School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


marathon runners

Sociology of Sport Research Group

The Sociology of Sport Research Group studies all aspects of sport through the application of diverse sociological theories, methodologies and imaginations.

Sociological inquiry into sports participation rose to prominence in the latter part of the last century, and has since become a respected aspect of both the social and sports sciences. The sociology of sport reflects the increasing interdisciplinarity of sociology, and thus encompasses cognate disciplines such as anthropology, economics, education, history, human geography, political science, social policy, and social psychology. In addition, the recent off-shoots of sociology, such as cultural studies, gender studies, and media studies, are well represented.

The Sociology of Sport Research Group within the School is highly respected at world level for its research and publications. Research group members are currently engaged in a wide range of research projects at local, national and international levels. Our members also hold key leadership positions within major academic journals and professional associations.

The body

The body, once the domain of medical sciences and certain schools of philosophy, emerged in the late 1970s as a central focus for scholars across the social sciences. In sociology the body became a central concept and significant object of study by the mid-1980s. Studies of the body have since become a fully formed subfield: the sociology of the body.

The body is perhaps more fundamental to sport than many social practices. Consequently, the body has proved to be a fertile site of inquiry, within which social scientists of sport have mounted refutations of abstract, universalizing models and ideologies, provided critical studies of power relations and systems of oppression, and examined the possibilities for social agency and political change.

Areas related to the body which are explored by the sociology of sport research group include, but are not limited to:

  • Athletes’ experiences of pain and injury
  • Embodiment and disability
  • Health and illness
  • Mental health and sport
  • Social organization of sports medicine
  • Sports violence and aggression


Globalization continues to be one of the most important and prominent research themes throughout the social sciences.  Since the early 1990s, members of the research group have been investigating the interrelationships of globalization and sport, and the School has gained a world-leading profile in this large field. 

Recent and current research projects on globalization and sport include the following:

  • Globalization and individual sports, notably football and cricket
  • Media and global sport
  • Migration of athletes and sports fans
  • The nation and national identities in a global sports context
  • Global sport and regional identities and politics
  • The ‘sport for development and peace’ sector
  • Global sport mega-events
  • Global sports governance and politics
  • Globalization theory and sport

Qualitative research methods

To help critically understand our social worlds, and generate significant theoretical and practical impact, the Sociology of Sport harnesses the power of qualitative methods. Recent and current research projects have drawn on various distinguished qualitative traditions, including ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology, critical inquiry, and narrative inquiry. Our research has also utilised established methods and advanced a range of more innovative methodological practices. These include:

  • Semi-structured, unstructured, and focus group interviews
  • Observation and participant observation
  • Mobile methods
  • The internet (e.g. blogs)
  • Visual methods (e.g. auto-photography)
  • Timelining   
  • Vignettes
  • Diaries
  • Autobiographies
  • Media analyses
  • Narrative analyses
  • Discourse analyses
  • Creative analytical practices (e.g. autoethnography and fiction)

Social Inclusion in Sport and Physical Activity

Over the past few decades, members of the Sociology of Sport research group have been at the forefront of examining the complex and often contradictory relationships between sports, physical activity and social inclusion. Much of this work has focused on examining the ways in which the parameters of inclusion (and exclusion) in sports and physical activity are often shaped differentially across intersectional indices, such as gender, disability, ethnicity and social class. It has also included an examination of the ways and contexts in which sport can act as a mechanism through which to achieve a range of positive individual, social and community outcomes, especially in relation to marginalised youth groups. Recent and current areas of focus include:

  • Disability, the body, health and well-being
  • Psycho-social attitudes towards sport and physical activity amongst girls
  • Engaging disaffected youth and promoting positive development through physical activity
  • The physical activity and sporting experiences of Looked After Children  
  • Youth sports volunteering, social capital and citizenship
  • Black and Minority Ethnic participation in football/sports as players, coaches, and leaders
  • Racism and institutional discrimination in football and the effectiveness of equity strategies
  • Gender stereotypes and women in leadership positions in football/sports

Below are selected publications for each member of staff in the group. For a complete list, please look up publications by person in the University repository:

Professor Alan Bairner

  • Bairner, A. (2011), Soccer and Society in Eva Menasse’s Vienna, Sport in History, 31 (1), 32-48
  • Bairner, A. (2011) Urban walking and the pedagogies of the street”, Sport, Education and Society, 16 (3), 371-384
  • McGee, D. and Bairner, A. (2011) Transcending the Borders of Irish Identity? A Sociological Analysis of the Catholic Footballer in Northern Ireland”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport 46 (4),436-455
  • McMaster, A. and Bairner, A. (2012) Junior Ministers in the UK: The Role of the Minister for Sport, Parliamentary Affairs, 65 (1), 214-237, 2012
  • Bairner, A., (2012) Between flânerie and fiction: ways of seeing exclusion and inclusion in the contemporary city”, Leisure Studies, 31 (1), 3-19

Dr Steven Bradbury

  • Bradbury, S. and Kay, T. (2008) ‘Stepping into Community? The impact of youth volunteering on young people’s social capital’ in Sport and Social Capital, Nicholson, M. & Hoye, R. Elsevier. Butterworth-Heinemann (UK)
  • Kay, T. and Bradbury, S. (2009) ‘Youth sport volunteering and the development of social capital’ in Sport, Education and Society, Volume 14, Issue 1, February 2009
  • Bradbury, S. (2010) ‘‘It’s not as simple as black and white’: challenging racisms in English professional football through locally grounded multi-agency collaboration’ in ‘Sport and Challenges to Racism’ Long, J and Spracklen, K (eds). Palgrave Macmillan
  • Bradbury, S. (2011) ‘From racial exclusions to new inclusions: Black and minority ethnic participation in football clubs in the East Midlands of England’ in International Review of the Sociology of Sport, Vol 46, pp23-44
  • Bradbury, S. (2011) ‘Racisms, resistance and new youth inclusions: the socio-historical development and shifting focus of black, Asian and minority ethnic football clubs in Leicester in Burdsey, D. (ed.)Race, Ethnicity and Football: Persisting Debates and Emergent IssuesAbingdon: Routledge. 

