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Play and work: An introduction to sport and organization



In recent decades, sport as a social practice has become relevant in many different fields: in health, economy, politics, education, work and leisure. The importance of sport transcends the confines of the sports field. Sport involves not only organization but also organizing. Sport is about organizing collective efforts and performance. Sport is about managing excellence, coaching and developing tactics as well as strategies. Sport also has its own mechanisms of organizing social differences. The competitive aspects of sport imply practices of in- and exclusion. These practices are enacted spatially on the sports field, dividing space between competing teams and individual sportsmen and sportswomen. In a broader sense, this theme touches upon the issue of access and socially marginalized identities. Sport deals with contradictions and paradoxes that exist in society at large. Sport is ‘contested terrain’ (Bourdieu Citation1988), an arena in which social and political differences are being played out.

Sport is often considered a popular and innocent endeavor that engages many people all over the world, both as amateur players and as enthusiastic audience. At the same time, however, professional and commercial sport inescapably is big business and an arena for political disputes. The economic and political dimensions often are intertwined, as in the recent doping scandal of Russian athletes where presumably actors on the highest level of Russian politics were involved (‘IAAF in Crisis’ Citation2016). From a different perspective, Sorek (Citation2007), in his wonderful study of Arab soccer in Israel, underscores the political aspect of sport. He argues that soccer for Arabs provides ‘an opportunity for integration into Jewish-Israeli society’ as well as ‘a stage for promoting political protest’ (Sorek Citation2007, 7). The apparent contradiction here seems to be characteristic of sport in general (Spaaij Citation2011). Sport is not either good or bad. Gatz, Messner, and Ball-Rokeach (Citation2002) prefer to talk about the ‘paradoxes of sport’. As an example they point to the fact that sport programs for youths may be set up as ‘violence prevention tools’ while at the same time ‘violence is an integral part of the sport world’ (Gatz et al. Citation2002, 1). In a seminal article about American sports the sociologist Gregory Stone (Citation1955, 85) put it this way: ‘ … because of their intrinsic agonistic character and the fact of their involvement in the “agony” of the larger society, sport and play are fraught with anomalies’.

Sport is play as well as work

The anomalous character of sport that Stone refers to is revealed in the tension of sport as both play and work (see also Hilliard Citation1998, 421). The tension between play and work is imperative for putting the contributions to this special issue in the proper perspective of a cultural view on organizations. The playfulness of sport forms its attractive side, as it emphasizes the activity itself, the pleasure of doing sport, and the joy and friendship it entails. Huizinga (Citation1938 [1955]) argued that the ‘fun-element characterizes the essence of play. [ … ] Play cannot be denied’ (3). It is to this, undeniable, dimension of sport that policy makers appeal when referring to the social benefits of sport in terms of cohesion, health and citizenship (Fine Citation1987; Vermeulen Citation2011).

In organizations, managers increasingly point to the benefits of sport, play and game to enhance not only employees health, but also to stimulate commitment to and enjoyment of work and the organization (e.g. Costea, Crump, and Holm Citation2005; Fleming Citation2005), to increase organizational flexibility (Pors and Andersen Citation2015), and to promote corporate responsibility (Smith and Westerbeek Citation2007). We thus perceive the tendency to blur the boundaries of play and work (Goggin Citation2011). The work-place grows into a playground. Play becomes ‘serious business’ (Butler et al. Citation2011, 329). Sport as play has particularities that resonate symbolically with non-sporting organizational life. Organizations are replete with sporting metaphors that give meaning to their practices, such as competition, the notion of the arena, selection, excellence, talent and teamwork. Sports and games also offer us ways to rethink different forms of organizing. Games like chess or poker are employed as metaphors for organizational tactics and strategy. So are baseball, football and basketball (Keidel Citation1984). In that sense sport as play may be a vantage point to understand organizations and organizing differently.

