Towards an explanation for the decline of athletics in the UK: a case study of male distance running

Grix, Jonathan and Parker, Andrew ORCID: 0000-0001-6842-3067 (2011) Towards an explanation for the decline of athletics in the UK: a case study of male distance running. Sport in Society, 14 (5). pp. 612-628. doi:10.1080/17430437.2011.574364

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Athletics is a sport close to the hearts of the UK public. Yet, when evaluated on the basis of world rankings and championship medals, it becomes clear that athletics in the UK has been in decline for some time. Available statistics reinforce this position. Indeed few, either inside or outside the sport, would argue against it. Despite such consensus, there is little agreement on the reasons why this decline has occurred. By presenting a case study of male middle- and long-distance running – traditionally the events in which Britain have consistently produced world-class athletes – this article provides three explanations as to why current standards (especially in the longer running events) are dropping in comparison with those recorded 20–30 years ago. These explanations focus on: (1) the ‘governance’ of UK athletics, (2) broader social change, and (3) school sports provision and young peoples' attitudes towards physical activity. It is our contention that the key factors put forward in explanations for the decline of UK athletics have been profoundly affected by the shift from ‘government’ to ‘governance’, but not, as we discuss, in the manner suggested by ‘new’ governance theory. In conclusion, we argue that all three variables combined have contributed to the decline of athletics in the UK in general and male distance running in particular.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: REF2014 Submission.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2015 11:10
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:10

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