These country-level investigations follow numerous examples of professional footballers being personally investigated for breaking betting rules. In 2022, Reading defender Kynan Isaac was handed a 12-year ban for placing illegal bets.
From the outside it might seem strange that well-paid athletes who seemingly have everything might risk it all in this way. Those who are eventually found guilty can be fined, suspended from playing the sport or even banned for life.
As yet not much is known about the benefits athletes get out of spot fixing, beyond payments from fixers, and researchers aren’t even sure if athletes always get payments direct from bookmakers. But it may not all be simply about money.
My previous research into why male professional athletes commit crime may help us understand why they would gamble their careers – the intense conditions of a professional athlete’s world can prime them for criminality.
Why do athletes do it?
Sport corruption cases have been on the on the increase around the world in recent years.
My study in sport and crime involved interviewing elite male athletes who have committed crimes, ranging from driving offences or drug possession, to importing drugs or grievous bodily harm.
I found the very characteristics that may have made them a good athlete may have also set them on the path to criminality. There are parallels between the core features of athletic excellence such as competitiveness, aggression, appetite for risk and assertion, and some of the traits that underpin criminal activities.
In some circumstances, an athlete may view crime as an intense and thrilling activity that fulfils their need for excitement and fuels their appetite for risk.
Some athletes viewed crime as a means to alleviate boredom, with players struggling to fill the void that was left when not competing or training. The thrill of the crime wasn’t necessarily an initial motivator but it was clearly a reason for repeated offences. As one athlete told me: “Some of those feelings, like feelings of elation and at times camaraderie as well, that I experienced on a football pitch, in a changing room… I got that from crime as well.”
Another athlete said: “There is a buzz of it … Anyone who tells you anything else is lying, it’s a buzz”.
Athletes in my study highlighted their susceptibility to temptation, their sense of invincibility and belief the rules did not apply to them and, in hindsight, their self-centredness. In psychology, these characteristics are linked with a type of behaviour called “terminal adolescence”, where they appear to not grow up because they don’t have to. Some athletes are so indulged they develop unrealistic views of themselves and a sense of invincibility commonly seen in adolescents.
A disregard for consequences was also clear. One participant said: “Of course there are consequences, of course there are people that go to jail, I know them, but I’m not going to get caught so I don’t have to think about that”.
Athletes may take part in crime because risky experiences can give people a sense of control in their largely constrained lives – it can help athletes escape from the restrictive nature of elite sport.
Negative sporting experiences influenced some atheletes’ criminal behaviour too. Rejection, failure and a belief that sporting bodies, coaches or fans are treating them unfairly can incite athletes to rebellion. For example, one professional boxer began a phase of going out with friends and taking drugs after he lost a match because he thought the outcome was unfair.
Substance misuse was also often a negative influence. The need for money to pay for drugs and increasing greed in general were given as reasons for these bouts of self-destructive behaviour.
What can be done?
Sport organisations need to ensure they know the backgrounds, and social pressures, that are inescapable for many athletes so they can protect them. Young athletes’ potential criminality is not always on the radar of coaches, but it needs to be. One of the athletes I interviewed did get pulled up by his coach who had realised what he was doing in his free time – and this was a changing point for him.
Participants in my study touched upon the pressure they felt to be successful and how they struggled with mental health. One athlete described how draining his sport could be, and how the intensity – combined with the pressure an athlete is constantly under to perform – was exhausting.
The destructive criminal behaviour may be self-inflicted but these athletes still need support. Failing to support an athlete who has committed a crime may well make things worse, as they struggle with the financial, social and emotional consequences of their actions.
The frequency of drug and alcohol misuse is also an influence on athletes committing crimes. Athletes were indifferent to the use of class B and C drugs, and the negative impact these drugs could have on their careers, or how these could result in a criminal record. Education should be extended to coaches about how to spot social drug use, as it was clear that athletes in this study were adept at hiding their substance misuse.
The experiences of athletes who have committed crimes can be used allow others to learn from their mistakes. Telling their stories will also enable those who have offended to give back to their sports, and give convicted athletes a focus for getting their careers in sport back on track.
This article is part of the Insights Uncharted Brain series.
Jill* looked drained as we sat down to speak about her late husband. It had been a long day. It was February 2020, and we had been conducting interviews at the Concussion Legacy Foundation family huddle.
Despite being tired, Jill, 47, was keen to be interviewed. She wanted to share what she had gone through and hoped her story might help others. We sat down in a quiet corner of the foyer of the Rosen Centre hotel in Orlando, Florida, and I listened to her speak for over 90 minutes.
You can listen to more articles from The Conversation, narrated by Noa, here.
She told me all about her husband, Michael, a larger-than-life character who was the “life and soul of the party”. She spoke about how he had played many sports and had experienced multiple diagnosed concussions playing American Football and lacrosse – but this never dimmed his enthusiasm for sports.
Jill described how his behaviour gradually changed. How he forgot simple tasks. How he became aggressive. How his behaviour had become so erratic, she didn’t feel they were welcome at social events anymore. She said:
You’re just watching somebody you love disappear before your eyes and it’s hell.
Then one day she was on the phone to her husband while he was at work and the call went quiet. Jill rushed to his office, only to find that he had taken his own life.
Jill was one of the 23 interviews we conducted with family members over the three days our research team spent at the Concussion Legacy Foundation event. Our conversations provided an insight into what it was like living with a former athlete with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s that has been caused by repetitive head impacts in contexts like sport and the military.
This story is part of Conversation Insights
The Insights team generates long-form journalism and is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects to tackle societal and scientific challenges.
The people we spoke to had been through so much. The confusion, hurt and despair of seeing the mind of someone they love gradually deteriorate seemed overwhelming. But we also saw some positive signs, such as how they wanted to share their stories to help others, and how there appeared to be a shared determination to change things for the better and to make sport safer so other families wouldn’t have to go through what they’d experienced.
Head injuries in sport
Chronic traumatic brain injury associated with boxing has been known about for around 100 years. In 1928, Harrison Martland first described chronic traumatic encephalopathy in retired boxers. It was first referred to as “punch-drunk syndrome” or “dementia pugilistica” and sometimes develops in boxers as a result of long-term sub-clinical concussions (not detectable by the usual clinical tests).
In 2002, neuropathologist Bennet Omalu examined the brain of Mike Webster, a former National Football League (NFL) player who died from a heart attack after his physical and mental health had rapidly deteriorated. Subsequently, former NFL players sued the league, claiming that they had received head trauma or injuries during their football careers, which caused them long-term neurological problems.
The VA-BU-CLF UNITE Brain Bank at Boston University is the largest tissue repository in the world focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI). In a 2017 study into the first 202 donated brains, high rates of CTE were found, with 177 diagnosed with CTE, including 110 of 111 from the NFL players (99%). The brain bank now has over 1,000 brains from donors as young as 14 who have been exposed to brain traumas, primarily from playing sport. Studying these brains is crucial, not only for preventing, diagnosing and treating CTE, but also understanding the long-term consequences of concussion and traumatic brain injury.
Subsequent research from Boston University’s CTE Center in 2019 found that every year of playing full tackle American football increases the risk of developing CTE by 30%. So for every 2.6 years of playing, the risk of developing CTE doubles.
But the problem is not isolated to American sports. Compared with most other sports, rugby union has a relatively high injury rate, including at school level in the UK where it is often a compulsory sport. In addition, it has been reported that there is about one brain injury per match in international rugby.
Demise of England’s ‘lions’
In football, concussion often results from accidental head impacts (like head-to-head collisions or collisions with the goalposts). But a growing number of studies have shown that detrimental sub-concussive impacts (a bump, blow or jolt to the head that does not cause symptoms) may result from repeatedly heading the ball. And there have been an increasing number of high-profile examples in recent years who have been raising awareness of this issue.
In late 2020, three incidents shifted attitudes on the dangers of football. First, Norbert “Nobby” Stiles, a member of England’s 1966 Fifa World Cup winning team, died. Stiles had been diagnosed with dementia and the cause of this disease was linked to repeated heading of the ball in his career.
Then, it was announced that Sir Bobby Charlton, another World Cup winning hero, had also been diagnosed with dementia. He was the second member of his family to suffer with this disease as his brother, Jack (who played in the same winning team) had died earlier in the year after his own battle with dementia.
Bobby Charlton was thus the fifth of the 11 starting players in the 1966 final to have been diagnosed with neurological diseases. Media reports have linked all of these cases to the repeated heading of footballs during their playing careers.
