John Bale. Handbook of Sports Studies. Editor: Jay Coakley & Eric Dunning. 2000. Sage Publishing.
A number of academic disciplines, for example sociology, philosophy, psychology and history, each have their sport-related subdiscipline with its academic journals, regular conferences and academic associations. The same cannot be said of geography. Yet it would be difficult to deny that a geography of sport exists and that it constitutes a corpus of scholarship that focuses, in particular, on regional, spatial and landscape aspects of sports. Inevitably there is an overlap between the work of geographers qua geographers and those undertaking work of a geographical nature in cognate disciplines; and as disciplinary boundaries begin to collapse, this tendency is likely to continue. This chapter will concentrate mainly—but not entirely—on the work of professional geographers and their approaches to the study of achievement sport. The considerable geographical coverage afforded recreation and leisure cannot be included in the space available here, even if it is accepted that the distinction between sport and recreation is, at times, somewhat blurred. (Patmore, 1970, 1983)
The contributions made by geographers to interdisciplinary studies of sport during the past several decades are relatively easy to see. For example, in the United States Rooney (1975) contributed to the collection of essays in Ball and Loy’s sociological overview of sports; Bale (1991a, 1991b, 1992a, 1993a, 1998) has contributed to various collections of essays on European soccer; in France Matthieu (1991), Praicheux (1991) and Augustin (1995) have vigorously supported various interdisciplinary initiatives; and in Sweden Moen (1993) and Aldskogius (1993a) have ensured the inclusion of sport in the Swedish National Atlas. These writers are but the tip of a large pyramid of geographers involved in contributing to sports studies. In addition, it is worth noting that scholars in sports history and sports sociology have been discovering space and place at the same time as geographers have been discovering sports. In the 1990s collections edited by scholars outside geography were published on Sport in Space and Time(Weiss and Schultz, 1995) and Sport and Space (Riiskjær, 1993); a special issue of the International Review for the Sociology of Sport covered the same subject (Púig and Ingham, 1993). From the contents of these publications it is often unclear to which academic ‘disciplines’ the various contributors are nominally attached. The same is true of other edited collections to which geographers have contributed, on such diverse subjects as the global migration of sports talent (Bale and Maguire, 1994) and the significance of the stadium to the modern city (Bale and Moen, 1995). Indeed, these kinds of projects seem to reflect the sort of ‘disciplinary’ synthesis between the history, geography and sociology of sport for which Maguire (1995) has called.
This review is structured around five themes. First, I outline the emergence and context of a geography of sport, including a brief consideration of the rationale of a geographical approach. The second section of the chapter describes the dominant paradigm in sports-geographic writing, that of geographical variations in sporting attributes. This is followed by a section on the spatial dynamics of sports. A fourth area focuses on the spatial-economic and environmental impact of sports, examining the nature of the impacts and their spatial dimensions. The final section explores the landscape of sports. These are not discrete entities and obviously considerable overlap exists. They do, nevertheless, serve as a useful organizing framework.
Rationale and Debates
The basic rationale for a geography of sport is that sports exist in time and space. While historical studies of sports have been relatively well developed, they have often been insensitive to the geographical dimensions of the historical trajectories which they describe (though see, for example, Metcalfe, 1990). The same might be said of sociological and anthropological studies of sport where, until recently, the spatial (geographical) dimension has been muted. It is also clear, however, that sports and geography share some conceptual bases. In sports two fundamental geographical concepts, space and place, are central essences. Sports are struggles over space; indeed, in most other areas of our lives space limitations are rather opaque, while in sports they are made thematic and integral; spatial rules govern us in more arbitrary ways in sport than in everyday life (Hyland, 1990). And sports teams almost always represent a place; people identify with a place through sport, arguably more so than through any other form of culture; we talk of ‘representational’ sports. The centrality of space and place in sports suggests that there is potential for a geographical theory of sports, but little has been done to probe further in this direction.
There is a general feeling within geography that the geography of sport is a marginal subdiscipline. It was only in the third edition of The Dictionary of Human Geography (Johnston et al., 1994) that it earned a modest, but unsatisfactory, entry. Nevertheless, some debates on the subdiscipline have occurred and these raise interesting questions and provide important insights about sport—and the nature of scientific enquiry. The widely perceived marginality of a geography of sport formed the subject of a minor debate around Dear’s (1988: 271) view that a ‘geography of sport is not central to the structure and explanation of geographical knowledge.’ Dear prioritized fields such as political, social and economic geography—ignoring the fact that sport is political, social and economic and therefore part of each of these geographies. Scott and Simpson-Housley (1989) challenged Dear’s view by observing that ‘the conditions predominating in any given field of study dictate which subdiscipline is more or less fruitful.’ They added, as an example, that ‘the geography of the sport of soccer governs key aspects of political, social and economic conditions of Rio de Janeiro, rather than vice versa.’ It has also been argued, in relation to Dear’s comments, that insights about the workings of human society can often be found from the most marginal of sources. Hence, a case can readily be made for studying (what many regard as the ‘marginal’ phenomenon of) sport, which may be
exceedingly helpful as we try to unravel the mysteries bound up in how geographical knowledge is constructed outside of the academy, and in how the everyday senses that people possess of themselves, their societies and their worlds have rolled into them sensations of bodies in movement through immediate surroundings as well as feelings of commonality sedimented in collective events, games, rituals and spectacles which so often embrace a sports component. (Philo, 1994)
What should be added, however, is that sports are not only significant as ‘representations’ of places and as ‘rituals and spectacles’ but also as examples of ‘disciplinary mechanisms.’
