Manchester Metropolitan University

Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap

Sport and Politics Study Group Annual Conference, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March 2017

We would like to invite you to join us for the 11th Annual conference of the Sport and Politics Study Group, as part of the Political Studies Association.

The conference: Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap will be hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University and held at FC United’s Broadhurst Park on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March 2017.

Manchester will follow in the tradition set by the PSA Sport sub-group in offering the conference a quality destination and we look forward to receiving abstracts and then warmly welcoming you as our guests in March.

Local organising team

Dr Dan Parnell, Dr Annabel Kiernan, Catherine Elliott, Dr Sara Ward, Dr Paul Widdop, Anne Thompson, Jon Sibley, Dr Kate Themen, Dr Chris Porter and Professor Mark James.

Attendance fee

Charge covers entry to all conference sessions, conference refreshments and lunches, and a delegate pack.


Register Now

Call For Papers

We live in unprecedented times, super austerity, growing income and wealth inequality, Brexit, nationalist political agendas, a rise of the right and left political ideologies, and mass population diaspora have created a vacuum of moral panic and self-reflection. The global and national landscape of sport are not immune to these processes and in many ways prefigures the society it represents.

Traditional powerbases in sport are shifting, the global south with economic resources and political will have a growing influence over sport regionally and internationally. In amongst all of this, the current climate of political instability, scratch the surface and sport has been at the forefront of the political discourse. Perhaps this is embodied in the decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Whilst elements of the UK has cheered both the imminent ‘Brexit’ from the European Union, and the athletes leading success after millions invested in Olympic and Paralympic sport at Rio 2016. Other factions of society have expressed counter dismay at the potential negative impact of ‘Brexit’ on the economy, how the nation can accept the public funding of elite sport during the harsh reality of austerity measures including public sector funding cuts and cuts to the disability allowances of the most in need across our communities.

At the same time, sport is receiving unprecedented internal investment alongside foreign investment and TV rights deals seeing many of sporting social institutions under the stewardship of foreign owners of investment. This can only widen the disparity and disconnect between elite and grassroots sports and see sport mirroring public policy, where the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is widening. Yet sport, as many have argued could have the power to unite, to be a resource for hope, to be a source of refuge to the poor and even new migrants.

Many in sport are waiting in anticipation for continued elite sport funding and the following investment in community and grassroots sport. Whilst others recognise this could only be start of one of the most damaging public policy eras of our time, with consequences both in the imminent and future decades – something that the power of sport simply cannot reverse.

Manchester is a global city that offers a creative and vibrant environment for cultural and sporting consumption. Nationally, the discourse surrounding ‘DevoManc’ or the city’s  key role in developing the Northern Powerhouse agenda – alongside Liverpool [capital of culture 2008], Hull [capital of culture 2017], Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle - all of which make significant contributions to what many would refer to as the holy trinity of football, music and fashion. Manchester, however, punches above its weight, particularly in cultural production. The city’s sports offer range from football teams offering a local and global profile through, from Pep Guardiola and fan ownership, through to Chinese investment. With links to the Middle-East, urban regeneration and a number of innovative sport-based public sector health partnerships.

Yet, Manchester is a city of great contrasts, where cultural consumption and vast inequality meet; where significant homelessness persists in parallel with the forward march of gentrification. In sport too, the new powerhouse of English football and arguably the richest club in the World resides within one of the most deprived areas of England. Manchester is a city where sport cuts across policy and politics and where change has happened and is happening.

The Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap Conference 2017 will provide a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination of these issues and more. The conference aims to explore the inter-relationship between sport policy and politics by drawing on research from politics and political science and a variety of academic fields, including: sociology, social policy, philosophy, criminology, community and youth work, history, law, geography, and sport studies. Beyond this, the conference is renowned for its supportive collegiate environment, its lively debates and familiar faces. We hope you can join us as a contributor or participant for what we hope will be another memorable conference.

Keynote Speakers


Dr Geoff Pearson – University of Manchester

Geoff Pearson is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Manchester. He completed his PhD on Legal Responses to Football Crowd Disorder in 1999 at Lancaster University before he joined the University of Liverpool’s Football Research Unit where he was director of the MBA (Football Industries) programme for over a decade. He has published on football crowd management, policing, sports law, and research ethics and is author/co-author of An Ethnography of English Football Fans (2012 MUP), Football Hooliganism (2007, Pennant), and co-editor of Legal Responses to Football ‘Hooliganism’ in Europe (2016 Asser). Geoff has worked with the Home Office, the OSCE, the European Commission, FIFPro, and a number of police forces, and is an acknowledged international expert on ‘hooliganism’ and football crowd policing. His research methods have been predominantly ethnographic and since the mid-1990s have taken him into the heart of the most serious football riots involving English fans. He is a co-founder of the Annual Ethnography Symposium, which comes to Manchester for the first time in August this year.

