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  • The History and Politics of Sport-for-Development: Activists, Ideologues and Reformers by Simon Darnell, Russell Field, and Bruce Kidd
  • Solveig Straume
Darnell, Simon, Russell Field, and Bruce Kidd. The History and Politics of Sport-for-Development: Activists, Ideologues and Reformers. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. Pp. vii+ 340. Index and notes. $84.99, hb. $64.99, eb.

In The History and Politics of Sport-for-Development, Simon Darnell, Russel Field, and Bruce Kidd present a comprehensive narrative of the institutionalization of the field of sport-for-development. The authors refer to sport-for-development as "the processes, theories and/or ideologies of using sport to attain 'positive' social outcomes" (8) and distinguish this from the contemporary phenomenon of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP), which describes "the global sector (albeit a loose one) of organizations and stakeholders that now champion, organize and implement sport-for-development programs" (8). The book is a timely and important contribution to the history of sport-for-development, which in contemporary SDP research often is referred to as a new concept. The authors, however, link SDP with the much older idea of sport for good and argue that modern sport commencing in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century in many ways was a social-development project, manifested through the public schools, and further utilized in nineteenth-century politics in the service of colonial expansion and administration.

The authors employ a broad Gramscian approach to analyze and unveil the interplay between the different forces that have driven the sport-for-development field forward and made it what it is today. In doing so, they show how sport-for-development is framed within a politicized discourse.

The book is organized in two parts. Part 1, "The Long Narrative of Sport for Good," consists of five chapters that are well written, rich, and detailed. The authors use a range of secondary sources in this part, drawing lines back to the history of nineteenth-century sport and analyzing it within the context of international development. American readers might find it particularly interesting to read about organizations and movements such as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Playground Movement, and the American Scouts (Chapter 3), which are credited for pioneering sport-for-development at home and eventually abroad in the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, the involvement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in sport-for-development, sports aid in a Cold War climate, and sport as a developing tool in the decolonization period serve as a background for the more contemporary institutionalization of SDP.

In Part 2, "The Institutionalization of Sport-for-Development," the authors draw upon a series of interviews with more than fifteen individuals who were central to the institutions and movements that shaped sport as a force for development. Subsequently, each of the chapters in this part considers SDP key actors from intergovernmental organizations (INGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and nation-states. The strength of this part is its detailed presentation of general development policies and those specific to SDP. The authors give a thorough account of the influence by the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the IOC, although not so much to SDP in practice but still legitimize and advocate for the SDP field. Neoliberal policies paved the way for actors represented by NGOs such as Right to Play and the Mathare Youth Sports Association; individuals [End Page 167] actors like Olympian Johann Olav Koss; and even nation-states like Norway and Canada to implement SDP in practice and thus contribute to its institutionalization. It is interesting to discover how important (and sometimes even by chance) individual actors and SDP organizations have been to the institutionalization of SDP.

The institutionalization of SDP facilitated a massive increase in initiatives and consequently SDP actors. The authors refer to the "NGOization" of the SDP field, which subsequently increased the need for professionalization and fewer ad hoc activities. This, for instance, meant that monitoring and evaluating processes were demanded from organizations and funders alike. Although a professional take on SDP might have improved many projects on the ground, it also made the realities harder for smaller organizations struggling to survive in their local contexts.

The authors go...


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