RN28 - Society and Sports

RN Coordinator:

Nicolas Delorme, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France



The ESA Research Network 28 Society and Sports aims at strengthening the visibility and legitimacy of the sociology of sport within the European sociological community. As such, the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association in Prague (25-28 August 2015) will offer, besides the regular stand-alone sessions (i.e., general session), a broad range of specific and joint sessions in which the sociologists of sport can discuss and exchange their knowledge with colleagues from different but overlapping sociological fields (such as health, gender, emotions, globalization, consumption and many others).

  1. General session

The general theme of the ESA Conference as a whole is Differences, Inequalities and the Sociological Imagination in a context of globalisation, and we particularly invite papers that address this theme. We also invite papers exploring other questions from all areas of the sociology of sport.


  1. Specific session: Diversity, management and governance in sport

Countries in northern Europe – France, Germany and England among them – have made some headway in addressing (some might say suppressing) visible and overt forms of racism and homophobic attitudes among sports spectators. However, in some European locations fan racism and other abuse remain a deep concern.  This is especially true, of course – but not exclusively so – in football, a fact which is further exacerbated by its huge global media coverage. 

While extant sports bodies have usually been quick to condemn spectator incivility and abusive incidents perpetrated by competitors, there has been much less focus on monitoring and diversifying senior administrative and leadership positions in sport. Indeed, an institutional and exclusionary heterosexual and masculine homogeneity, based in part on a reproductive capacity to naturalize and universalize certain favoured characteristics through constructions of otherness, might be said still to typify the management and leadership of sports bodies and sporting clubs in the twenty-first century. Males drawn from similar ethnic, social and generational backgrounds promulgate ‘fairness’ in management and governance, but they also continue to dominate the management, policy and representative positions in sport and effectively shape delivery in both local and national settings.

This session reflects critically on the consequences of sport’s chronic difficulties in diversifying its local, national and international leadership forums and also explores case studies where identifiable change has occurred.

Convenors: John Williams and Arun Kang


  1. Specific session: Investigating the dark sides of sport: methodological issues and challenges

In the last decade, there has been an increased academic and policy interest to analyze and counteract socio-cultural aspects of the dark sides of sport, such as corruption, match-fixing, doping, criminality, fans violence, harassment/bullying, or sport-related alcohol consumption. The analysis of these topics presents specific methodological challenges, difficulties and risks which need a critical and comprehensive reflection. The session aims at exploring these issues to systematically capture various facets of the sociological investigation of the dark sides of sport and potentially lay the groundwork for a journal special issue or an edited collection. We welcome submissions that reflect upon the methodological aspects of the sociological examination of the dark sides of sport including, but not limited to, the following: field and relationships with gatekeepers, access to information and techniques of enquiry, risks for the researcher and their subjects of investigation, research ethics and the knowledge production process. We particularly welcome reflections based on specific case studies.

Convenors: Dino Numerato and Davide Sterchele


  1. Specific session: Sport, media and new media

Sports and media are in a relationship of interdependence. Research in sociology and communication has focused on the analysis of this interdependence, but also on the information produced. Some authors have also examined the conditions of production of this specialized information. The evolution of technologies and practices – added to the arrival of new actors – has profoundly changed the relationship between sports and media which has become more complex over time.

In order to analyze these recent evolutions, the ESA research network ‘Society and Sports’ invite scholars to submit abstracts to the joint session on ‘Sport, Media and New Media’. All papers from the full range of perspectives on the study of media and sport will be considered. Particularly welcome are contributions which focus on new media (e.g., Internet) and social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook). Topics might consider any of the following (but are not limited to this list): (1) Sports journalism and gender equality; (2) National/local identities; (3) Media representations of race in sport; (4) Journalistic discourses; (5) Sports stars and sporting heroes; (6) Communication strategies through media and social networks; (6) Media and globalization; (7) Sports advertising; (8) Ethical issues; (9) Audience for media sports; (10) Sports broadcasting/reporting; (11) Sport in the age of the Internet; (12) Research methodologies in media.

Convenor: Nicolas Delorme.


  1. Specific session: Society and Sports (open session)


  1. Joint session with RN4 Sociology of Children and Childhood and RN30 Youth and Generation: Sport participation: means of social inclusion or social exclusion?

Sports play an important role in the development and socialization process of children and young people. It is a means of bringing the youth together, yet at the same time, it can generate social exclusion. Depending on their socio-economic, cultural, ethnic or religious background, as well as sex and geographical location, children and young people's involvement into sports varies greatly. While sports might be a means of social integration for some, other become socially excluded by not being able to access sports activities.

