The Lack of Age Representation in the Governance of Rugby Union in England

Diversity and representation in sport governing bodies has become an issue for both public discussion and academic debate in recent times. Previous work has primarily centered on gender inequalities within the forever changing masculine terrain of sport. However, no work has yet examined the representation and participation of young people in the decision-making structures of sporting bodies. This paper holds up England’s Rugby Union for organizational analysis, using the notion of homologous reproduction as a heuristic framework. In doing so, it explores the reproduction of this governing body for the systematic exclusion of young people in decision-making processes over the last few decades. This framework is then twined with Article 11 of the United Nation’s Convention for the Rights of the Child, to make the case that the RFU desires homologous reproduction in order to avoid dealing with what youth are currently concerned with –head injuries. Given such a high proportion of rugby’s participants being under twenty-five years of age, we conclude the lack of young people within the decision-making process represents a form of willful discrimination.

Reproduction in physical education, society and culture: the physical education curriculum and stratification of social class in England

In contemporary British society, discussions of social class have become relatively marginalised in comparison to their historically eminent position within the domains of politics, social policy and, the specific focus of the forthcoming discussion, education. However, within the specific field of PE and sport, contemporary academic analyses have continued to highlight various class-based inequalities and evidence of social stratification in relation to these areas of education and society. In light of this, this study seeks to explore the extent to which social class and socio-economic status are evident within the provision of PE within 288 English state secondary education schools (11–18 years of age), drawing upon the findings of a large-scale survey of the activities and qualifications offered within the PE curriculum at each sample school. Using publicly available data on the comparative provision levels of ‘free school meals’ (henceforth FSM) for pupils as an approximate indicator of the relative levels of socio-economic demographics for each sample school, this study seeks to explore how English state schools with contrasting levels of socio-economic deprivation cater for their students within their PE curriculum. The emergent results revealed some trends in the relative provision levels of certain activities across schools in different FSM quartiles, with activities such as rugby union, rugby league, Gaelic football, tennis, and field hockey demonstrating stratified provision, as was the case for the provision of accredited academic and vocational qualifications in PE and sport. These complex and nuanced findings are then critiqued by drawing upon a Bourdieusian theoretical conceptualisation of social class, utilising a number of theoretical concepts derived from Bourdieu’s past analyses of education and sport to critically reflect upon the validity of his theoretical claims when applied to this specific data set.

Still an Occupational Hazard? The Relationship between Homophobia, Heteronormativity, Student Learning and Performance, and an Openly Gay University Lecturer

This study examined the complex relationship between homophobia, heteronormativity, and an openly gay lecturer in a British university setting. First, heterosexual undergraduate sports students’ levels of homophobia were recorded. Then, after taught sessions, participants were asked to estimate the frequency of homosexual-heterosexual examples and content used, as well as to complete tests to measure academic progress. This was followed by an end-of-course examination. Results indicated (a) no relationship between levels of homophobia and levels of heteronormativity; (b) that levels of heteronormativity and homophobia were unrelated to a student’s ability to learn from an openly gay lecturer or their examination performance; (c) the presence of an openly gay lecturer significantly reduced homophobia among undergraduate students. These findings offer support to gay educators by highlighting the minimal impact on student learning and performance from being open about their sexuality. Instead, these results suggest that being open about homosexuality could reduce homophobia among undergraduate students.

The experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual students and staff at a Further Education college in South East England

Research exploring the educational experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students and staff members has traditionally been characterised by homophobia, hostility, victimisation and marginalisation. Recent research has evidenced a shift in the experiences of LGB young people, to somewhat more accepting and positive narratives, including within post-compulsory schooling. Yet, there is limited research exploring the lived experiences of LGB staff members in the Further Education context. Utilising inclusive masculinity as a sociological paradigm, this research explores the qualitative data from the narratives of 26 LGB staff and students at one Further Education college in the south of England. The results find a distinct lack of homophobia within this college, a nuanced understanding of homosexually themed language, and an organisational culture of inclusivity and widespread symbolic visibility of the LGB community. Overall, our research aligns with broader social patterns that the experiences for LGB persons is improving.