But the first case that drew attention to the link between football and traumatic brain injury was that of Jeff Astle. Following his death in 2002, the coroner’s verdict at the inquest into his death at the age of 59 recorded a verdict of “death by industrial disease”, linked to heading heavy, often rain-sodden, leather footballs. Astle’s health had deteriorated – he had struggled with an eating disorder and was unable to recognise his children.
Astle’s daughter, Dawn, has become a leading figure in the campaign to protect footballers. She presented evidence to the 2020 DCMS committee on concussion and brain injury in sport. Her submission to the committee included the following comment:
My dad choked to death in front of me, my mum and my sisters. Please think about that for one minute. He choked to death because his brain had been destroyed. Destroyed because he was a footballer. I don’t want any other family to go through what my family went through, and continue to go through every day. Please don’t let my dad’s death and all the other footballers deaths be in vain. My dad was my hero and my best friend. His death will haunt me forever.
Families speak out
In February 2020, our team of five researchers were invited by Chris Nowinski, the CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, to Orlando. The CLF is an international non-profit organisation that aims to support athletes affected by head injury, and to assist patients and families by providing personalised help to those struggling with the outcomes of brain injury.
Our interviews were conducted at their “family huddle”, which was a support event for family members to allow them to share stories and connect with others who have had similar experiences.
We were given the opportunity to talk to family members, and build trust and rapport. This gave us a greater insight and understanding of their world. We conducted interviews with the partners, parents, siblings and the children of the deceased athletes.
Our research, published in The Qualitative Report, was presented as an ethnodrama (playscript) to best allow the stories of the family members to be heard. This also showed the distinct temporal phases that these family members went through, and by sharing these stories we hope this raises awareness of the powerful emotions they have experienced.
Many of the people we spoke to said the initial stage, when they started to see changes in the behaviour of their loved one, created very strong emotions because they couldn’t understand why this was happening. They had seen someone they loved decline in front of their eyes. Alice, 68, reflected on seeing this change in her husband: “He went from functioning perfectly, to struggling to remember or do anything he was so used to doing.”
People went on to recall specific instances when this behavioural decline became noticeable. For example, David told us this about his brother: “Once when he went to the airport to pick up my aunt. He proceeded to drive her around, and she finally said, ‘Where are we going?’” He replied that he didn’t know.
There was evidence of a mounting feeling of hopelessness that declines in neurological functioning were causing. Another striking, distressing example was this story Sophie told about her husband:
One weekend, I had 12 big black trash bags to go out to the garbage. And I told him when I got up and went to work on Monday morning, I said, ‘those are going out to the trash tomorrow’. I came home after work and he had unpacked every trash bag … I just sat there and cried … I’d worked a 12-hour day. I said, ‘why did you unpack all that trash?’ and he couldn’t tell me why. He just didn’t know.
Others reinforced other emotions at seeing this happening to their loved one. Emily explained how she felt: “I do think at the start you are in this sense of disbelief because the person you love is doing these things that are out of character.” And Evelyn reflected on the sadness of seeing such changes:
I was shocked, but also felt like the world had been turned upside down. We were so happy. I remember just sobbing.
Researchers have previously highlighted the emotional consequences that family members experience when they witness the decline of their loved one. For example, one 2019 study involving interviews with 20 wives of either current or retired professional American football players, revealed their serious concerns about the cognitive, emotional and behavioural decline of these players. Some wives identified behavioural changes that included rage, reduced positive social interactions and various erratic behaviour, like starting risky business ventures.
As we also found, deterioration in cognitive functioning meant that those affected by traumatic brain injury were no longer able to carry out simple household tasks and often struggled with language problems.
Anger, guilt and fear
Another study, which examined families who have experienced a severe traumatic brain injury outside of sport highlighted the difficulties caused by the uncertainty of the situation – both in terms of the progression of the illness and how to support and deal with the cognitive, physical and behavioural changes exhibited after the injury.
All of this presents huge challenges to families. Negotiating appropriate treatment is hard and the emotional and physical exhaustion of dealing with these difficulties just keeps mounting up for the people involved.
Our participants explained the toll it took on them as they saw first-hand the severe changes in behaviour as their loved one experienced further decline. For example, Katherine said she felt drained and responsible. “It’s hard because you don’t know what’s happening,” she said. “So you just blame yourself and think you are the reason. And that’s not good for your own wellbeing.”
Helen spoke about her intense feelings as her partner drank as a response to his condition:
I was so angry at him for making the same choices over and over with drinking though. Like, “you’ve drank so much that you fell down the stairs in front of me at home, are you kidding me?” And it hurt, you know, and left a lot on my plate, so I was really, really, angry. And that didn’t help things.
Changes in behaviour created further problems for family members, such as how their loved one was perceived in social situations. Elizabeth described one specific incident at a party:
We went to a catered event, and he would take the top of the [burger] bun off, take the meat out to eat, put the bun back, and then go to the next one. And someone caught him and was like, “what is he doing?” Of course, we never got invited back to any of those people’s homes. No one wanted to have anything to do with him because they couldn’t understand him.
Laura also spoke about the implications of a lack of understanding of this condition, highlighting how others would misinterpret her husband’s actions. This led to feelings of sadness as they became socially isolated from their friends. She said: “When we went to events, a lot of people thought he was an alcoholic, because he could have one cocktail and then he’d fall. They had no idea that the falling had nothing to do with that one drink that he had. And it became very sad because people didn’t want to have us around.”
Our participants also spoke of the burden as a result of effectively becoming their partner’s primary caregiver. Sophie spoke about the struggles she faced with supporting her husband with daily tasks. “I couldn’t physically handle him,” she said. “At that point he was unstable. He would shuffle, and fall, and he couldn’t get in and out of the shower. He was also incontinent, and I couldn’t handle him by myself. I felt so weak.”
Evelyn also spoke of these experiences, highlighting that the physical size of her partner caused significant strain. “The sheer problem with these guys was their physical size. As the disease progressed, he fell probably 10-15 times a day, and we’d have to figure out how to get him up. I was both physically and mentally exhausted,” Evelyn said.
Meanwhile, others spoke of the physical fear of danger they felt. Like Emily who told us:
I did become scared of him. I hate to say that, but I did. He made me sign some papers and I had no idea what they were. He was just escalating and escalating, and he was standing over me and I just knew if I didn’t sign that paper, I was in physical danger. Which was an awful thought to have about your own husband that you love.
Our interviews gave family members the chance to reflect on their time living with and caring for their loved one, and also, how they might approach the situation differently. Helen told us she wished she had taken more time for herself, and advised anybody going through a similar situation to “get into therapy, to help you process everything and to let you have an outlet”.
Katherine agreed, saying: “You’ve got to try and take some time for yourself. I remember I took a trip with a girlfriend once and I was scared to death the whole time I was gone, but I went, and we had a wonderful time, and I’m so glad I did it. You know, trying to keep some semblance of normalcy in your life for yourself, for your own good. Try to keep yourself healthy, eat healthily, work out. Keep yourself well because there really was nothing, I could do for him except be present. I couldn’t make him well.”
Other family members reflected on the dangers of certain sports. For example, Alice highlighted how her awareness had increased, giving her the knowledge and understanding to allow her to come to terms with her husband’s situation. She realised there were “significant pathologies” that he had no control over that affected his decision-making.
His brain was still functioning, and he was still able to make decisions, just the wrong parts of the brain were directing his decisions. That totally makes sense now, so that’s been a huge relief, that he wasn’t just an asshole in his own right, he really just couldn’t control it.
While our data contained accounts full of sadness, participants also reflected on different ways they were moving forwards in a positive way after experiencing the death of a loved one. Laura detailed the benefits of attending the huddle and being with people who had been through similar struggles: “Everyone here is in the same boat. It may not have looked exactly the same for us, but we don’t have to explain for once. And just the support I’ve got from the people here has been great.”
Others talked about how the support helped the grieving process and inspired them to get involved and help other families. For example, Evelyn spoke of the need to make changes at a junior sport level: “I’m just so concerned this horrible disease is hitting younger and younger people, yet no one knows about it … giving people the information to be able to make the correct decision is super important.”
The final word goes to Elizabeth, who had become involved in the support work of the CLF, and spoke of her new found purpose to help others. She said it helped make her loss “bearable” because “millions” might benefit and “hopefully not have to experience the kind of tragedy that affected our family”.
I feel like part of the reason this happened is for me to be part of raising more awareness and be a part of this movement towards new culture change. I can help families navigate … the difficult waters of dealing with this. And so, I feel like it speaks to sort of a calling … I have in life or part of my purpose.
