Enacting community sport policy for health: a case study of Active Blues Thesis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Over the last three decades there has been growing concern in England, as elsewhere, about low levels of population sport and physical activity participation, rates of physical inactivity, and the state of the nation’s health. Most recently, government sport policy has claimed that community sport can be an effective vehicle through which to increase levels of physical activity (PA), reduce physical inactivity and address various wider social outcomes, particularly in relation to health (Her Majesty’s Government [HMG], 2015; Sport England, 2016). This thesis examines aspects of the formulation and enactment of Sport England’s (SE’s) community sport policy for health, Get Healthy, Get Active (GHGA), via a case study of Active Blues (AB) – a community-focused project intended to enable currently inactive men aged 35-50-years-old to become physically active at least once per week through sport. In particular, the thesis draws upon data generated by semi-structured interviews and group interviews held with 67 men to examine, from the perspective of figurational sociology, the degree to which the Government was able to achieve their sport participation and health policy goals through GHGA. The views and experiences of two current or former senior representatives of Sport England as well as one senior representative and four delivery staff from Everton in the Community (EitC), who delivered AB, are also included to represent other constituent parts of the sport policy figuration which is examined here. The findings reveal how the sport and public health policy sectors are increasingly converging, and the boundaries between them blurring, in ways that shaped the formulation and enactment of the Government’s community sport policy. The research reported here builds upon the limited number of previously published studies which have used figurational sociology to examine community sport and PA policy and demonstrates how complex processes of policy formulation and enactment are constrained by the dynamic networks of interdependent relationships (or figurations) and the differential distribution of power between individuals and groups. In particular, the Eliasian concepts of figurations, interdependence, process, power and intended and unintended outcomes are shown to be particularly helpful in explaining how GHGA was first developed and subsequently shaped the design and delivery of programmes such as AB. The enabling and constraining elements of the interdependent relationships which characterised the sport policy figuration helped to explain the complexities experienced, and challenges faced, by those responsible for enacting government policy ‘on the ground’. The changing balances of power within these interdependency networks, it is claimed, also draws attention to the fact that no one group, even a group as powerful as government, are able to retain complete control over the policy process so that they are able to pursue effectively their intended policy goals.
Date of Award10 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorANDY SMITH (Director of Studies) & DAVID HAYCOCK (Supervisor)

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