‘Pre-activity movement control exercise programme to prevent injuries in youth rugby’: some concerns

All efforts to reduce injuries in school rugby are welcome and the cluster randomised controlled trial by Hislop and colleagues deserves attention.1 Here, the authors presented a preactivity exercise programme that trained strength, agility and balance, with reductions in time-loss injuries and concussions claimed. Yet we highlight fiveprimary concerns that arise from this study, which are particularly important given that the programme is now being implemented nationally.2

Consent and Brain Trauma in Schools

Since contact sports such as American football, ice hockey and rugby have a high risk of injury and those injuries have potential long-term implications, both young people and their parent(s) or guardian(s) should be required to give informed consent before participation.

Tackling in physical education rugby: an unnecessary risk?

Since 2016, we have been strong advocates for the removal of tackling from rugby (League and Union) played in school physical education in the UK.1 This is because (A) tackling is the leading cause of injury in rugby, (B) rugby has a level of risk that is higher than non-contact sports, (C) there is no requirement or need for tackling as part of the school physical education curriculum, and (D) many children are compelled to participate in contact rugby.2 In response to this call, the Chief Medical Officers and the Physical Activity Expert Group commented: ‘The Committee reject the call to ban tackling, as they do not feel rugby participation poses an unacceptable risk of harm.’3 Yet, the notion of risk (un)acceptability is a construct that needs further discussion, which we will start here.4


In this research, utilizing data from thirty semistructured interviews, we examine how heterosexual undergraduate men compare their experiences of bromances to that of their romantic relationships (romances). We find that the increasingly intimate, emotive, and trusting nature of bromances offers young men a new social space for emotional disclosure, outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. Participants state that the lack of boundaries and judgment in a bromance is expressed as emotionally rivalling the benefits of a heterosexual romance. Our participants mostly determined that a bromance offered them elevated emotional stability, enhanced emotional disclosure, social fulfilment, and better conflict resolution, compared to the emotional lives they shared with girlfriends. Thus, this research provides an empirically grounded conceptual framework for understanding men’s view of close homosocial relationships in comparison to their romantic relationship in the twenty-first century.


In a paper published in BJSM (June 2016), World Rugby employees Ross Tucker and Martin Raftery and a third coauthor Evert Verhagen took issue with the recent call to ban tackling in school rugby in the UK and Ireland. That call (to ban tackling) was supported by a systematic review published in BJSM. Tucker et alclaim that: (1) the mechanisms and risk factors for injury along with the incidence and severity of injury in youth rugby union have not been thoroughly identified or understood; (2) rugby players are at no greater risk of injury than other sports people, (3) this is particularly the case for children under 15 years and (4) removing the opportunity to learn the tackle from school pupils might increase rates of injuries. They conclude that a ban ‘may be unnecessary and may also lead to unintended consequences such as an increase in the risk of injury later in participation.’ Here we aim to rebut the case by Tucker et al. We share new research that extends the findings of our original systematic review and meta-analysis. A cautionary approach requires the removal of the tackle from school rugby as the quickest and most effective method of reducing high injury rates in youth rugby, a public health priority.


In a recent BJSM editorial, it was stated that ‘shutting down youth sports programmes’ is not the answer to injury concerns in contact sport, suggesting there may be unintended consequences, such as increasing sedentary behaviour.1 With physical inactivity a leading cause of mortality, concerns about decreasing participation in physical activity are justified. This issue has even been discussed in a previous editorial in the BJSM.2 There is no evidence, however, to suggest that collision sports (specifically) are necessary to combat sedentary lifestyles of youth. There also continues to be a distinct misunderstanding of what has been called for in regards to the banning of tackling in school rugby, which will now be clarified.

