Local government, 'race' and sports policy implementation : demystifying equal opportunities in local government
This thesis takes as its starting point the position that equal opportunities as a concept and practice have been conceptualised and operationalised inconsistently in local government (Nanton 1989, Young 1990, 1992, Bagilhole 1997). As a result the PhD investigated the appreciative contexts and ideologies that underpinned the assumptive worlds of those who influence policy and practice in sport in three local authorities in Northshire. Operationalising a critical ‘race’ standpoint (CRT) the study critically examined the views of senior officers and councillors in local authority sport utilising Young’s (1977, 1979) assumptive worlds framework. This research was based upon a two-phase investigation. The first phase involved a multi-site case study, which took place in North City, West Town and South City between 1996 and 1998. In a similar fashion to Stone’s (1988) single case study investigation into local authority equal opportunities strategies for women employees, they were intended to clarify and crystallise the everyday pressures and assumptions underpinning equal opportunities and ‘race’ within local authority sport. The agenda for the multi-site case study was to interrogate the values and assumptions that underpinned equal opportunities and race-equality for fifteen senior officers and nine councillors. In tandem with the local government case studies the second phase was an ethnography that involved an observation and analysis of the black sports pressure group VBES. The group was followed from its inception in 1996 until it became a significant agent within the sports policy network in Northshire in 2000. VBES contributed the black perspective from outside the local authorities. Consequently, Voluntary Black and Ethnic Sport’s links and associations over the years were a clear barometer of how effective equalities work was developing in specific authorities across the region. Three dominant themes emerged out of the study of the local authorities and evidence of them found expression in the activities of VBES. These themes were the conceptual confusion surrounding equal opportunities and race-equality, the policy tensions caused by individual appreciations and interpretations of policy, and the colour blindness that ignores wider issues of ‘race’. The themes aggregated to represent the core processes that affect each authority’s ability to effectively tackle race-equality in sport. Conceptual confusions, policy tensions and colour-blindness, that enwrapped the assumptive worlds of each authority, effectively led to policy implementation gaps between their promise and practice. The marginalisation of ‘race’ from mainstream provision has resulted in the ambiguity that Young (1990, 1992) warned against and in the lack of leadership that was the focus of Ouseley’s (1990) analysis. Ultimately there are issues that need to be managed in local government about how race-equality in sport is to be translated from policy to practice.