill in a positive way through their exceptional contribution to the University. Samantha has volunteered both for the University netball club and in a local School Sport Partnership. Samantha commented:

‘The awards ceremony was an amazing experience and it was great to be able to share the occasion with my family. The experience was the highlight so far in my degree programme and was my best achievement while at University.’

Adam Howard and Mike Hewson were jointly awarded the Jesse Jackson Scholarship which is given on account of students’ commitment and contribution to equality and voluntary work helping vulnerable members of the community. Adam and Mike were nominated for this award because of their commitment to disability sport and in particular their contribution to the Wheels for All programme at the University.

Adam commented:

‘I thought the awards evening was excellent and it was a great opportunity to see the achievements of other students throughout the University. It was a privilege to achieve the scholarship award for my work with disabled participants in the community.’

Mike added:

‘The awards evening was a great insight to what brave, talented and unique people make up the university. I think it’s was a great evening which captured inspiring stories across the entire campus which I would imagine goes unnoticed by many students and staff. Having such an acknowledgement of achievements makes being the student who is willing to go the extra mile worth it.’

All three students are a credit to their course and the University. Hopefully, other students will recognise them as role models and make their own contributions that are recognised in future awards ceremonies.

Sin of Omission: The Sandusky Case and Child Sexual Abuse in Sport

The case of former Pennsylvania State University American football coach Jerry Sandusky, charged this week in connection with the sexual abuse of boys in his care over a 15-year period, highlights many of the issues raised by researchers studying child sexual abuse in sport.

Sandusky, the former defensive co-ordinator of Penn State’s Division 1 collegiate American football programme, was a well-respected coach with 32 years of coaching experience and multiple coaching awards. He was assistant professor emeritus of physical education at Penn State, coached there for 23 years, founded a charity for disadvantaged children and adopted and fostered numerous children.

But according to The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office report into the case (http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2011/1107/espn_e_Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment.pdf), Sandusky exhibited classic grooming behaviour: targeting vulnerable children, striking up a friendship and showering victims with gifts and promises of a place on the team to build trust and erode boundaries. He gave victims lifts to and from training, gradually isolated them from family and friends, incrementally initiated sexual behaviour, and threatened to drop victims from the team if they spoke out.

Sandusky, as seen in previous cases of sexual abuse in sport, occupied a respected and powerful position that gave him what Brackenridge (2001) calls an ‘alibi of status’; in other words, when parents and others in the community know and respect the perpetrator, there is less chance of suspicion arising and less chance of young people being believed if they dare to tell.

The bystanding behaviour of Sandusky’s head coach, Joe Paterno, is also paradigmatic of other child sex abuse cases in sport and elsewhere. A then-graduate assistant informed Paterno he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the team’s locker room as far back as 2002 but Paterno, a record-breaking American football coach and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, failed to report this to police. Instead, he only passed on the information to Penn State officials, effectively putting his team’s reputation before the welfare of the young people he coached. Paterno was fired on Thursday (http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7214380/joe-paterno-president-graham-spanier-penn-state). Two other Penn State officials have also been charged in connection with a cover up of the scandal.

Dr. Melanie Lang

Senior Lecturer in Sports Studies

‘Let’s all do the Poznan’ – but only when it’s safe to stand?

