Great to see such a good attendance and so many eclectic,thought-provoking and informative presentations. Many congratulations to Sam Oldfeld, Dave Day, Mark and the rest of the MMU gang for ensuring it ran so well. Great to see leading historians of sport such as Jeff Hill or Wray Vamplew alongside people from all stages of research, with quite a number of collaborative colleagues from the rest of Europe who did really well to speak so clearly in what is a second or third language. Wish I could do anywhere near so well. Old friends and some new folk with fascinating areas of research all mixing in together. If you didn’t go to this year’s symposium then it is a great two days with some great craik in the evening.
I am a big fan of Greece, the spiritual home of sport and education, so it was a real pleasure to do a keynote speech at the recent CESH congress, held in the beautiful town of Edessa, in Macedonia, Northern Greece, the so-called Manchester of Macedonia because of its many waterfalls and rivers, which drove machinery in factories in the past. CESH is a really important organisation which disseminates, discusses and develops knowledge in sports history on a European and international scale. If you are a serious scholar of sport you should really join!!!! And if you are expert enough you can achieve the honor of recognition as a Fellow as you attend more regularly. It helps tremendously with networking and is really cheap too.
It was well attended, with delegates from seventeen countries, and focused on the history of sport in education. One of the great benefits of attending events like this is the variety of contacts you make. I’ve always really valued and appreciated meeting scholars from other European countries, whose approaches and methods are different. By sharing ideas and discussing approaches, all of us can to an extent remove our cultural blinkers and think in a more sophisticated way.
The congress was really well organised, so thanks to all the friendly and helpful staff, and the two CESH colleagues, Christodoulos Faniopoulos and Evangelos Albanidis, who did so much to make it a success.
It’s been a while since I posted. The death of my daughter seemed to diminish my interest. But doing my keynote speech at the Milan workshop on Match-fixing in the famous Palazzo Marino last week raised so many issues that I thought I just should say something more about it. The workshop was attended from across Europe by politicians, representatives of policing organisations like Interpol, Gambling Commissions, groups who watch for problematic betting movements, and sports organisations like the IOC or the Bundesliga.
The general view was that now that on-line betting has expanded so hugely globally, and that criminal organisations are adopting a business model, fixing results across many sports, at many levels and across the world, match-fixing is now the most important issue for sport to address. It will damage public trust in sporting results, and eventually reduce crowds. It will drive away commercially important sponsors if we fail to reduce its current level quickly.
So the Convention against the manipulation of sporting competitions needs to be signed up to by as many countries as possible, and far more action taken against it.
For me the lessons that came out of this workshop were
1. History tells us that match fixing can never be eliminated entirely, but we can reduce its level.
2. The involvement of governments and crime agencies is critical, and is happening increasingly.
3. Integrity education and training for players and officials is important and becoming more widespread.
4. We need to put sport’s own house in order too, especially at the club level, where many clubs in the past have tried to avoid relegation or achieve cup success or promotion by unfair means, and develop more discipline at all levels.
5. We need better research data than we have at present.
6. Governments, sport organisations and police need to work more together. Interested parties need more inter-connectivity, better communication, and an improved consistency of approach.
7. Like drug-use in sport, match-fixing will continue to change its targets, its methodology and its locations. We need to be proactive, not reactive.
See report of my interview interview with justin parkinson BBC political reporter on the place of the pools in British society at https://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21518471
28 July 2012
I had an exploratory talk with Simon Whitmore, the Senior Commissioning Editor, Sport and Leisure at Routledge, the other day about the possibility of writing or editing a book on research methods in the history of sport Simon is an engaging, enthusiastic chap and the talks were useful and very constructive.
Afterwards I felt it would be useful to begin gathering data from academic colleagues in the field about two questions
a) how big the demand was likely to be for such a book? Would it be better targeted at post-graduate and early career researchers in sport history? Or at undergraduate final year students? And how would it best meet the needs of students who come to sport from history, who have good background in history, on the one hand, and students from sports studies who have good background in sport, but perhaps very little in history. Getting a balance might be difficult
b) what would be the most useful sorts of content? I’m still giving that thought though I have got a draft list
So when I go to my next conferences I will start asking around before deciding whether to take up a firm proposal.
25 July 2012
I’ve spent some time during the last two weeks reviewing book proposals for Manchester University Press and Routledge. These were variously by experienced writers and by young researchers who were now trying to get their Ph D thesis published as a book. By and large, as you might expect, the proposals by experienced writers were far stronger, but in many ways that seems a shame. I am not altogether sure how much guidance young scholars get, but I suspect sometimes it is not a lot, and they would benefit from more guidance from their former supervisors. It is harder to find a publisher when they have no track record, so they need to prepare well.
What they don’t seem to realise, sometimes, that a book is a very different beast to a Ph. D thesis, and proposals need to have a clear sense of audience. They may have loved doing their research but publishers want a book that will sell. So stuff like an extended literature review, for example can be dumped. And there needs to be a clear sense of why the topic is important to a range of different readers. Essentially the proposal has to SELL the book to the publisher. So putting it across in a positive, enthusiastic way is good, and any marketing skills are useful. So is clear writing, a good style. If the sample chapter is pretty unreadable, or over-full or jargon that does not help either. Readers often turn proposals down, so the proposal has to stand out.
July 15, 2012 Had a visit from Professor Keiko Ikeda. Very refreshing to have a Japanese perspective on sports history. We tend to be very Eurocentric about the way we think about sport and talking to colleagues from elsewhere is very useful in a way that just reading about Eastern sport does not address. The wider the circle of academic contacts, the more we begin to move our thinking forward.
We discussed our future contributions to a collection on the work of J A Mangan, whose work on athleticism is so well known. Mangan was one of the few British sports historians in the 1980s and 1990s to work hard to get far eastern scholars more involved in the field. The focus of my paper is going to be on the need to develop new approaches to athleticism’s study as the literature on masculinity gets wider.
We also discussed early nineteenth century sport, and the importance of the role of journalists such as Pierce Egan in helping to shape the ways in which people talk about sport.
July 9 2012, I spent some time talking with Tom Watkinson of BBC2. They are writing a new three-part series on the history of the Railways. The series will be presented by historian Dan Snow, and will air on the BBC in 2013.Tom wanted to cover the relationship between the developing railways and sport, and as this is an area where I have some expertise he wanted to pick my brains. In fact the railways were crucial in helping sport expand. They meant top sportsmen could travel outside their own region and get more work, so they got ever richer and more widely known. Then later on teams could travel further and meet stronger opposition than in their neighbourhood, so standards of play rose ever wider. Sport helped the railways too, as sporting excursions, special trains for teams, racehorses and the racing elite, all provided the marginal costings that kept them in business.
At the North American Sport History Association conference in Berkeley which over 300 academics attended not just from the USA and Canada but also from across the world. I chaired a couple of sessions on sport and the visual and commented on one. I also chaired the NASSH Book Award Committee and presented the prizes at the final ceremony. I have been doing it for four years and this is my last year. It has been a privilege to read so many excellent books on sport each year, and a real challenge to work towards making a final choice. My fellow committee members, all well-published authors in their own right, have been a privilege to work with – positive, thoughtful, insightful and able to comment critically on the books we’ve read and evaluate them with keen eyes.