From Heysel ‘85 to Marseilles ‘17: The Sorry Tale of Misunderstood Causes of - and Misplaced Solutions to - Football ‘Hooliganism’.

Violence and disorder involving football fans has been high on the political agenda since the mid-1970s and has resulted in a stream of legislative, judicial, and policing responses. All too often these responses have been fuelled by sensationalist media coverage and ill-informed politicians looking to be seen to be tough on the so-called ‘hooligans’. Alcohol restrictions were introduced in 1985, banning orders in 1986 (and extended on numerous occasions since), and terracing at top level football was outlawed from 1990. Pyrotechnics, pitch invasions, ‘indecent’ chanting, and ticket touting were also made criminal offences exclusively for football. But initial legal and policing strategies resulted in tragedy, and more recently standing, use of pyrotechnics, and alcohol consumption at matches has flourished. Finally, large scale rioting in Marseille in the summer indicated that the problem of ‘hooliganism’ abroad had not been overcome. Evidence from numerous multi-disciplinary research studies demonstrates that the nature of the problem has consistently been misunderstood, its threat over-stated, and the supposed legal solutions either ineffective or counter-productive. Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly clear that the answer to the problem lies in intelligence-led and proportionate policing strategies based on communication, an understanding of fan culture, and the facilitation of self-policing. It is time for the out-dated and discredited football laws to be repealed and for a complete reassessment of the risks posed by - and to - those who attend football matches.


Damian Collins MP – Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

Damian was elected in May 2010 as the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe in Kent. In 2016 he was elected to the position of Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media, and Sport, of which he has served as a member since 2010. He was previously PPS to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Foreign Secretary.

Damian is Chairman of the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network, which was launched in May 2009. The Network brings together individuals who work in the arts and creative industries with the Culture Ministerial team, MPs, and senior figures in the Conservative party involved in developing policy in this area.

Damian's business career was in the advertising and communications industries, working for 10 years the M&C Saatchi advertising agency in London and then for Lexington Communications where he was Senior Counsel.

In November 2007 Damian was listed amongst the top 50 names for the future in public life in Britain in the first 'Courvosier the Future 500' published by The Observer.


We welcome Abstracts of up to 300 words for papers that address, but are not limited to, the following themes:

Submission criteria

Please email Abstracts to by 25 January 2017 indicating the following:

Key Dates

Hotels and Accommodation

We would recommend any hotels in and around Oxford Road, Manchester. This is a short commute from the conference venue.

Venue Location and Background

Venue location

Background to FC United

The club set up in protest to Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United’ is a statement often used to describe FC United. But while there is no doubt that FC would not have happened without the American invasion, it was the catalyst, the final straw, but not the sole reason.

The material theft of a Manchester institution, forcibly taken from the people of Manchester, was the tip of a pyramid of destruction, with changing kick off times for the benefit of television, soulless all-seater stadia full of ‘new’ supporters intent to sit back and watch rather than partake in the occasion, heavy handed stewarding and ridiculously priced tickets propping it all up.

By May 2005 some supporters had had enough. The failure to prevent Glazer and repeat the successful repulsion of Rupert Murdoch in 1998 resurrected a ‘last resort’ idea from that previous campaign and the FC United wheels were put in motion. A group of individuals determined to continue the fight formed a steering committee and FC United of Manchester was delivered.

Critics of the idea argued that if supporters were disgruntled with the Premiership then why didn’t they go and support other local cash-strapped clubs instead of setting up their own? But that wouldn’t have been theirs would it? It wouldn’t have been United and it wouldn’t have been right to takeover another club after they had just been taken over themselves. Nor could they drift off in various directions and be lost to each other and maybe football forever. They wanted to maintain the momentum of the protest, to stick together, to sing United songs, to reminisce and bring back the good bits of the good old days. They wanted Our Club, Our Rules and they got just that, a member owned democratic, not-for-profit organisation created by Manchester United fans. A club accessible to all of the Greater Manchester community, dedicated to encouraging participation of youth whether it be playing or supporting and to providing affordable football for all.

Most recently, FC United have moved into Broadhurst Park, referred to as many as the home of fan-owned football. For further history and research on FC United please see their website:


Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap - Schedule (Word)

Sport Policy and Politics: The Inequality Gap - Schedule (PDF)