3 years of work and 10,000 words of reviewin’ later, it is here… 20 years of sport diplomacy academic materials in one place

Postlethwaite, Verity, Claire Jenkin, and Emma Sherry. “Sport diplomacy: an integrative review.” Sport Management Review (2022): 1-22.

In the bleak winter months of 2019, the wonderful Dr. Claire Jenkin rang me in a flurry of excitement as we had been successful in securing some of the University of Hertfordshire’s Department of Psychology, Sport and Geography Fifty for Fifty funds. Come the early parts of 2020, we like everyone else, the project was impacted by the lockdowns and changed ways of working COVID19 brought with it. Taking our funds and creative minds, we had to steer the course of our project in some creative ways.

On an early morning (late night) Zoom call with Prof. Emma Sherry in the spring of 2020, we decided as a group to embark on an integrative review of academic literature connected to the ever-growing field of sports diplomacy. I do not normally work in such a systematic way and the methodology/process of an integrative review has been quite the learning curve. Please do get in contact with me directly if you want to chat about any methodological reflections I have around integrative reviewing!

The remainder of this blog highlights some the integrative review outputs and (hopefully) developing outcomes…

First off, I was quite tired of people at conferences, in papers, or on social media proclaiming that sports diplomacy was a new field of study, and little had been published on the topic. As discussed in our paper and available to view in our supplementary materials we found over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles connected to the phrase! We must now move the description of this field forward. It is very much an established and burgeoning area of study.

In more detail, Dr. Jenkin reflected through tweets some of the notable takeaways from this piece, please follow the thread here:

So why does this matter? For our project specifically, the UK and Australia are pursuing explicit strategies connected to sports diplomacy:

Objective 3 of the UK Sport 2021-25 International Relations strategy is to “Develop and implement an ambitious sport diplomacy strategy that significantly enhances the UK’s international partnerships, influence and impact – in and outside sport.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is “setting in motion a new era of international sporting engagement” through its Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy.

We intend to keep using our research to enrich dialogue about what sports diplomacy is. In particular, using the findings of this review to show how it has previously been understood and researched, then what this could look like moving forward. This information will hopefully lead to more considered strategies and work by these national actors.

Beyond this, other scholars, nations, and organisations are continuing to research or operationalize the concept of sports diplomacy. The future is bright! A shout out to colleagues across Europe in the TES-D: Towards an EU Sport Diplomacy programme and the Japanese driven SPORT FOR TOMORROW programme. Or more recently, colleagues in America who opened an exhibition around the ‘Power of Sports’ including how “athletes aid diplomacy around the world.” There is so much history and contemporary action around the phrase sports diplomacy, we are now at the point to better translate and disseminate to different types of audiences.

The world (and sometimes spelling) of sports diplomacy can be intimidating, I would highly recommend looking up our FREE to access integrative review to see how we’ve processed over 200 articles. Then please do reach out to hear more about our project or connect with us about everything sports diplo.!

My overall learning from this piece is to continue to connect with scholars and organisations from across the world. It sounds ambitiously simple, but I’ve been surprised by the diversity of sports diplomacy research and activities happening… the more we can share and collate, the stronger the academic contribution can be in understanding how sport is a vehicle used in diplomatic journeys.

Finally, a HUGE thank you and shout out to my collaborators (Em and CJ), UH for funding us, and the varying bits of feedback from friends, colleagues and contacts across sport and politics. Hopefully this piece reflects the hard yards a number of people have done in this space and cheers to many more decades of it!


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