The ways in which geographers have treated the study of sports cannot be understood outside the changes that have occurred in geography itself. An early paper in The National Geographic Magazine (Hildebrand, 1919) explained the games and sports which people played as being related to the physical environment in which they lived. Such an approach was understandable, given the prevailing geographical paradigm of environmental determinism. In academic writing this organizing framework continued to link sport and geography as late as the 1950s (Richards, 1953) and still lingers on in popular writing. From the late 1960s onwards, however, geography has been subjected to a number of philosophical shifts (Johnston, 1991), illustrated by the large number of ‘adjectival geographies’ and ‘specialty groups’ which have sprung up to accommodate the geography of almost anything.
An early attempt to provide an organizing schema for sports-geographic study was Rooney’s (1975) ‘conceptual framework for the geographical analysis of sport.’ This was not a geographical model or theory of sport but a framework for its exploration. He suggested three possible approaches. These were:
- A topical approach which starts with a sport (or sport per se) and identifies the location of its prototypes and points of origin, its spatial diffusion, spatial organization and regionalization;
- A regional approach which, having drawn up an inventory of an area’s sports, analyses their spatial organization, the spatial variation and regionalization of involvement and interest, the internal and external spatial interaction associated with sport, an assessment of sports’ impacts on the landscape, and prescriptions for spatial reorganization;
- An approach focusing specifically on the changing landscape of sport through time and the impact of changes in sport technology.
Although undoubtedly helpful in assisting with many sports-geographic studies, there is little in this framework that draws specifically on the inherently geographical nature of sport itself. It could be used for the analysis of virtually any terrestrial phenomenon. It does not seek to construct a theory out of the geographical concepts which are intrinsic to modern sports—those of space and place. Nor does it draw on two of the norms of sport which have clear geographical manifestations—fair play and achievement-orientation. This is a theme to which I will return in the final section of the chapter.
A Fetish of Cartography?
Despite the eclecticism of geographical enquiry, it is clear that since the late 1960s the major focus for sports-geographic writing has been one which explores regional variations in sports attributes. This approach marries geography’s regional framework (that is, a concern with regional variability) with a positivist philosophy which seeks to find general patterns of spatial distribution. Hence, Rooney—unquestionably the father of modern sports geography (Louder, 1991)—and a large number of his followers, have tended to identify a geography of sport with the search for ‘sports regions,’ using the map as the principal tool of analysis. Rooney’s (1969) seminal study of the geographical implications of football in the United States illustrates such an approach. Although Rooney’s general approach had been anticipated by a sociological study of the geographical origins of professional baseball players (Lehman, 1940) and a medical anthropologist’s ‘geographical’ analysis of the 1952 Olympics (Jokl, 1965), he was the first to publish his findings in a mainstream academic geographical journal and to apply widely the geographer’s tool of the map in describing his findings. His work also inspired a long line of studies that imitated his approach. Rooney’s basic research problem, replicated in his book on the geography of American sport (Rooney, 1974), was to identify geographical variations in the ‘production’ of élite sports participants. He did this by establishing the number of high-school athletes per state who were recruited by NCAA Division 1 colleges and universities in each of the major sports. He adjusted each state’s absolute ‘output’ by taking into account the state population and represented variations from the national average with a per capita index of state production. He applied the same technique to the county scale. A typical map which represents this genre is shown in Figure 10.1.
A wide variety of sports have been analysed through the use of the ‘per capita’ or ‘regional’ approach. From examples taken almost at random, these range from the spatial analysis of rugby players in South Africa (Marais, 1979) to that of the world production of tennis players (Dumolard and Robert, 1989) and from the geographic origins of footballers at Pennsylvanian colleges (Schnell, 1990) to the spatial pattern of production of race horses in Ireland (Lewis and McCarthy, 1977).