We understand the relationship between play and work in sport as the distinction between ‘expressive flow versus structured patterning of activity’ (Fine Citation1987, 41). Play and work in sport are always present in an unstable relationship that runs the risk of losing its balance. Indeed, as Fine continues, ‘flow in games and sport is eroded as these activities are organized and made efficient’ (42). Thus, rules (as a way of organizing the sports game) and extrinsic awards (as opposed to sports’ intrinsic value) put the playfulness of sport under pressure. This resonates with Huizinga’s view on sport: ‘In the case of sport we have an activity nominally known as play but raised to such a pitch of technical organization and scientific thoroughness that the real play-spirit is threatened with extinction’ (Huizinga [Citation1938 [1955]], 199). In sport as work we find organizational aspects of regulation and control; the rules of various competitions, drug testing, scrutiny of sporting organizations’ finances and so on. In this way, the interweaving of sport and organization entails substantial oversight and management. In addition, evidently, events such as the Olympic Games, the football World Cup and the Tour de France not only demand huge amounts of organization in and of themselves but also have immense economic, social and political impact (the ‘extrinsic awards’) prior to, during and after these competitions. Sport is, further, entangled with issues of bribery and corruption, politics and the role of the state.

Introducing the articles

All contributions to this special issue demonstrate how sport is organized. Sport has its own procedures, rules and regulations. Sport has its workers, its management and its strategies. If we put it like this, the organization of sport seems to be just like any other kind of organization. However, we argue, there is something unique about the organization of sport. What makes organizing sports different from other organizing processes? The articles in this collection demonstrate that sport always has a playful dimension. Sport may be institutionalized, commodified and confined to particular rules and spaces, yet it cannot exist without its play and playfulness. Daniel Torchia’s article shows how football fans of Manchester United, who agitated against the commercialization and commodification of their club, succeeded in organizing the foundation of a new football club that is built upon playful notions of community and friendship, the FC United of Manchester. Focusing on the new organization that is based on love for sport as play, Torchia contributes to recent studies of ‘utopian’ models of management and work. His analysis explores whether such an alternative organization forms a genuine alternative to standard business models. The articles by Marianne Dortants and Annelies Knoppers and by Andrew Manley, Roderick Martin and Andrew Parker center upon the relation between sport as play on the one hand and sport as work, regulation and control on the other hand. Analyzing the relationship between controlling, managing and disciplining sport and its players on the one hand and the pleasure and cheerfulness of practicing it on the other hand, their articles contribute to understanding sports as an unstable balance between play and work. Dortants and Knoppers studied the regulation of gender diversity in a boxing club. Analyzing power relations and the governing of sameness and difference in boxing, their article shows how different rationalities regulate the participation of women in this male-dominated sport. Manley/Martin/Parker) demonstrate the working of disciplinary mechanisms that regulate, control and silence players in professional football organizations. The article shows how institutional norms impact the social construction of self of young professional footballers and contributes to understanding the fragility of the interplay between play and control. Martin Wood’s article problematizes the distinction between play and work in his analysis on rock climbing as ‘serious leisure’. He depicts the latter, in the case of rock climbing, in terms of creativity, energy and freedom from dominant societal values. However, Wood concludes his analysis suggesting that the work-like character of these activities tend to dominate. He writes: ‘Currently, the rationalised society appears to keep serious leisure participants integrated within the dominant value patterns through their capacity as consumers of leisure’. The article helps us understand the dynamic of play and work in the context of contemporary capitalistic societies.

The articles in this special issue all point towards the alternation between play and work that is present in the organization and organizing of sports. Where discipline, regulation and surveillance, commercialization and commodification start to play a key role in sport, we tend to lose sight of the playful element of the game. Hence, as sport and formal organization grow closer, work will prevail in the activities of sport at the expense of play. Even in working contexts where work is camouflaged as play. Sport gets instrumental for the goals of the organization. As sport gets organized, the focus will be less on the flow of the activity and the pleasure that derives from that. The focus of attention shifts to mechanisms of discipline (Dortants/Knoppers), the economic value of being a skillful and talented player (Manley/Martin/Parker). On the other hand the focus on emotional commitment to sport, of pleasure, of fanship (Torchia) led to the taking up of alternative forms of organizing. And activities of doing sport and experiencing serious leisure as collective action (Wood) may help people to explore alternative identities and lifestyles. In whichever direction sport is pulled – towards play or towards work – the organization of sport provides us with a distinctive window on the social issues of our time.


This special issue on Sport and Organization emerged from the 2014 SCOS conference ‘Sport, play and game’ that the guest editors organized at the Utrecht School of Governance at Utrecht University. We would like to thank the Culture and Organization editorial board for their encouraging support and guidance during the process of guest editing this issue. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful reviews of the articles in this collection.

