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March 2016

Last modified: 31.03.2016


Now and then, Spomi-net receives applications for membership from researchers, who are working with related areas to the topics currently covered by members. Thus the group of managers has decided to form two sub-groups focusing on:

1. Sports as migration

The focus of this subgroup is on sports labour migration and migration through sports. Here, the influence of political and economic regulation on athletic mobility is considered, along with the significance of social networks for the recruitment and retention of sports labour migrants, as well as their transcultural everyday lives and possible spatial immobility. This implies a broad focus on migrating sports people, from professional athletes to those who aim at making a living from sports, or simply use it as a tool to migrate.

2. Sports in migration

The focus of this sub-group is on the role that sports may play for various types of migrants; refugees, ethnic minority and diaspora groups etc. The political and economic interests in sports as a means to integrate migrant groups into nation states and new locales are considered, along with the socio-cultural role that sports plays in the lives of the migrants themselves. Among others, questions such as the roles and negotiations of race and ethnicity in sports are important topics of interest.

All current members will automatically hold membership of the first sub-group. If current members would like to become part of the new sub-group they must let us know by sending en e-mail to sportmigration@ph.au.dk. Also, we encourage our members to help us disseminate information about the new sub-group to relevant researchers. Guidelines for application of membership can be found here.


“Maintaining mobility when visibility ends: Post Career transitions and trajectories of West African football players in Scandinavia and Ghana”

Post career transitions and trajectories of professional West African football players is the topic of a new research project at Aarhus University. It follows up on the recently completed research program “Nordcorp: A cross-national study of sports labour migration as challenge and opportunity for Nordic civil society”. The project is funded by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS).

In the new project, Sine Agergaard and postdoc Christian Ungruhe will focus on a less researched period in the realm of South-North sport migration: the question what happens to players after their professional football careers. Taking West African footballers in Scandinavia as an example the study aims at shedding light on the relevance of sport and professional careers for the wider life course context of players. Since negotiations of social mobility are an important feature of migration, particularly for players from the so-called global south, the question of how this mobility continues and is maintained when the visibility of professional football ends comes to the fore. On the one hand, professional football in Northern Europe may have equipped West African players with networks, skills and knowledge that may provide for successful future livelihoods. On the other hand, focusing solely on professional football and not having the possibilities for or interest in obtaining long-term career alternatives (e.g. education, job opportunities, etc.) may lead to uncertainty and precarity after career termination.

Adding a long-term perspective to sport migration research the project therefore investigates e.g. how former and retiring players are prepared for their life after professional football, how they deal with its challenges and changes and what their motivations and possibilities are in terms of staying in Europe or returning to their countries of origin. The theoretical framework is inspired by Bourdieu’s understanding of career trajectories and looks at the way in which the players exchange their mobility and physical capital into economic, social and cultural capital after their careers. Methodologically it is based on a multi-sited study in Scandinavia and West Africa and focuses on the narratives and lived experiences of players. Narrative interviews with retiring and retired players as well as with relevant actors in the players’ social and football-related circles will be conducted in Ghana, Denmark and Sweden. Additional ethnographic fieldwork in the social environments of returned players will be conducted in Ghana. The project has started in November 2015 and runs until October 2017.


The Monthly Reports from the CIES, Football Observatory alert attention to interesting trends in the development of male football migration. The report from February 2016 shows that there has been a steady increase in the number of expatriate players in professional football teams. The increase has been particularly strong in European leagues due to economic and legal dimensions. See: www.football-observatory.com/IMG/sites/mr/mr12/en/.

The report from March 2016 shows that international migration happens at an earlier age. "Between 2009 and 2015, the average age of first international migration of footballers present in the 31 leagues analysed has fallen from 22.2 to 21.7. The percentage of players having moved abroad before celebrating their 22nd birthday among those who migrated over the course of their career increased from 44.9 to 49.6%. Players having moved abroad under the age of 18 represented 8.0% of migrants in 2009 and 9.8% six years later.” Read more here.


April 14-16th the conference Soccer as a Global Phenomenon will be held at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

Two members of the network, Sine Agergaard and Paul Darby, will be presenting their work. Read more about the conference and the programme here.


In the last newsletter, we indicated that the purchase of the Danish superleague team FC Nordsjaelland by the Ghanaian football academy Right to Dream was the first case of an African entity taking control of a European club. This is not the first case in Europe, but in the Nordic countries. Thanks to Raffaelle Poli for pointing this out.


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 sportmigration.au.dk or click here – remember to tick of the PhD study group box.

If you have any questions, feel free to address them to sportmigration@ph.au.dk.


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 sportmigration@ph.au.dk.