A most welcome publication with mostly fine chapters contributing to sport development in theory and in practice

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Hans Lundberg
Linnæus University, Växjö, Sweden


Vassilios Ziakas (ed.)
Trends and Advances in Sport and Leisure Management: Expanding the Frontiers
188 pages, hardcover
Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2022
ISBN 978-1-5275-8590-4

The title of this book is one of few overall shortcomings in this rewarding and enjoyable publication. I’ll come back to that. The strengths of the book are its parts, most of its nine chapters, taken as meaningful individual contributions in their own rights. Honour to the editor for refraining from imposing artificial themes or overarching theoretical superstructures on the chapters, instead allowing them to stand out for themselves, thereby conveying meaningful aspects of (mostly) the sub-discipline of sport development. This ‘voice’ is consistent with the publishing philosophy of the publisher: “we are not looking for a ‘CSP voice’ in our books. The ‘CSP voice’ is the voice, or the many and varied voices, of our authors” (Roncevic, 2021).

The book starts with two chapters from three of the more senior scholars contributing to the book. Vassilios Ziakas and Aaron Beacom have a long track record in research and activities in the practice/policy/scholarly interface within sport policy research, the role of sport in society/community and linkages between sport/physical activity and other societal sectors/actors. Their particular focus in the first chapter is a quite recent (2015-2016) policy shift in the UK context of sport development, away from ‘sporting culture’ towards ‘physical culture’ and, as a consequence of this shift, an increased focus on inter-organisational cooperation (‘Active Partnerships’ in an UK context) between the vast amount of actors and organisations engaged in the affairs of increasing and improving all aspects related to UK citizens and their physical activity (or lack of). The authors present no new data but provide a theoretically/conceptually robust and informative overview of a UK sport development community still in transition and yet in search for its new forms, structures and processes to make sense of the policy shift and to develop new capabilities to stage and deliver their core offerings and activities.

The next chapter by Hans Erik Næss, professor in sport management, is similar to the first, both in unit of analysis (inter-organisational cooperation, here with a focus on value-based sport leadership in Scandinavian sport confederations) and outcome (a robust overview of the phenomena studied). Næss bases his chapter on arather limited textual data study (188 publicly available documents, 944 pages in all, from the three major sport confederations in Norway, Denmark and Sweden) and provide a decent chapter focused on how leaders of these confederations use value-based justifications in their decisions and their leadership work. In the age of big data (mostly quantitative methods) and mid- or small-sized data sets (e.g., NVivo) I think it is fair though, to expect that someone on the professorial level would use any of the many software and methods available for data and text analysis, thereby making it possible to distinctly increase the data set and so broaden the analytical possibilities that these kind of software and methods offer.

Not only for personal interest reasons (guess I have seen Billy Elliot an unhealthy amount of times, which is about boys and ballet in 1980s northern England, yes, but it has many parallels…), but mainly of course for scholarly reasons, I found this chapter to be among the strongest and most relevant in this collection.

Chris Mackintosh, among many things founder of the UK Sports Development Network (“UKSDN will focus purely on the community/grassroots elements of sports development”, UK Sports Development Network, 2023) and sport policy advisor to the UK House of Lords, team up with (mostly) practitioners in two other chapters. In one chapter, together with Abbie Lench and Laura Rushby, he presents an empirical study on the changing landscape and challenges regarding sport volunteering in the case of golf in England. Not a small thing indeed, given the amount of volunteers in question (about 40 000 in England only), the global status of golf as sport and recreation, and that UK being “the birthplace of golf” (Scotland, more specifically). The strengths of this chapter also encompass its major weakness; empirically, the chapter brings us close to the realities and whereabouts of volunteers in this context and it provides a rewarding reading on, analysis of and insights into this context. But it does not leave that very same context. A kind of minimum requirement in a scholarly setting is to also contribute somewhat to the phenomenon as such (‘sport volunteering’), not only the specific empirical context at hand in a given singular study. Here, not even the intention to do so is in place, which it should have been.

In another chapter, Mackintosh teams up with Sophie Everson (first author, researcher and coach practitioner) and Rebecca O’Hanlon (researcher) to “examine why very few boys take part of gymnastics in England” (p. 97), the historical and contemporary reasons for that, and its implications for sport development policy and practice. Not only for personal interest reasons (guess I have seen Billy Elliot an unhealthy amount of times, which is about boys and ballet in 1980s northern England, yes, but it has many parallels…), but mainly of course for scholarly reasons, I found this chapter to be among the strongest and most relevant in this collection. Difficult-to-get data (interviewing boys in the ages 8, 9, 11 and 13), strong empirical evidence, robust theoretical and conceptual base and valid findings should make most researchers (and practitioners) happy. The only shortcoming is the snapshot-like presentation of the interview data; thematic analysis, content analysis or the Gioia methodology would have done the job better here.

As a long-serving reviewer for idrottsforum.org (20 years soon), it is a great joy to make some new reading acquaintances in the upcoming chapters. Romanian scholar Oana Mara Stan mostly publishes in the almost forgotten scholarly goldmines of university hosted or university related academic journals (in her case, Revista Universitară de Sociologie, nowadays published by an external publisher but historically related to University of Craiova, Romania). These still prevail though, and thereby nurture fine scholarly qualities that largely is rationalised away within the citation hunting mainstream academic publishing machineries and powerhouses (qualities such as more genuine independence in thinking and writing and less proneness to anxiously gazees at “who must I cite”, “what’s next”, “what’s hot”, etc.). In her chapter, she makes a philosophically grounded (e.g., Beck, Heidegger, Huizinga, Jung) and theoretically very robust (in sociology and social psychology mainly; e.g., Elias, Goffman, Levine, Urry) study of how parents to tennis-playing children in Romania relate to, work with and manage their time (‘the sociology of time’). A highly rewarding read, just dive in.

