Social capital and voluntary sports clubs : investigating political contexts and policy frameworks
2014-02-27T14:22:37Z (GMT) by
This research project is an examination of the role of voluntary sports clubs (VSCs), within a modernised political and policy process, in creating and sustaining forms of social capital. From 1997 onwards, consecutive New Labour administrations concerned with social inclusion and civic renewal have established a pivotal position for social capital in many areas of social policy. In this context increasing political expectations and policy demands are being made of VS Cs to contribute to this broader social regeneration agenda. Social capital is a contested term between the democratic, rational and critical strains of the concept, not least because each of which has its own conceptual framework. In order to tease out the distinct differences between the competing strains of social capital, and inform on its potential formation or destruction in VSCs, the concept of the political opportunity structure (POS) has been employed as an analytical tool. A qualitative case-study research method, within a critical realist methodology, was chosen for primary data collection. This was based on a two-phase approach to capture the perceptions of both VSC members and external stakeholders in relation to the meaning, value and output of VSCs. Based on semi-structured qualitative interviews: thirty-one for phase one and twenty-six for phase two, three case studies were generated. This study shows that social capital is a powerful comparative and reflexive concept that can facilitate a critical picture of how social relations operate at the micro level of the VSC, and how these inform on a range of other social processes and conditions. New Labour's modernisation programme was clearly indicated as a key structural process that highlights the importance of structure and top-down processes in developing social capital in VSCs at grass roots level. This research project shows how implicit tensions between modemisation and mutual aid, when embedded in a voluntary based organisation and serviced by a simplistic interpretation of social capital, tend to lead to policy misdirection at best and at worst the entrenching of contradictory processes that may destroy the very edifice that is targeted by much social policy.