An alternative football club in a liquid modernity: FC United of Manchester

Critical management studies have taken an interest in ‘utopian’ models of management, especially within alternative organizations. This article focuses on FC United of Manchester, a small football club with 5000 members, whose principles of inclusion, affordability, community, and friendship evoke ideas of utopianism and collectivism. About 30 fan-owned football clubs exist in the UK, each with their own raison d’être, but all discontented with the commodification of the game. Bauman’s concept of ‘liquid modernity’, in which individuals find self-realization through consumption, is used to analyse how FC United reacts to the individualization and commercialization of football. This analysis employs CMS concepts to evaluate whether FC United is a genuine alternative to standard business models, and gives an empirical and critical dimension to liquid modernity as a framework for understanding society.

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Badminton Rules & Equipment



Badminton is a sport played by two or more players using racquets, a net, and a shuttlecock, which is commonly called a birdie. Learn about the rules and necessary equipment for playing badminton and discover the game called Battledore and Shuttlecock that is similar to badminton

Battledore and Shuttlecock

The game of badminton is thought to be approximately 2000 years old. Early versions were played in China, Greece, and India. It strongly resembles a game called Battledore and Shuttlecock, which was played by the British upper class in the 17th centuryThis early version of the game did not use a net, and the goal of the game was to keep the shuttlecock in the air for as long as possible. British officers posted in India likely brought the modern game home with them in the 19th century. The first game of note was played at the country estate of the Duke of Beaufort, which was named Badminton House.

Badminton Equipment

To play badminton, players will need a net, a shuttlecock, and at least two rackets. The net crosses the center of the badminton court. It needs to be 5 feet 1 inch high at both ends and 5 feet high in the center. The posts must be at the farthest sidelines, 20 feet apart, for both singles and doubles play.

Rackets may be made of lots of materials, but modern badminton rackets are usually made of a carbon fiber composite. A square head is traditional, but many use an oval head shape now. The length must be no more than 680 millimeters and width must be no more than 230 mm. The head must be no more than 280 mm in length and 220 mm in width.

The shuttlecock (also called a shuttle or a birdie) has a round base, usually made of cork, covered in a thin layer of leather or other material. Stuck into the base are sixteen feathers in a traditional shuttle. Most modern shuttles use plastic ”feathers” instead because they are less expensive and sturdier.

Rules of the Game

Two or four people can play the game – two for singles and four for doubles. The players use their rackets to rally the shuttle, or pass the shuttle from side to side over the net. If Team A fails to return a rally, that is a point for Team B.

The game is played to 21 points. If the score is tied at 20 points, teams play until one side leads by two points (i.e., 21-23). If the score is tied at 29 points, whoever makes the next point wins. A team wins the match when they win two out of three games.

The court is a 44-foot-long rectangle with a net at the midpoint. It should be 20 feet wide for doubles and 17 feet wide for singles. In practice, courts tend to be 20 feet wide with an inner line marking the sideline for singles. On each half of the court there is a left and right service court, a short service line, and a back service line.


Let’s talk about the rules for serving. In both singles and doubles, the racket needs to hit the shuttle when the shuttle is lower than the server’s waist with the head of the racket pointing down. The serve needs to go past the opponent’s short service line to count.


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The role of sport in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals



After 15 years of unprecedented progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world has turned its attention to their successor Sustainable Development Goals in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. which has just been adopted. After reviewing achievements and outstanding issues relating to the eight MDGs, the international community, led by the United Nations, consulted extensively with stakeholders from all spheres of society and set 17 goals. of sustainable development to be achieved in the next 15 years. Designed primarily to bring people and the planet closer together and leave no one behind,

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool for promoting peace and development goals. Since the adoption of the MDGs in 2000, it has played a central role in the progress of each of the eight goals, a fact that has been recognized in numerous General Assembly resolutions. In resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming the world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, adopted in 2015, its role in social progress is further recognized:

Sport is also an important element of sustainable development. We appreciate his growing contribution to development and peace through the tolerance and respect he advocates; the empowerment of women and young people, of the individual and of the community; and the achievement of health, education and social inclusion goals.

