Uncovering the links between sport and society

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Does sport matter as much as religion in the world today? This is just one of the questions that will bring together key figures from the world of sport and researchers to explore the importance of sport in the contemporary world and how the hobby has become a global phenomenon and a multi-billion pound industry. These links between sport and society will be discussed at a multimedia event as part of the Festival of Social Science (6 - 15 March) which is organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The event "What's Social about Sport?" will be held at Sheffield United Football Club's Bramall Lane stadium and aims to uncover, among others:

  • Why sport matters so much; 
  • the role of the media in contemporary sport;
  • why more people in the world now follow sport than religion;
  • why some sports are as much about the game as they are about money and power; 
  • why sport is often not a level playing field and mirrors many of the inequalities in society such as racial or gender discrimination;
  • how some sports clubs, including Premiership football clubs, are encouraging diversity to combat such inequalities; and
  • how well is sport regulated?   

Professor Kath Woodward is a researcher at the Open University and the ESRC's Centre for Research into Socio-Cultural Change and is organising the event, she said: "This event will provide important answers on what is social about sport and how it fits into the wider society." At the event she will be presenting alongside David Goldblatt, broadcaster and author of The Ball is Round, a book which explores the global history of football. They both work together on the research project 'Sport across Diasporas at the BBC World Service' and on the Open University course 'This Sporting Planet'.

Participants at the event will also be able to listen to recorded interviews with Ed Warner, the UK Athletics inaugural chairman, former England and Middlesex cricketer Ed Smith, the chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation Sue Tibballs, and national journalist Sunder Katwala. 

Members of the media and the general public are welcome to attend the event which will run from 13.00 to 17.00 on 9 March in the Blades Millennium Suite at the stadium. 

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. The Festival of Social Science is organised by the Economic and Social Research Council, and runs from March 6 - 15, alongside National Science and Engineering Week. It celebrates some of the very best British social science research, as well as highlighting the ways in which social science makes a difference to everyday lives. Press releases detailing some of the varied events are available at the Festival website or for more information please contact the ESRC Press Office.
  2. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes.
  3. The ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) is the first major Research Centre in Britain to develop a broad, empirically focused account of cultural change and its economic, social and political implications. CRESC will bring together the theoretical and methodological expertise of The University of Manchester and Open University staff in disciplines as diverse as Accounting and Finance, Business, Census and Survey Statistics, Geography, History, Social Anthropology and Sociology. The Research Centre was launched in October 2004 and is funded by the ESRC. 
  4. The research project 'Sport across Diasporas at the BBC World Service' is part of the Diasporas, Migration and Identities research programme, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The programme includes arts and humanities scholars from all over the UK working on individual research, large collaborative and interdisciplinary projects, and in international networks. The aim is to research, discuss and present issues related to diasporas and migration, and their past and present impact on subjectivity and identity, culture and the imagination, place and space, emotion, politics and sociality.