Monday, 13 July 2015

The Fantasy Sport Industry: Games within games a book review

Billings Andrew C (@andrewcbillingsand Ruihley Brody J (@ruihley(2014) The Fantasy Sport Industry: Games within games Routledge 

Confession time. I was not a train spotter nor am I a stats nerd. I’ve been aware of fantasy sport leagues and even celebrity ones speculating on their death of divorce. I was surprised to discover that there is Fantasy Sport Trade Association (FSTA) whose website provides updates on Billings and Ruihley’s 2012 figures.

Fantasy sports players are younger, better educated, with higher household incomes and more likely to have full-time employment:
66% Male
Average Age: 37
College Degree or More: 57%
Have a household income of $75k+: 47%
Have full-time employment: 66%
Average Annual Spending Per Fantasy Player: $465
Favorite Fantasy Sport: Football (73%)
Fantasy Sports Players that Pay League Fee: 60%

Also Andy Murray, real sportsman, is said to keep his fantasy soccer trophy in front of his tennis ones.

And, further confession, my interest in this book is as criminologist seeking to examine sport so this skews my review. Self confessed fantasy league player and viewer of ESPN’s programming about fantasy sport and even the drama series The League  Shawn E. Klein The Sport Ethicist reviews Billings and Ruihley here.

Given the large sums of money now involved and the extent of crime within and alongside online games I had expected some mention. There is some mention of legal matters particularly around betting. Thus there have been legal challenges to fantasy leagues that it is a form of betting and certainly its use of statistics mirrors those beloved of legal and illegal gambling. Both legal and illegal gambling have lead to match and spot fixing but perhaps these are some of the things that might arise in the future. There are other things they might like to examine in the future. Klein particularly asks what effect fantasy sports have had on ‘real’ sport.

But in reality this is more like a media book or, indeed, for the American market and college system, a communications book and is to be commended as such.

In Chapter 2 we discover (except it turns out how we might expect) why people play.  They play for all the reasons people play any game or sport. It is here I might have expected something on cheating but nothing here or elsewhere. A couple of late mentions of ethics in the concluding chapter (7) are about it. The Code of Ethics of FSTA forbids gambling and we are told the FTSA developed those ‘in response to some ethical debacles such as the folding of the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCOFF) (p142). They give no further details and the internet has not found me any information save it seems to be in rude health currently.

In Chapter 3 the demographics are examined and again as the FSTA figures above confirm men of a certain age and income. They mention gender throughout but offer no analysis, though where women play their consumption of sport rises like men’s. Similarly ethnicity is essentially a category about which stats are given and differential uptake puzzled over. Participation of black players in Basketball and identification with by urban youth might have prompted some interest in fantasy play but perhaps the intersection of class might be relevant here.

Chapter 4 is given over to US based ‘major players’ in the FSTA and the media ties in that country should be noted. Fantasy sport there, like sport is highly integrated with the media whereas in the UK there is some separation with fantasy sport piggy-backing off sport (to the annoyance of rights owners?).

Chapter 5 examines the role of money. High stakes players are, not unsurprisingly, financially motivated but still get a ‘rush’ and are less likely to have a favourite team or favour any team over their fantasy selection. Both found some companionship in play.  I wonder if they ‘bowled alone’ or this more participatory screen use was better than TV (Putnam suggests, ‘Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital’). I agree with Klein that, ‘various views on the relationship between gambling and fantasy but it is not clear how they view it.’  Perhaps this as the whole book feels almost like a report or pitch to the board of FSTA not a piece of critical scholarship (see comment on Chapter 6 too).

Chapter 6 is on why people give up playing.  In criminology this is called desistance and maturation often given a prime spot.

Again it is difficult to disagree with Klein who says:
There might be some useful tidbits for someone in the industry who is trying to identify how to head off customer attrition, but in terms of getting a better understanding of the industry and its participants, there wasn’t as much here as I would have liked.

So fascinating to the ‘non-fantasist’ and to the industry and a chance for the Schwabist (NB to non-US users: some may know the term ‘maven’ but Schwabism had me stumped) player to nit-pick and suggestive of further work into other areas and informed by theory.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Punch of Flower's - sport’s domesticated violence

Back in November I talked about consent in sport and concluded that discussion of the informal and formal acceptance of (consent to) violence might be the place to start discussions of off-field violence, specifically sexual violence.

I ranged widely over boxing and other sports and included material on Ben Flower.  This is what I said about him then.

This post is inspired by the recent case of Ben Flowers and a reminder from Christopher Matthews of the violence in Ice Hockey which reminded me of the violence of professional wrestling which Corteen and Corteen cover.  I rely on Matt Rogers for the facts and some of the law and can recommend his extensive analysis of ‘implied sporting consent’.
Flowers received a six month ban from Rugby League Football (RFL) at the hands of the its match-review panel.  It represents potentially missing 13 games and is the most severe option open to the panel.

More interestingly the question might have been should his actions have been subject to police action - perhaps, there and then.  It would seem that Greater Manchester Police propose not to disturb the RFL’s jurisdiction but are investigating threats of summary informal justice on social media against Flowers.

