The Politics of Sport and Social Enterprise

Authored by: Gavin Reid

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792548
eBook ISBN: 9781315761930
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646679


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This chapter examines the politics of the under-examined link between sport and social enterprise. Some argue that, with the current global dominance of neo-liberalism, we see sport’s ‘deep politics’ come to the fore, through sweatshop labour practices, zero hours contracts, dominance of sponsors’ rights over democratic freedoms, and the undermining of football club traditions by billionaire owners (Collins 2013). The aforementioned author argues that, while the exploitative relationship between sport and capitalism has never been so visible, sport supports the neo-liberal hegemony by offering an escape from poverty and opportunities for joyful self-expression and personal identification. As he argues, ‘little wonder that corporate giants and local businesses alike seek to profit from such a potent cocktail’ (p. 12). The fear of this is captured by Jarvie’s (2003: 150) comment that ‘if the public domain of Scottish sport is . . . invaded by the market domain of buying and selling, the primordial democratic promise of equal citizenship and sporting equity . . . will be negated’. However, social enterprise supporters embrace a more positive view of business arguing that, in the hands of social entrepreneurs, it can be harnessed for fundamental social change. They believe that innovative business models that see profit as a vehicle for the common good, not unlimited private or shareholder gain, generate levels of social capital not found in outdated business, charity and public sector models (Thorp 2015a, 2015b).

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