Individual Research Proposal
- Introduction and Context
1.1 The basic nature of sporting activity results in a natural role in terms of social importance. In particular, team sports engender cooperation and collaboration on a group basis and thus often interact at a fundamental level with wider social functions and the community at large. As such, sport assumes a position in terms of social and community conditioning that moves beyond the traditional auspices one would normally apply (Giulianotti; 2005).
In this sense, it is possible to see how participation in sport can result in a variety of benefits not only for individual progression, but also for social processes. Concepts such as social capital are therefore often integral to sport, even if the practitioners themselves are unaware of the social function their particular sporting activity is producing (Giulianotti; 2005).
Therefore, given that the examination of sport should include an active analysis of its social role, then in academic terms it is clearly necessary to adopt a wide theoretical basis on which to found assertions and conclusions. Thus, it is vital to assert the initial assumption that any examination of the social role sport plays must assume a relatively interdisciplinary approach to the subject. Ultimately, assessment of sports’ social connotations requires the inclusion of the wider social sciences almost as much as it does sport studies itself.
1.2 However, the above explanation of sports’ social role and impact presents us with an immediate issue of concern. Above all, even though over the last have a century there have been a plethora of initiatives and actions which have aimed to reduce inequality in society, such inequality remains a consistent and persistent feature of British society as it does in much of the developed world (Pierson, 2004). Ultimately, the primary focus of concern has moved away from material based poverty to concerns of social exclusion in society, which can occur at a number of levels and for a variety of reasons (Pierson, 2004).
1.3 Given that sport therefore assumes an intrinsic social role, it would be fair to conclude that issues of concern in wider social functions also impact in sport. Indeed, the issue of social exclusion and engrained inequality is something which has received increasing academic and political attention in recent years. Above all, social exclusion in sport not only highlights the degree to which sport and social functions interact at a fundamental level, but also the continuing persistent presence of social exclusion in sport itself.
- Literature Review
2.1 As suggested above, the issue of social exclusion in sport has been the subject of detailed academic examination. Moreover, given the essential social connotations involved in this area of study, political forces have played an increasing role in application of sport as a method of addressing social concerns. However, given that political actions are often directed by issues and concerns which fail to adequately conceptualise the true nature of the problem, then it is in academic discourse that one is to find the real tenets of concern. It is therefore necessary to provide a full and comprehensive outline of the debates and discussions which preoccupy academic thinking on the subject of sport and social exclusion.
2.2 Various academic studies have aimed to highlight the degree to which exclusion is an essential issue of concern in sport. Foremost among these is the comprehensive study provided by Collins and Kay (2003). Not only does this study outline in extensive detail the degree to which exclusion is endemic in sport, but also attempts to adopt a proactive approach to the problem in a way which highlights the primary issues of concern in a constructive manner. As such, Collins and Kay (2003) have outlined in detail the degree to which exclusion in sport takes place for a variety of reasons. Naturally, issues pertaining poverty and are paramount. Thus, exclusion on the basis of economic wealth often occurs in sporting activities. However, the degree to which this impact is felt sometimes differs depending on the sport in question. For example, sports such as tennis invariably tend to exhibit greater levels of exclusion due to the increased costs of participation compared to other sports like rugby. Such poverty can impact at all age ranges; however the problem is particularly acute for young people. For example, in a study into child poverty, Collins and Kay (2003) found that 14% of preschool children experienced poverty every year between 1991 and 1996, although the national average was 6.7%. Building on such studies, Collins and Kay have outlined the degree to which instances of child poverty have a direct impact upon participation in sport. Therefore, the positive development that can be derived from sporting participation is less prevalent among children who suffer poverty in general.