I want to concentrate on Flower today as is due to return to action tonight in a Super League game against Warrington according to this Guardian article by Donald McRae (@donaldmcrae).  Some of the article might be seen as placing Flowers as the victim. His tears and familial shame are related; or is the victim his team? - his early sending off may well have contributed to their defeat. But half way through McRae tells us in a single sentence paragraph:

Flower also thought of Hohaia, the real victim that night.

We learn that he messaged Hohaia but heard nothing;then we are back to his fears of jail, the twitter abuse and death threats.  Restorative Justice might have been tried here.  Especially since another article says:

“Sometimes these things happen in a game,” said Hohaia, a 31-year-old who was a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2008, and was unable to return after being knocked out by Flower’s first punch less than two minutes into the match. “In the heat of the moment people do things they regret. I’ve done some silly things myself, so I don’t hold any regrets against Ben – he’s probably disappointed with himself.

And this should also remind us of the high rate of violence between young men off pitch.

McRae is heartened by the quick cooperation of both clubs to support both men.  I am less so.  It might be argued that commercial imperatives - and the good standing of Rugby League with fans and sponsors - might be behind this.  There is also plenty of precedent and legal backing for such sport crime to be dealt with by the justice systems of the sport.  A feminist might note too the closing of ranks amongst men.

It is this thought that puts me in mind of other violences.  That closing of ranks amongst men - including media men - raises the issue of whether there is or isn’t a link between on field and off field violence.  That cannot be decided here (or at all?) but the description of Flower’s attack on Hohaia and the gathering around of the rugby football ‘family’ also reminded me of some responses to domestic violence.

Deb Waterhouse-Watson notes the narratological work done by clubs and media to move the ‘trial’ from men accused of sexual violence onto the complainant.  But what of the case of on field, televised and spectator-witnessed violence between players?  Clearly this needs narratological work (and subsequent analysis) too.  It is downplayed. 


Monday, 13 April 2015

Fight Club - a prison of masculinity?

First rule of Fight Club is broken by former Prison Officer at HMYOI Feltham in blowing the whistle about fights organised by Officers amongst inmates.

I touched on some of these issues when I reviewed Rosie Meek’s work on Sport in Prison.  This is what I said about boxing:

For every boxer who claims that without the sport he would have ended in prison (for instance Luis Collazo) we might find lists of the ten best boxers who ended up in prison.  And yet we also have Prison Fight a charity which claims world connections but seems only to be Thai-based and uses Thai boxing as rehabilitation and holds out the possibility of amnesty; but to my untutored eye it looks exploitative.
Yet boxing rates only 3 mentions in Meek's book: one to note that in her survey boxing was the favoured activity for inmates though banned at the time (p109); that it had recently been approved for use with non-violent offenders (p33) and that it was now offered in a number of establishments (p28). 
In ITV’s Bring Back Borstal the ‘boys’ play a game of Rugby Union against a local team and go on cross country runs - shades of the book and film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - but they do not box.  Several fights break out and a punch ball takes a hammering in Episode 3 to allow one young man to ‘let off some steam'.  In Meek’s mentions and more generally it is not clear whether boxing training - i.e. pad work, speed ball, skipping or running - is meant or more serious sparring or even a boxing match - with headguards and gumshields.  Organisations like Boxing Academy and Fight for Peace use ‘boxing training’.

So it is interesting to come across Deborah Jump’s article in the Howard League’s Early Career Network Bulletin 26 based on her PhD ethnography in a boxing gym which concludes:

… this article discusses and elaborates on existing assumptions in sporting and desistance literature, and argues that while relevant, diversionary activities and sport-based programmes that incapacitate are only one element in the theory of change. In conclusion, I have argued that boxing actually traps men in an attendant culture of respect that requires them to respond in aggressive ways to maintain an image of both masculinity and respect. This attendant culture, that is transposable between gym and street, can override the pro-social incapacitating elements that the gym can offer, and reinforces the logic and discourses that evokes and traps men in habits of responding to violence. Therefore, in terms of future policy and practice, new directions need to be sought.

I agree and believe it chimes with my work on motor projects for my PhD where masculinity was an issue too.  Whilst I drive a car - and have done for over 40 years - I’m no ‘petrolhead’ and incline to the ‘green’.  However, I sort of concluded that motor projects for joyriders - where they get to fix and race cars - made sense within a ‘car culture’.  That is not that they ‘work’ but that the logic is interesting.

So boxing for violent men also makes sense in our current culture and is a targeted ‘bait’ for desistance work for some.  Boxing has been more acceptably mainstream in the past and my only experience of it is in boxing training - and Deborah’s article is illustrated with her in boxing attire, pose and surroundings - but as a former rugby union player cannot claim to be as non-violent as I’d wish.

If I understand Deborah correctly then I believe we are both saying that crime associated with troubling and troublesome masculinities can be ameliorated by working with that masculinity but that in the longer term work on masculinity needs doing.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Book Review: Yar Majid (2014) Crime, Deviance and Doping: Fallen Sports Stars, Autobiography and the Management of Stigma Palgrave Pivot

Occupational drugs - the amphetamine of the people?