An advantage of the data used in studies such as those outlined above is that they allow comparisons of geographic variations in player production (and, for example, facility provision) over time. This has enabled Rooney’s 1960s analyses to be regularly updated with geographic shifts in the centres of production for each sport being monitored (Rooney and Pillsbury, 1992). Other such studies have included the changing geographical origins of British soccer players, which showed that although in 1950 and 1980 most players per capita came from the North (per capita indices of 2.45 and 2.05 respectively), by 1980 the polarization of production between North and the South had been reduced (the respective indices for the South East being 0.39 and 0.69). Indeed, in absolute terms, Greater London had become the major producer, with 13.4 per cent of professional footballers coming from the metropolis compared with only 6.2 per cent in 1950 (Bale, 1989). A similar approach has been used in analysing the geography of professional footballers in France (Matthieu, 1991) and, taking a much longer time period, the changing pattern of birthplaces of major league baseball players from 1875 to 1988 (Ojala and Gadwood, 1989). The number of such studies is potentially endless.
It is not only the analysis of where players come from that has attracted geographical interest. Variations in the distribution of facilities are also worthy of analysis. Whereas knowing where players grew up assists in their recruitment, knowing where facilities are found alerts planners or developers to gaps in the market. Multi-factor regionalization provides evidence of ‘sports regions’ which are of use in marketing. The geographical variations that exist in the provision of sports facilities such as sports halls, running tracks or golf courses traditionally attracted the interest of geographers whose primary interest was in recreation and leisure (for example, Patmore, 1970, 1983). Among geographers of sports, Rooney (1993; Adams and Rooney, 1989; Rooney and Higley, 1992) has been particularly active in analysing the changing geographical patterns of golf provision in the United States. An allied group of studies have been concerned with the location of sports clubs and franchises. These have adopted a similar approach to that outlined above (for example, Bale, 1982a; Matthieu, 1991; Matthieu and Praicheux, 1989; Moen, 1993). They basically describe where things are.
The cartographic approach logically lends itself to a particular genre of publication, a number of which have emerged in recent years. These are national atlases of sport. As might be expected, that for the United States (Rooney and Pillsbury, 1992) is the largest and most ambitious. It contains the work of a number of Rooney’s former students and covers a very wide variety of American sports. It represents the pinnacle of sports-geographic research from this particular perspective. More modest sports atlases have been produced in France (Matthieu and Praicheux, 1987) and Canada (Dudycha et al., 1983). In Sweden, sections on various aspects of sports are found in the volume of the national atlas dealing with cultural life, recreation and tourism (Aldskogius, 1993a).
A somewhat different approach attempts to predict where sports franchises or clubs ought to be according to certain norms. In the United States, such an approach has been developed most elegantly by McConnell and McCulloch (1992), who produced a model of a ‘geographically rational’ National Football League in the United States. They drew attention to the geographical irrationality of the NFL, pointing out, for example, that only eight of the League’s 28 teams were located in the same geographical division (that is, ‘regional’ organization) as their nearest neighbours. In order to minimize the distances between nearest neighbours, various scenarios were drawn up which served to minimize aggregate travel distance per season and produce compact divisions within conferences. In the constitution of sports leagues such modelling is valuable in suggesting more economically appropriate locations. Another study utilized one of geography’s most well-known theories to investigate the premise that the Canadian city of Saskatoon had the potential to support a National Hockey League franchise despite the fact that central place theory predicted that its fixed ‘threshold population’ was too small (Geddart and Semple, 1987). It was argued that, despite a small metropolitan population, fan interest levels were very high, that there was a tradition of long-distance travel to Saskatoon by an affluent hinterland population, and that the competition from alternative entertainment options was minimal. Similar studies have been undertaken by scholars in cognate disciplines, such as one which sought to identify the optimal location of new entrants to the English Football League (Rivett, 1975).
The Spatial Dynamics of Sports
The static patterns described in the maps such as Figure 10.1 are complemented in a number of other studies that explore the time-space dynamism of the world of sports. Such studies focus on a number of themes, for example, the diffusion of sports and of sports innovations, migratory flows of sports participants from one region to another and the re-location of sports clubs. They can be dealt with here under each of those sub-headings.