2.3 However, to suggest that exclusion in sport only occurs on the basis of poverty is short cited. Above all, a variety of issues and concerns impact upon exclusion in society in general. Thus, such impacts are equally felt in sport. For example, Houlihan (2008) has asserted that there is an unequivocal link between sport participation and class. Using empirical evidence collected from various studies in Nottinghamshire across a broad spectrum of age ranges, Houlihan (2008) outlines how class identification has a direct impact on sport participation. A variety of quantitative evidence is used to support such basic assumptions. For example, using tables as a method of explaining research outcomes, Houlihan (2008; p. 85) has suggested that in 1990 “Adult visits to sport centres” among professional people in Nottinghamshire accounted for 40% of the total whereas unskilled people represented merely 8%. A number of other indicators such as this are used to highlight the degree to which class and sport interact. Moreover, Houlihan (2008) clearly outlines how different sports engender more significant disparity. Once again the example of tennis is used to personify the degree to which certain sports enhance class differences more than others. However, such disparity also occurs in sports such as hockey. Thus, even though social scientists generally agree that class based difference is not as protracted in Britain as it once was; it appears that in sport significant divisions on the basis of class remain apparent.
2.4 Carrington and McDonald (2001) offer a different perspective on exclusion in sport. The detailed analysis and assessment provided accounts for exclusion in sport on the basis of race. A variety of different measurements and conclusions are provided and naturally it is not possible to give detailed reference to all of them here. However, one such conclusion is worthy of specific mention. The suggestion is made that football engenders exclusionary tendencies across the broad spectrum of race and ethnicity; however such processes are particularly acute in relation to Asians. Moreover, what is interesting to note is that the analysis provided by Carrington and McDonald (2001) moves beyond the ground level of social functions to include professional football. Thus, through the use of various empirical and quantitative evidence the assertion is made that “South Asian footballers have been denied recognition, development and access by and to the predominantly white controlled world of British football” (Carrington and McDonald, 2001; p. 154). Naturally, the presence of endemic exclusion at the professional level filters down through all lower levels in football. However, although the assumptions of Carrington and McDonald (2001) do indicate the seriousness of exclusion in football, Wagg (2004) has suggested that football is the prime example through which to combat social exclusion in sport. Given that football is a popular sport and tends to transcend issues pertaining to poverty and class, then “football clubs can play a part in tackling social exclusion” (Wagg, 2004; p. 52).
2.5 The various literatures discussed above point to clear a tendency for social exclusion being prevalent in sport. However, in order to offer a full and complete appraisal of this issue it is necessary to detail the literatures which offer possible resolutions to the problem. As suggested above, Wagg (2004) has outlined the manner in which football can cross class and economic divides in a way which offers effective responses to social exclusion. However, in addition various initiatives directed from central government have attempted to utilise the potential of football in a way which directly counters issues pertaining to social exclusion (DCMS; 2001). In line with general social policy over the last decade, central government has attempted to instil partnership between government agencies and leading football clubs. For example, Houlihan and White (2002) have examined the impact of proactive measures by certain football clubs aimed at increasing participation of the local community in a way which engenders greater understanding of social exclusion and actively combats it. Everton Football Club is an example of where positive developments have been witnessed in this regard (Houlihan and White; 2002).
2.6 As such, it is possible to highlight the degree to which government actions have attempted to directly address the issue of exclusion in sport. Although the example of football has achieved relatively greater levels of success compared to other sports, this does not alter the fact that political actors have placed an “emphasis on social objectives and sport as a tool for human development” (Houlihan and White, 2002; p. 4).
2.7 In addition to the book based sources outlined above, a number of journal articles have also added to the debate regarding sport and social exclusion. For example, Collins (2004) provides a succinct overview of how social exclusion and sport interact. Furthermore, Polman et al (2004) have outlined how gender issues figure prominently in exclusionary tendencies in sport. Once again, football is used as the prominent example, however it is also possible to witness gender based exclusion in other sports. Polman et al (2004) detail examples of such tendencies in golf, rugby and snooker. Once again, it is determined that effective resolution to such concerns requires the proactive involvement of government in collaboration with grass roots sports organisations and clubs. In many respects, Hargreaves (2000) further personifies issues relating to exclusion, sport and gender in a very specific study.
2.8 Other studies such as Giulianotti (2004), Houlihan (2008) and Horne et al (1999) provide further verification and support for the various assertions outlined above.