Harnessing its immense potential, the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) has a long history of bringing people together through sport and supporting peace-through-sport initiatives by organizing high-profile sporting events. scope or local activities. These initiatives help the sport harness its ability to achieve global goals.

The regular practice of a sports or physical activity has a beneficial effect on social life and health. Not only does it have a direct impact on physical abilities, but it also helps children and young people make healthy choices, stay active and fight non-communicable diseases. A number of studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) have also highlighted that physical exercise can have a positive effect on mental health and cognitive function. It improves self-esteem and self-confidence and reduces depression and anxiety.

Sport contributes to well-being, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity. It is appreciated by all and its reach has no equivalent. For example, the World Taekwondo Federation established the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation to promote the martial art in refugee camps around the world. These initiatives raise public awareness of the situation of young refugees and are in perfect harmony with the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular concerning health (Goal 3: Enable healthy lives and promote well-being for all, any age) .

Physical activity has a significant positive effect on children and young people. Associated with a school curriculum, physical activities and sport are necessary elements for a comprehensive and quality education (Goal 4: Ensure quality education for all, on an equal footing, and promote learning opportunities while throughout life). Sport provides lifelong learning and alternative education for out-of-school children. By practicing a sport or physical activity alongside their studies, students acquire essential skills, including team spirit, fair play, respect for rules and others, cooperation, discipline and tolerance. . These skills are essential for their future participation in group activities and professional life and can stimulate social cohesion with communities and societies. Given the contributions that sport makes to personal and social development, improving access to and participation in it is a primary development goal.

This is why UNOSDP has been running the Youth Leadership Development Program for young people since 2012 to train and empower young leaders from disadvantaged communities on how to use sport as a tool for progress. At the camp organized in February 2016 in Hamburg (Germany) by this Programme, six refugees were invited and integrated into the group, which also underlines the capacity of sport to promote inclusion and to bring people together.

Sport, in its most fundamental form, also encourages the balanced participation of men and women and has the capacity to promote and achieve gender equality (Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and the girls). Women and girls can be empowered through sport and physical activity and benefit from the positive impact of sport on health and psychosocial status.

The participation of women and girls also challenges the stereotypes and social roles commonly associated with them. Sport can help them show off their talents and achievements to society by showcasing their skills and abilities, which improves self-esteem and self-confidence. It also provides opportunities for social interaction and friendship, which can increase men’s awareness of gender roles and have a beneficial effect on social and psychological skills.

For example, the Diyar Consortium project, implemented in the State of Palestine, is a good example of the ability of sport to promote gender equality. As part of this project, a sports center has been created to enable women to participate in sports activities, acquire transferable skills as well as professional skills necessary for employment. The greatest example of the success of Diyar Women Sports Unit, established in 2008, is the Football Team, which has become one of the best national football teams in the State of Palestine. In 2011, they won the first-ever Palestinian Women’s Football Championship League. Members of the Football Team are now part of the academy, opened in 2012, and train young girls and pass on their knowledge. Diyar has also established a strong network and partnerships with Palestinian and international organizations, helping to develop the project and ensuring its sustainability. This project has had a beneficial effect not only on women, but on society as a whole.

Through initiatives launched by UNOSDP and its partners, sport contributes to enabling cities and communities to be inclusive (Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) . In April 2016, I traveled to Nepal to attend the inauguration of the Table Tennis for NepALL project, which aims to include people with disabilities. This example shows how sport can promote social development by changing perceptions about people with disabilities and giving them the opportunity to participate in physical activity despite their disability. In particular, after the earthquake that devastated Nepal in 2015, sport helped to ensure a return to a normal life and to develop personal efficiency among survivors.

Sport can also be used as a powerful tool to prevent conflict and promote lasting peace, as its universal reach allows it to transcend cultures (Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies).

In its contribution to peace, it often provides safe environments at local and community levels in which participants take part in order to achieve common goals and promote common interests, to acquire the values ​​of respect, tolerance and fair play and develop social skills. As a common denominator and shared passion, it can build bridges between communities, regardless of their cultural differences or political divisions. In times of conflict or instability, sports activities can provide participants with a sense of normalcy.

