Leeds Beckett University
DemystifyingCommunitySportDevelopment-BATES.pdf (2.47 MB)

Demystifying Community Sport Development: An Examination of Practice and its Empowering Potential

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posted on 2022-12-06, 17:29 authored by Daniel BatesDaniel Bates

Inclusion in sport and recreation activities is consistently utilised as a pragmatic response for many contemporary social issues. The understanding of participation in sport as an ‘unambiguously wholesome’ endeavour (Smith and Waddington, 2004) is exemplified in the wide array of ‘Community Sport Development’ (CSD) initiatives and programmes in England. These programmes have at their heart, to varying degrees, an acknowledgement of the transformational potential for personal and communal betterment through sport participation. However CSD in England is an under-researched and under-theorised practice, due in part to the resilience of ‘dominant uncritical narratives’ (2011a) that continue to frame participation as a functional apolitical mechanism for positive social change. CSD is in need of theoretical refinement if its potential for contributing towards social outcomes is to be fully understood. 

This thesis demystifies ‘CSD’ in the mixed economy of sport provision, with particular emphasis placed on exploring the empowering capacity of CSD programmes. Drawing upon the notion of researcher-as-bricoleur (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998; Kincheloe, 2001), this study utilises a selection of critical sociological concepts to provide an apt theoretical frame through which to demystify CSD. The thesis draws upon Giddens’ (1984; 1998) notion of the duality of structure’ to provide an ontological premise for theorising CSD practice. In addition, Bourdieu’s (1977; 1990; 1998) concepts of habitus and doxa are utilised to enable a deeper theoretical focus on the constitution of CSD practice.

The research fieldwork consisted of a two-stage emergent methodology. The first stage consisted of semi-structured telephone interviews with practitioners who self-identified as practicing CSD, or whose activities resonated with preexisting conceptions (Haywood, 1994; Coalter, 2002; Hylton and Totten, 2013). Constant comparative techniques (Corbin and Strauss, 2008) provided the methodological toolkit through which to conduct chain referral sampling iv with practitioners; the aim of which being to explore the range and characteristics of contemporary CSD practice. In building upon conceptual foundations established during fieldwork stage one, the second stage of data collection comprised of two case studies of organisational practice. Through these case studies the research sought to identify the processes that lead to the purported aims of organisations, whilst also illuminating the principles and philosophies underpinning ‘empowering’ CSD practice. This research concludes that, far from a benevolent and politically neutral activity, CSD practitioners negotiate and embed dominant conceptions of desirable social change through sport and recreation within ‘communities’. Whilst an examination of the two case studies demonstrates that both organisations practices warrant merit, the cases highlight that the creation and development of participatory communal structures, the fostering of community ‘assets’, and a more critical engagement with the ideas and conventions underpinning ‘mainstream’ provision are conducive to sustainable and empowering CSD practice.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Hylton, kevin ; Totten, mick

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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