- Research Aims, Objectives and Questions
3.1 The overall aim of the research will be too clearly and comprehensively outline the degree to which social exclusion and sport impact upon one another. Therefore, significant time will be dedicated to offering appraisals and assessments personifying the presence of inherent and engrained social exclusion in sport.
3.2 The research will adopt a fairly broad basis of assessment. As such, issues pertaining to class, ethnicity, poverty and gender will be given full expression. In order to achieve a measure of focus and direction, issues such as age and disability will be excluded from the analysis.
3.3 In addition to outlining how examples of exclusion can be found in sport, various techniques and methods which have attempted to counter such developments will also be assessed at length. Such assessment will therefore include academic assertions in combination with government publications.
3.4 Therefore, the above research aims will be focused directly at answering two fundamental research questions. These are;
- To what extent is social exclusion an issue in sport on the basis of poverty, ethnicity, class and gender
- What methods and approaches have been undertaken to counter such social exclusion in sport.
- Research Methods and Methodology
4.1 The various discussions which took place in the literature review clearly point to the kind of methodological approach that the research will adopt. Above all, a combination of source material from journals and books will form the primary method through which the academic foundations of the research aims and objectives will be met. Book sources tend to offer an effective overview of the general subject whilst simultaneously detailing specific debates and issues. Journal articles tend to be less encompassing but nonetheless often provide very detailed insight into specific areas. Therefore, the comprehensive use of secondary source material from books and journals will act as an essential basis on which the research will be undertaken. Internet resources will also be used to highlight the role of political actors in relation to social exclusion and sport (DCMS; 2010). Naturally, such source material is subject to a number of concerns relating to bias, however it is the only method through which accurate appraisal of present and ongoing policy can be offered.
4.2 The use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches will be undertaken to meet the research aims. Above all, qualitative assumptions gain greater validity and contextual soundness when they are supported by statistical quantitative data (Punch; 2005). This combination was briefly utilised in the literature review and thus acts as an example of how further investigation will be undertaken in terms of supporting personal assertions made.
4.3 Personal empirical research will also be undertaken as a way of enhancing the academic quality of the research. This will take the form of investigation into the class basis of various sporting activities in my local area of Canterbury. This will be achieved by questionnaires to local sport clubs such as Waltham Sports Club, Broome Park Golf Club and Sturry Sports Club. Given that Canterbury is a fairly affluent area it is expected that empirical research will uncover that participation in sport differs depending on class. In order to achieve sound research processes the assertions and outlines of Gratton and Jones (2004) will be implicitly followed and the guidelines on using questionnaires as provided by Foddy (1994). Moreover, in order to ensure that the empirical research undertaken does not overreach itself, the sole focus will be placed on class indicators.
4.4 The above methods are justifiable as they provide the most effective way of encapsulating the broad research aims and objectives. Secondary source material in conjunction with government publications will outline the major issues and themes at work. Such assessments will then act as an effective foundation for the personal empirical research which will be undertaken.
- Significance and Justification
5.1 The research process outlined above is certainly justifiable. Above all, it is quite obvious through reference to the plethora of academic output on the subject that social exclusion is an issue of particular concern in sport. The methods suggested also indicate the extent to which a multi disciplinary approach is essential. Thus, in academic terms there is considerable significance for the present research proposal and a strong measure of justification.
5.2 Moreover, given the social connotations of the proposed research then it is certainly possible to argue that the proposed research has an importance and relevance that transcends traditional concepts of sport. Above all, the unequivocal link between sport and society accounts for such importance.
- Possible Limitations
6.1 Given that the research objectives aims to offer an encompassing assessment of social exclusion in sport then it may not be possible to delve into extensive detail on specific issues. For example, the research aims to highlight exclusion on the basis of class, ethnicity, poverty and gender. Therefore, it would be impossible to give each of these four variables completely comprehensive assessment. Moreover, in order to achieve effective focused analysis as far as possible, issues such as age and disability will be excluded.
