Inside out: understanding professional practice and policy making in UK high-performance sport. A process sociological approach

Moore, Lucy (2021). Inside out: understanding professional practice and policy making in UK high-performance sport. A process sociological approach. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 13(1) pp. 179–185.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2020.1844274

Abstract

This critical commentary contends that there needs to be a re-orientation of approaches to understanding policy design and implementation in high-performance sport.

The existing approach to understanding policy making breaks the sport system into constituent agencies with a focus on the investment targeted towards specific organisations or programmes of activity. Governing agencies are discussed in reified terms, as if the organisations themselves were the actors and this paper will argue that this is a fundamentally problematic simplification. When the networks of interdependent people who work within, on and for governing organisations are neglected by [or worse, erased from] discourse and research, academic recommendations and policy design will forever be limited in effectiveness.

Here lies the opportunity, by looking through a sociological relational lens, strategists within funding agencies stand to make a radical shift in leadership and professional practice. The work of social theorist Norbert Elias’, in particular his notion of the figuration and associated ‘Game Models’, are herein used as a conceptual framework to demonstrate an alternative perspective to policy making in UK high-performance sport. The intent of the paper is not to hold up Elias’ as a ‘right’ way of approaching this work, but rather to spark conversation and to open the door for a broader sociological imagination and discussion of sport policy and practice.

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