The future of football: a public debate

17 March 2010

With Sheffield's successful bid to be considered as one of the host cities for the 2018 World Cup, Sheffield University and Sheffield United Football Club are inviting the public to join the giants of the football world and social scientists to discuss the state of the game. 'The Good of the Game: Football, Society and Globalisation' is part of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

Alex Miles, of the University's Public Services Academy who is organising the debate says "These are pivotal times for football. Many people fear that commercialisation and globalisation have led the game to lose its links with local communities. Today's professionals, unlike the footballers of the past, are seen to be detached from their supporters. The sense of estrangement is exacerbated by foreign ownership and soaring debt amongst some of Britain's most established clubs."

"This is a unique opportunity for the people of Sheffield to hear from influential figures, such as former England Manager Howard Wilkinson, about where they see the future of the game lying" says Alex Miles. "It is the first time that senior stakeholders from the football world have come together with social scientists and the public to try and understand what football means to society and how, in turn, society can benefit football."

The panel will draw on the expertise of social scientists and invite comments from the audience to explore the extent to which football help to build social cohesion among communities that are drifting apart. Former footballers will reminisce about the game in the 'old days', and football managers and chairmen will discuss the constraints of getting to the top in today's harsh economic climate.

During the event the public will be able to join in a debate about whether by benefiting the community, football can reinforce its own identity. The organisers want to give a voice particularly to young people and plan to reserve time for questions from school children.

The debate will be chaired by ITV Sports anchor, Paul Walker and will include:

  • Howard Wilkinson, Former England and Sheffield Wednesday Manager
  • Rt Hon. Richard Caborn MP, Former Minister for Sport
  • Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of the Premier League
  • Dr Gary Armstrong, Sheffield United Biographer
  • Dr Rogan Taylor, Co-Founder of the Football Supporters Association
  • Kevin McCabe, Chairman of Sheffield United
  • James Hope-Gill, Chief Executive of Sheffield and Hallamshire FA
  • Dr Rogan Taylor, Liverpool University
  • Dr Gary Armstrong, Brunel University

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. The good of the game: football, society, and globalisation
    • Organiser: University of Sheffield, Public Services Academy
    • Friday 19 March 18.30- 20.00
    • Venue: Sheffield United FC, Mastson Suite, Bramall Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. S2 4SU
    • Audience: Suitable for all
  2. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council and runs from 12 to 21 March 2010, alongside National Science and Engineering Week. With events featuring some of the country's leading social scientists, the festival celebrates the very best of British Social Science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. The Festival of Social Science provides insight into research in a variety of formats, from traditional lectures and exhibitions to theatrical performances, film screenings and topical debates. It is aimed at a range of different audiences, including policymakers, business, the media, the general public and students of all ages.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  4. You can now follow updates from the ESRC on Twitter (@ESRC), including new funding calls as they are posted, press releases, events and more