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Understanding Sport as a tool for Diplomacy. Sport Diplomacy: Concept, Framework and Practice
Sport is central to twenty-first century life. I make this statement clearly at the outset of my lecture today. To this audience it may hardly need saying; but it is not a message that it resonates across all aspects of a 21st Century global and glocal society. Diplomacy can provide an underpinning contribution to that communication task; resting as it does on a troika of three fundamentals:
We are all familiar with Nelson Mandela’s oft quoted words, to paraphrase: Sport needs Diplomacy. Equally, and with some overlap, and some distinction, i.e. a nexus - Diplomacy needs sport.
My scope in addressing the relationship between sport and diplomacy will be as follows:
• Global Diplomacy
• Where to start? Why sport diplomacy is worth studying.
• Dimensions of the Sport Diplomatique
• Exciting new field of academic and policy research
I want to begin with a personal aside: that reveals not only a personal investment; the emotional connection with sport; the insight into a hidden world, but most importantly representation of four flags which have come to symbolise –to my mind at least– a definition of sport diplomacy.
In this first image you see me in London 2012 Gamesmaker uniform outside Buckingham Palace at the end of the London Paralympic Games. It was the opportunity to be part of that ‘summer’ that led me on to the second and third images.
Mr Greg Hartung; Vice President of the International Paralympic Organisation. One of the most skilled diplomats I have ever seen.
The next image is of four flags: from left to right
• The IPC
•The Union Jack
One is an international non-governmental organisation; one is the world’s preeminent state organisations; one is a time-defined logistical body; and one is the flag of a sovereign state.
So where to start?
Questions to consider:
1. Where do you start with Sport and Diplomacy?
2. Provide examples of diplomatic relations within the history of sport. How has this improved/harmed a state’s relationship with foreign powers?
Diplomacy has three core interrelated characteristics
What is going on here?
The range of actors: Two Governments – MFAs and President and PM; one football club owned by Abu Dhabi City Football Group; Chinese state investment firms; individual player (Argentinian), Manchester regional authority (“Northern Powerhouse”) Multinational corporation (Nike), one football club (Manchester City).
Why sport diplomacy is worth thinking about because:
–– Sport brings people together
–– It is dynamic and dramatic
–– Provides insight into our understanding of diplomacy – and therefore life
Sport diplomacy: Problematising Terms
• Cultural Relations – “people to people” and “many to many” and arm’s length institutions British Council etc.
•Cultural Diplomacy – “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding” (2003:1 Cummings) and related to Soft Power as a ‘tool’ (2016 Nisbett)
•Cultural Policy – a strong heritage in economic and social – not FP domain – functions of Cultural Assets and Institutions
•Public Diplomacy and Soft Power (Singh & MacDonald 2017)
•Remarkable “abundance of terms and that these are used vaguely, loosely, and interchangeably” – a semantic constellation Ang, Isar, and Mar (2015)
• Cultural as a gateway to performance theory
• “Performance theory suggests that every one of us puts on a performance in our society”.
• The concept of performance thereby enables an assessment of the ways in which individuals act and react in the world
• While also possessing a resistance identity - a function of Manuel Castells work on identity
• Austen (1962) famously used, “I name this ship”, or, “I now pronounce you man and wife”, as examples of both authoritative statements and how words perform events. Consideration of performativity therefore involves investigating how words are used to describe and define.
• These words create the past in a particular way for public consumption
• This is certainly so when the use of the past and history is considered in contemporary struggles for identity and representation
• Performance quality: Naoko’s Theatre of Diplomacy Stages, Actors, Scripts, Audiences
• Genres and repertoire – not the binaries of old and new; private and public
What do we understand by public diplomacy?
–– Communication and Representation to a nation’s public rather than to its government
–– Much debated: Cull, Pamment, USC
–– Draws on concepts from Public Relations, Communications, Soft Power and nation-branding
–– Who does public diplomacy?
–– To what extent does the state have to be involved?
–– How do we assess its influence?
A number of approaches to public diplomacy follow on from this.
• Sport diplomacy: the nexus in global affairs of sporting and diplomatic realms, where overlapping practices and approaches allow for multidirectional dimensions of social, political, and economic networks between and amongst a full range of polities (individuals, organisations, and nation-states et al). (Rofe 2016)
• Signature characteristics: SME, SINGOs
• Touch points: performance, identity, brand
• Back eddy’s – not linear
Questions for the future
• Links with practitioners
• Who are the practitioners:
• A network UN Director General’s office Geneva; National Olympic
Committees; The British Council; the FCO’s Head of Soft Power; the Premier League; Sport and Recreation Alliance; Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe - Office for Human Rights; World Rugby; ICON Sports Marketing
• Global Sports Conversations https://soundcloud.com/soasradio/sets/global-sport-conversations
–– Sport and diplomacy as a function of global diplomacy
–– Language and protocol: “Sport and diplomacy” or “Sport diplomacy”
–– “Classic examples” 1936 Olympics, Ping-Pong Diplomacy, Boycotts 80 and 84, and South Africa
–– Sport and politics – the message not the medium
–– Practice of sport and diplomacy
–– Networks and layers of sport and diplomacy
–– Supra and sub-state dimensions to sport
–– Non-state actors involvement in diplomacy
–– Identity and sport and diplomacy
–– Sport, development, peace – relationship with sport
–– Participatory component of sport and diplomacy
Questions for us now:
–– What role does sport play in the realm of international diplomacy?
