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Directors' message

Welcome to the New Zealand Centre for Sport Policy and Politics! The Centre is grounded in the belief that integrating practical knowledge with rigorous theoretically-informed research is the best strategy for advancing NZ's sport-related aspirations.

Researchers at the Centre are engaged in empirically-based projects surrounding state policies and programmes related to sport, health, exercise, mega-events and physical education.

By combining research with extensive outreach, our mission is to sustain public dialogue and ensure that New Zealanders remain involved in developing workable solutions to the issues facing the sport sector.

To this end, the Centre offers analysis to the media, general public, non-profit organisations, academia and government. We produce research studies, books, editorials/commentary and research reports.

The CSPS reinforces the University of Otago's School of Physical Education, Sport & Exercise Sciences standing as among the leading departments in the world for the academic and applied study of social and public policy issues related to sport.

Mike Sam and Steve Jackson
Directors NZCSPP

Our researchers

Associate Members

  • Erica Junior Appiah (University of Otago)
  • Tammy Bezuidenhoudt
  • Dr Ik Young Chang, (Korea National Sport University)
  • Eleanor Crabill (University of Otago)
  • Professor Sarah Gee (University of Windsor, Canada)
  • Dr Andrew Grainger (Massey University, New Zealand)
  • Tim Dawbin (University of Otago)
  • KyuJin Jin (University of Otago)
  • Dr Yoonjin Kim (University of Otago)
  • Associate Professor Koji Kobayashi (Otaru University of Commerce, Japan)
  • Russell Mawhinney (University of Otago)
  • Luke Macris (University of Otago)
  • Diego Moreno (University of Otago)
  • Haewan Park (University of Otago)
  • Dan Porter (University of Otago)
  • Professor Jay Scherer (University of Alberta, Canada)
  • Professor Eivind Skille (Inland Norway University)
  • Professor Cecilia Stenling (Umea University, Sweden)
  • Dr Minyheok Tak (Loughborough University, UK)
  • Professor Rex Thomson (University of Otago)

Projects and publications

The Professionalisation and Commercialisation of Secondary School Sport

The increasing professionalization of sport in New Zealand over the past 25 years has provided a platform for the globalisation of some sporting codes (particularly rugby, cricket and netball), new forms of entertainment for fans, and new career paths for young athletes.

The fact that SKY TV offers a choice of at least 12 different sport channels highlights the nation's interest in sport but also its value as a media commodity. However, while the growth of professional sport has wide ranging benefits this has also had a number of unintended, but often predictable, consequences.

Professionalisation tends to lead to:

  1. competition between sporting codes to identify and recruit future stars,
  2. the development of elite sport academies that become feeder systems for elite sport,
  3. early specialisation of young athletes and pressure to train longer and harder,
  4. competition between secondary schools to invest enormous amounts of money into recruiting (and poaching) top athletes for the sole purpose of winning championships and elevating status and prestige.

Some principals, sport administrators and school principals have described the current situation as a crisis and have identified the emergence of the New Zealand Sport Collective (NZSC) as symbolic of wider systemic problems with school sport that could be impacting on the health and well-being of young athletes. According to their website, the NZ Sport Collective: “…is a ground-breaking collaboration between more than 50 sports, created and brought together by Waddell+Associates”.

In 2020, it was announced that School Sport New Zealand (NZSSSC), the body that administers and co-ordinates secondary school sport, had signed an agreement with the NZ Sports Collective giving Sky TV exclusive rights to stream or broadcast a number of tournaments and events on its “Sky Sport Next” Channel.

While the deal was welcomed by some NZ sport organisations, it was a surprise and shock to others, including some principals who indicated they were not consulted. Curiously, the commercialisation of NZ secondary school sport comes at a time when the government, including Sport New Zealand, has signalled a shift in policy from investment elite, high performance sport to a focus on participation.

There are many reasons for this shift in policy but declining rates of youth participation is one of them.

The commercialisation of secondary school sport, including the media broadcast deal signed between the NZ Sport Collective and Sky TV raises a wide range of concerns that require scrutiny, evaluation and research-informed policy in order to protect young athletes and the integrity of sport. In particular, public discussion and research is required to address concerns related to:

  • The professionalisation and commercialisation of secondary school sport
  • Impact on Academic Achievement and grassroots sports
  • Child protection and the health and well-being of young athletes
  • Youth athlete burnout
  • Use of Performance Enhancing Supplements
  • Match fixing
  • Gender equity and funding distribution

Related information

Stadia, states and  citizens

There is  little doubt that sport holds a prominent place within cities.  Stadia are some of the most striking  structures on urban skylines, and are significant for the simple fact that they  generate so many spill-over effects including: the need to relocate or displace  nature, heritage buildings and even citizens, to the need for added public  transport and parking facilities.  Beyond  these effects, contemporary civic connections with sport are also significant  because they so often reveal a complex process of constructing a credible (but  fragile) sense of identity for local citizens.   It is telling for instance, that when civic elites extol (and conflate)  sport's links with 'community', they do so for the simple reason that to speak  out against one is to speak out against the other. [more]

Sport and alcohol  sponsorship

According to a 2015 Sport New Zealand report, alcohol  sponsorship of sport is worth 21.3 million dollars per year. Multiplying this  amount across all nations, including those with much larger populations and  both sporting and alcohol economies, and it is quickly evident that we are  talking about a billion dollar partnership. Indeed, while there are exceptions,  by and large alcohol and alcohol sponsorship literally saturates contemporary  sport. To be clear this is not a new phenomenon, the sport-alcohol relationship  has a long history but it has certainly reached new heights and is now being  targeted as both part of the problem and part of the solution to New Zealand's  binge drinking culture. [more]