What is clear to us after concluding this research project is that greater recognition of the challenges faced by both those living with diseases of the brain, such as CTE, and their carers is needed.
We heard about the devastating losses and tragedies. But we were also privileged to highlight more positive stories that showed how people were able to move forwards and help others to create a constructive change in sport so others won’t have to suffer.
It also illustrates how neurodegenerative disease resulting from head trauma as a consequence of impact sports has far reaching effects – not only the athletes, but also those around them. This represents a growing public health concern and societal problem.
It shows that greater recognition of the challenges faced by both those living with diseases of the brain, such as CTE, and their carers, is needed.
We hope their stories will stimulate discussion and be used to support people who might be going through similar experiences. Our findings might be used to help practitioners, sporting governing bodies and charities such as the CLF, to understand more fully these negative emotional responses and, in turn, consider strategies that might be developed to support people. In turn, these organisations must also act to address the causes of head injuries to make sports safer.
All names in this article have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved.
The report calls on the Government to establish a national plan for sport, health and wellbeing to tackle inactivity. Failings in sport and recreation policy and fragmented delivery have resulted in little progress being made in tackling levels of inactivity, particularly in certain groups including women and girls, disabled people, ethnic minorities, the elderly and people from less affluent backgrounds. A national plan for sport, health and wellbeing will set clear goals and better coordinate departments to deliver real change.
Dr Nicholson, who is Senior Lecturer in Sport and Sustainability in the BU Business School, is one of the UK’s leading experts on sport and inclusion. Her current research examines the changing role of women in sports governance in the last two decades, problematising the “mergers” which took place between men’s and women’s sporting organisations in the 1990s which have created a situation whereby sports leadership in the UK is now heavily male-dominated. In her evidence to the Committee, cited in the final report, she noted that: “Women’s sport in the UK is now run predominantly by men whose background is in men’s sport and who therefore, consciously or unconsciously, prioritise the men’s game”, and critiqued “the normative priority granted to men’s sport by those sitting on boards”.
The Committee report recommends that “Sport England and UK Sport should be more ambitious and set targets to improve board diversity for… underrepresented groups including ethnic minorities and disabled people. Failure to make progress with the targets should be met with financial sanctions.”
The Chair of the Committee, Lord Willis of Knaresborough said:
“Sport and physical activity can change lives. The pandemic has made abundantly clear the pressing need to get the country fitter and more active. However, participation in sport and recreation is flat lining. The Olympic legacy did not deliver the more active population we were promised, and the latest figures show activity levels have declined since the pandemic. Something needs to change and now is the time to do it.
“To make the changes we need it is time for a new national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. That plan needs to be ambitious and coordinated, and carry the weight of the Government and Prime Minster behind it. That cannot be delivered if it is led by DCMS, a small department with an increasing focus on its digital portfolio. That is why we are calling for responsibility for sport policy to move to the Department of Health and be driven by a new Minster for Sport, Health and Wellbeing.
“The new plan would coordinate efforts of bodies such as Sport England, local authorities and schools to work together to make it easier for everyone to be more active. Our report sets out a number of key priorities and themes that could form the basis of the new national plan and make a real difference to activity levels across the country.
“There is currently a Health and Care Bill making its way through the House of Lords. Members of our Committee will now explore where we can propose suitable amendments to that Bill to deliver the changes we think are needed on this vital issue.”
The Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre (SPARC) invites you to join us at our lunchtime seminar, “Returning to Sport Sustainably Post-Covid”. The seminar is taking place on Wednesday 7 July, between midday and 1.30pm.
The event, which is being held in conjunction with BASIS (the British Association for Sustainable Sport), aims to bring together practitioners and academics working in sport & sustainability, to discuss key issues and best practice as we emerge from lockdown.
The seminar is an excellent opportunity for BU staff to engage with those working in industry, in one of BU’s Strategic Investment Areas – Sustainability.
12.00 Introduction: Sport and Sustainability Research – Raf Nicholson (Bournemouth University)
12.10 Building Back Better: The BASIS White Paper – Russell Seymour (CEO of BASIS)
12.25 Strategies to Ensure the Sustainability of Women’s Sport – Beth Clarkson (University of Portsmouth) and Keith Parry (Bournemouth University)
12.40 Returning to Action – Leigh Thompson (Head of Policy, Sport and Recreation Alliance)
12.55 Roundtable Discussion: Returning to Sport Sustainably Post-Covid
The House of Lords Select Committee have called for evidence on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation.
The Committee are considering the effectiveness of current sport and recreation policies and initiatives, how people can be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles and the case for a national plan for sport and recreation. They are keen to receive written evidence from experts with an interest, experience or expertise in sport and recreation policy and practice.
The Committee is taking a broad view of ‘sport and recreation’ and is interested in hearing about all activities that support an active lifestyle. It hopes to learn about success stories and opportunities, challenges, and how things could be improved going forward.
The Committee would particularly like to hear from experts:
with experience of motivation through and the benefits of technology in regard to physical activity (e.g. wearables, apps etc)
who can provide thoughts/experience in regard to comparable international models/policies
with expertise on data collection of physical activity, its use and reliability
on encouraging under represented groups and children to lead more active lifestyles
on how racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism in sport be tackled
on the opportunities and challenges facing elite sports in the UK and what can be done to make national sports governing bodies more accountable
The deadline is Friday 29th January.
Information about the inquiry and all the questions which the Committee would like to learn more about can be found on the inquiry webpage.
Colleagues intending to submit written evidence to this inquiry must engage with the BU policy team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share a draft prior to submitting evidence.
Colleagues who haven’t previously submitted to a select committee or would like support are encouraged to get in touch. We can advise, provide a template and guidance on how to write your submission.
The spending review was quiet on HE and heavier on research spending commitments. A UUK publication tackles racial harassment in HE and the OIA provides examples of what will and won’t be upheld from student Covid complaints. We wonder about the TEF. See you in December!
Driving home for Christmas?
Today’s news is all about tiers. Dorset and BCP are in Tier 2 and we thought we would help you with the links. There are 3 sets of rules which all apply at once:
If you are hoping to see family or friends outside the local area, The full list is here. As has been widely reported, only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly are in tier 1, so cafes and pubs will be hard hit across the nation. The full reasoning area by area has been published.
The words ‘university’ and ‘universities’ do not appear. Nor does the term ‘higher education’.
Add to this the fact that neither the independent review of the Teaching Excellence Framework nor the government’s response to the Augar review of post-18 education was published alongside the review as promised, and it starts to feel very much like a snub.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and it is safe to say—as Fiona McIntyre reports on our site—that the no-show of the TEF and Augar was no surprise. They’ve been kicked so far into the long grass now that they can barely be seen. And with rumours of a Lord Agnew-led Treasury review of higher education costs, Augar’s recommendations—some of which Augar has all but disowned himself—seem more likely to become footnotes in whatever plan eventually befalls university financing.
On the spending review Wonkhe say:
Yesterday’s spending review left key questions over tuition fees and teaching funding for the sector unanswered, though there was limited good news on research funding. An overall £740m uplift in the BEIS research and development budget included promised increases in funding flowing through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) over the next four years. And it now appears that the ARPA-like “high-risk, high-payoff” research funding long seen as a Dominic Cummings’s pet project will also sit under UKRI.
There was plentiful recurrent and capital funding allocated to FE, in line with previous announcements, but there was little mention of the HE sector. The Student Loans Company will receive an extra £64m of capital linked to a transformation programme, and there’s an unspecified amount of funding (if required) to support the preparation of a domestic alternative to Erasmus+.
Other points of interest included the news that the promised phasing out of the RPI inflationary measure (as used in student loan interest calculations) will not begin until 2030, and an odd mention of “defending free speech” in the Chancellor’s statement. David Kernohan summarised what we could find on Wonk Corner
We cover the R&D sections here and the rest in a separate section below. In the main document the scientific super power section starts page 58.
…. the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been awarded £11.1bn in R&D funding for the year ahead, which is up from £10.36bn this year and includes a boost of £400m a year, on average, until 2023-24 for core UK Research and Innovation budgets.
It is notable that the chancellor—who had abandoned plans for a full multi-year spending review following the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak—opted to make a four-year commitment to funding research. The argument that R&D is now simply too important to the future physical and economic health of the country to be managed on a short-term basis appears to have won. UKRI chief executive Ottoline Leyser summed it up, saying the spending review “signals a clear national ambition for research and innovation”.