–– To what extent does sport diplomacy relate to other forms of diplomacy?
–– Can sport address gender bias on the field and out of it?
–– How does sport contribute to development of global media, and globalisation/glocalisation?
–– Level of analysis – where do we begin and move beyond case study overload?
–– What identities does sport create, perpetuate and subdue?
–– Can you have diplomacy without the State?
Link to Practice and the SDGs
–– Which of the SDGs do you think sport can contribute to?
Sport diplomacy peace and violence:
To quote George Orwell –
George Orwell warned in 1945 against “blah- blahing about the clean, healthy rivalry of the football field and the great part played by the Olympic Games in bringing the nations together”; instead, he warned that sport brought out nationalism’s worst characteristics.
Orwell saw nationalism as “the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige”. To this he contended, “you do make things worse by sending forth a team of eleven men, labelled as national champions, to do battle against some rival team, and allowing it to be felt on all sides that whichever nation is defeated will ‘lose face’”.
Sports people as Ambassadors: This is an area with the need for pressing further research.
Boots instead of brief-cases - but diplomats still’
“…Players for England must be footballers, gentlemen, and ambassadors too. They carry a grave burden on their shoulders, calling on them to be well behaved both on and off the field”.
For instance, Jacques Rogge and Greg Hartung.
Former UK Ambassador to Lebanon (2011-2015), Tom Fletcher, confirms this role for informal diplomats in stating that the promotion of a “national brand will be more credible when carried by sportsmen, artists, royals or businesses, most importantly by people”. Again referring to McConnell here, in her work with Dittmer and Moreau, they identify how entities at the margins of diplomacy, such as a government in exile, mimic state-diplomatic practices. This serves to promote “‘official’ state diplomacy as the ‘gold standard’ to aspire to’, and simultaneously “reduces the gap” to “‘unofficial’ diplomacies”. Similarly, Ken Wiesbrode argues, building on the identification of paradiplomacy in the 1990s, that when “para-diplomatic bodies… enter the picture they are important diplomatic facilitators”. Wiesbrode identifies these as ‘think tanks, humanitarian organizations, philanthropies, and the “like”: the “like” includes FIFA and other sporting organisations. Weisbrode writes: “By enlarging the field of diplomacy in this way, such organizations and the policy entrepreneurs who work for them can play several roles: foil, cheering section, loyal opposition, ‘team b’ – sometimes all at once. They are also diplomats of a kind”. A history of FIFA, as a sport-diplomatic player/actor as exemplified in the core sections of this article, supports the argument that the Sport Diplomatique is a prime venue for informal diplomats to conduct their practice.
Case study examples:
UN & FIFA
•1999 official agreement signed between UN & FIFA
• Subsequently FIFA works with WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP & ILO
UN & IOC
• IOC given UN observer status in 1999
• UN Office for Sport for Development and Peace 2001
• “Olympic principles are United Nations principles”
• April 2014 MOU IOC and the UN “share the same values of contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport”.
• 2014 resolution “Encouraging Member States to give sport due consideration in the context of the post-2015 development agenda”.
1. J. Simon Rofe, Sport and Diplomacy: Games within Games (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018).
2. Stuart Murray, Sports Diplomacy: Origins, Theory and Practice (London and New York: Routledge, 2018).
3. J. Simon Rofe (2016), Sport and Diplomacy: A Global Diplomacy Framework, Diplomacy and Statecraft, 27:2, 212-230. Rofe 2016 Sport and Diplomacy A Global Diplomacy (pdf; 1435kb)
4.Jarvie, G., Thornton, J., & Mackie, H. (2018), Sport, culture and society: An introduction (Third edition.), London, [England]; New York, New York: Routledge.
5. David Black and Byron Peacock (2013), Sport and Diplomacy, in: The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 708-22. Black and Peacock Chapter_2013_Sport and Diplomacy (pdf; 3mb)
6. Geoffrey Allen Pigman and J. Simon Rofe (2013), Sport and diplomacy: an introduction, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics. 17(9), pp. 1095-1097. Pigman and Rofe 2014 Sport and Diplomacy an Introduction Sport in Society (pdf; 276kb)
Articles & Publications
Articles & Publications