Geographical Diffusion and Sport
Social scientists have shown a long-standing interest in the geographical diffusion of sports and games (Tylor 1880) but only a small number of studies have applied explicitly geographical approaches to this subject. The most well-known model of geographical diffusion is that formulated by Torsten Hägerstrand (1968). Essentially, the model predicts an ‘adoption surface’ upon which the contours marking the time-space extent of different ‘waves’ of innovation diffusion can be mapped. It is basically argued that an innovation is adopted in relation to both hierarchical and distance-based factors. In other words, the unit of adoption (for example, a city or nation) will adopt an innovation depending on its position both on an economic hierarchy (for example, town size) and its distance from the initial adopter of the innovation. This model has been used in two contexts by Bale (1978, 1982b). The first explored the spatial diffusion of professionalism in English soccer. The twin hierarchical and distance-based model was found to fit the pattern of diffusion of the innovation as it spread away from the ‘culture hearth’ of professionalism in Lancashire. At the regional—if not the national—level, town size was also of importance. The second study took different sports (soccer, athletics and gymnastics) as innovations and explored their spatial diffusion in Europe. Again, hierarchical and distance-based components were observed (Bale, 1982b). A similar study, which took religious orientation as the dependent variable, was undertaken by Hurtebize (1991). The problem with these kinds of studies is that of operationalizing the notion of ‘adoption.’ Taking the date of foundation of a national governing bureaucracy for a sport as a surrogate for its adoption can produce spurious evidence of spatial regularity in the ‘diffusion process.’ De facto adoption could have occurred much earlier than the date indicated by the formal bureaucratization.
A somewhat different approach to geographical diffusion has been adopted by the Australian geographer Clive Forster (1986, 1988). He focuses on the development of a spatial pattern of country cricket in South Australia from the 1830s to the 1910s and finds that the changing character of clubs’ fixtures—‘the problem of applied geography in organizing a cricket season’—reflected changes in population density, transport provision and economic prosperity. More recently, it has been recognized that such approaches are better replaced by those that are much more sensitive to the role of carriers of the innovation (Mangan, 1986) and the social processes through which information flows are differentially constituted (Bale and Sang, 1996).
Sports Talent Migration
A logical outcome of the kinds of studies pioneered by Rooney has been the analysis of the migration of sports talent. From Rooney’s maps (for example, Figure 10.1) it is obvious that some regions produce more (say) footballers than their in-state universities can consume while others do not produce enough for their in-state needs. Using this notion of surplus and deficit regions, Rooney was able to map the inter-regional flows of sports talent between states. Through this approach he also addressed the problem of the abuses which exist in the USA in the recruiting of high-school sports talent to the nation’s universities (Rooney, 1987). Sports sociologists Sage and Loy (1978), inspired by Rooney’s approach, applied his general ideas, with considerable sociological embellishment, to the study of the geographical mobility patterns of US college sports coaches.
A more technical approach to sports talent migration was adopted by McConnell (1983, 1984) who, in a study of the migration of collegiate footballers from Florida, attempted to predict such migration patterns by use of the ‘gravity model’ which was used to test the hypothesis that the number of Floridians varied directly with gravitational attraction (that is, distance from Florida and size of state). The model was generally successful, gravitational attraction ‘explaining’ about 57 per cent of the variation in the number of players from Florida.
A somewhat different approach to migration involved the question of whether the escalation in player earnings, following the adoption of ‘free agency’ in US baseball, had led to a change in the migratory behaviour of baseball professionals. It was hypothesized that the attachment between players and the cities they ‘represented’ through their teams had weakened following the successful challenge to the ‘reserve clause.’ It was found that with increased wealth the players no longer felt committed to the city in which their team played and would reside elsewhere during the off-season. They did not have to change their residential location, as had occurred in the days of the reserve clause and the geographical linkage between player residence and the team he played for had weakened (Shelley and Shelley, 1993).
Talent migration in sport is not restricted to the national scale. Ojala and Gadwood (1989) noted that during a 112-year period, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic had each supplied more baseball players to the US Major Leagues than many of the states in the USA itself. Such international migration of sports talent has attracted considerable research in recent years among geographers and others. For example, Klein (1991) has researched the impact on the Dominican Republic of the long-standing migration of the nation’s baseball players to the US. He recognizes such migration as a form of ‘underdevelopment.’ Maguire (1994a) has examined the flow of Americans into English basketball, basing his approach on figurational sociology. Among geographers, Bale (1991c) explored the recruitment of foreign students by US colleges and universities; Genest (1991, 1994) has examined the global migration of Canadian ice hockey players; and Bale and Sang (1996) have seen Kenyan track and field athletics as the outcome of a wide variety of long- and short-term global flows, both in and out of the country. A set of interdisciplinary essays on this subject tend to differ from the more traditional geographical approach in that ‘patterns on the map’ are not seen as unproblematic (Bale and Maguire, 1994).
The Re-location of Sports Clubs and Franchises
The re-location of sports clubs and franchises is a topical subject in many countries of the Western world. As a result of a variety of pressures resulting from planning and economic considerations, professional sports clubs are increasingly seeking to relocate at both urban and national scales. International relocation already exists in North America and has been mooted in Europe.
