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MMU Sociologist joins John Amaechi to debate ‘Sport in the Age of Austerity’

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Words by Chloe Marie Thornton

When it comes to football, Manchester is divided into red and blue. However, the beautiful game is not the only topic of conversation. On Friday, MMU’s lecturer in Sociology, Dr. Chris Porter joined former NBA star, John Amaechi OBE in panelling the ‘Sport in the Age of Austerity’ talk at the University of Manchester. Accompanying academics were Dr. Neil King of Edge Hill University, and Dan Parnell of University of Derby respectively. Though much discussion was placed on football and its influences on society, the overarching topic was the failure of government sports policies in the current economic climate. 

The experts approached issues such as ethics, under-qualified coaching and bridging the gap between the elite and the ‘ordinary’, but all panellists agreed that change is needed in policy making. They claimed the current impact of sport on communities is measured by anecdotal evidence rather than empirical. Therefore, policy makers are making uninformed assumptions on what sport can and can’t influence in society.

Dr. Chris Porter, director of MMU’s auspicious Centre for the Study of Football and its Communities (CSFC), spoke of the need for a more critical approach to ethical issues surrounding sport, particularly in football. He talked of sport having a powerful symbolic element for spectators and consumers as it is often an “integral part of contemporary life.” Consequently, he believes that high-profile sporting figures have a responsibility to criticise societal problems such as racism, homophobia and sexism within sport. He also suggested that the division in economic situations at Manchester City and Manchester United displays a need for official sporting organisations to create their own ethical policies concerning where sporting clubs receive financial support.

Much of what Chris spoke of reflected his post-talk comments on “making a difference within the community,” being an important outcome of his research. This combination of academic research and public engagement is very much what the CSFC is eager to achieve. Adding to the Centre’s interest in the cohesion of sport and society, Chris explained that “transplanting the things learnt through research in Manchester globally” is an important aspect of the CSFC’s studies. “Our research is receiving interest,” he said, “from academics in Malaysia and Australia,” marking the CSFC as an internationally recognised inter-disciplinary network. Following the successful ‘Football and Communities Across Codes’ conference held in Sydney earlier this year, a third annual event is due to take place in Manchester next June. 
Chloe graduated from MMU with a degree in English and is now studying an MA in Contemporary Literature and Film there. You can read her blog at and follow her on Twitter @chloemthornton.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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