It’s not very fashionable to be a Manchester ‘Citeh’ fan these days. They have become the new ‘Chelski’ if you haven’t already heard? However it appears a new fashionable postmodern pastiche has begun to penetrate around Manchester City’s home stadium, titled ‘the Poznan’. In their 2010/2011 Europa League group tie against the Polish side Lech Poznan, City supporters whilst sat quietly in their sterile, soulless post-Thatcher stadium, were treated to the delight of an away support who decided to use the tie to show the English, ‘how it’s really done in Europe’. During the match, the Poznan fans decided to redefine the society of the spectacle, by collectively turning their backs to the pitch, placing their arms over each supporter at either side, before proceeding to jump up and down in a crazed manner. And at that very moment, a special relationship between the two sets of supporters was formed.
Ever since that cold Tuesday back in October, City fans have greeted every goal scored by a City player in domestic competition, with a tongue in cheek imitation of the Lech Poznan style. This perhaps reflects the postmodern culture of football goal celebrations during lat.e modernity, where in many cases, individual goal scorers have shifted their interest from a concern with the ultimate ends of scoring a goal and restarting the game as soon as possible, to a pragmatic concern relating to the optimal performance of celebration. And as these goal celebrations become commodified, so too has the ‘Poznan’.
Or perhaps the real significance of the ‘Poznan’ at City, has been the ability to generate a new sense of optimism and experience which according to many football supporters, has been lost since the introduction of all-seater stadiums, post-Hillsborough and the Taylor report commissioned by the then Conservative government. The City supporter community has embraced this new culture as an opportunity, through the advancement of interactive social media technology, to bring everyone together through a more playful match day experience. However, the pressing question is, how long will it be, before the authorities investigate the new Poznan dance as a potential example of dangerous standing, with an increased risk to supporter safety.
The UK Football Supporter Federation’s ‘Safe Standing Campaign’ backed by thousands of supporters across the country and building on research of existing ‘safe standing’ case studies in Europe, calls for a change in the rules so that all UK clubs are able to provide Safe Standing areas if they wish to do so. The debate is back on the football agenda again after the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster tabled a private members bill on the issue back in December 2010 and the now coalition government promising that they will listen to the case and examine the evidence. It is important to note, the FSF are not calling for all stadiums to have all safe standing areas, rather that clubs themselves, with supporter consultancy, should have the right to implement it in certain parts of the stadium, thus allowing those who want to stand safely to do so, whilst also catering for those who wish to remain seated.
Of course understandably, any discussion on the issue of ‘standing’ at football matches raises the tragic Hillsborough disaster of 15th April in 1989 and the deaths of 96 football supporters. The Safe Standing campaign however, is not calling for a return to the old fashioned poorly designed terraces of the 70’s and 80’s. Furthermore, it acknowledges the findings of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster, and particularly notes the conclusion, that standing itself, is not intrinsically unsafe. On the issue of all seater stadia, the FSF and others suggest that many football supporters currently spend large parts of the game stood up, and that this is in fact extremely unsafe due to seating.
Many fans will claim the introduction of all seater stadia has made the experience of watching football much safer, whilst others will complain it has led to ticket price increases, a lack of atmosphere and changes in football fan demographics. It might be the case, that should the campaign be unsuccessful, ultimately it will not be because of a threat to individual safety, rather the football authorities and clubs reluctance to implement it due to cost and a perception that it will lead to weaker crowd control capabilities.

So the ‘Poznan’ is here to stay for now. You might see it performed artistically at the forthcoming Manchester City vs. Manchester United FA Cup semi final on April 16th. Or what you might see however, is an extreme case and interpretation of unsafe ‘seating’.

Mark Turner – Sport Studies

Institutional Mouthpieces: Cheerleaders Beware!

Cheerleading, at least in the USA, has for some time been a means by which females can acquire what sociologists sometimes refer to as ‘cultural capital,’ more simply, status. Of course, the female in question generally has to conform to a very narrow definition of femininity (i.e. Barbie); one which feminist scholars have argued is a (hetero-) patriarchal construction of ‘ideal’ femininity (see Grindstaff and West, 2006) used to subjugate and exploit women, not least sexually.

Simultaneously, the ‘cheerleader’ has been popularly constructed as both dim-witted and sexually promiscuous, thus somewhat synonymous with the plethora of derogatory terms we have at our disposal to represent those females that dare to express themselves sexually in ways more akin to the ideal man. The notion that cheerleaders are simply ‘air-heads,’ ‘bimbos’ and suchlike is of course (rightly) challenged by those doing the cheering.

However, the place and status of the cheerleader has now been legally ruled upon in a remarkable case in the States whereby a cheerleader (HS) refused to cheer for a player who had recently received a two year probationary sentence for a serious sexual attack on her several months earlier (involving two other men- the original charge was rape). “I didn’t want to have to say his name and I didn’t want to cheer for him,” she later told reporters. ‘Fair enough,’ you might think? You’d be wrong. The school superintendent, Richard Bain, told her to leave the gymnasium and ordered her to cheer for her attacker (Rakheem Bolton). When she stood her ground he threw her off the cheerleading team. ‘Outrageous!’ you may think – again, you’d be wrong. When the girl (16) and her parents challenged Bain in court the appeal judge ruled:
“As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams,” the appeals court decision says. “This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”
So there you have it! Cheerleaders are legally not entitled to act in ways which might ‘interfere with the work of the school,’ even when this ‘work’ demands that you publically applaud a fellow student convicted of a serious sexual crime (against you!). Don’t think, don’t criticise, don’t act independently – just do as we tell you, just cheer! Interesting values for a ‘school’ to promote.  HS now has to pay £27,300 in legal costs and compensation.

For further follow-up to this story see Womens News report.

