December 2017

Last modified: 19.12.2017

December 2017


  We would like to wish all our members Happy Holidays and the very best for the New Year!  


Led by Associate Professor Gijsbert Oonk, the research project ‘Sport and Nation’ focuses on highly-skilled migrant athletes in football and the Olympics in the context of elite migration, changing citizenship and ‘complex nationality issues’. Highly talented athletes increasingly switch their national affiliation by change of passport to represent another nation. This means that states are promoting the ‘nation’ without ‘nationals’. We aim at highlighting this paradox by emphasizing how ideas, institutions and contexts have changed over the past 150 years.

It is generally assumed that countries are progressively promoting strategic or expedited passport grants whereby membership (citizenship and a passport) is granted for exceptionally talented individuals with the expectation of receiving a quid pro quo. For Olympic recruits this means winning medals and for football players this means playing for the national team and scoring goals in world-cup matches. In this emerging competitive environment, countries have come to realize that athletes are willing to exchange their citizenship in favour of the most desirable match. At the same time, states have come to realize that offering citizenship may attract foreign athletes to perform for their country. This realization has turned citizenship itself into an important recruitment tool. The granting of citizenship to high performers in return for medals, titles and global recognition illustrates the fact that the reality and concept of citizenship is undergoing a radical change. The four components of citizenship, in the traditional sense, are herewith under scrutiny; membership, rights, duties and participation. Despite the public debates on high profile cases, such as the one of Diego Costa’s switch from Brazil to Spain, the origins and consequences of the global spread of this ‘talent for citizenship exchange’ has to date not been researched systematically.

In order to shed light on this phenomenon, we have defined the following underlying major question:

In what contexts and under what conditions are nation states willing to grant citizenship to highly talented foreign football players or athletes and allow them to play for the national squad and in what contexts and under what conditions are international sport governing bodies like FIFA or the IOC willing to accept those changes in national affiliation? How and why did this change over time?

Two PhD projects will engage with the topic:

PhD (1): Increasing number of migrant athletes and citizenship changes in football and its discontent 1930-2018 (Gijs van Campenhout)

PhD (2): Increasing number of migrant athletes and citizenship changes in the Olympics and its discontent 1896-2014 (Joost Jansen)

The project has received a Research Excellence Initiative (REI) grant.

For more information see:

Gijsbert Oonk


A recent report by CIES Football Observatory highlights the role of migration for national football teams. The survey of the squads of the 32 qualified nations for the FIFA World Cup 2018 shows that almost two thirds of the players are under contract with a club outside their national team’s association. In this, the study has identified a wide range between the respective teams, with numbers ranging from 0% (England and Saudi-Arabia) to 100% (Croatia, Sweden and Iceland) migrant players in their respective squads.

Moreover, while approximately 9% of all included players were born outside of the association they represent, there are big differences between the various continental confederations. Numbers range from a total of almost 29% for the qualified African teams to approximately 2% (Asia and South America).

Most of the qualified teams are employed in clubs in England (ca. 15 %), followed by Spain (ca. 9%), Germany (ca. 8%) and Italy (ca. 7%). Brazil (ca. 2%) and Egypt (1.5%) are at the other end of the scale.

The full study is available under:


Presentations at the recent Play the game conference in Eindhoven have revealed the under-representation of ethnic minorities in sports governance and senior coaching in European football clubs.

According to a study by Steven Bradbury (Loughborough University), 95.8% of senior governance positions and 98.1% of senior coaching positions are held by ethnic majorities in Europe– indicating an imbalance of ethnic minority representation at the top levels of football governance and coaching.

In addition, Jacco van Sterkenburg (Erasmus University Rotterdam) highlighted similar figures for football leagues in the Netherlands. On average, only 5-10% of coaching positions and less than 2% senior governance positions are occupied by members of ethnic minorities in the country. The imbalance is revealed by the fact that 40% of active footballers in the Netherlands have an ethnic minority background.

According to Bradbury, these figures underline the general institutional discrimination of ethnic minorities in Europe.


The Network is happy to welcome the following new member:

Sepandarmaz Mashreghi (PhD Study Group)

Critical participatory activist research (PAtR) is a method that can utilize the situated knowledge of the community members and create lasting impact. Through participatory activist research, community members are active participants in contributing and creating knowledge which is then utilized to enhance the community itself and instigate action within the community. Moreover, such enquiry will contribute to the wider research and promote research implications in the communities (lisahunter, emerald & Martin, 2013; Schinke & Blodgett, 2016). PAtR alternate approach to subjectivity of knowledge and grassroots participation is a fresh perspective in contrast to ‘expert-driven’ research which reinstate the dynamic of dominance and oppression (Schinke & Blodgett, 2016). The goal of this research is working ‘with’ the Afghan immigrant youth in Sweden in recognizing and deconstructing prevailing socially constructed definitions of integration (Berry, 2016) and Swedishness (Hübrinette & Lundstöm, 2011) within a Physical Education class (PE) context. This project aims to enable newcomer youth to ‘speak for themselves’ by empowering them to express their visions of inclusiveness and integration in creative and contextualized way (Azzarito, 2016) as well as presenting these expressions to the larger public as means of social change. Narrative inquiry methods, such as prose and poetry, storytelling or photo-voice, which are culturally appropriate methods that have a long history and familiarity for the participant researchers, will be used and all the researchers will contribute to the creation of field texts (data).

In concurrence with all members of the research team, steps will be taken to present the work produced by the research team at four different levels: the school where the research is done, PE education department in the university, an exhibition for the members of public and to the academic audience via articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as national and international conferences.


Yes they do! Alternatively, maybe a journalist, a graduate student or friend need to know this too!

They can sign up for the newsletter at the website by clicking the 'SUBSCRIBE' button.

Researchers who has published on sport and migration can also apply for a free membership by clicking on the 'APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP'-button

All you need to do is to tell them about the website or forward them this newsletter.


The sport and migration network invites all PhD students in the field of sport and migration to join the network and share information about their projects and ongoing work. To ensure that we are up to date with the latest research in sport and migration we have created a study group for PhD students. Contrary to becoming a full member of the sport and migration network, you do not need international publications to be a part of the PhD study group; all we ask for are that you have a project description and a willingness to contribute to the network.

Apply as a member of the PhD study group using the ‘apply for membership’-link on the bottom of the front page of or click here – remember to tick of the PhD study group box.

If you have any questions, feel free to address them to


For the coming newsletters it will be possible to present new studies and discuss interesting findings. We would also like to encourage members to inform us of job adverts, conferences and books that may be of interest to the network. We have deadlines for submission to our newsletter on a quarterly basis; December 1, March 1, June 1 and September 1. 

Please direct this information to