Relatively little work has been undertaken by geographers into this phenomenon, despite the fact that locational change takes place at a variety of scales. At the intra-urban scale Moen (1990) undertook an exhaustive analysis of the changing intra-urban pattern of sports sites in the Swedish cities of Borås and Uppsala. He observed a twin process of suburbanization and increased clustering of sports facilities at this level of scale. At the state level, Leib (1990) showed the instability of the geographical distribution of Minor League baseball club locations in Pennsylvania from 1902 to 1989 but it has been left to sociologists and economists to explore in a more interpretive way the locational dynamics of sports teams and franchises at the continental level. For example, Euchner (1993) has carefully charted the rationale for team relocation and new stadium developments in the United States. The most detailed analysis of the urban-political structures and agencies involved in locational change in franchises is probably that of Schimmel (1995), whose detailed study of the move of the Baltimore Colts football outfit to Indianapolis not only includes the geographical details of the move but also the urban-political machinations and an excellent review of urban economics and political economy (see also Ingham et al., 1987). The situation for the US is summed up as follows:
Overwhelming evidence shows that sports franchises and facilities do little to revive a local economy, but states and cities continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get teams. Boosters promise the revival of neighborhoods, higher tax revenues, the attraction of new firms to the city, and even the amelioration of racial and ethnic strife. Ignoring the evidence, cities accept the grandiose claims. (Euchner, 1993: 185)
In Britain, the recommendations of the Taylor Report (1990) into the football (soccer) industry have led to scenarios for stadium relocation coming into conflict with planning policy and practice (Black and Lloyd, 1992, 1994). The way in which the notion of ‘community’ is invoked by both the relocating club and those opposing its relocation on the grounds that it constitutes a ‘noxious facility’ is explored in a study of the relocation plans of Portsmouth FC in England (Burnett, 1994).
In addition to the physical relocation of clubs it is also possible to observe the relocation of success. Using various geo-statistical analyses, Waylen and Snook (1990) noted that while the composition of the League had been more or less constant from 1920 to 1987, there had been a marked southward shift in the location of the more successful teams. A similar analysis of shifts in regional soccer success has been undertaken in The Netherlands (Volkers and Van Dam, 1992).
The above analyses form a group of geographical studies which often go under the collective term of ‘spatial analysis.’ This can be reduced to a series of patterns made up alternatively of points, lines, flows, movements and surfaces which provide some of the basic concepts of a ‘spatial’ approach to geography. A detailed analysis by Loïc Ravenel (1997) integrates these spatial analytic concepts and applies a variety of spatio-statistical techniques as part of a monumental study of top-class football in France (see also Ravenel, 1998).
There is another form of such spatial analytic studies which geographers have addressed, but at a rather different level of geographic scale—that of the field of play. One of the premier geographers in the United States, Peter Gould (Gould and Gattrell, 1979; Gould and Greenwalt, 1981) has researched such studies, which focus on the micro-spatial interaction of players themselves. In doing so, he used a statistical technique called multidimensional scaling which sought to explore the asymmetries in team interaction and, hence, ‘the structure of a game.’
The spatial analytic studies outlined above follow positivist scientific philosophies. These have been the most typical kinds of geographical studies of achievement-sport. Such work has not gone unrecognized. Rooney’s (1969) seminal paper was warmly applauded by none other than the writer James Michener (1976: 303–6), who found it the most interesting of all the books he consulted for his mammoth Sports in America. However, while undoubtedly interesting and painstakingly researched, such studies have not been without criticism from geographers and others who have sought to locate a geography of sport within the broader academic arena of social and cultural studies. For example, Ley (1985) observed that
While the maps are of great interest and their compilation is no small task, they exemplify a research style where description takes precedence over interpretation. Maps of the spatial origins of professional sports players, to take one theme, invite interpretive accounts of the places and practices which produced such ‘social facts.’ (p. 417)
He then noted that such a research agenda could be found by referring to work in the sociology of sport. Badenhorst (1988) critiqued the geography of sport for exploring diffusion patterns to the exclusion of processes and noted the relative isolation of scholars in the subdiscipline of sports geography from the broader field of cultural geography. Likewise, the sports sociologists Jarvie and Maguire (1994) pointed to the reification of space in such studies. Nevertheless, more interpretive accounts which draw on social and cultural theory (Springwood, 1996), as well as the ‘new’ cultural geography (Philo, 1991) will be found in studies described in later sections of this chapter.
Sport and Spillovers
A group of studies somewhat different from those noted above seek to identify the spatial and environmental impact of sports events. The place of sport in regional economic development has been most comprehensively reviewed, citing mainly French evidence, by Goiugnet and Nys (1993), and only a few examples of the kind of geographical work in this area can be noted here. They draw their inspiration, not only from regional and welfare economics but also from more humanistic sources.