Mike Hartill – Sport Studies

Hyperreality and the Qatar World Cup 2022 by Mark Turner

When Stuart Pearce was manager of Manchester City F.C from 2005-2007, he often complained about the lack of atmosphere generated by supporters during home fixtures at Eastlands. The clubs response was to trial an artificial simulated crowd noise, transmitted through the speakers around the stadium. After eventually overcoming their sheer disbelief and bewilderment at this development, City fans made their opinions known and the trial never became permanent.

Perhaps Pearce had been reading the work of the French theorist Jean Baudrillard who explained such postmodern cultures through the concepts of ‘simulacrum’ and ‘hyperreality’. Baudrillard argued that ‘new forms of technology and information are central to a shift from a productive to a reproductive social order in which the distinction between simulations and the real disappears’ (Rail in Maguire and Young 2002:181). A simulacrum according to Baudrillard then, is a representation or copy of something, without the reality, or substance of the original. Whilst popular culture and film have been littered with simulacrums over the past twenty years, whether it be Truman’s home in his own reality television show, or the famous Jurassic Park island, football has taken a while to catch up.

Back to the future part IV takes us to the Qatar World Cup in 2022 and perhaps the most critical proposal of this to date. The hosts are developing a unique solution to combat the sweltering heat players will face during World Cup 2022 – an artificial cloud. Is this for real you might ask? Well actually, it’s hyperreal. Under the conditions of hyperreality, ‘social experience, becomes dominated by sensation and simulation, where these simulations are often experienced as more real than reality itself’ (Wagg et al. 2009:179). Saud Abdul Gani, head of Qatar University’s engineering department says the clouds will be manufactured from light carbon materials and indigenous sources and will be propelled into the sky by four solar-powered engines. The ‘clouds’, which will be controlled remotely, will fly at high altitudes above grounds and act as shields from direct and indirect sun rays, reducing the searing temperatures.

The artificial ‘clouds’ then, almost become a third order of simulacra where the distinction between the ‘real’ and the simulation disappears, or in other words, ‘a simulation of a cloud which perhaps never really existed’ on that particularly hot sunny July afternoon in Qatar 2022.

Mark Turner – Sport Studies

‘The Game’s Gone Mad’ – Bring on the Soccerettes

Within the sociology of sport, a discipline with roughly a forty year history, it has been something of a given in recent years that sport, particularly in its various national past-time versions, is a hyper-masculinist, sexist and homophobic environment. Any who have played such sports can provide much anecdotal evidence in support. Male football (in all its various global guises) is a culture where heterosexuality is compulsory and women’s relevance is predominantly confined to objects of sexual interest. Just don’t say it out loud, at least when the mic is still on … Women’s football?! ‘Come off it love.’

If you doubt this attitude is firmly embedded within our wider culture you need look no further than the long-running and hugely popular Soccer AM where the role of females is to pose in various kits for the enjoyment of ‘the lads’ whilst answering questions designed to demonstrate that women in fact ‘don’t know the offside rule’ and are fundamentally different from, if not simply inferior to, men. The men meanwhile talk about ‘serious’ football issues. I bet you can’t guess which channel broadcasts this programme.

So in fact what is remarkable about the response from Sky executives to Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ comments about female referee Sian Massey, and Gray’s ‘suggestive comment’ to a female Sky colleague is that they have appeared so surprised, indeed shocked and outraged, that their presenters could hold, never mind express such appalling views. If a channel that presents a popular football programme where women’s involvement is characterised by the term ‘soccerette’ is going to view ‘lewd’ and sexist behaviour amongst its staff as ‘unacceptable’, indeed a sacking offence, it should proceed very cautiously – the ‘soccerettes’ may be the only ones left to run the channel! There again, if it’s more cerebral football punditry we want …

Mike Hartill: Sport Studies

‘Real’ men don’t wear ‘Snood’s’

When he’s not training at Carrington or stretching a dodgy hamstring at Old Trafford, Rio like many of his postmodern counterparts, spends his time sharing his insightful ‘tweets’ with the world via the internet phenomenon that is Twitter.

As a creative industry, Twitter nicely captures the relationship between the acceleration of late modernity and the technological advancement inherent within global capitalism. This stylised platform has inevitably penetrated the world of football and is going to pose new research opportunities and challenges for sports academics across the board.

We learn then that Rio is an avid fan of X Factor, that he has agreed to swap shirts with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshire after their December fixture, whilst questioning whether anyone can understand recent ‘Celebrity get me out of here’ winner Stacey Solomon’s accent. This eclectic blend of pop culture during the current state of play represents the way in which footballers have transitioned from local heroes to global celebrity superstars.