Another £350m went to UKRI to support “strategic government priorities, build new science capability and support the whole research and innovation ecosystem”. This chunk of cash includes the “first £50m towards an £800m investment by 2024-25 in high-risk, high-payoff research”—which seems like a very strong hint indeed that any cash going to the UK Advanced Research Projects Agency will be distributed via UKRI.
The business department’s settlement includes a healthy £733m to allow the UK Vaccine Taskforce to purchase Covid-19 vaccines, which is part of the £6bn provided to procure vaccines. Of this money, £128m will go towards UK vaccine R&D and funding for the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre.
Meanwhile, there will be up to £17m in 2021-22 to establish a “new unit and fund that will focus on the last mile of innovation to help ensure that public sector knowledge assets…translate into new high-tech jobs, businesses and economic growth”. These assets include R&D, the spending review document states, along with intellectual property and other intangible assets.
Dods have a nice summary of the research announcements
Cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science and innovation by investing nearly £15 billion in R&D in 2021-22 (page 53)
Up to £17m in 2021-22 to establish a new unit and fund that will focus on the last mile of innovation to help ensure that public sector knowledge assets (page 53)
£450m in 2021-22 to support government priorities, drive the development of innovative ways to build new science capability and support the whole research and innovation ecosystem (page 54)
Raise economy-wide investment in R&D to 2.4 per cent by 2027 (page 54)
£280 million in 2021-22 for net zero R&D, including an £81 million multi-year commitment for pioneering hydrogen heating trials (page 56)
£695m of additional R&D funding between 2021-22 and 2024-25 to support the development of cutting-edge capabilities (page 56)
HEPI have a new blog which comments on the rise in numbers of PhDs but it also asks who and what are PhD’s for and references the recent Government and UKRI decisions on PhDs extensions as telling.
If you somehow managed to miss last week’s clamour – doctoral students were told to adjust projects for Covid-19. UKRI announced an additional £19m available to support doctoral students who are finding it most difficult to adjust their project and training plans. There is a report and policy statement advising students to speak to their supervisor about adjusting projects to complete a doctoral-level qualification within their funding period. And an interesting fact on the scale of the issue – 92% of final year students already requested an extension, with the average extension request of 4.6 months. Research Professional reported the announcement received a negative reaction from doctoral students, particularly around the lack of clarity it brought We’re still waiting to hear what involvement BEIS had in the UKRI decision.
Diversity in peer review process and advisory groups
Forgotten Priorities Part 1: What is going to happen to the TEF?
Everyone expected that announcements on the Pearce review of the TEF and announcements on the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding – promised with the spending review – would not be forthcoming, once it was announced that it would not be a “comprehensive” spending review but a one year look, with a focus on the response to the pandemic. Then there were rumours that there might be after all- but there wasn’t. Universities and HE are not mentioned at all, although there is a fair bit about research (as we discuss elsewhere).
The new framework will take account of the forthcoming recommendations in Dame Shirley Pearce’s independent review of the TEF, the government’s response to it, and the findings of the latest subject-level TEF pilot.
Following these publications, we will consult on the new framework.
All assessments under the current TEF scheme have concluded, and the results will be replaced in the future by results from the new scheme. We will not conduct a TEF Year 5 exercise in 2020.
This is a bit confusing. There is no TEF year 5 exercise in 2020, but what in that case will replace it when the awards run out in summer 2021? Will there be a gap? Or will the existing awards be extended again – at which time the year two awards given in Spring 2017 based on data from the three previous years start to seem a bit long in the tooth.
The final provider-level exercise with published outcomes (TEF Year Four) will take place in 2018-19 and will operate completely independently from the subject-level pilots.
So that subject-level TEF produces comprehensive outcomes to inform student choice, the DfE has decided that published awards from provider-level TEF Years Two, Three and Four should no longer be valid when subject-level TEF awards are published in 2021.
At that point, all awards from provider-level TEF will expire, and be replaced by awards made through the first full subject-level TEF exercise (these awards will be at both provider and subject levels).
.. Up to now, each TEF exercise has been completed within a single academic year. However, given the scale of the first full subject-level TEF exercise, it will be conducted across two academic years, 2019-20 and 2020-21, to enable it to produce robust outcomes. This will ensure additional time for providers to make submissions and for panels to conduct the assessments.
We expect the application window to open in early 2020, and to publish the outcomes in spring 2021. This will also allow more time for the findings of the second pilot and the independent review to be fully considered before moving to full implementation.
So it certainly looks like there will have to be an extension. And if the new exercise really is going to take two years, it will be quite a long extension – because with the Pearce review not released, and the NSS consultations ongoing, they won’t be able to start a consultation on what the new TEF looks like until 2021. The earliest surely is that we start preparing responses in summer or autumn 2021 – and with a nearly two-year period for preparation, submission wouldn’t be before spring 2023? With outcomes in summer 2023 at the earliest? That’s another two-year extension.
Two alternatives – just let them expire and have a gap, blaming COVID. Or, run a much quicker exercise in 2021 with a view to getting results out in late 2021 or early 2022 (with a short extension in that case). This is certainly possible. Could we get an announcement and consultation straight after the quality one, in March, say, with preparation to do from July, submission in October/November, results in January 22? Institutional only with subject level to follow during 2022 building on the institutional and then next round in 2025?
And what do we know about what it might look like when it does come out?
There is a good chance that the NSS won’t be included any more – to be replaced by some narrative in the submissions about how each university has engaged with the student voice and how we are sure that we have mechanisms in place and have identified and addressed any concerns about student experience?
What about the Royal Society of Statistics: Ultimately, the RSS judges it to be wrong to present a provider/subject as Gold/Silver/Bronze without communication of the level of uncertainty. The current TEF presentation of provider/subjects as Gold, Silver, Bronze conveys a robustness that is illusory. A prospective student might choose a TEF Silver subject at one provider instead of a TEF Bronze at another institution. If they had been told that, statistically, the awards are indistinguishable, then their choice might have been different and, in that sense, TEF is misleading. The uncertainty is likely to be higher for subject-level assessment than for provider-level assessment….
Will they get rid of the gold/silver/bronze institutional labels? They have little meaning now that hardly anyone is bronze, after the TEF’s own structure led to rampant grade inflation. The OfS had indicated potentially moving away from the annual grading to a less frequent one to address that problem. But maybe the labels themselves are now devalued?
We know that it is unlikely that subject level assessment will be abandoned. But how will they label subject level awards? Jim Dickinson on Wonkhe: 5/3/19: – but how on earth would students interpret a Bronze course at a Gold institution when the latter uses almost the same metrics, only less specific to your course? You could argue that both should exist, but with completely separate metrics – but given there’s no magic blueprint for what is devolved to academic departments and what’s run centrally, that won’t work either.
We know from the quality consultation document that the TEF will expect performance above the new outcomes baselines. The original TEF was based on benchmarks and relative performance not absolute levels. They may abandon or change benchmarks completely. If that is the approach for baselines, will you have a different approach for measures of excellence? There was a flirtation with absolute values in the pilot schemes, as you may recall, which was said at the time to be a nod towards Russell Group universities who performed well in absolute terms but not so well when benchmarked against others with similar student demographics.
They may not use all the data splits in a new TEF, or at least not at subject level. The consultation on quality and standards proposes using the demographic splits (gender, ethnicity, social background etc) only at an institutional not at a subject level, and recognises that there is an existing mechanism to manage these via the APP. So presumably the data will not be split along these lines for the TEF at subject level either. Rather than have us all look at all this again, perhaps a new TEF, with an eye on reducing bureaucracy, will just have “meeting (most or all of) your APP targets” as a threshold for application or for an award at a certain level?
Will they have listened to any of the grumbling about subject level definitions? Jim Dickinson on Wonkhe: 5/3/19: You could pursue subject level on its own, but the more you look at benchmarking, and statistical significance, and the basket of measures’ relevance to all courses (let alone its relevance to all students), the more you think the hassle outweighs the effort – not least because newspapers do a better job at remixing the metrics than you do. And then it dawns on you that some academic departments in some universities will straddle your subject groupings, and you’ll realise that there isn’t the room in their school office, their messaging or their accountability systems for all three medals to apply to that school all at once.
…it is safe to say—as Fiona McIntyre reports on our site—that the no-show of the TEF and Augar was no surprise. They’ve been kicked so far into the long grass now that they can barely be seen. …
As for the TEF, it simply doesn’t have the political capital with the general public for the government to hurry its publication. The review was mandated in the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 but the publication of its findings was not, which has given the government infinite wiggle room that it continues to exploit.