By far the largest number of ‘spillover studies’ of sports have addressed what are termed ‘hallmark events.’ These are global or continental sporting spectacles where the preparation for the event, as much as the effects of them at the time they are held, can induce considerable landscape change. A lengthy book of essays on The Planning and Evaluation of Hallmark Events (Symes et al., 1989) includes contributions on the economic and environmental impact of events such as the America’s Cup on Freemantle, the Adelaide motor cycling Grand Prix, and the Calgary Winter Olympics. The latter study argued that the impact of the 1988 Winter Games went well beyond the construction of new facilities and the events themselves (Hiller, 1989). Because of the limitations on spectators and the limited duration of the event, the media became the key in redefining and projecting to the world the image of the city of Calgary as one which had come of age through recent economic development.
Studies of the spatial impact of, say, an annual ice hockey tournament (Marsh, 1984) utilize ideas such as the regional multiplier to arrive at the wealth generated in a region as a result of the event. What such a study is basically doing is to establish the economic spillover effects of a sporting event on the local area in which it takes place. Likewise, studies of the construction of new facilities for a ‘hallmark’ event can indicate the job-creation effects of the construction of facilities (Foley, 1991). The tacit objective of such studies is to explore the positive economic spillovers, that is, income or jobs generated within the region as a direct or indirect result of the event. It is widely regarded that the impact of stadium development, in particular, is much less than is widely perceived. Studies into such impacts have been relatively widespread in the United States though they have been undertaken mainly by scholars from economics (Baade, 1995; Baade and Dye, 1990) rather than geography. A Swedish study by Aldskogius (1993b, 1994, 1995) best illustrates the geographical approach. The small town of Leksand is well known in Sweden because of the disproportionate significance of its ice hockey team. Aldskogius (1993b, 1994) was able to show that the impact of Leksand was felt well beyond the town itself, supporter club affiliations extending, for example, from the north to the south of the country. It was indeed the case of a great club in a small town.
These positivistic studies have been complemented by more humanistic explorations which have sought to explore non-financial benefits of the presence of sports clubs on local fans and residents. Basing his ideas mainly on the work of the Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan (1974), Bale (1991b, 1993b) used Tuan’s notion of ‘topophilia’ (a love of place) to describe the love and affection fans have for ‘their stadium.’ He used ‘softer’ indicators than those used by economists, taking, for example, the words of fans from football programmes and fanzines. A strong attachment to these places gives them ‘meaning’; they become places to be defended against destruction and the sense of place they engender is close to being in love with a place, with a strength of attachment often underestimated by planners. A particularly dramatic case in Britain was that of the popular activism of fans of Charlton Athletic to return the club to its ‘home’ at The Valley in the face of pressures for the club to ground-share in another part of London (Everitt, 1991).
Such expressions of localism reflect the strength of the sport-place bond. The success—even the existence—of a local ‘representative’ in the form of a sports team may create a sense of place and provide ‘psychic’ income. The feel-good factor as generated by sports success has been explored in the context of Sunderland’s surprise FA Cup Final victory in 1973 (Derrick and McRory, 1973). It was found that the improved fortunes of the local football team had been associated with a decrease in vandalism in the town, better behaviour of football crowds, a boost to the city’s image and increased output in local factories. A more sensitive and in-depth ethnographic analysis by Bromberger (1995) into the partisan passion for football in Marseilles, Naples and Turin provides a model for such studies, while Hague and Mercer (1998) recognize that through the modest Scottish football club of Raith Rovers, the town of Kirkcaldy is mediated through texts of ‘geographical memory.’ At the global scale, sport is often thought to serve a similar function in bonding diffuse groups and forging ‘national identity’ (Maguire, 1994b).
Ideas borrowed from welfare economics, applied during the 1970s in the subfield of welfare geography (Smith, 1977), have attracted considerable interest from geographers who have applied them in studies of the negative effects of sports events. This interest was influenced, to a large degree, by the crisis in the British football industry during the 1980s. Such studies have explored the negative externalities of football stadiums, as perceived by local residents, and sought to identify which spillovers were perceived as being the most serious. In addition they identified the distances from stadiums that various nuisances were recognized (for example, Figure 10.2). Based on an examination of the football-induced nuisances consumed by local residents living near 37 League football grounds, Bale (1990) concluded that football nuisances, as perceived by those who unwillingly consumed them, were less serious than expected by a sample of the general public. In addition, the main nuisances were car parking and traffic congestion. Hooliganism was rarely seen as the major nuisance, a finding confirmed by a number of other studies (for example, Humphrys et al., 1983). Studies reflecting ‘rational’ solutions to the football stadium ‘problem’ are illustrated by a comparison of the nuisances generated by a traditional, inner-city ground with that of a new suburban stadium. Mason and Moncrieff (1993) found that relocation at the urban edge in the case of St Johnstone FC in Perth, Scotland, had not eliminated the football-generated nuisance effects, though because about three-quarters of the new stadium’s externality field was made up of non-residential areas, the number of people experiencing football-generated nuisances was less than that at the club’s former inner-city location. In addition to suburbanization, a ‘solution’ to English football’s economic ‘crisis’ was to increase the number of days per year when the stadium was in use. This initiative, undertaken at Luton Town FC’s ground, led Mason and Robins (1991) to compare the negative externality fields of football and non-football uses. They found that non-football activities had less intense and more spatially restricted ‘nuisance fields’ than those generated by football matches. Another study, specifically comparing rock concerts with football, showed that despite the greater noise levels generated by rock concerts, football-induced nuisances were perceived to be a greater problem overall (Chase and Healey, 1995).