Twitter and football already has a sharp history. It wasn’t long ago that Darren Bent began to use the site as a platform to share his anger at the way in which his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Sunderland was being conducted, whilst Ryan Babel of Liverpool took to the ‘twitterwaves’ to question why Rafa Benitez had left him out of the team for a fixture against Stoke City F.C. As the relationship between social media and footballer identity accelerate further, it is going to be interesting to see how managers, sponsors, agents and fans react to these developments.

Back to Rio! There’s been a debate recently regarding the trendy neck warmer, otherwise known as the ‘snood’. And of course, Rio’s had something to say about this too. The temperature has dropped, it’s November/December and the gloves just aren’t enough anymore. Have no fear the ‘snood’ is here, followed of course, by a media discourse. So Rio has made it plain and clear to the twitter world, “I’m telling u tweeps, U won’t see a Man Utd player wearing a SNOOD” followed by a message deliberately targeted at rival fans, “I don’t care if your players do or don’t wear Snoods, I just said WE won’t be so pipe down!” Snood’s are not officially banned at Manchester United, so what’s Rio’s ‘beef’ with the ‘Snood’?

Perhaps he’s been listening too much to Alan Brazil, who equally is no fan of the trendy garment. Brazil has produced the more telling modernist response, suggesting that these ‘Snood wearing tarts would not have survived in his day’. It is this sort of modernist romanticism which produces a telling discourse about many of today’s modern footballers. Should a gay footballer ever demonstrate the strength and courage to openly ‘come out’, it is likely that twitter will have something to say on the matter.

Mark Turner
Associate Lecturer: Sport Studies

A tale of two cases of sport politics: school sport and the World Cup bid

Besides the ongoing cultural and sporting clash that is the Ashes, two of the most prominent sport issues in this last week have been played out in venues other than the stadia, pitches and courts that are the most common focus of our sporting attention. In Westminster, there has been ongoing consideration of Michael Gove’s decision to cut the £162m School Sport Partnership programme. In Zurich, England’s team were protomoting their bid to host the 2018 World Cup. These two issues are at opposite ends of the sporting spectrum: the first about encouraging grassroots participation in sport and physical activity and the second about hosting a global, elite sporting event. Beyond this distinction, a closer examination identifies further similarities and differences in the way that these two issues have ‘played out’ this week which raises interesting issues about national and international political processes.

A first issue regards the individuals who have been involved in promoting their respective causes over the past week. In both cases, current and retired elite sportsmen and women have been prominent; the likes of David Beckham, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker lobbying on behalf of the World Cup bid and Denise Lewis, Tessa Sanderson & Darren Campbell offering prominent support for the School Sport Partnership programme. In some ways, this is representative of sports administration more generally in which ex-elite athletes often gain positions of high importance without necessarily having any relevant qualifications, expertise or experience relevant to the role that they are required to fulfil. Perhaps this has always been so within sport but perhaps also it speaks of the power that the increasing celebrity of elite sportsmen and women bring these individuals.

Importantly, however, the campaign to save the School Sport Partnership programme has also drawn on a wider base of support. Many headteachers have written to the government and contributed to newspaper articles on the subject. A Facebook campaign to ‘Save School Sport Partnerships’ now has over 18,000 members. The depth and breadth of support has been something of a surprise even to myself, as someone who has spoken to many teachers about school sport in the course of my work in recent years. Perhaps, I am not someone to make an unbiased judgement (as a Scotsman who interest in football is largely confined to the ongoing failures of my hometown team) but I detected little of a similar groundswell of opinion in favour of hosting the 2018 World Cup. If so, it is interesting that, in an age of austerity, the strongest public voices have been in support of mass participation sport rather than elite sport played out for a massively inactive audience.

A second interesting issue in both political processes concerns the role of evidence and the importance of ‘speaking truth to power’. The ongoing commitment of British investigative journalists to examine corrupt practices within FIFA was said to be a significant factor hindering England’s bid, so much so that our own Prime Minister was keen to downplay the issue of corruption as he campaigned to host the World Cup. Conversely or similarly, (depending on your perspective) it has been possible to largely discredit the government’s selective use of statistics in support of their decision to cut a school sport programme that has resulted in significantly higher rates of participation in sport and physical activity. As a result, our same Prime Minister has noticeably refused to continue describing the School Sport Partnership programme as an ‘complete failure’ as he originally had done so.

So what of the outcome of these two political processes? As most will no doubt know, the bid to host the World Cup in 2018 failed to get anything like the support required to be successful. Although the future of school sport may well remain in the balance, there are distinct signs of the government backtracking on the scale of cuts that they initially proposed to the sector. What gives me broader hope is that it is in the more openly democratic of the two processes that positive progress has been made.

Iain Lindsey
Senior Lecturer Sports Development

Are athletes found doping all ‘dopes’?