We invite the submission of both empirical and theoretical papers addressing issues such as:

- Inequalities sustained or challenged through sport

- Sports as a means of social integration

- Social exclusion and differences generated by sport and limited access to sports

Convenors: Aurélie Mary, Leena Haanpää and Tom Cockburn


  1. Joint session with RN20 Qualitative Methods: The body and embodiment in sport – studies on beyond discursive knowledge.

In the sociology of sport, instead of the meaning of beyond discursive knowledge (embodied, tacit, sensory, situated knowledge) in the sports field, this kind of knowledge is marginalized. The learning of running, swimming or fighting is based on discursive knowledge, but at the same time – for the most part - on beyond discursive knowledge. One can say - 'hit dynamically', 'catch tightly', but, without a doubt, it is easier to show how to do it. How can one teach a swimmer to 'feel the water'? Is it possible to do this solely by using verbal communication?

The aim of this session is to examine, explore and discuss the transmission of beyond discursive knowledge in sport. At the same time, the session has an epistemological and methodological importance - it can show what is possible to study by sociologists and whether and to what extent the beyond discursive knowledge is cognizable.

The proposed issues are:

- The different forms of transmission of beyond discursive knowledge, the barriers in this transmission

- The possibilities to study beyond discursive knowledge

- The relations between transmission of discursive and beyond discursive knowledge, the boundaries of discursive transmission of knowledge

- Gender context/determinants in the process of transmission beyond discursive knowledge

- The role of beyond discursive knowledge in the reproduction of gender inequalities

Convenors: Honorata Jakubowska and Christoph Maeder


  1. Joint session with RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism: Racial/ethnic relations and sport

Sport is often described as a field of equality and social inclusion. But the analysis of social relationships in the context of sport (including professional, student and leisure sports) reveals processes of racial/ethnic stigmatization, distinction, discrimination, segregation and labelling. Sport has also been a platform for the expression of racial/ethnic identities and for the mobilisation of both racist and anti-racist politics. Therefore, this session’s aim is to explore such processes and to adopt a perspective situated at the intersection of the sociology of sport and the sociology of racial/ethnic relations.

In order to contribute to the analysis of these processes and to open new horizons for further investigation, we invite papers aimed both at understanding the relationships between sport and race/ethnicity, and at using sport as a tool for the analysis of social relationships, social identities and social trajectories.

The session is open to researchers using all methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative. A focus on racial or ethnic difference would also be welcomes in intersection with other dimensions such as gender or social class.

Convenors: Lucie Forté-Gallois, Ben Gidley and Vincent Charlot


  1. Joint session with RN33 Women’s and Gender Studies: Sports, gender and sexualities

Being expressions of cultural embodiment, sexualities, genders and sports can be analyzed as a mirror of societies’ transformations. For this reason the analysis of sports, gender and sexuality can be key to analysing changes in social interactions and collective representations.

In order to contribute to these streams of research and to open new horizons for further investigation, we invite papers aimed at both understanding the relationships between sports and sexualities, and using them as a tool to analyse broader social transformations. For example: how have sports and physical cultures built their specificities, in particular with relation to genders and sexual differences and consequently to body-related social norms?  How have sports’ institutions managed to include gender and sexual diversities (e.g. cases of intersexed and/or transgender athletes)? Which innovations can be observed in sport practices (techniques, dress-codes, aesthetics, etc.) with relation to sexuality? To what extent have issues of sexual violence and homophobia amongst sport fans been successfully addressed? What are the contemporary challenges and opportunities when we consider the relationship between sports and sexuality? We encourage contributors to address questions of this sort, thus exploring the importance of gender and sexuality in sports’ research, and vice versa, examining how sports matters in sexuality research.

Convenors: Alessandro Porrovecchio and Maria Carmelia Agodi


  1. Joint session with RN21 Quantitative Methods: Competitive Balance in professional sport

The issue of competitive balance in sport remains an important issue both for social scientists and for the administration of sport. There is a strong current in North American sociology that advocates increased competitive balance. This has increasing purchase in Europe, most notably at UEFA with its ‘Fair Play’ policies for elite football clubs. European research is less wedded to this discourse.

Competitive balance and imbalance are both quantitative issues. There has been considerable debate about how best to measure them, particularly over time. There has also been controversy about the appropriate time frame to be used for comparative analysis. Recently, there has been a move to include statistical modelling into such analyses.