So what is going to happen? We don’t know. And we don’t know when we will know. But we know it will be a lot of work when we do know!
The context: The 2019 Equalities and Human Rights Commission report‘Tackling racial harassment: universities challenged‘ highlighted the prevalence of racial harassment within HEIs. Events of 2020, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, brought to the fore the extent of racial inequality in the UK and reinforced the urgency to act.
UUK build on their Changing the culture framework in the new guidance. There is a focus on strong leadership and a whole-institution approach, as well as engaging with staff and students with lived experience of racial harassment. UUK call on the sector to hold open discussions on race and racism, to educate staff and students and make clear that tackling racism and racial harassment is everybody’s responsibility. The guidance asks university leaders to acknowledge where there are issues in their institutions, and that UK higher education perpetuates institutional racism. It cites racial harassment, a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment gap and ethnicity pay gaps among staff as evidence.
The guidance also showcases emerging practice from HEIs making good progress in tackling racial harassment.
Publicly commit priority status to tackling racial harassment
Engage directly with students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment
Review current policies and procedures and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment
Improve awareness and understanding of racism, racial harassment, white privilege and microaggressions among all staff and students, including through anti-racist training
Ensure expected behaviours for online behaviour are clearly communicated to students and staff, as well as sanctions for breaches
Develop and introduce reporting systems for incidents of racial harassment
Collect data on reports of incidents and share regularly with senior staff and governing bodies
OfS – value for money
OfS has reported against key performance measure 19 which looks at students’ perceptions of value for money from their university education. 37.5% of undergraduates and 45.3% of postgraduates stated it did provide value for money when considering the costs and benefits.
OfS also published their Value for money annual report on how they have managed the funds they were allocated. They are still working on plans as to how they’ll reduce the registration fee for HE providers by 10% over the next two years.
The Lords Communication and Digital Select Committee inquiry into Freedom of Expression Online received evidence this week. There were some interesting points raised within the topics of free speech online Vs offline, public attitudes, protected characteristics, the narrowing impact of algorithm use and the role of the state in regulating. Platform moderation and take down rules on social media sites were also discussed. Dods provide a summary of the discussion here.
The British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) launched The Value of University Sport and Physical Activity: Position Statement and Evidence highlighting the role which sport plays within the student experience. It includes a focus on how sport contributes to students’ physical and mental wellbeing. The report itself divides into six key strategic drivers for universities – recruitment, transitions and retention, health and wellbeing, graduate attainment, graduate employability, and the civic and global agendas – outlining how sport contributes to positive outcomes in each.
And on graduate employment: Whilst graduates also earned more than non-graduates, those who took part in sport earned a higher salary irrespective of educational level, thus showing a positive correlation between sport and earnings that cannot be explained by level of education.
The authors state the report is a ‘call to action’ for universities to review how they position sport and physical activity; especially at this time when students are isolated and anxious, and universities are concerned about the retention of students with the current restrictions.
The Commons Education Committee continued their inquiry into the educational outcomes of white working-class pupils. Dods have summarised the session here.
This parliamentary question on DSA paperwork/online applications clarifies the pre-population of information and that help is available by phone if the student’s disability causes difficulty in completing the paperwork.
Wonkhe report: A report from Civitas argues that a belief has developed around the university system that students from ethnic minorities are likely to underperform academically, and that the available data does not back this assertion up. Report author Ruth Mieschbuehler calls for a reexamination of the practice of disaggregating student data by ethnicity
Actions and commitment at the strategic and institutional level
Financial support for low-income/marginalised group students
Non-financial support at the pre higher education level (outreach)
Support to enable student success
The role of national/regional policies
The recommendations (they call them key messages) are on pages 5& 6 of the document.
Unpaid student placements
Placements are big at BU. Every undergraduate honours student is offered the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of their course and BU has an excellent reputation nationally and internationally for the quality of the placement opportunities. Covid has been a significant disrupter to students on placement. Internships were cancelled in some sectors and for some of those that were able to move to remote and online versions the richness of the face to face placement experience elements were curtailed. Pre-Covid individual parliamentarians regularly flirted with the notion that everyone on a work experience opportunity of over 4 weeks should be considered a worker, and therefore paid for the work they undertake. This would make a significant difference to students undertaking the traditional sandwich year, yet the impetus for this change has stalled. This week Sarah wrote for Wonkhe to continue to argue the case for students to be paid. The blog also suggests alternatives which employers could offer to reduce the financial pressures on students when they are offered an unpaid placement.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford spoke during the APPG for Assistive Technology launch event for their new research aiming to bridge the gap between education and employment for young people with SEND. The Minister praised schools, colleges and the technology sector for their response to the ‘historic challenges’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for vulnerable students with the most complex needs, but urged companies to make sure all their products and practices are fully inclusive.
She said: Assistive technology can be life-changing and for many it is vital to communication, learning and overall independence…In recent months, the importance of Assistive Technology has been demonstrated like never before. The essential collaboration provided by groups such as this APPG is vital to ensure that we make policy which is informed by as much research and evidence as possible…Our review will give schools and colleges a helping hand by providing greater transparency in what tools and interventions can improve outcomes of SEND students and bridge the gap from education into employment. It will also support the technology sector in embedding accessibility features – such as text to voice tools – as part of their service development, and policymakers to better embed inclusion into their policies and services. This will lead to real, meaningful differences in the quality of education for children and young people…This is key, because we need to be clear: accessibility should never be an add on, it should be the norm.
Dovetailing the event the DfE released a series of rapid literature review reports on assistive technology in educational settings. The reports summarise the evidence on assistive technologies use and outcomes in education and cover when, where and for whom assistive technology works. The report are split by policymakers, administrators, educators, researchers and developers of assistive technologies and products.
Student Complaints – case studies
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE (OIA) has published case summaries of complaints arising from the impact of Covid-19 on their HE learning and experience. So far the OIA have received nearly 200 complaints from C-19 disruption..
OIA Guidance on the approach to case studies and public interest cases
Wonkhe blog by Felicity Mitchell – OIA Independent Adjudicator
While the OIA does not underestimate the challenge of sustaining teaching during the pandemic, “some providers have done more than others to mitigate disruptions to students’ learning opportunities.”
Where universities have rescheduled missed teaching, or made a broadly equivalent alternative available, or where students have been unable to cite a specific academic or material disadvantage, complaints have not been upheld. However, where universities have failed to engage properly with students’ concerns, or relied on too broad exclusion clauses in student contracts, complaints have been justified or partly justified.
2021 GCSE & A/AS level Exams
The Joint Council on Qualifications have announced that, following consultation with schools and colleges, the final level 2 and 3 exams timetables are confirmed. The compulsory education sector are still waiting for further information on how the Government intends to facilitate Covid-safe exams, and what ‘Plan B’ will consist of. The announcement demonstrates the Government’s determination for the exams to take place in England during summer 2021. This is expected new as Monday’s Covid Winter Plan announcements mentioned their commitment to a ‘full set of exams’ in England.
Meanwhile, YouGov have an interesting series of polls on exams – see our polls special here.
Finally, Ofqual published a new research paper on the Sawtooth Effect. The Sawtooth Effect is the pattern in student performance that can be seen when assessments, such as GCSEs and A levels, are reformed. Performance tends to dip, then improves over time as students and teachers become more familiar with the new content and the new assessments. Research by Ofqual in 2016 highlighted this post-reform effect, and enabled mitigation to level out fairness for students. This week’s release covers the impact of Covid-19 on student performance. The research suggests the same methods could be used to ensure fairness during the pandemic. Wonkhe review the Sawtooth paper (worth a read) and also manage to mention why predicted grades are useful too.
0% to do part-time study (only 1.5% 18-19 year olds study part time)
Learning intention (undergraduate):
Full degree (46.6%)
Foundation Degree (2%)
other undergraduate quals (1.4%)
8% aged 17-30 enter postgraduate study
Wonkhe report: New researchfrom QS, covering 887 prospective international students found that nearly a quarter felt that the introduction of a potential Covid-19 vaccine made them consider starting their studies earlier than planned. 43 percent said that the vaccine news had made no difference to their plans.
….the Treasury did reveal that its settlement with the Department for Education “provides funding to prepare for a UK-wide domestic alternative to Erasmus+, in the event the UK no longer participates in Erasmus+, to fund outward global education mobilities”.
This seems good, on the face of it, since any alternative scheme will need money. However, Erasmus’s main purpose is to provide student exchanges—and by definition, any effective exchange requires not only the outward movement of students from the UK (which is covered in the spending review costing) but also the inward movement of students to the UK (which it seems is not).