My reason for reviewing this book is that I thought it would help me write a book I'm currently writing called Sports Criminology for Policy Press.  It did; and whilst Yar talks about criminology and the sociology of deviance in early chapters he does not use the term 'sports criminology'.  But as the inventor of the term I'm happy to induct Yar's book into the canon.

Yar admits in a preface that his interest in sport as a site of criminological interest came during a period of enforced inactivity that found him in front of the television watching sport, particularly the Tour de France. Clearly cycling and the Tour will feature strongly as a sport in my book but it should be noted that the Tour will also be treated as a spectacle, a narrative, a business.

Yar specifically examines a number of ‘fallen-star’ autobiographies to reflect on how they manage the crime-like stigma that they live under.  The key and ongoing exemplar in all of this is US Cyclist, and one-time record breaking Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong but he also examines the cases of British Sprinter, Dwain Chambers, Armstrong’s antagonist Tyler Hamilton and UK cyclist David Millar (who becomes David Millar in a couple of places earning himself a separate index mention! and even becomes Mark Millar on back cover blurb!!).  The only woman is US sprint star Marion Jones.

Turning to the specifically criminological Yar (p2-4) asserts, ‘Criminology and allied disciplines are no strangers when it comes to sport’ but goes on to say, ‘even if its study remains a rather marginal and somewhat neglected area.’  Hence my book. He sees criminological engagement in 3 areas: that of desistance; cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity and finally sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping.  However there are also some other criminological mentions.
Yar notes the belief in the power of sport, and tests of it, as one of the few engagements that criminology has has with sport.   It is Yar’s interest in desistance that led him to examine the management of stigma by ‘fallen sports stars’.  Participation in sport can be seen the sort of activity that might bolster an individuals, ‘investment in conventional social values by imparting a belief in fair play, cooperation, persistence and rule-following’ (p3)  He mentions Zamanian et al (2012) who specifically locate their work in a differential association framework but still warn against overestimating the role of sports in tackling social problems. His mentions cultures or sub-cultures are specifically of the ‘hyper-masculinity’ (p4).  See my review of Meek's work on sport in prison for fuller discussion of the utility of sport in crime prevention/desistance.
cultures or sub-cultures
Yar specifically mentions theories of social control and differential association (p3) cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity (p4) and ‘techniques of neutralisation’ (Sykes and Matza, 1957) (p6). He touches lightly on the possibility that Sutherland et al’s (1995) social learning theory might suggest sport as promoting the pro-social.  
sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping
This is the focus of his book; Yar concentrates on the wrongdoing of a number of 5 sports stars but he also lists: John Daly (golfer charged with assaulting wife); Mike Tyson (boxer, rape); O J Simpson (NFL, charged with murder and convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping); Michael Vick (NFL, interstate dog fighting); Mickey Thomas (soccer, counterfeiting); Graham Rix (soccer, indecent assault and unlawful sex) and Wolfgang Schwarz (figure skater, kidnapping and human trafficking).  This is a wider list of crimes and sports but emphasises again the joint maleness of sport and of crime.
Yar’s longer list further highlights the randomness of his list and suggests it to be almost as serendiptious as his Tour de France watching.  No reason is given for the inclusion of any of the athletes.  Only Armstrong's case can be seen to be beyond question and Jones's inclusion necessary for gender reasons.  Other sports have had drugs test crises but cycling and athletics ‘shine’ in this competition.
His discussion of gender issues is deficient as Penfold-Mounce makes clear in her review in Theoretical Criminology whilst only lightly touching on his failure to mention her work on celebrity and crime from their shared publisher.  Given that women criminals and sportswomen are doubly deviant this makes Jones deviant 'cubed'.  No wonder that she still labours under the stigma.  Even before her own drug ban Messner (2002: 109-111) notes that when Jones’s husband C J Hunter failed a drugs test in the build up to 2000 Olympics she moved from ‘our’ (USA’s) ‘girl’ (gender) to that ‘black’ athlete under a cloud.
Sykes and Matza
Given the emphasis on stigma in his book it is no surprise to find Yar leans heavily on Sykes and Matza (1957) but whilst it structures his investigation of the star's autobiographies it constrains him too.  Thus discussions of early childhood parental loss, abuse or separation is seen as 'denial of responsibility'.  But just because you are ‘neutralising’ does not necessarily mean you are deluding yourself or others. I think he is right to see such appeals as drawing on a 'folk criminology'.
He sets out Sykes and Matza' 5 'techniques' and suggests another (described on page 29 as a ‘fifth’, but surely sixth, see also page 71) derived from his reading, that of 'denial of the deviant self'.  That is the stigmatised athlete's 'discreditable' behaviour has now become known and the athlete is now 'discredited' (Goffman, listen to Thinking Allowed special).  Having become discredited they seek Resolution (his chapter 7) through temporal distance (as celebrities they can't move) by arguing 'I'm no longer that person'.  He notes all the athlete's accounts start with tales of innocence (chapter 3) so during their Initiation (chapter 4) and Commitment (chapter 5) they must also have become 'not that person’.  That person we find paid his taxes (Dwayne Chambers) and was brought up to tell the truth (Tyler Hamilton) (p41).
other criminological mentions
Yar protects his use of ‘moral panic’ with scare quotes and makes not mention of Cohen merely stating, ‘media discourses of doping have also inevitably been subject to analysis through the time-honoured sociological lens of ‘moral panic’ theory’ (p6) noting, ‘such accounts suggests the problem has been exaggerated and sensationalised, with anti-doping moral entrepreneurs playing a key role in defining the issue according to their own particular interests.  He cites Christiansen (2007) and Goode (2011) but we might now also have mention Coomber (2014) or Critcher (2014).