The joint session would invite contributions for the following issues

- Analyses of competitive balance over time

- Analyses of competitive balance between different geographical units

- Analyses of competitive balance between different sports: are sports with high levels of competitive imbalance less successful along various dimensions

Convenors: Roger Penn, Damon Berridge and Henning Best


  1. Joint session with RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness: Physical activity, health and inequalities

A constant amongst the social and cultural change we experience in late modernity is that our bodies remain manifestations of difference and inequality. This is particularly true in the cases of physical activity and health. The ways in which physical activities influence people’s health, sense of well-being and quality of life are marked by difference. From divergences in physical cultures along the lines of class, gender, nationality and religion to the stark differences in participation levels between social groups: physical activity, health and inequalities are intimately entwined. This session will focus on how physical activity is involved in the creation, reinforcement, exacerbation and resolution of health inequalities. At the same time, attention will also be given to the ways in which different health conditions influence people’s involvement in physical activity. Therefore, the session offers an opportunity to consider the relationships between physical activity, health and inequalities and the social consequences of their interplay.

We invite empirical and theoretical papers addressing the following issues and other related topics:

- Physical cultures and their effects on health and (in)equality

- Health inequalities and participation in physical activity

- Promoting health and addressing inequality through physical activity interventions

- The health and physical activity experiences of marginalised groups

Convenors: Oli Williams, Davide Sterchele, Kàtia Lurbe I Puerto and Micol Pizzolati


  1. Joint session with RN25 Social Movments: Football fans, activism and social change

The aim of this session will be to discuss critical fan engagement with contemporary football culture and contemporary societies. In addition to understanding fans as violent hooligans or passive consumers, the recent research in the sociology of sport has explored football fans in terms of activism, through the lens of new social movement theories. Sport, and in particular football supporters around the globe organize protests, petitions, campaigns, workshops, seminars, congresses, and are engaged in political lobbying and provide consultancy to football officials. These expressions of activism are nourished by discontent with recent developments in football cultures and late modern societies and with efforts to change them. The objective of this session will be to examine fan engagement across different geographical, cultural and political contexts, and to understand their impact on football cultures, or contemporary societies more broadly. We welcome submissions that address the topic of fan engagement also in relation to the following issues: commercialization of football and the resistance against the so-called “modern football”, security measures and civil liberties, sport governance and participation of fans on decision-making processes, and anti-discrimination and anti-racism initiatives. The session is intended to be primarily focused on, although not limited to, football fans.

Convenors: Dino Numerato and Eduardo Romanos


  1. Joint session with RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism and RN32 Political Sociology: Sport, ethnicity and political conflict

There has been a growing interest in the role of sport both in underpinning ethnic belongings and exacerbating interethnic tensions, on the one hand, and in promoting positive interaction and conflict resolution, on the other. The proposed session will explore these phenomena along a range of dimensions including:

- The historical sociology of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport

- The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport

- The historical sociology of ethnic/national conflict resolution

- The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict/national conflict resolution

We welcome contributions that develop these ideas theoretically and/or empirically. New styles of analysis would be desirable, including visual approaches and new forms of textual analysis.

Convenors: Roger Penn, Davide Sterchele, Ben Gidley, Virginie Van Ingelgom and Hans-Jörg Trenz


  1. Joint session with RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness: Sport, health and society – Doing research on social health determinants

The current trend in health studies is to consider health in a dynamic rather than static perspective. In this view, health is the result of a constant interaction between the individual and his/her environment. It is no longer considered only as the absence of disease but as a resource for everyday life, in which the individual’s role is active.

As researchers we can consider several dimensions of the health condition of both the overall population and the individual, focusing on different determinants which affect global, physical, mental and psychosocial health.

Health determinants can be analyzed as both an indicator of current individual and global health condition, and as a mirror of societies’ transformations. For this reason, as sociologists, the analysis of social health determinants can be key to analysing changes in social interaction and collective representations. That is, a tool to analyse broader social transformations.

In order to contribute to these streams of research and to open new horizons for further investigation, we invite papers aimed at both understanding the relationships between sports and social health determinants, the role of sport as a tool for health reinforcement, and/or as a risk facilitator (i.e. sport addiction, risky behaviours, etc.).

Convenors: Alessandro Porrovecchio, Philippe Masson and Kàtia Lurbe I Puerto

Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                 15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.