“Budgeting to replace Erasmus+ for outward students only is disappointing, if predictable, and is clearly inferior to full association,” Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Universities, told Playbook last night.
Dods have a nice summary of the announcements which we’re re-ordered and edited
Provides funding to prepare for a UK-wide domestic alternative to Erasmus+ in the event that the UK no longer participates in Erasmus+ (page 63)
Further financial support will be provided to the British Council to reform and invest (page 70)
£64m for the Student Loan Company, including for its transformation programme (page 63) [this is mainly to help them prepare for providing student loans to FE students and adult learners]
£291m for Further Education in 2021-22, in addition to the £400m that the government provided at SR19 (page 62)
Investing £375m from the National Skills Fund in 2021-22 (page 62) including:
£138m to fund in-demand technical courses for adults, equivalent to A level, and to expand employer-led bootcamp training model
£127m to build on Plan for Jobs, fund traineeships, sector-based work academy placements and the National Careers Service
£110m to drive up higher technical provision in support of the future rollout of a Flexible Loan Entitlement
£162m to support the rollout of T Levels waves 2 and 3 (page 63)
£72m to support the commitment to build 20 Institutes of Technology (page 63)
Almost £100m to deliver the National Citizen Service (NCS) and invest in youth facilities. The government will review its programmes to support youth services including the NCS in the spring (p81)
£2bn Kickstart Scheme to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully-subsidised jobs for young people across the country. This settlement confirms funding for over 250,000 Kickstart jobs (p85)
Confirm changes to support employers offering apprenticeships by delivering further improvements to the system (page 45)
Made available £2.5bn of funding for apprenticeships and further improvements for employers (page 62)
Department for Education
A £2.9bn cash increase in core resource funding from 2020-21 to 2021-22, delivering a 3.2 per cent average real terms increase per year since 2019-20 (page 62)
The department’s capital budget increases by £0.5bn in cash terms next year, taking core total DEL to £76.4bn (page 62)
Pre-Spending Review this is what was MillionPlus asked for (but didn’t get):
Introduce a maintenance grant of up to £10k for all students in England to encourage them to train in key public services subjects
Invest in high quality placements in NHS, social work and teaching
Offer loan forgiveness for those remaining in relevant professions for at least 5 years
Establish a new Public Services in Higher Education Capital fund to support universities in England and partners to invest in high quality simulation equipment and other vital infrastructure
Create a new professional development programme to underpin the NHS volunteer reserve force in England
Increase skills and expertise by enabling individuals in England to access loan support for short courses and modules at levels 4 and 5
Place employers in England at the centre of apprenticeships policy and encourage them to partner with universities to support regional skills development and productivity growth
There’s more detail on specific areas in the links below:
Dods summarise all areas of the spending review with the key announcements in bullet points.
National Infrastructure Summary, full strategy here. The full strategy is high level (yet still 100 pages long). There is very little on the specifics of research investment, just lists of priorities, no mention of universities.
95% of teaching staff have a positive attitude to using technology
79% are motivated to use it in their teaching
Only 20% said their organisation had offered support to them in using new technologies
37% of teaching staff had worked online with learners during the survey period, and 43% had created online teaching materials to adapt to the situation
When asked what more their organisation could do to improve the quality of digital teaching and learning, staff cited
Training and CPD (33%)
Software, infrastructure and systems (31%)
Organisational culture (13%)
68% of respondents said they’d had support to develop their basic IT skills
Only 14% reported having time to explore new digital tools, and only 7% spoke of receiving reward and recognition for the digital skills they developed
29% stated their organisation provided guidance about the digital skills needed in their job role
Retraining by sector
Also within our polls special are the YouGov surveys on retraining for workers disrupted by Covid-19. There are views on whether the Government should be encouraging retraining and new careers – the national hasn’t forgotten the ballet/cyber retraining advert yet but it hasn’t had the negative effect that might be expected! Plus specific indicators show the popularity of industry’s skills gap areas (look out for cyber!).
Bias in HE: Wonkhe report that Advance HE has published the first in a new series of literature reviews on bias in higher education. The review tackles bias in assessment and marking, bringing together literature on the topic and current good practice among universities. The next in the series – covering bias in the curriculum and pedagogy and bias in decision making – will be published next year
Online end assessment: Wonkhe have a blog on online digital assessment as an alternative to taking exams in person.
Medical: Wonkhe tell us that The Medical Research Council has published a review of its units and centres portfolio. The report has identified research areas where MRC investment could have a significant impact, including the development of new tools and technologies, interventional approaches to population health, and research into health needs from anthropogenic effects such as urbanisation or climate change.
Apprentices are not standard learners; there are material differences in terms of the application process, progression, breaks in learning and withdrawals, data reporting and the amount of time spent working, learning, and training. Apprenticeships are not standard programmes; there are material differences in terms of the adherence to standards, the endpoint, cash flow, audit, and risk profiles.
The success or failure of any individual apprentice will be down to a three- or four-way relationship between the apprentice, their employer, the main provider, and any sub-contracted training provider.
The blog also advertises their services in this area.
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On Monday 4th November 2019, as part of the ESRC festival of social science, Dr Emma Kavanagh and Dr Adi Adams (Faculty of Management) alongside final year sport student Terri Harvey, curated and hosted an arts based installation to showcase their research on inter-personal violence in sport. The event adopted an innovative, immersive, sensory art-based method not traditionally utilised in sport coach education (but widely used in other ‘caring’ professions) to bring their research knowledge to life and allow coaches and other practitioners to engage with data in a dynamic manner. This was achieved through re-presenting research data collected by the BU academics in audio and visual forms.
Abuse, intimidation and violence in sport and coaching remains a significant global problem. In 2017 the British Government published the Duty of Care in Sport Review, sharing the findings of a critical inquiry into the culture and climate of elite sport in the United Kingdom. High performance sport came under significant scrutiny linked to a number of high profile accounts in the media that raised serious questions concerning the safety of elite sporting spaces and the threats they can pose to athlete welfare. Allegations of bullying, racial, sexual and gender abuse alongside other forms of discrimination have been made across Olympic and Paralympic sports. This ESRC event provided an opportunity to engage practitioners in debates surrounding the safety of sporting spaces as a way of promoting the duty of care in practice.
The event brought to life qualitative social science research data, currently available to academics through peer-reviewed journal articles through the production of an immersive arts-based installation. The data was used to enable those who attended to see/hear/feel and confront the contemporary issue of inter-personal violence in the world of sport coaching, from the perspective of ‘others’. The event aimed to bring sport coaches (and other practitioners) together around a shared concern/problem in the sport industry, with the aim of inspiring awareness, understanding, empathy, care and practical solutions to reducing interpersonal-violence. An arts and media-based approach is often adopted in the education of other ‘caring’ professions engaged in complex, difficult, ‘social’ and emotional work (e.g. nurses, medical practitioners, social workers, palliative care workers), yet has gained limited application in the sporting profession.
The event attracted significant attention from external practitioners, students and local organisations. Participants moved around and shared the immersive space with others, experiencing the ‘felt difficulty’ (Trevelyan et al., 2014) of ‘what it feels like’ to experience violence and intimidation as a participant in sport. It is anticipated that experiencing this ‘felt difficulty’, provoked by engaging with material that is ‘perplexing’ or ‘disorientating’ has the potential to provide a platform for coaches to reflect authentically on and transform their own practice. The impact of attending the installation is currently the topic of Terri’s dissertation and the team are excited to understand more about how participants experienced the event.
The event would not have been a success without the support of the ESRC team and, in particular, Adam Morris who helped drive the installation forward. In addition, thanks goes to the sport students who volunteered on the evening and actively engaged in the project through ‘becoming voices’. All of these people shared one passion; making sport a safer space for all those who participate in it.
Just a reminder that BUCRU will be hosting a demonstration by Seca UK who will be showing BIA body composition analysers. Tuesday 4th December at 2pm, R508, Royal London House. The standing mBCA 515 and portable mBCA 525 are multi-frequency, and offer medically precise measurements of fat mass, fat free mass, visceral fat in litres, hydration status, energy, fat-mass to muscle-mass ratio, segmental skeletal muscle mass, BIVA Chart, phase angle, and cardiometabolic risk, with results presented in just 17 seconds in a motivational and visually appealing format. seca mBCA BIA products are clinically validated against the “gold standard” for body composition – MRI, ADP, DEXA, NaBr, D20.
