Subjecting Pandemic Sport to a Sociological Procedure

Emeritus Professor David Rowe has published an article in Journal of Sociology on the impact of COVID-19 on sport, investigating how globalisation has created structural imbalance and vulnerability in sport, and why sociology must play a role in reforming sport as it seeks to recover from the pandemic.

The accepted version of the article, titled 'Subjecting pandemic sport to a sociological procedure' (opens in a new window)is available in full here (opens in a new window)(PDF, 572KB). It forms part of a virtual Special Issue on the Sociology of the Pandemic, co-edited by Associate Professor Steve Matthewman (University of Auckland) and ICS member Associate Professor Kate Huppatz, to be published later this year. The editorial, 'A Sociology of COVID-19' (opens in a new window), is published online.

Article Abstract

The Covid-19 global pandemic posed a particularly acute problem for sport. Although there was massive sectoral disruption in areas like higher education, music, and tourism, sport is unusually dependent on commercial media financed, impossible-to-repeat live events performed before large co-present crowds that form a key part of the spectacle for the many times larger, distant audiences using an expanding range of screens. COVID-19 exposed the inner workings of sport as a machine that could be disabled by its own global interdependency. The compulsive generation of inequalities of class, ‘race’/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, ability, space, and so on resulting from the advanced commoditisation and consequent hierarchisation of contemporary global sport, created the structural imbalance and vulnerability that COVID-19 has mercilessly punished. This article applies a sociological analysis to sport before, during and after the pandemic, arguing that an emphasis on the relationships between human rights and cultural citizenship is required to improve the social institution of sport. It argues that if sociology does not play a key role in reforming sport after COVID-19, then it will have lost the moral compass that first guided the discipline in early modernity when the institution of sport emerged.

Posted: 31 July 2020