Sport and national  identity

Despite all its limitations, sport remains one of, if not the  most, important sources of national identification for many nation-states.  Perhaps due to its long history, seeming separation from the serious side of  everyday political life, and its sheer popularity reinforced through global  mediated inter-national competitions, sport serves as a strategic site for the  development of national cohesion and identity. As Clarke & Clarke (1982: 65-66) note:  “there is an articulation between sport and  political nationalism which can only exist because of the popular  identification of particular athletes and teams as representatives of  ourselves...Sport is a forum that allows the construction of the nation as 'us'  - rising above and displacing whatever minor internal divisions there may be”.  The strong links between sport and nationalism provide it with enormous  symbolic and political power that can be used by particular groups to advance  their interests.  [more]

High performance  sport policy

New Zealand Government funding towards elite sport has increased  dramatically in the last decade, from $2 million in 2001 to $60 million in  2012/13.  The high performance sport  system is a distinctive context, but one certainly not insulated from the wider  political environment.  Indeed it has  inherited and to a large extent embraced the state's increasing emphasis on  accountability for results.  Medal  targets have thus become an explicit driver in elite sport, with performance  management evolving to become a policy of sorts, manifest most particularly in  the form of prioritised (i.e., targeted) funding for selected sports.  The rhetoric of 'no compromise' pervades as  both the justification for investment distributions as well as a kind of modus operandi for the system more  broadly. [more]

Sport and diplomacy

Sport continues to occupy a rather ambiguous  position within the context of politics, foreign policy  and diplomatic relations (Jackson and Haigh,  2009; Kuper, 2006; Levermore and Budd, 2004).
While there is much popular and scholarly  speculation concerning why this is the case, one potential  reason is the rather schizophrenic way in which  sport, as a cultural site and practice, is viewed
within society. The term “schizophrenic” is used  to highlight the conflicting and contradictory  ways in which sport is considered both serious  and important but insignificant and trivial at different
times, in different contexts and by people  representing different interest groups.

Ultimately, while some people may wish  to continue to argue whether or not sport “should” remain pure and above and  beyond politics, the fact is that it could not be otherwise—sport has always  been and will remain a part of political life (Allison, 1993; Houlihan, 1994).  Indeed, the more important sport becomes with respect to both its social and  economic impact, both locally and globally, the more political it will become.  Arguably, we should  neither overstate nor understate the diplomatic potential of sport, but rather  seek to understand the nature and effects of its use with respect to diplomacy.  This challenges us to consider diplomacy within sport, diplomacy for sport and diplomacy through sport. [more]

Sport policy in  small states

Within the context of sport, serious questions are being  asked about how small states are supposed to compete against giants like the  USA, China, Russia, Brazil and Germany. How much money should be spent on elite  sport development and/or the hosting of sport mega-events in what is quickly  becoming the equivalent of a 'sporting arms race'? At first glance, the fate  and future of small states seems obvious. For example, according to recent  estimates, China has 400 million basketball participants. Even if this is an  overestimation, it provides a significant contrast to observations that 60% of  the world's states have populations of less than 10 million and 48% of states  have less than 5 million inhabitants. When it comes to sport, size 'matters',  and hence differences in scale have been a frequent independent variable in  studies examining elite sport success.  Generating  explanations regarding how and why size matters for sport raises numerous  questions regarding the possible differences, challenges and opportunities of  being a small state. [more]

Sport and gambling

Betting/gambling  has become an integral, one might argue, natural part of contemporary sport  culture. However, the enduring relationship between the two cultural fields of  'sport' and 'betting/gambling' has always been troubled because of the  potential threat to the very essence and integrity of  sport which is largely linked to its  unpredictability, its uncertainty of outcome. This issue has become a major  issue for all sport organisations in light of a dramatic increase in the number  of cases of match-fixing. According to former President of the IOC, Jacque Rogge, “We have made doping a top  priority, now there is a new danger coming up that almost all countries have  been affected by and that is corruption, match-fixing and illegal gambling” (quoted in Kelso, July 25, 2012). [more]

Sport and  broadcasting

Pay-TV networks invest heavily to purchase the  exclusive rights to various sporting properties, now frequently bundled into  multi-platform packages (e.g., pay-TV, free-to-air and digital/online rights).  These developments have radically expanded the viewing  options of sports fans, while at the same time  providing vast amounts of revenue for various governing bodies, teams, and  leagues around the world.  A corollary of these  developments, though, has been the restriction of access to live telecasts of  sport to fans and consumers who can afford  subscription fees to digital specialty channels.   Indeed, as new generations grow up with internet  TV and mobile phones, paying for infotainment products including access to  digital sport is increasingly seen as 'natural'.  Given the significance of sport as an element  of national identity, it is unsurprising that the issue of 'free-to-air' access  to sporting telecasts has spurred political dialogue and debate.  [more]

Gender and  Governance

Community sport  policy

Bodies, cultures  and society

International Advisory  Board

  • Professor Barrie Houlihan, Loughborough University, UK
  • Professor Fred Coalter, Carnegie Research Centre, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Professor Lars Tore Ronglan, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences
  • Professor Pasi Koski, University of Turku, Finland
  • Professor Peter Donnelly, Centre for Sport Policy, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Professor Bruce Kidd, Centre for Sport Policy, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Professor Kristine Toohey, Griffith University, Australia
  • Associate Professor Toni Bruce, University of Auckland, NZ
  • Dr Joseph Piggin, Loughborough University, UK
  • Professor Marchi Wanderley , University of Parana, Brazil
  • Professor Fernando Mezzadri,University of Parana, Brazil
  • Professor Brian Wilson, University of British Columbia, Canada
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