The demonstration will last approx. 45-60 minutes, which will be sufficient time to view the demonstration and analyse the results and plenty of time for questions/discussions.
Please email BUCRU to advise if you plan to attend.
Supporting literature & validation papers for the mBCA 515 available upon request.
“Our vision is to host a successful, safe and secure Games that deliver a lasting legacy for the whole of Scotland, and to maximise the opportunities in the run up to, during, and after the Games.”
This was the promise made by the Scottish government to the Commonwealth in 2014. In the 12 days of competition that followed, the city of Glasgow achieved a “hero-like status”, Team Scotland achieved its biggest-ever medal haul of 53 medals, and the games recorded the highest number of tickets sold for a sporting event in Scottish history.
Minister for sport Aileen Campbell hailed the event as a huge success by announcing that Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was the largest sporting and cultural event ever held in Scotland and had changed the lives of thousands of people.
The message from the host nation was clear: the games were not just about showcasing elite athletes, but about delivering a legacy that would provide a flourishing economy, celebrate cultural diversity, embrace sustainable living, and create a more physically active nation. But four years on, not all those ambitions have been achieved.
Getting a nation off the couch
The games were considered a golden opportunity for Scotland to harness the power of sport to motivate a sedentary nation. A ten-year implementation plan was launched in 2014 to tackle physical inactivity across Scotland as well as myriad other initiatives to support communities in improving the local sporting infrastructure.
Two and a half years after the games, an interim report by the Scottish parliament’s Health and Sport Committee was undertaken to assess the progress made in increasing physical activity levels across Scotland.
The report concluded that there was no evidence of an active legacy being achievable. More alarmingly, any evidence of a relationship between the hosting of a major sporting event and raising the host nation’s physical activity levels was inconclusive.
This raises serious questions as to why such an ambitious legacy aim was included in the first place given the likelihood of failure. It could be that the Scottish government included the aim of increasing participation within its legacy pledge as a desperate attempt to address Scotland’s poor health profile, one of the worst in Europe.
A final evaluation report on the impact of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games published by the Scottish government days before the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games highlighted the harsh reality that the active legacy programme had not “resulted in a step change in population levels of physical activity in Scotland”.
In fact, the GoWell East study that tracked participant levels within the surrounding area of Glasgow found that overall rates had actually declined, with just over 53% achieving the recommended physical activity levels in 2016, compared to 62% in 2012.
However, the east end community surrounding the main games site is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with some of the worst statistics in Europe for child poverty, health, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse. This could account for the declines in physical activity levels in the east end of Glasgow as the underlying reasons behind social inequalities in sports participation is poverty – not having the income to spend on sport.
But Glasgow is not alone. Other nations hosting major sporting events have failed to capitalise on the perception that a sprinkling of magic over a big sports event will motivate a population to become active. Data that tracked participation levels of Australians before, during and after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games found they had declined, due – ironically – to Australians spending more time watching sport on TV than taking part themselves.
Undoubtedly, many nations believe that elite sporting success and the hosting of major sporting events on home turf can encourage mass involvement, and in turn create an active nation. An example of this is London’s 2012 Olympic Games, which promised to “do something no other Olympic Games host nation had done before”: inspire a new generation of young people to get involved, get active and take part in sport. This bold statement from the UK government has since been questioned, because in fact, no previous games had even attempted to leverage improved physical activity as a legacy outcome.
It became abundantly clear post-London 2012 that the Olympic Legacy promise had failed to come to fruition with figures showing no more young people taking part in sport than before the games. As has been argued elsewhere, there is still a lack of robust evidence to suggest that the presumed trickle-down effect of hosting a major sporting event can trigger an increase in physical activity.
Big spend but no return
The failure of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 to create and inspire a nation to get active is not really surprising. For more than 40 years, community sports policy in Britain has been plagued by failings to meet physical activity performance indicators set by governments.
This could be down to a variety of factors including: poor policy analysis to inform future policy-making decisions; overambitious or naïve participation targets; inadequate resources to deliver long-term programmes; and changes in direction leading to ambiguity regarding who is responsible for delivery.
Given these issues, it is understandable that grass-roots sport policies and major sporting events have failed to encourage more people to get active. Future government policy on community sport needs to have an all-party group commitment, that is evidence-based to ensure objectives are realistic. It needs to have a long-term plan and be adequately funded to ensure that there are real and lasting results.
In the end, we have to face a difficult truth: governments continue to invest in costly elite sport and big extravagant sporting events that come at the expense of community sport.
Athletes from Western nations have various protections, and many now share equal rights in most aspects of the law. But when they travel to compete in countries with regressive human rights records, these protections can be lost.
Australia competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, both of which were held in Russia. It will again send a team to Russia to play in this year’s FIFA World Cup and aims to compete in the 2022 edition in Qatar. Both countries have poor human rights records, particularly on LGBTI+ issues.
Sport is often lauded as a platform to advance human rights. But, for LGBTI+ individuals and athletes, this may not necessarily be true. The continued hosting of mega sporting events in countries with anti-LGBTI+ laws brings the role of sport in campaigns to advance human rights into focus.
Sochi became a platform for LGBTI+ rights when Western activists called for a boycott based on several human rights concerns. Their resistance increased in direct response to the implementation of laws in Russia outlawing sexual minorities.
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Athlete activists have begun to challenge the hosting of mega sporting events in countries like Russia that ignore human rights and reinforce systems of oppression. But what has really changed since Sochi for Olympians?
This year a country with a questionable stance on LGBTI+ rights is again hosting the Winter Olympics. South Korea scores only 13% on the Rainbow Index, which measures the impacts of a country’s laws and policies on the lives of LGBTI+ people. This is only a marginally better score than Russia’s 8%.
Although homosexuality is legal in South Korea, LGBTI+ rights remain highly volatile. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has courted controversy with comments opposing homosexuality, and sexual minorities continue to face significant stigma in the region.
Australia is taking 51 athletes to compete in South Korea, with two openly gay women on the team. One, Belle Brockhoff, has criticised the anti-LGBTI+ laws in host countries. She joined 26 other athletes who signed a letter opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to its anti-LGBTI+ policies.
However, it is not only host nations that can be called to account for their poor LGBTI+ records. Adam Rippon, an openly gay figure skater who has won bronze in Pyeongchang, recently said he did not want to meet Vice President Mike Pence as part of an official reception for the US team. Rippon argued the Trump administration does not “represent the values that [he] was taught growing up”.
A Fox News executive has criticised the inclusion of “African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes” in the US team. He claimed that “Darker, Gayer, Different” was now a more suitable Olympic motto than “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
Current evidence suggests that anti-LGBTI+ discrimination is rising. Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBTI+ charity, reports hate crimes toward the LGBTI+ community have increased: one in five LGBTI+ people have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.
In the US, Donald Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Several states have attempted to pass laws to restrict access to bathrooms for people who are trans or gender-diverse.
With increased visibility comes increased risk
An increasing number of athletes now openly demonstrate their sexual orientation, but many acknowledge it leaves them open to homophobic abuse – especially on social media platforms.
Mega sporting events can be problematic for LGBTI+ athletes as many may not be “out” and there can be serious implications if they were to do so.
The safety and welfare of LGBTI+ athletes made headlines when a journalist went undercover in the athletes’ village at the 2016 Rio Olympics to identify out or closeted athletes. Several athletes who were identified were from countries where being gay is criminalised or even punishable by death.
Sport is responding at a notably slow pace to the advancement of LGBTI+ human rights.
Major sporting codes have shown they are not ready to tackle trans and gender diversity. For example, the Australian Football League recently banned transgender player Hannah Mouncey from joining its women’s competition.
There is still much work to be done around athletes with intersex variations, sex testing in elite-level competition, and transgender and transitioned athletes.
Hope for the future?
One particular social inclusion legacy to come from a mega sporting event is Pride House International. This initiative provides a safe space for the LGBTI+ community to engage with a sporting event.
In addition, the Principle 6 campaign, launched in response to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, led to the expansion of that particular part of the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation as something sport should be free from discrimination on.
It will be interesting to see whether the 2018 Winter Olympics can contribute to the advancement of LGBTI+ rights within South Korea and beyond. However, more scrutiny must be directed to the human rights records of potential host nations when awarding mega sporting events.
Bournemouth University Faculty of Management colleagues Dr Emma Pullen and Professor Michael Silk, and Faculty of Media and Communication colleagues, Dr Dan Jackson and Dr Richard Scullion will be making headlines at the International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference (Sports Communication Division) in May 2018. They are being awarded the prestigious ICA best paper prize.