Christiansen uses the term ‘moral’ he does not speak of ‘moral panic’ though Critcher specifically does so.  I’m less convinced that these constitute ‘moral panics’ as panic is present and ‘folk devils’ may abound but their is no amplification spiral where more deviance/deviants is created by the social reaction.  I’ve long grizzled about the degradation of Cohen’s original concept.

A final criminological mention is Shaw’s (1930) The Jack Roller: A Delinquent Boys Own Story (which has no mention of sport) which leads to a discussion of the use of autobiography citing the likes of Maruna and Copes (2005), Maruna and Matravers (2007), Gadd and Farrall (2004) and Gadd and Jefferson (2007) and his own (2011).  The times may be passing when we feel the need to explain (auto)biography in social ‘science’.

In his discusion of neutralisation he leans heavily on Ophir Sefiha (2012) ‘Bike Racing, Neutralization, and the Social Construction of Performance-Enhancing Drug Use’ 
The abstract of which reads;
Drawing from participant observation and interviews, I examine the attitudes and beliefs of elite and former professional cyclists and team personnel regarding performance-enhancing drug (PED)  use and the neutralization techniques they employed to excuse and justify PED  consumption. Participants most frequently  adopted accounts in which they condemned the condemners, viewing as hypocrites those labeling PED  use as deviant, and arguing that all manner of PED  use is commonplace throughout society. Participants further expressed distrust of sporting federations, law enforcement, and medical professionals, whom they viewed as exaggerating and distorting information about the dangers of PED  use. Riders also appealed to higher loyalties and defense of necessity, claiming that PED  use was for many professional cyclists nearly an occupational necessity. Members viewed PED  use as a rational means to an end while also embodying fundamental tenets of professional cycling culture which prizes risk taking and commitment.
Sofia’s work might have lead Yar to baseball star Barry Bonds on whom (auto)biographical material is available though allegations remain largely unexamined and remorse absent.  And Walsh (2013), who he quotes on Lance Armstrong, might also suggest looking at swimmer, Michelle Smith.  Smith sets out her story in the ghosted autobiography Gold: A Triple Champion’s Story (1996).  Allegations of doping were made against her at Atlanta, had been proved against her husband/coach Erik de Bruin, and two years later she received a four year ban for tampering with her urine sample.  She is now a barrister. 

Interestingly Sykes and Matza make observations about sport directly in their short paper:
the juvenile delinquent may exhibit great resentment if illegal behavior is imputed to “significant others” in his immediate enviornment (typo in original) or to heroes in the world of sport and entertainment (1957: 665).
So Yar’s work is clearly in my field of sports criminology but he too easily assumes the star’s criminality.  He is a criminaliser and uses Sykes and Matza to condemn them.  It is more complex.  Thus Walsh is passionate in his defence of sport and proud of his part in Armstrong’s ‘fall’. But in his work you see that when the dopers claim ‘everybody is at it’ this is not just neutralisation but truth.  Walsh’s book contains some mention of recreational drugs but, and thi my coining, we are talking about industrial amounts of ‘occupational’ drugs.

As Fotheringham (2009) reminds us there is a history in the Tour, for instance 
Fausto Coppi twice winner of the Tour and Giro d’Italia double (1949 and 1952):
was upfront about his use of drugs, particularly "la bomba", a mix of caffeine, cola and amphetamine pills. His great rival Gino Bartali preferred more natural stimulation and would drink up to 28 espressos a day.

Moreover, Yar ignores too easily the pressures on the riders to perform and on the journalists not rock the boat.  The Tour was invented by a magazine (L’Auto) and its successor publication L’Equipe is owned by the Tour’s organisers who promote and cover other sports too (Paris Marathon, Paris-Dakar rally).  Again Walsh is recommended on these angles.  Yar was drawn in by the spectacle but too easily forgets how it is provided - capital and cycling labour.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

Book Review: Waterhouse-Watson, D. (2013) Athletes, Sexual Assault, and ‘Trials by Media’: Narrative Immunity. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Waterhouse-Watson is a academic who writes extensively about sexual violence and the media.  This review is about her book on the ‘Trial’ of athletes by media but I will also refer to the work of Anna Krien Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport (2013).  They both cover sexual violence associated with sport in Australia and take some of the same examples.  Here is Waterhouse-Watson’s review of Krien - that she is insufficiently feminist and too close to the accused footballer.

Waterhouse-Watson book opens with a note on Terminology and - spoiler alert - concludes with an Afterword in which she declares herself once to have been the No 1 fan of the Aussie Rules team the Hawthorn Hawks but now has hung up her scarf and cancelled her membership.  It is sometimes disparagingly said of sports journalists that they are fans with typewriters perhaps we might now warn of academics that to study their favourite sport will end in disillusion.  Sports journalist Walsh is eloquent on the disappointment he felt in discovering his beloved Lance Armstrong was a ‘drugs cheat’, and then resolute in pursuit of him.

