A fairytale narrative for community sport? Exploring the politics of sport social enterprise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

With voluntary sports clubs operating within competitive leisure markets and local governments responding to austerity by transferring sport facilities to community groups, such organisations are encouraged to become social enterprises. Driven by social entrepreneurs embracing ‘Robin Hood’ business models, they apparently deliver innovative solutions to social problems. Such fairytale narratives are increasingly popular in Scotland with its reputation as a ‘happening place’ for social policy innovation. Using case study material from an award-winning football social enterprise, I outline how time spent in their deprived community establishing needs and ownership aided success. Also, recruiting local youth workers, developing authentic partnerships, and creating a non-judgemental environment delivered a positive ‘ripple effect’ beyond that possible from class-blind sport provision. However, ‘win win’ rhetoric ignores stresses from meeting financial requirements and moral dilemmas from trade-offs between social and business goals. The organisation’s ‘non-establishment’ nature is partially undermined by emphasising local poverty of aspiration and the psychological thinking within Dweck’s ‘Growth Mindset’ and Duckworth’s ‘Grit’ research. The resulting focus on individual effort and learning from failure chimes with neoliberal thinking, ignoring how widening societal inequality and politics causes local problems and the need for structural changes for wider social impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-611
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number4
Early online date17 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social enterprise
  • football
  • education
  • politics
  • youth work


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