As part of the Youth Leadership Training Program set up in 2013 in Gwangju, Republic of Korea, I saw how sport can be used to promote mutual understanding and dialogue in conflict areas. This Programme, which brought together both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, enabled participants to realize that they had more in common than differences and to dispel the negative images that each of the countries had each other. This essential tool has enabled the two countries to establish social ties that have helped to promote rapprochement, respect, mutual understanding and dialogue.

Building strong and close partnerships is essential to promoting sustainable development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The world is more connected than ever and sport, with its global reach, can connect influential networks of partners and stakeholders to carry their common commitment to sustainable development. In this regard, the world of sport can provide effective networks of partners and stakeholders working to use sport for sustainable development (Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development).

An excellent example is the cooperation between the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an entity with observer status with the United Nations and a key partner of UNOSDP which has launched several joint initiatives in the field of sport in service of development and peace. For example, the General Assembly adopted several resolutions related to the Olympic Truce. Every four years, the United Nations urges Member States, all warring parties and other stakeholders to observe the Truce during the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the hope that a day of truce can bring about a week of peace, a month of peace and, ultimately, an end to the war. Long associated with the promotion of peace, the Olympic values ​​have therefore become an important part of sport and education. General Assembly resolution 70/4, entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”, was co-sponsored by the 180 Member States of the United Nations and adopted by consensus in 2015. In the resolution, states are asked to observe the Olympic Truce from the seventh day before the opening of the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in August in Rio, to the seventh day after the closing of the 2016 Paralympic Games in September.

These Games will be a tremendous source of inspiration and a strong symbol of the union of peoples throughout the world. Brazil will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the first time in South America. It will also be the first time that the refugees will be represented by their Olympic team. These two unique features show that sporting events are not fierce competitions, but offer unique opportunities to build a more integrated society and to convey a message of peace, inclusion and respect. Major sporting events can help promote social development, economic growth, health, education and environmental protection,

The sport, however, still faces many challenges to reach its true potential. We have too often observed phenomena of intolerance, racism, hatred and violence during these demonstrations. Sports organizations, managers, athletes and fans must do everything possible to combat these evils and fully harness the positive power of sport. Like many other areas, corruption also affects sport. She kills him and we should not tolerate any wrongdoing, including doping. Our role is to continue to fight abuse and promote good governance, integrity and transparency. We must also work to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into all sports organisations.

Despite these challenges, the immense positive power and passion of sport will continue to bring people together, to promote a more inclusive and peaceful world through its universal values ​​and principles. Historically, sport has played an important role in all societies and served as a dynamic communication platform that can be used to promote the culture of peace. It is, and continues to be, one of the most effective and versatile tools for promoting United Nations values ​​and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal

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The main risks of sports professions



The physical/psychological risks associated with professional sport

Sports professions are faced with working and/or training conditions (regular physical activity) involving several health risks – whether in professional sport or professions related to the field: trainer, sports coach , educator, instructor 1 …

  • Physical risks directly linked to the practice of regular physical activity: falls, blows, injuries, fractures, musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, trauma, concussions, cardiovascular accidents, chronic joint disease (osteoarthritis), gynecological disorders, etc
    • Physical and psychological risks related to living/working conditions (frequent travel, travel, staggered schedule, search for performance, doping, recurrent exposure to cold/hot, unsuitable place of exercise): physical wear and tear, psychological and nervous fatigue , injury, fragility of the muscles and the body.

    Prolonged sports practice is an important risk factor for osteoarthritis. Joint disease can be promoted by the activity itself (excessive stress on the joints) or by an injury/trauma caused during the activity: rupture of the antero-external cruciate ligament 2 , sprain/fracture of the knee , musculoskeletal disorder…

    Osteoarthritis, fracture, stress: what medical supervision for sports professions?

    Several means of action exist to limit the risks associated with sports professions: prevention (collective and individual), compliance with health and safety rules, establishment of reinforced medical surveillance 1 , etc.

    Medical supervision includes several essential steps:

    • Medical visit at the start of the season involving a complete check-up with traditional checks and preventive actions;
    • Medical examination for cardiovascular risk screening (especially after quarantine);
    • X-ray of certain joints (hips, knees, ankles) to detect sequelae of trauma or the onset of osteoarthritis;
    • Regular doping control.
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