“We want more diversity but…”: resisting diversity in recreational sports clubs

Ramón Spaaij, Annelies Knoppers, Ruth Jeanes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    82 Citations (Scopus)


    Participation in sport is highly valued by governments and policy makers. Policies and programs encourage participation of populations who are underrepresented in sport. In many countries sport participation is possible primarily under the auspices of voluntary sports clubs, many of which name demographic diversity as an organizational value. Underrepresented population groups continue to lag, however, in participating in sports clubs. Change has been slow in coming. Relatively little research focuses on resistance by those in positions of leadership to the entry or involvement of underrepresented or marginalized population groups into sports clubs. The purpose of this paper is to develop insight into why change may be so slow in coming even though demographic diversity is purportedly highly valued. Drawing on Raby's (2005) conceptualizations of practices of resistance, on empirical research on diversity in recreational sports clubs and on work by Foucault, the authors identify six discursive practices that those in positions of leadership in sport clubs draw on to resist diversity: speech acts, moral boundary work, in-group essentialism, denial/silencing, self-victimization, and bodily inscription. The authors conclude that resistance to diversity in sport clubs has emerged from a confluence of discourses that enable noncompliance at the micro level with the use of a macro-level discourse of diversity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)363-373
    Number of pages11
    JournalSport Management Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


    • Community sport
    • Discursive practices
    • Diversity
    • Leadership
    • Resistance
    • Sport organizations

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