She declares in her Introduction:
Disproportionate numbers of elite athletes, at high school, university and professional levels, have been accused of sexual assault as compared with men in the wider community. (2013:1).
She gives no reference for this but a few pages later she later mentions Crosset and BenedictMessner (2002: 26) notes that Crosset found in 1995 ‘athletes’ made up 3.7% of the student population but accounted for 19% of sexual assault reports.  But that 30% of the athlete population were in the money-spinning, contact sports of basketball, football and ice-hockey and they accounted for two thirds of those sexual assaults.

Crosset (1999) is very specific in his abstract:
The current sociological debate on whether male athletes commit more violence against women compared to those who do not participate in organized sport is unproductive and simplistic. Theoretical constructs such as athletic affiliation and rape culture are too broad to capture the unique dynamics of athletes' violence.
And yet Waterhouse-Watson inclines to these wider tropes.  However, she is not a sociologist, letalone a criminologist, but a narratologist and does not rely on those matters.  She seeks to show that footballers are given ‘immunity’ by the media in its ‘trials’ of the players by the ways in which they are spoken of.  Benedict is seen, perhaps correctly, to incline to viewing the actions of sports stars as arising from individual pathology unconstrained, then covered up, by the authorities.  Messner is treated more kindly but still seen to ignore the failure of the criminal justice process.

Waterhouse-Watson states that 55 elite AFL or NRL players since 1999 had ‘been involved in alleged rapes’ (p2) and in an endnote (n2, 219) makes the point that many were not named and that there may be overlaps.  She gives an Appendix (1) that sets out some of that detail but doesn’t refer to that in the body of the text and only in a later end note.  The appendix itself adds some further confusion as both team members and non-playing staff are mixed in (not her fault as relying on news reports).  A quantitative summary and some discussion of methods might have helped.  My small effort in that direction follows.
She lists 22 incidents (that may cover the 55 figure mentioned above) from 1998-2011 plus six others believed to be ‘before 2009’.  The greatest number of men mentioned was an incident in 2002 involving ‘a dozen Cronulla Sharks’ and 2002 the year with the greatest number of incidents involving 12 men in total.  And in the text (p2) 2004 is noted as the third year in a row when the opening of the season began with an alleged sexual assault.  In the 28 incidents in total: 19 ‘no charges’; 4 show the victim pressed no charges; 3 ‘charges laid and later dropped’ and 2 acquitted at trial.
She properly notes the Ched Evans case (and the timing is fortuitous in enabling her to incorporate it) and contrasts it with the Australian cases, in that he was convicted.  Evans, a   Wales football international, was jailed for five years in 2012 after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman at a hotel.  He maintains his innocence. The facts of his case seem very similar to those that she covers. One can see that Evans may think that since his circumstances are no different to cases he does know then he too is innocent.  No supporter of rape, McKinnon notes:
.. men who are in prison for rape think it’s the dumbest thing that ever happened …It is just a miscarriage of justice; they were put in jail for something very little different from what most men do most of the time and call it sex.  The only difference is they got caught.  That view is non remorseful and not rehabilitative.
Waterhouse-Watson does not quote McKinnon, nor when, she discusses Mike Tyson, does she mention Tony Jefferson who has written about as a pro-feminist.  This is a shame because one weakness of the book is the issue of race and ethnicity and it might have assisted her discussion of the footballer’s body (ch 4).  Ethnicity is discussed in respect of some players from the indigenous communities (p 86 and 158) but they are seen largely as ‘footballers’ so receive the immunity due them (chapter 2). 
The first mention of Tyson is aligned with his attorney at appeal, Alan Dershowitz’s, claim that, ‘Whenever I come into a case my client has already been tried and convicted in the press’ (Chancer, 2005: 134). Here Waterhouse-Watson doesn’t pick up enough on the issues of ‘race’ or that Tyson was found guilty in a criminal justice ‘trial’.  Deadlines mean she missed that Alan Dershowitz himself is currently actively contesting sex accusations made against him.
In Chapter 3 she notes the silencing of women victims in both the legal and media trials but this would require a change in the law and the willingness of women to speak out.  Later (p 169) she notes how ‘Sarah’ a victim is allowed only to talk on a TV show about her personal experience but experts and others get to talk about ‘rape’ and ‘football’.  However Krien mentions one young woman Kimberly Duthie, a 16 year old school girl who willingly slept with two St Kilda players and had a relationship with a third.  She was briefly a media sensation when she released naked pictures of the men. She blogged as ‘The small girl, with a big voice’ and still has 13.3k followers on Twitter as @NotASchoolgirl.  She refused to be silenced and possibly because she was voicing the ‘Party Girl’/‘Groupie’ was given much media attention.  Krien is not condemnatory or celebratory but tackles the issue; Waterhouse-Watson does not.  However, she touches on the matter in this journal article.
In chapter 4 on the footballers body it is suggested that the automaticity of and the concentration on the athlete’s body means that whilst the actus reus may be present the mens rea is not.  He is a weapon.
Chapter 5 concentrates on alcohol and team building and brings no surprises; but in modern professional sport it should, perhaps, be more surprising how much alcohol abuse still occurs.
In Chapter 6 she uses Messner (2002: 157/158) to dismiss the ‘education’ offered by the clubs and authorities under their programmes like the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility or the NRL’s Play by the Rules:
I suspect these programs will have little effect, especially when they are one-shot interventions that are not organically linked to longer-term institutional attempts to address men’s violence at its psychological, peer group and organisational roots.
I agree but she does not continue the quote to the point where he still support such efforts in hope that one participant ‘might then take the risk to break the silence and speak out against the dominant discourse and practices of the group’!
In Chapter 7 she addresses the possibility of ‘alternative strategies’.  I cannot address the narratological issues but note the naivety of her reliance on a guide to journalism, Reporting in Australia.  It suggests a level of objectivity and fair-dealing that her own work suggests is rare.
She approvingly quotes two journalists coverage (Jessica Halloran and Jacquelin Magnay’s ‘Bulldogs Party Ended in Woman’s Screams by Pool’) and picks out some good practice then opines that the use of ‘accommodation’ avoids the ‘sordidness’ of ‘hotel’ and ‘the sexualisation of the woman and consequent implication of consent’ (p162).  I think this is far too strong a suggestion when journalistic practice of stylistic variation suggests itself.  Moreover, the term ‘hotel’ appears six times in the article and ‘novotel’ once against two appearances of ‘accommodation’.
Equally contentious are her readings of Cindy Wockner’s interview with a victim who came forward after the report of a similar case to hers (‘Secret Victim Breaks Silence — “It’s Time People knew the Truth”’ - no trace on internet but this article tells of police views on the case that brought her forward).  Waterhouse-Watson suggests that introducing the complainant as, ‘a 43-year old mother’ (About 84,800 results on Sydney Daily Telegraph website!) ‘immediately positions her as an object of illegitimate violence, as the mother marker de-emphasises her sexuality and positions her as a subject of (stereo)typical feminine virtue’ (p164).  Apart from being potentially ageist it ignores the burgeoning number of MILF websites and ‘the rise of the cougar’!
Waterhouse-Watson very successfully puts the Australian media in the dock for their faulty ‘trials’ of these footballers and notes herself
Somewhat ironically the best chance that victims have of seeing players penalised may be the football leagues themselves, as they have no burden of ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ to uphold. (p183)
I hope that it is not just because I am a man that I have criminological and legal concerns about replacing criminal justice trials with narratological or sports authority ones whilst recognising she is right to contest the power of the media to conduct their trials.
She has shown that Australian male sports stars appear to have considerable immunity in rape and sexual assault cases.  But is this more than men more generally? How many non-celebrity men have the same immunity? And is it the celebrity that grants immunity? And is the fan’s worship - including her own - also part of the problem?  We give celebrities too much slack (see Penfould-Mounce).  And, criminological point, we also give them more opportunities. Whether feminist academics or Gold Diggers we feed the delusion that we have given prior consent.
Here I suggest how sport might be used to discuss issues of consent.