The paper is based on early findings from the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project (grant ref: AH/P003842/1) on the cultural legacy of the 2016 Rio Paralympics. It is the first study of its kind to explore the mediation of para-sport broadcasting by highlighting the production decisions taken by the UK’s official Paralympic Broadcaster and the impact on audience perceptions and attitudes toward disability. Alongside academic outputs, the findings will be also translated into a number of creative artworks and a documentary film available to the public toward the end of the project.
Keep up to date with our progress via our project website www.pasccal.com, twitter:@pasccalproject, and the BU research blog.
Our BU briefing papers are designed to make our research outputs accessible and easily digestible so that our research findings can quickly be applied – whether to society, culture, public policy, services, the environment or to improve quality of life. They have been created to highlight research findings and their potential impact within their field.
Sports concussion has been the subject of much discourse in the scientific literature and mainstream media for many years. Major national and international sporting events are extensively covered by the media, with vast numbers of column inches and webpages dedicated to summarising these events. The frequency of concussion in some of the world’s biggest sports such as soccer, football, and rugby means that many of these concussive events which occur in high-profile competitions are also the focus of this reporting.
This paper analyses the descriptions of online sports concussion news on a global scale, using a search engine to retrieve news stories, and evaluates the media’s role in shaping public perception and misconception regarding concussion in sport. Further analysis sought to identify geographical patterns associated with different descriptions of sports concussion.
The Wellcome Trust is taking applications to provide funding for anyone with a great idea for engaging the public in conversations about health-related science and research. They will fund activities, projects, creative spaces, people and organisations. Your team should have the right expertise to develop and deliver the activity. This should include a subject expert, such as a researcher in a science or health-related discipline, or a health professional. The expert can lead the activity, be a collaborator or take on an advisory role.
The fund is open to anyone, including those working in:
museums and heritage
leisure, sport and tourism
education and informal learning
the community, charity and public sectors.
Your proposal should:
enable the public to explore health-related science and research in ways that are relevant to them
take an inventive approach, expand on existing work or offer a new perspective on a subject
meet the Wellcome Trust’s public engagement vision.
For 2017, Wellcome is particularly interested in proposals that:
explore the impact of a changing environment on our health
aim to achieve better health outcomes
test new ways of engaging people with health-related science and research
reach communities in the top 25 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The scheme at a glance:
Proposal stage: Research and development, Production and project delivery, Developing practice and building networks
Where your activity will take place: UK, Republic of Ireland, Some low- and middle-income countries
Level of funding: You can apply for anything from £5,000 up to £3 million
Duration of funding: Up to 5 years.
There are no application deadlines – you can apply online at any time.
Declining television viewership for sporting events might suggest that those of us who heralded sport as a potential saviour of traditional broadcast media had it all wrong.
In Australia, ratings for the recent one-day cricket matches were dire and the Australian Open tennis was mixed. In the UK, viewership for the British Open golf collapsed by 75% and even the once untouchable English Premier League (EPL) has seen declines in certain timeslots. Meanwhile, Formula 1 is in a slow decline that has been ongoing for almost a decade, and the NFL is down year over year as well.
But putting the numbers under closer inspection reveals other explanations. Many of these leagues are moving onto pay TV or are the victims of changing sporting tastes. Rather than dampening broadcaster enthusiasm for live sport, they show why sport should remain on free TV.
A closer look at the numbers
The Australian Open television ratings are maybe the most interesting of the bunch. The women’s final won the night in Australia, but with fewer viewers than previous years. The men’s final was a huge drawcard and viewing figures were well up from the previous year’s final. Worldwide, however, both the men’s and women’s finals were significantly up on previous years.
So, what happened to Australian tennis viewership when the women’s final was on? More sport! The women’s tennis final was up against the final of the Big Bash League (BBL) cricket, which attracted more than a million viewers to come a close second in the ratings.
The increased popularity of the BBL shows fans aren’t cutting out or cutting down sport consumption. Instead, they are substituting one format of cricket, or one sport, for another. Cricket Australia launched the BBL for this exact reason, and it has been a tremendous success.
As BBL shows, the decline in one sport can be driven by consumer sport preferences changing, rather than people abandoning sport altogether.
Another explanation for declining audience figures concerns sports that have moved from free-to-air broadcasters to pay television. In the UK, the transition of the British Open from the BBC to Sky television led to a 75% drop in viewing figures. The highlights package broadcast on the BBC following the conclusion of the event drew almost half a million more viewers than the live coverage on Sky. This suggests that short-run events (at least in the initial stages of the relationship), such as the Open might be insufficient to translate British Golf fans into Sky subscribers.
In Australia, Optus gained the rights to EPL by paying almost three times the amount Foxtel was paying to show it previously. This has been the subject of a large amount of fan anger ever since. Viewership through these channels is difficult to track, but Optus subscriptions do not appeared to have increased markedly since the deal. Meanwhile, ratings for the home-grown A-league, which airs on Fox Sports and SBS, are up, possibly because fans are switching from EPL for their soccer fix.
But the money being offered to move to pay TV is hard to turn down.
It looks like the next five year BBL rights could go for up to $A300 million – a three-fold increase from the A$100 million Ten paid for the initial five year deal. A big part of the BBL’s success has come from it being broadcast every night of the week, on a major free-to-air channel, at a relatively non-competitive time of year. Broadcast it on pay TV and things might change. Sure, some people will subscribe, but BBL is largely a family sport and the added subscription costs could price out a substantial proportion of the consumer market.
Still a golden opportunity for free TV
Restricted broadcast threatens the future of a sport league. All brands grow by increasing the number of people who consume them. Only free TV gives that to sports brands. The EPL story defies this logic, demonstrating exponential growth since its transition to Sky Sports in the early 90s; however, if brands choose to limit distribution to narrow channels like pay TV, the chances of brand growth are severely limited.
Advertisers and sponsors, already confused about where they should be advertising, are also big losers if sport isn’t shown on free-to-air TV. As Professor Mark Ritson explains quite colourfully, traditional media gets much better results than social media advertising and other alternatives. But to do so, it must have wide reach – it needs to be attracting large audiences. If free to air television was to lose big draw card sport broadcasts, audiences shrink and advertising there becomes much less powerful.
Whatever it costs to retain sports on FTV, it is probably worth it for both advertisers and broadcasters. And it’s not just the sports that are big right now that they should focus on. Australia’s appetite for sport is not diminishing, but it is reshaping.
A recent survey we conducted of 4,000 people Australia-wide showed that interest in the AFL women’s league (AFLW) is strong. Around two thirds of AFL fans will either watch or attend at least one game of AFLW during this upcoming season. Across all people surveyed, around 27% said they were likely to attend a game of AFLW and 38% intended to watch at least half a match on television. Even allowing for the usual difference between what people intend to do and what actually ends up happening, these numbers are strong. The AFL has wisely moved games to bigger venues in anticipation of much larger crowds than the initial 5,000 per match estimates.
AFLW stands a very good chance of being Australia’s dominant women’s sporting league – in its very first year. For a savvy broadcaster, this represents a golden opportunity.
Wellcome exists is a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. It exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive.
They currently offer number of funding schemes and one of them is public engagement fund.
Public Engagement Fund is for anyone with a great idea for engaging the public in conversations about health-related science and research. It replaces the Society, People, Large Arts, Small Arts, Development, Co-production, Capital and International Engagement Awards. Read more here.
The fund is open to anyone, including those working in:
museums and heritage
leisure, sport and tourism
education and informal learning
the community, charity and public sectors.
Scheme at a glance
Research and development, Production and project delivery, Developing practice and building networks
Did you know that more people play disability football than rugby league in the UK?
The pinnacle of disability sport is the Paralympic Games, and Bournemouth University are pleased to announce some of the major figures in disability football are coming to Disability History month. Both the GB/England captains will be sharing their stories- Keryn Seal (Blind captain) and Jack Rutter (Cerebral Palsy captain), as well as several members of the Rio 2016 Cerebral Palsy Paralympic Football squad (James Blackwell, Liam Irons, Giles Moore, Emyle Rudder). Accompanying them will be Jeff Davis who is National Elite Development Manager for disability football at the Football Association. Jeff has also led the GB football squads at three Paralympic Games, in his role as Performance Director at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Paralympics.
The talk is part of Disability History Month 2006 and will take place on 5 December 2016, 17:00-18:00
The Disability History Month is a result of collaboration between Bournemouth Univetsity (BU) and Students’ Union Bournemouth University (SUBU).
Look out for #bued1617 hashtag for programme and talk updates.