6.2 However, the empirical research in the form of the questionnaire will focus solely on the issue of class based exclusion in Canterbury. Nonetheless, a variety of research based concerns will be present in ensuring that effective empirical methods are adopted.
6.3 Given the nature of the subject, it will not be possible to compare and contrast analysis in Britain with other countries. However, this is deliberate as to do so would extend the reach of the research aims too far.
Carrington, B & McDonald, I (2001) Race, Sport and British Society. London: Routledge.
Collins, M (2004) ‘Sport, Physical Activity and Social Exclusion’ Journal of Sport Sciences’ 22(8), pp. 727-740.
Collins, M.F & Kay, T (2003) Sport and Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.
DCMS (2001) Progress Report on Social Exclusion. Westminster: HM Government
DCMS (2010) ‘Sport’, Department for Culture, Media and Sport’, [online] cited 09/01/10, available at, https://www.gov.uk/.
Foddy, W (1994) Constructing Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires: theory and practice in social research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Giulianotti, R (2005) Sport: a critical sociology. London: Polity.
Gratton, C & Jones, I (2004) Research Methods for Sport Studies. London: Routledge.
Hargreaves, J (2000) Heroines of Sport: the politics of difference and identity. London: Routledge.
Houlihan, B (2008) Sport and Society: a student introduction. London: Sage.
Houlihan, B & White, A (2002) The Politics of Sports Development: development of sport or development through sport. London: Routledge.
Horne, J; Tomlinson, A & Whannel, G (1999) Understanding Sport: an introduction to the sociological and cultural analysis of sport. London: Taylor & Francis.
Pierson, J (2004) Tackling Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.
Polman, R; Walsh, D; Bloomfield, J & Nesti, M (2004) ‘Effective Conditioning of Female Soccer Players’ Journal of Sport Sciences 22, pp. 191-203.
Punch, K (2005) Introduction to Social Research: quantitative and qualitative approaches. London: Sage.
Wagg, S (2004) British Football and Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.
I am confident that I will be able to meet all the research objectives in terms of examining secondary source material. Both book and journal based sources are integral to the research aims and I feel that I have already gained to good understanding of the major issues and themes at work in the area of sport and social exclusion.
However, the area where I feel I will encounter significant problems is with the empirical research questionnaire. As such, ensuring that the questionnaire is carried out in the best traditions of social research will be critical to ensuring that the overall research is of a high standard and enjoys an element of personal research endeavour. Naturally, I will ensure that I read and account for various texts (outlined in the research proposal) pertaining to effective use of research methods and applying proper processes in using questionnaires. Ultimately, although I appreciate the critical nature of the questionnaire, I feel that carrying out such personal research is vital if an overall comprehensive research is to be provided.
In terms of research variables, it will also be critical to outline why I have chosen to exclude age and disability from the analysis. Above all, such variables have been excluded because of the wish to provide detailed research on a fairly encompassing nature. However, it will be vital that such reasons are fully outlined at the outset of the research.
It will also be critical that I pay proper attention to issues pertaining to plagiarism. Above all, ensuring that all work taken from another source is fully referenced in line with the Harvard referencing system will ensure that such concerns are met. However, diligence and thoroughness will be pivotal in this regard.
Completing the research proposal next year will result in a number of benefits for me. Firstly, the academic knowledge that I already have on sport studies will be enhanced in a way which encapsulates the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. Above all, developing effective interdisciplinary skills and knowledge will allow me to have a greater understanding of the social processes which underlie sport in general. As such, this knowledge will allow me to place future practical applications firmly within the correct theoretical foundation.
However, I believe that by carrying out the personal empirical research using a questionnaire format I will gain a variety of transferable skills. Naturally, such skills include research based knowledge, however, doing such personal research will also enhance by interpersonal skills.
The combination of the benefits derived from academic study along with personal research will I believe equip me with the necessary skills to enter into effective employment in the sports industry. Moreover, placing sports within the correct social and cultural setting will allow me to quickly highlight issues of concern and offer practical methods of resolution. Therefore, not only will I benefit personally, but also those people who I meet during the course of my professional career.