She mentions her previous work in various journals for many of the chapters.
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 7

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why I’m declaring myself ‘Professor of Criminology in the Twitterverse’.

I can see why Chris Parr (‘A lifetime’s worth of insight in 140 characters max’, 19 Feb 2015) opens with a ritual nod to popular views of Twitter as ‘a frivolous tool for procrastination’ but it would be nice if we could move on.

He moves on to discuss the value to young academics of Twitter.  I want to emphasise the potential benefits for older academics such as myself.  As part of my commitment to ‘Public Criminology’ I tweet as @criminology4u to 5571 followers.  Only professors David Wilson and Tim Newburn have higher profiles. I once crowned David Britain’s foremost Criminologist in the THE (‘CSI: crime story interpreters’ 23 July 2009). His media output is controversial (Bring Back Borstal met with mixed reviews and many brickbats from criminologists on Twitter) but it brings undergraduate students - and their parents - to Birmingham City University.  Tim’s work on the Riots and all-conquering textbook are only part of his many talents.  Both tweet.

My Twitter following rests entirely on building it up over many years.  I like to think I retweet colleagues generously and take issue politely and appropriately.  It has lead to some invitations to events where professors proliferate and some invites to guest lecture due to pressure generated by student Twitter followers anxious to hear me.  But I want to illustrate the impact this can have with an ironic tale.  My published, peer-reviewed work is eclectic but includes two specifically on public criminology.

I recently found these denounced along with the work of other, better known academics.  I invited the author to do shorter version for my public criminology blog.  He declined and I wrote up the ‘dispute’ myself for my blog as Nic Groombridge, ‘Public Criminologist’ and ‘Master of Truth’ where I suggested he was the elitist not public criminologists.  I noted that in the week of 15 November 2014 my tweets received 3,809 views, that I had 55 new followers with 74 visits to links that I had posted. My most popular tweet that week accounted for one third of those link visits; with one in ten of those viewing visiting the link to his article in Radical Criminology.