Volunteers giving water to runners at the London marathon on April 22, 2012. (Shutterstock/Michaelpuche)

Next, Turkish scholar Furkan Baltaci brings us to coastal Turkey and a chapter about recreational experiences during the pandemic for international second home tourists. The chapter is the only quantitative study in the book and it contrasts distinctly with the dominance of sport development approaches in the book so far. Hypotheses in his leisure and recreation oriented study focus on recreational activities before and after COVID-19, what respondents did in their second homes during their lockdown spare time, and what these activities meant for them. It is a solid study but a bit out of place in the overall book context (more of an editorial issue than a critique of the author/study).

The third new acquaintance in this collection is Norway-based Xiang Ying Mei, who makes a single-case study aimed at improving our understanding of sporting event bid withdrawals, and in particularly how mass media is influencing this. She base this single-case study on Oslo’s bid withdrawal for the 2022 Winter Olympics. It is a very solid chapter from all relevant research points-of-view (methodology, theory, empirics, and so on), but mainly I would like to highlight its relevance. Historically, it is been somewhat of a dogma that arranging the Olympics, or even “only competing about it”, is some kind of naturally “good thing” that automatically brings only positives and goodies to the host city. This really is undergoing a quite dramatic change as of now, as it is increasingly questioned and criticized, which she also emphasizes in her conclusion. Given the importance of the question, the vast implications it has for arranging the Olympics, and this recent change towards questioning the benefits of and reasons for at all bidding for the Olympics, it is suitable to focus on an in-depth single-case study (to put the question high up on the agendas); but it needs to be followed by more studies using other methods to further penetrate this dramatic shift in how the Olympics are seen, evaluated and – accordingly – bid for (or not).

The two weakest chapters show some communalities: They are strictly speaking not scholarly products as they basically discuss things, summarizes a field of interest for the authors, and have no data, methodology or a structure resembling a scholarly study. One of these chapters, by Walker J. Ross and Stavros Triantafyllidis, “introduces the emerging field of sport ecology” (p. 37), and the other one, the final chapter by book editor Vassilios Ziakas, focus on event portfolios and event portfolio theory linked to sport and leisure. At best, these two chapters can be read as non-systematic (snapshot) literature reviews. In less generous readings, they simply are marketing texts for their respective consultancy interests, fields of interests and the like.

Further drawbacks beyond individual chapters relate to the boo title:

  • A mentioned, the title is unfortunate. Edited books where a sweeping and swanky title is there to provide an impression of a thematic consistency that simply is not in place have been coming en masse in many academic disciplines the last decade/s, and it is a segment of publishing that this publication does not deserve to be associated with. So, simply ignore the title and the 1,5 page preface where the editor must provide the lingo that such market/ing practices dictate, and dive directly into the (mostly) fine chapters.
  • And again with the title; why is ‘sport development’ not in it? The contributors, their background, expertise and interests, and book content (most chapters, not all) have a quite distinct sport development approach, and it would make more sense to have sport development in the title rather than leisure management and sport management.

All-in-all, a most welcome publication with mostly fine chapters contributing to sport development in theory and in practice.

Copyright © Hans Lundberg 2023

Sources

Active Partnerships. Web page, https://www.activepartnerships.org. Retrieved 1 May, 2023.
Oana Mara Stan. Web page, https://marastan.wordpress.com/about/. Retrieved 30 April, 2023.
Revista Universitară de Sociologie. Web page, http://www.sociologiecraiova.ro/revista/. Retrieved 1 May, 2023.
Roncevic, M. (February 15, 2021). Interview with Graeme Nicol, Chief Executive of Cambridge Scholars Publishing. No Shelf Required, http://www.noshelfrequired.com/interview-with-graeme-nicol-chief-executive-of-cambridge-scholars-publishing/. Retrieved 30 April, 2023.
UK Sports Development Network. Web page, http://www.uksdn.org. Retrieved 30 April, 2023.

 

Table of Content

Managing Grassroots Sport Development: The Role of UK Active Partnerships in Policy Implementation
Aaron Beacom & Vassilios Ziakas

Leadership Values in Scandinavian Sport Confederations: An Archival Ethnography
Hans Erik Næss

Sport Ecology: The Relationship Between Sport and the Natural Environment
Walker J. Ross & Stavros A. Triantafyllidis

The Growing Significance and Challenges of Sport Volunteering: The Case of Golf in England
Chris Mackintosh, Abbie Lench & Laura Rushby

The Question of Time: Parents’ Support for Junior Competitive Tennis as Sensemaking and Life-Course Vision
Oana Mara Stan

“If I wanted to join a gymnastics club…it’s seen as being a girls’ sport”: Implications for Male Gymnastics Sport Development Policy and Practice
Sophie Everson, Chris Mackintosh & Rebecca O’Hanlon

International Second Home Tourists’ Recreational Experiences in the Pandemic: The Case of Coastal Turkey
Furkan Baltaci

Understanding Sporting Event Bid Withdrawals: The Impact of Mass Media
Xiang Ying Mei

Building Sport and Leisure into Event Portfolios
Vassilios Ziakas

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