United Glasgow Football Club: a study in sport's facilitation of integration

United Glasgow Football Club: a study in sport's facilitation of integration

Around the world, sport has increasingly been touted as a vehicle for social change by organisations, academics and athletes alike. Sport programmes are said to promote conflict resolution, physical and mental health, and acceptance of diversity. Sport has also been applied to facilitate the integration of migrant groups into host societies. However, research also suggests that sport can serve as a medium for inter-ethnic segregation and conflict.

Responding to these various applications of sport, this study asks whether sport can facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers, and seeks to identify the mechanisms through which this may occur. The study examines United Glasgow Football Club (UGFC), a team that competes in an anti-racist football league in Glasgow, Scotland, and is comprised of a mixture of Scottish nationals, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. The project was initially targeted at young men in the asylum system, but is now open to all. Drawing upon Putnam’s social capital framework, the authors found that UGFC served as a platform for players to build social bridges and bonds, and its diversity contributed to a feeling of belonging that many team members did not find elsewhere in Glasgow.

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