The Geography of Sport is a topic close to my heart as it is the theme of my PhD research. Despite sport being a central theme of research in sociology, economics and anthropology, it has subject to little geographical research. However today’s reports into the “State of the Game”, considering the composition of professional English football teams by nationality and the debates regarding how you define who can play for the England national football team, have clear geographical themes.
National identity has been widely discussed in the geographical literature in relation to migration (see, for example, Antonsich 2010 & Gilmartin 2008), and in this case the media and social media debates, have extended the discussion to migrant athletes.
The “State of the Game” report, can perhaps be more directly deemed to be geographical. The report maps the countries from which footballers, playing in England, come from. The most significant finding is that, whilst English players do still play the greatest percentage of minutes of Premier League football, their contribution only accounts for less than a third of the total minutes played. The maps demonstrate that the Premier League truly is a global league with players coming from across the world to play in England. Football is a widely recognised as “Global Game” both in general culture and in academia (see Giulianotti 1999). So does geography need to progress and carry out more research dedicated to sport?
Antonsich, M. (2010), Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework. Geography Compass, 4: 644–659
Gilmartin, M. (2008), Migration, Identity and Belonging. Geography Compass, 2: 1837–1852
Arsene Wenger defends Jack Wilshere’s ‘English’ comments BBC Sport
Jack Wilshere says only English players should play for England BBC Sport
State of the Game: Premier League now less than one third English BBC Sport
State of the Game: How UK’s world football map has changed BBC News