The impacts of the kinds described above have a spatial and environmental dimension. The latter provides a point of contact between human and physical geography. Sport as a form of pollution is a problem addressed by observers of events such as the Winter Olympics and golf course development (McCormack, 1991). Eichberg (1988) sees achievement-sport as inherently anti-nature, a view supported by ‘deep’ ecologists such as Galtung (1984). The impact of sport has certainly led to replacement of natural or semi-natural landscapes by those of concrete, steel and plastic. Such a dystopian view of the impact of sport is not shared by everybody, however, as the next section shows.
Sport and Landscape
The shift in sport-geographic studies from the ‘cartographic fetish’ to a more sensitive landscape approach can be summarized by noting two papers by Richard Pillsbury. An early essay on stock car racing in the American ‘South’ focused on the geographic origins of stock car racing drivers. His maps revealed a concentration of such ‘good ol’ boys’ in the cultural heartland of the sport in the Carolinas and Georgia (Pillsbury, 1972). Over 20 years later, Pillsbury (1995) was still writing about the same subject but his maps had been replaced by photographs while his text sensitively and evocatively sought to compare the old, unique, southern dirt tracks, with the more ‘efficient’ and rational arenas of the modern era.
It is in such studies of the ‘ordinary’ landscapes of sports that the most interpretive of sports-geographic studies have been undertaken and it is arguably the area which has borrowed most vigorously from cultural and social theory. The sports landscape is viewed broadly. It is basically interpreted as everything that is sensed at a sports event. Although the geographer Jay Appleton (1975) suggested, through fleeting allusions, a landscape focus for sports-geographic studies, the first to seriously address the landscape of sport was the American cultural geographer Philip Wagner (1981), who seemed to view sport as a combination of culture and geography. He described sports places as eminently spatial phenomena, struggles over space possessing ‘elaborate spatial strictures’ where ‘the infractions and the measurement of spatial progress in play are of great importance.’ He added that sports were ‘dramas acted out within minutely prescribed spatial frames,’ requiring ‘exactly specified and formalized environments, for in most cases the contest explicitly concerns dominance of territory or mastery of distance’ (Wagner, 1981: 92). This does not go quite so far as the neo-Marxist view that ‘the reduction of space to geometry, the abstraction of what is concrete, real and tangible in nature, is carried to the ultimate in sport’ (Brohm, 1974), but it is along the same lines.
These observations imply that the landscape of sport is a world of modernity—straight lines, measurement, rationality and performance. Following Le Corbusier, the sports landscape can be seen as a ‘machine’ for sport. Most sports places also show a tendency towards confinement, segmentation and artifice. Hence, a second ‘reading’ of the sports landscape might see a gradual tendency towards its spatial confinement, individualization and surveillance. One has only to look at the sports stadium to see the transition from games played in an open space with limited, if any, separation between players and spectators, through the process of separation of players from spectators, the enclosure of the field of play, the segregation of spectators, their confinement in individualized seats, and their surveillance by video camera (Bale, 1993b). The relevance of the work of Michel Foucault (1977) is difficult to ignore. So too is the imaginative scholarship of the eclectic ‘cultural sociologist’ Henning Eichberg (1986, 1989, 1990; Bale and Philo, 1998), whose studies of the spatiality of sport have been inspirational for some geographers (Philo, 1994). Geographical readings of the sports stadium as a ‘Foucauldian landscape’ have been undertaken by Bale (1993b) and Tomkins (1995), though the former’s inspiration comes primarily from the work of Robert Sack (1986) and his view of territoriality as a form of power.
A less pessimistic view of the landscape of sport is outlined by the American geographer Karl Raitz (1987a, 1987b, 1995). Influenced by Edward Relph (1976), who used the term ‘placelessness’ to describe many of the landscapes of modernity, Raitz observed that there is more to a sports event than simply watching the game. He suggested that the sports landscape is made up of a ‘landscape ensemble.’ The field of play is a relatively constant milieu, verging on predictability and placelessness, but around it are a wide variety of elements which bring distinctiveness and uniqueness to particular sporting locations. Raitz suggested that the greater the variety within the ensemble, the greater the spectators’ (and possibly players’) gratification from the sport experience. Raitz’s emphasis on the ‘place-making’ qualities of many sports venues provides a starting point for an interpretation of sport via the landscape perspective.