The Bromance: Undergraduate Male Friendships and the Expansion of Contemporary Homosocial Boundaries

The present study provides the first known qualitative examination of heterosexual undergraduate men’s conceptualization and experiences of the bromance, outside research on cinematic representations. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 30 undergraduate men enrolled in one of four undergraduate sport-degree programs at one university in the United Kingdom, we find these heterosexual men to be less reliant on traditional homosocial boundaries, which have previously limited male same-sex friendships. Contrary to the repressive homosociality of the 1980s and 1990s, these men embrace a significantly more inclusive, tactile, and emotionally diverse approach to their homosocial relationships. All participants provided comparable definitions of what a bromance is and how it operates, all had at least one bromantic friend, and all suggested that bromances had more to offer than a standard friendship. Participants described a bromance as being more emotionally intimate, physically demonstrative, and based upon unrivalled trust and cohesion compared to their other friendships. Participants used their experiences with romances and familial relations as a reference point for considering the conditions of a bromance. Results support the view that declining homophobia and its internalization has had significantly positive implications for male expression and intimacy. Conclusions are made about the bromance’s potential to improve men’s mental health and social well-being because participants indicate these relationships provide a space for emotional disclosure and the discussion of potentially traumatic and sensitive issues.


The social function of sport has traditionally been to develop an economically efficient workforce and to prevent young men from becoming effeminate, and by extension homosexual. However, since the 1980s both the social positioning of homosexuality has changed, as has the economic requirements of the Anglo-American workforce. As such, the social function of contemporary sport is negated. With modern athletes now opting for softer masculine presentations, we start the debate on the intersection of sport, health, and inclusive masculinities, an area lacking scholarly attention so far. Through exploring masculinity-challenging discourses, participation rates and athletes’ self-withdrawal from sport when injured, we begin to theorize how modern athletes may view potentially risky and injurious sporting activities, showing that boys today are less inclined to engage in injurious activities, and, when they do, opting for softer and safer strategies.


The research uses discourse analysis, and inclusive masculinity theory, in order to explore and explain the construction of esteemed and subjugated masculinities within the context of Australia's National Rugby League's (NRL) Footy Show. Results suggest that despite previous research on NRL players which finds inclusive masculinities dominate, this television show instead attempts to construct orthodox versions of masculinity. We suggest that the Footy Show thus operates in something of a liminal state, attempting to portray and construct orthodox masculinities against social trends of inclusive masculinities. Sociological Research Online (2016) 


In an effort to pre-empt serious injury in field hockey, this editorial examines the penalty corner in the sport. Specifically, the potential risk of serious head injury is highlighted, with structural changes that could make the sport safer also discussed.


A recent BJSM editorial argued that ‘turning people into couch potatoes is not the cure for sports concussion’.1 Specifically, it was noted how heightened anxiety over sports concussion has caused participation levels to fall; that concussions are common in contact sports; and that there remains a need for the development of specific concussion management protocols targeted at each level of the game. In this response, the evidence to support each of these contentions is examined. A case for directing attention away from concussion management and towards the prevention of concussions in sport is also stated.


Physical education (PE) and sport have traditionally been identified by scholars as a key mechanism for the production and reproduction of a culturally esteemed ideal of masculinity, premised upon being stoic, strong, competitive, sexist and homophobic. Yet, more recent research reflects a change in valued masculinity as a response to declining cultural homohysteria. As such, this preliminary study looks to establish how PE teachers understand and construct masculinities within the educational environment. Through in-depth interviews, we find participants recognised many elements of softer masculinities, described in inclusive masculinities literature, as being performed by contemporary teenagers. This includes being emotionally open, embracing a more effeminate taste in dress and being increasingly physically tactile. However, we also found that the PE teachers have a cohort variance in their masculine values, with those socialised in sport through the 1980s showing the most orthodox and oppressive views.


Sport’s utility in the development of a conservative orthodox ideal of masculinity based upon homophobia, aggression and emotional restrictiveness is well evidenced in critical masculinities scholarship. However, contemporary research is reflecting a more nuanced understanding of male behaviour in many Western contexts, with men performing softer and more inclusive versions of masculinities. Through exploring the experiences of twelve Australian contact sport athletes, this research establishes findings to support the growing body of inclusive masculinities research. Results show that these men value a softer representation of masculinity based upon pro-gay sentiments and being emotionally open, while often being critical of aspects of orthodox masculinities which male team sport previously promoted.

All work is available on request. Please contact Adam here. 

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