I, and he, probably got more coverage from that tweet than any amount of journal publishing which brings me back to my own frivolity and procrastination.  I like to think that if I’d published more I’d be a Professor by now.  But I want now to argue that such is the reach of social media it should be taken into account in selection for titles.  Whilst I wait for the Academy to catch up I’m declaring myself ‘Professor of Criminology in the Twitterverse’.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Book Review: Rosie Meek's Sport in Prison

Encyclopaedic knowledge of vast material and scrupulous concern for what might and might not be said vis-a-vis whether sport works and what constitutes working and how it might be measured.  However, it usefulness is severely reduced by the poverty of the index.

In this review I concentrate upon the conclusion and one particular chapter that fully discusses her work rather than that of others.  I may return to this book again and post further, or revised, reviews.  I have provided links where possible.  Do suggest more.

Round 1

For every boxer who claims that without the sport he would have ended in prison (for instance Luis Collazo) we might find lists of the ten best boxers who ended up in prison.  And yet we also have Prison Fight a charity which claims world connections but seems only to be Thai-based and uses Thai boxing as rehabilitation and holds out the possibility of amnesty; but to my untutored eye it looks exploitative.

Yet boxing rates only 3 mentions in Meek's book: one to note that in her survey boxing was the favoured activity for inmates though banned at the time (p109); that it had recently been approved for use with non-violent offenders (p33) and that it was now offered in a number of establishments (p28).

In ITV’s Bring Back Borstal the ‘boys’ play a game of Rugby Union against a local team and go on cross country runs - shades of the book and film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - but they do not box.  Several fights break out and a punch ball takes a hammering in Episode 3 to allow one young man to ‘let off some steam'.  In Meek’s mentions and more generally it is not clear whether boxing training - i.e. pad work, speed ball, skipping or running - is meant or more serious sparring or even a boxing match - with headguards and gumshields.  Organisations like Boxing Academy and Fight for Peace use ‘boxing training’.

The playing fields of Portland

But back to Rugby (the RFU) and Association Football (Chelsea) ; which are the subject of Chapter 8 and of her earlier work evaluating the Second Chance Project which with the two boxing projects mentioned above are amongst a number of sports projects further evaluated by Project Oracle. (Stereotypically one might assume an Australian interest in sport and their Institute of Criminology does not disappoint.  And in the UK New Philanthropy Capital has sought to evaluate some of these projects.)

In a piece of Reality TV/public criminology Sky showed Football Behind Bars in 2009 on this subject and at the same institution, HMYOI Portland.  I know full well the problems of such ventures (see ‘I’m Making a TV Programme Here!’ Can Reality TV’s Banged Up and Public Criminology? with Prof David Wilson) but am surprised she does not seem to mention the TV series.  It does receive a mention in the free standing evaluation of the report mentioned above and I know he attended the launch at Twickenham Stadium.

She mentions the controversial Thorn Cross High Intensity Training Centre and the ‘glasshouse’ experience offered by Colchester Military Corrective Training Centre which have some of the intensity which she talks of.  She notes the mixed success both had (Farrington et al).  Indeed much of what follows in the Chapter (as in the whole book) can be seen as falling under the ‘mixed success’ banner, from which might be intuited, ‘occasional or frequent failure’.  And Meek does not shy away form the difficulties of doing good evaluation and the consequent lack of a single good narrative to give to the media, Ministers or public.  However she frequently allows  some hope, for instance suggesting, that the Duke of Edinburgh Award ‘offer some promise’ citing evaluation by Dubberley and Parry.

Moving on to her work she describes the 4 academies over 2 years accepting 79 young men (46% White, 33% black and 21% mixed race, Asian or ‘other’.  On average they were just under 20 years old and the mean for offence category showed 40% were for violence against the person with a wide range from 24 to 63%.  Though self-selected they were ‘broadly representative of the national young adult population according to sentence category’ (p92).  Their Offender Group Reconviction Scale scores ranged widely from 10-85.  Of the 411 prisoners released from Portland in 2010 50% reoffended within one year against the national score of 53%.  And given all the appropriate proviso and health warnings does conclude, ‘this suggests that academy  participants are less likely to reoffend than those who haven’t participated in the academy’ (p94).

At point 5 in ‘Punditry’ blow I mention a table potential indicates of effectiveness.  In this chapter she adumbrates the ‘Intermediate measures of the impact of the sports initiative’ (p94) in the same spirit of more ways to evaluate the skin of act.  These are: Beliefs about Aggression (Farrell, Meyer and White, 2001); Use of non-Violent Strategies (Farrell et al, 2001); Self-esteem (Weinburger and Schwarz, 1990);  Self-concept (Phillips and Springer, 1992); Impulsivity (Bosworth and Espelage, 1995); Conflict Resolution, Impulsivity and Aggression Questionnaire (CRIAQ) (Honess, T., Maguire, M., & Vanstone, M. (2001) and Attitudes towards offending (CRIME PICS II).

As a qualitatively-orientated sociological criminologist I’ll merely advert to my queasiness about trying to put numbers on these matters but must ask the extent to which sportspeople have been subjected to the same tests?  Clearly some have been tested against wider populations.