The trajectory of modern sport may, however, be seen differently from both Raitz’s notion of the sports landscape as a source of (mainly) visual pleasures and the suggestion that sports landscapes possess prison-like qualities. Drawing on further ideas from Tuan (1984), Bale (1994) has applied the metaphors of the garden and pet to the stadium and athlete respectively. Stadiums and athletes—like gardens and pets—are uneasy mixes of nature and culture. They are, in Tuan’s terms, examples of dominance and affection with neither being taken to an extreme. Sports places are examples of a blending of architecture and horticulture, of dominance with a human face. Much of this interpretation comes close to that of Giamatti (1989), who sees the baseball park as a modern, adult version of the kindergarten. However, the multifaceted character of modern sports landscapes is one of ambiguity (Kayser Nielsen, 1995) in which boundaries and borders are often liminal in character (Shore, 1995). The ambiguity of the modern sports landscape is addressed by Allen Pred (1995) in a fascinating analysis of the Stockholm ‘Globe’ (‘a spectacular space for commodified entertainment spectacle, for the consumption of commodified bodies’). Pred sees this late modern structure as a source of (hyper)modernity—an ambiguous landscape that accommodates local pride and globalized sport, ‘where the spectacle is made available as an everyday item of consumption.’
The sports landscape can also be seen as symbolic in character. Sport-landscape symbols are projected in such media as paintings, cartoons, poetry and other literary texts as well as in soil, timber and concrete. Baseball and cricket connote images of the rural—even if the reality is essentially urban (Bale, 1994). Drawing on the work of a number of geographers, the cultural anthropologist Charles Springwood (1996) sees place, space and landscape as central to his exploration of the cultural environments of the two mythical baseball-centred sites/sights of Cooperstown, New York and Dyersville, Iowa. In what is arguably the best piece of sport-geographic writing yet produced, Springwood’s ‘dual ethnography’ of these two places teases out their ‘meaning,’ mysteries and conservative ideologies. Symbolic landscapes can also be applied to the forging of national identity, the exposure of class tensions and the identifications of ‘landscapes of hate.’ This is exemplified by an examination of the campus of Liberty University, a fundamentalist Christian institution founded by the televangelist Jerry Falwell. Gallaher (1997) reads this as a training ground for the normalization, maintenance and reinforcement of a fundamentalist identity. Liberty appropriates sports symbols to normalize its identity position while, at the same time, enforcing difference. It can succeed in NCAA basketball competitions but at the same time exclude alcohol consumption. The campus landscapes of sports are identified as sources of a masculinist form of solidarity building and the creation of a group and institutional memory which seems to reinforce fundamentalist identity. In a somewhat different vein, a splendid essay by Bowden (1994) reads the landscape and place imagery in two sports movies (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runnerand Chariots of Fire) as metaphors for the deeply embedded British class system.
Finally, it can be suggested that landscapes of sport illustrate a tension between space and place. This tension may, in a sense, form the basis for a geographical theory of sport (Bale, 1998). It can be argued that the two norms of sport, that is, fair play and achievement-orientation, predict that sports should theoretically take place in ‘pure space’ or ‘non-places’ (Augé, 1995). This is because, logically, ‘fair play’ can only be achieved if extraneous factors such as the vagaries of the physical environment, on the one hand, and of spectators on the other, are isolated from the sports event. Individual players and teams should not be favoured by an idiosyncratic ‘home field,’ for example. Likewise, ‘achievement-orientation’ or at least ‘record seeking’ also requires such a placeless landscape. All sites should be identical. If sports sites differ, they may provide favourable or unfavourable environments for records. It is not difficult to see the tendency towards placelessness in sports space, and scenarios for such dystopian futures have been presented in the writings of Baudrillard (1993) and Virilio (1991). Yet the question remains about how far fans can continue to be active participants in appropriating and resisting such cultural changes.
A geography of sport has made a modest mark in both sports studies and cultural geography. However, given the current geographical interest in such themes as the spectacle, sites of resistance and globalization (Cosgrove and Rogers, 1992), and the recognition that the ‘ordinary’ landscapes of sports have great symbolic significance (Cosgrove, 1989), every likelihood exists that sports-geographic studies will increase in number and achieve greater visibility than hitherto. Given the mania for ‘stadiumisation’ and sports-complex gigantism, spatial and environmental impact studies will continue to develop. Geographers are certainly responding to the challenge of sports and globalization in various ways (for example, Bale and Sang, 1996; Donaghu and Barff, 1990) and an incipient interest exists in forging links between sport, geography and postcolonial studies (Bale, 1996) and geography and the sportized body (Johnston, 1998). But the future lies in the recognition by geographers that sport is a significant part of culture and that in it they may find many exemplars of their contemporary concerns.