Professor Richard Giulianotti

  • Giulianotti, R. and Robertson, R. (2009)Globalization and Football, London, Sage/TCS.
  • Giulianotti, R. and Robertson, R. (2012) ‘Mapping the Global Football Field: A Sociological Model of Transnational Forces in the World Game’,British Journal of Sociology, 63(2): 33-58.
  • Giulianotti, R. (2011) ‘Sport Mega-Events, Urban Football Carnivals and Securitised Commodification: The Case of the English Premier League’,Urban Studies, 48(15): 3293-3310.
  • Giulianotti, R. (2011) ‘Sport, Peace-making and Conflict Resolution: A Contextual Analysis and Modelling of the Sport, Development and Peace Sector’,Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(2): 207-228.
  • Giulianotti, R. (2011) ‘The Sport, Development and Peace Sector: A Model of Four Social Policy Domains’,Journal of Social Policy, 40(4): 757-776.

Dr David Howe

  • Howe, P. D.  (2011) ‘Cyborg and Supercrip: The Paralympics technology and the (dis) empowerment of disabled athletes’.Sociology. Vol. 45 (5): 868- 882.
  • Howe, P. D. (2009) ‘Reflexive Ethnography, impairment and the pub’,Leisure Studies. Vol. 28.(4): 489-496.
  • Howe, P.D. and Morris, C. (2009) ‘An Exploration of the Co-production of Performance Running Bodies and Natures within ‘Running Taskscapes’ inJournal for Sport and Social Issues. Vol. 33 (3): 308-330.
  • Howe, P.D. (2008) ‘The Tail is Wagging the Dog: classification and the Paralympic Movement’,Ethnography. Vol. 9 (4): 499-518.
  • Howe, P.D. (2008)The Cultural Politics of the Paralympic Movement: Through the Anthropological Lens. London: Routledge.

Professor Joseph Maguire

  • Maguire, J. (2012).Reflections on Process Sociology and Sport: ‘Walking the Line’:
    London: Routledge
  • Maguire, J., Bromber, K. & Krawietz, B. (eds). (in press)Sports Across Asia: Between Identity Politics, Body Cultures and Secular Ritual.New York: Routledge.
  • Maguire, J. (ed). (in press).Handbook for the Social Sciences of Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Maguire, J & Falcous, M. (eds). (2010).Sport and Migration. London: Routledge.
  • Maguire, J. (2005).Power and Global Sport: Zones of Prestige, Emulation and Resistance. London: Routledge.

Dr Dominic Malcolm

  • Malcolm D. (2012) Sport and Sociology.London: Routledge.
  • Malcolm D. (2012) Globalizing Cricket: England, Empire, Identity.Bloomsbury Academic, London
  • Malcolm D. (2012) ‘Suicide, Sport and Medicine’, British Journal of Sports Medicine,46(5).
  • Malcolm D. (2011) ‘Sports Medicine, Injured Athletes and Norbert Elias’s Sociology of Knowledge’, Sociology of Sport Journal,28(3), 284-302.
  • Malcolm D. and Scott, A. (2011) ‘Professional Relations in Sport Healthcare: Workplace Responses to Organisational change’, Social Science and Medicine, 72, 513-520.

Dr Rachel Sandford

  • Armour, K.M. & Sandford, R.A. (2012) ‘Positive Youth Development through an Outdoor Physical Activity Programme: Evidence from a Four-Year Evaluation’, Educational Review, DOI. 10.1080/00131911.2011.648169.
  • Sandford, R.A., Armour, K.M. & Stanton, D.C. (2010) ‘Additional Aides or Informal Educators? Volunteer Mentors as Informal Educators in a Youth Physical Activity Programme’, Mentoring and Tutoring, 18(2) 135-153.
  • Bailey, R., Armour, K., Kirk, D., Jess, M., Pickup, I., Sandford, R. (2009) ‘The Educational Benefits Claimed for Physical Education and School Sport: An Academic Review’, Research Papers in Education, 24(1) 1-27.
  • Sandford, R.A., Duncombe, R. & Armour, K.M. (2008) ‘The Role of Physical Activity/Sport in Tackling Youth Disaffection and Anti-social Behaviour’, Educational Review, 60(4) 419-435.

Dr Brett Smith

  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2012). Disability, sport, and physical activity. A critical review. In N. Watson, A. Roulstone, & C. Thomas, &  (Eds). Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies (pp. 336-347). London: Routledge.
  • Phoenix, C. & Smith, B. (2011). Telling a (good?) counterstory of aging: Natural bodybuilding meets the narrative of decline.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, 66, 628-639.
  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2011). Multiple responses to a chaos narrative. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness & Medicine, 15(1), 38-53.
  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2008). Changing bodies, changing narratives and the consequences of tellability: A case study of becoming disabled through sport. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30(2), 217-236.