Sport for Development and Peace: A Perspective on Defining the Field

In recent years there has been an international movement associated with using sport to assist social development within society. Governments, universities and organizations have produced a range of programs covering a broad range of social issues working under the sport for development and peace banner (SDP) (Kidd, 2008). A diversity of programs and organizations are working under this banner but in analysis has been criticized as a vague and weakly theorized banner (Coalter, 2010).

 This is reflected in academics where in social science literature or journals research on sport for development and peace is very limited and is only emerging by a small group of individuals within sports studies, including Coalter, (2005, 2008 and 2010) Maguire (1999 and 2000), Armstrong (1997), Giulianotti (2004), Darby (2002), Chappell (2004), Kidd (2008) and Girginov (2008).  Kidd (2008) and Levermore (2008) state that there is a lack of research and theory to support this emerging phenomenon.

When analyzing the landscape of sport for development, policy and organizations usually have limited focus that try and tackle a broad gauge of problems without support of research and are underpinned by political rationales (Coalter, 2010; Hayhurst, 2009). Also projects encounter barriers such as underfunding, poor planning and isolation from mainstream development needs. However it has become recognized as a positive social tool by social entrepreneurs and as a movement has gathered momentum, gaining an increased level of professional practice and some academic study in the field (Kidd, 2008; Levermore, 2008).

To help the field an assessment of the discipline it is essential to gauge the current efforts of the sport for development and peace professionals. To start, an identification of ‘a field of study’ and its definition is necessary.

“An academic discipline, or field of study, is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined (in part), and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong.”

                                                                                                                     (Clarke, 1987)

For example sports management is a newly established field and is now professionally recognized. Since the inception and its academic recognition, scholars have analysed the emergence of the sport management field with the establishment Associations, including the North American Society of Sport Management (NASSM) and the European Association for Sport Management (EASM). Pitts (2001) defined this asking the question of what constitutes a field of study? Stating its recognition consisted of:

1.      A Body of knowledge and literature in relation to theory and practice

2.      Professionals- those who educate, those who pursue research, those who practice

3.      Professional organizations dedicated to the advancement to the field

4.      Professional preparation

5.      Credibility

These indicators have been supported by other scholars and made more specific to the field of sports management. Chelladurai (2005) states there are three significant factors that contributed to the elevation of sport management as a field of academic status:

1.      The development of degree programs

2.      The establishment of professional associations

3.      The production of scholarly journals

Conducting analysis of sport for development and peace using these frameworks will provide two strong outcomes for the enhancement of the field. Firstly it will provide an assessment and recognition to the work currently in the field. Secondly it provides a framework of catalysts for the development of the field and the potential for increasing creditability for support internationally.

This small insight demonstrates the need to encourage further research and initiatives to fill the gaps currently in the field. This perspective and the use of the sports management framework can help to examine the field and help to recognize the opportunity for the sport for development and peace movement going forward.

Co-authored by:
Matthew Targett, SUNY-Cortland,
A. Wolff, Brown University,