Judo silver medalist Shokir Muminov  become the first athlete at the current Asian Games in Guangzhuo, China, to fail a dope test at the weekend. The 27-year-old from Uzbekistan, who was competing in the 81-kilogramme division at the games, was disqualified and stripped of his silver medal after traces of the stimulant methylhexaneamine were found in his system.

It is the third case involving methylhexaneamine to have surfaced in recent weeks. Last week, South African rugby players Bjorn Basson and Mahlatse ‘Chiliboy’ Ralepelle were sent home from the team’s European tour and provisionally suspended from rugby after returning positive tests for methylhexaneamine following the Springboks’ 23-21 win over Ireland in Dublin on November 6. Meanwhile, Nigerian sprinter Damola Osayemi was stripped of her gold medal during November’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi after the same substance was detected in her urine.

In all three cases, the athletes have previously been regularly tested and found to be ‘clean,’ leading to suggestions they have inadvertently ingested methylhexaneamine in energy supplements or medication rather than intentionally attempted to boost their performance with banned drugs. Indeed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also recognises that methylhexaneamine can easily be unintentionally ingested, and UK Sport has issued a statement to British athletes warning them that methylhexaneamine has recently been found in a number of dietary supplements, even though all the ingredients listed on the supplement labels were permitted substances. Crucially, Basson and Ralepelle allegedly used cold medication before their in-competition test, while Osayemi is reported to have taken pain medication after suffering from toothache in the run-up to the Delhi games.

Methylhexaneamine, a component of flower oil that activates the central nervous system, is a stimulant widely used as a nasal decongestion and in nutritional supplements, where it is commonly referred to as ‘1,3-dimethylamylamine’ or the more ‘natural’ sounding ‘geranium oil extract.’ But it is also used as a so-called ‘herbal high’ recreational drug for its amphetamine-like properties. It was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned substance list in 2009 and is currently classified as a ‘non-specified stimulant,’ meaning there are no concessions for unintended use and the mandatory sanction is a two-year ban.

The case of methylhexaneamine draws attention to the complexity and inconsistency of anti-doping regulations. For example, at present WADA makes little distinction between performance-enhancing substances and other, non-enhancing substances. For example, the 2010 WADA banned list includes performance-enhancing substances and methods such as anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood and gene doping, but also substances that are recognised as non-performance enhancing and may even inhibit performance, such as cannabis, heroin and, in certain sports, alcohol.

In addition, according to WADA’s strict-liability rule, athletes can be sanctioned for most doping offences simply by virtue of a banned substance being found in their sample. In other words, establishing mens rea (a ‘guilty mind’) or that an athlete intended to use a substance for performance-enhancing effect is unnecessary to secure a guilty verdict; contaminated supplements, misleading packaging and any other form of unwitting ingestion are not a valid defence if an athlete tests positive.

While there is widespread support for cleansing sport of doping, I wonder whether current anti-doping regulations that can punish athletes for taking certain non performance-enhancing substances, for having minute traces of therapeutic drugs in their system, and for inadvertently ingesting a substance on the banned list are in the spirit of these regulations.

Dr. Melanie Lang

Men Kissing Men … but not in the Croatian FA

According to the Croatian FA president, Vlatko Markovic, as long as he is in charge of the Croatian Football Federation “there will be no homosexuals playing in the national team.” He goes on to say “luckily, only normal people play football.” Indeed! It would be interesting then to know what he would make of new research which has found that within a group of male university athletes 40% had engaged in same-sex sex, and that males in sports contexts are more likely to engage in same-sex kissing than those in non-sport contexts.

Eric Anderson and colleagues (Bath University) report “Slightly more than 80 percent of [male] non-athletes had kissed a man, compared with 95 percent of [male] athletes.” According to Anderson “The mean, gruff, homophobic macho man of the 1980s is dead. These men have lost their homophobia. They’re no longer afraid to be thought gay by their behaviors, and they enjoy intimacy with their friends, just the same as women.”

Anderson and colleagues argue that their findings “are consistent with Anderson’s (2009) inclusive masculinity theory, which postulates a drastic reduction in cultural homohysteria among youth in Britain and American educational settings today. Quite simply put, young men in these geographical contexts are not as bothered by homosexuality as they once were, and this means that they are less likely to police gendered behaviors with homophobia.”

Of course, such findings – as welcome as they are – must always be tempered with the recognition of the grim and violent reality of homophobia in our society that continues to blight the lives of many people (BBC News). Whilst there will be considerable backlash against Mr Markovic’s comments, he is far from alone in his views.

Mike Hartill