- The Internationalization of European Sports Teams and the Issue of National Citizenship: Can Sports Transcend Political Borders? by Heike C. Alberts and Kazimierz J. Zaniewski
This book is the work of two assistant professors in geography at the University Wisconsin-Oshkosh, who, as the title suggests, have set out to study some of the most far-reaching questions regarding sport’s relationship to issues of migration and citizenship. The authors are to be admired for their ambition in broaching such complex themes within the confines of 158 pages, particularly as the aims alluded to in the title refer to a number of separate yet related issues: the “internationalization” of the playing staff of professional sports clubs in Europe, the presence of sportspeople of immigrant origin in national representative teams, and the effects of various levels of governance on these phenomena.
While the title points to the wider political and social implications of these issues, this book more concretely focuses on providing a broad panorama of sports labor migration in Europe. The authors rightly point to the existing breadth and depth of literature available on sports migration in specific sports (especially soccer) and in relation to specific geographical areas and indicate that the originality of their project is in its analyses of a broader range of sports and a wider geographical area than is normally the case in this kind of study. By providing information on soccer, handball, and volleyball across a number of different nations in Europe (with particular reference to France and, especially, Germany), the authors seek to differentiate between what could be described as general trends and what could be considered specific to a certain sport or location.
One of the most positive aspects of this work is that it provides the opportunity to read a geographer’s overview of the issues at hand. Loïc Ravenel and John Bale have previously tackled similar issues in Francophone and Anglophone academia respectively and contributions from this discipline to the study of sports labor migration are to be warmly welcomed. The authors of this work make specific reference to Bale’s work here and also engage insightfully with the work of sports studies experts such as Joseph Maguire, Paul Darby, and Raffaele Poli, whose works look closely at individual cases and locations and give important insights into the specificity of sporting mobility whilst engaging with broader societal issues. This work thus reviews much of the in-depth work that is currently being carried out in a potentially fascinating area of study. However, this study sometimes misses out on the complexity of the issues at hand on both macro and micro levels. In order to respond to the question that forms the book’s subtitle “Can sports transcend political borders?” such a study would need a more sophisticated analysis of the forces that drive transnational movements of labor and capital than is present here. In such a confined volume it is therefore unfortunate that the authors, who understandably had their American readership in mind, chose to provide a potted history of the three sports in question (pp. 3–8) rather than situating sports migration within the wider context of migration patterns generally. [End Page 159]
The use of sources in French, German, and English languages is impressive and provides potentially rich opportunities for comparative study. However, the authors themselves sometimes seem unconvinced of the merits of their own methodology, which draws largely on what they could find on the websites of the federations and clubs they had chosen as their case studies, and they acknowledge that such limitations leave many of the more complex questions unanswered (p. 73). Throughout the book there is a useful overview of the multiple effects on sports migration of the 1995 “Bosman ruling” regarding the free movement of workers (pp. 10–15), but evocative issues such as racism and neo-colonial exploitation are alluded to without being tackled in any meaningful way...