A quick search of Google Scholar on the list ‘and athletes’ for 2015 reveals:

‘Beliefs about Aggression and athletes’ revealed 542  with doping and sexual violence prominent;

‘Use of non-Violent Strategies and Athletes’ produced only 38 results with Nigeria and Kenya apparently using sport against violence

‘Self-esteem and athletes’ found 673 with work on Obesity, Self-compassion and a meta analysis of the ‘Relationship between self-esteem and aggression amongst Chinese students’;

‘Self-concept and athletes’ returned 237 results with similar mix to ‘self-esteem’;

‘Impulsivity and athletes’ only returned 58 results but the top one, ‘Risk-taking and impulsive personality traits in proficient downhill sports enthusiasts’ by Maher et al, speaks to some of my concerns that sport and crime/deviance not something in a cause effect relationship but dialectically fused.

‘Conflict Resolution, Impulsivity and Aggression Questionnaire and athletes’ produces 58 results but seem mostly to pick up on the words ‘aggressive’ and ‘impulsivity’ but CRIAQ and athletes produced no results.  Clearly plenty of scope for work here.

Of the 270 results for ‘Attitudes towards offending and athletes’ top is one on ‘not-doping’ amongst sports people and the second about students attitudes to cheating!


From Chapter 14 Conclusion I take and discuss a number of points: 

1 “like music and art sport can be used as a ‘hook'" (p170).  She does not use the term 'bait' but acknowledges that a, ' direct research implication of the recognition of the varied uses and different effects of sport and physical activity across the secure estate is the need to make greater efforts to determine which types of sport are most effective in meeting specific aims ... (p179/180).

Note she does not say 'sports' but 'types of sport', so not rugby, soccer, badminton or tiddlywinks but say team versus individual and contact versus non-contact.  Given the class background  of the Borstal pioneers Rugby Union and cross country running might have been their ‘bait’ but soccer or boxing might make for a more attractive hook for inmates now.  She returns to this in her final conclusions, ‘research also needs to concentrate on establishing which sports are more or most useful in prison’.  She seems to mean to the authorities and not to the sports participants.

2 She is very clear that, 'sport in prison can and does offer numerous possibilities and opportunities but that there are also complexities associated with developing, implementing and evaluating sports-based programmes ...' (p171)

She fully understands that these cannot be a 'solution in themselves' (p171)  they must be 'a vehicle by which to implement social, psychological and physical change'.  I incline to the view that sport in prison, like art in prison like sport and art anywhere should be autotelic but see why some might seize on them as 'solutions'.  Indeed both PE/gym staff and sporting organisations (p181) have reason to make claims for the efficiency, effectiveness and economy (As a one-time Home office civil servant I cannot avoid the 'value for money' triple E.)  And she emphasises throughout, 'the importance of robust evaluation' (p178).

3 2 things I didn't know.

I admit I'd not heard of the Council of Europe's Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport or its designation of 2014 as the year of sport in prison (p171). And the internet offers little more information beyond some statements and conferences. Nor did I know of the Rugby Football Union's 'Prison to Pitch' initiative (p175) and there own website only offers a couple of stories about Rugby and Prisons.  But I do know my own club Saracens work with Feltham YOI with their Get Onside initiative. 

4 Turning specifically to the 'negative aspects of prison sport' (p180) she mentions, ‘narcissism, which is associated with anti-social characteristics such as low empathy (Watson & Morris, 1991), exploitativeness (Campbell, Bush, Brunell & Shelton, 2005) and aggressive reactions to threat (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998)’ as having potential for investigation.  Here, narcissism has a specific psychological meaning but its broader, but still psychologically inflected, meaning might have lead us in the direction of masculinities research into homosociality etc or the body, but gender (though women and girls the subject of chapter 5) and sexuality make no appearance in the index though Messerschmidt rates a bibliographic reference.  So no mention of Featherstone or Foucault on ‘the body’.

5 Fascinating in boiling down so much material is Table 14.1 (p182/3) on suggested indicators of effectiveness beyond reoffending with a bibliographic entry for each.  The 17 sections (many have subsections) range from ‘disruption in prison’ to ‘anxiety in sport’.  If only all Government policy were subject to such rigour.

It should be clear that I found this book very valuable and sparked many thoughts which it would be unfair to expect the book to answer all.  It is meticulous in use of academic material and Meek’s concern to track down so many papers and to air so many views is laudable.  It should be of particular interest beyond prison students and administrators to a wider sports world and to evaluators and policy makers.  It is psychology and evaluation heavy quite appropriately but as my comments suggest some sociology, philosophy and gender studies might have broadened its appeal.  However, the index is very poor; there are only 38 entries with multiple undifferentiated entries for the main sports.  This seriously reduces the value of the book to those looking for ‘answers’.

There is enough material in the book to support sport in prison but also to turn against it as 'not proven'.  However, those who would do that might consider the far more expansive and expensive claims made for the Olympics (see for example, the non-hyperbolic Levy and Berger, 2013) and not ask, 'Does sport (or art or faith etc) work?' but ask the autotelic question, 'Are they worth doing in their own right?.  Obviously the answer may still be, ‘no'.