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Could decisions around sport during covid-19 been improved?

By 9 August 2021March 3rd, 2022No Comments
Winton & Neill
Published: July 2021


Herein we discuss the problems associated with a policy-making process purely driven by quantitative data. A reliance on quantitative data has created less diverse, adaptable, and flexible solutions to problems. This is essential during a crisis like the recent pandemic. To rectify this, we explore methods of incorporating qualitative data through ethnography. We argue that sport is the ideal site for ethnography and that government can use pre-existing systems to develop a hybrid policy approach.

Key Findings

There is a clear benefit to incorporating qualitative and quantitative data into policymaking through a hybrid policy approach. We found that ethnography is a suitable methodology and that there was sufficient infrastructure within the sporting sector to support coaches in conducting ethnography. Coaches were already informally fulfilling this role and thus are an under-utilised resource by policymakers at all levels. By formalising this system, we can rectify this and develop more appropriate solutions.


By using interviews with several coaches within different sports we were able to establish whether sport is a viable site for ethnography. Whilst we aimed to have a variety of sports and a variety of levels covered by the interviews, we were limited. These coaches demonstrated within the interviews their abilities to conduct ethnography and engage with ethnographic study as we employed techniques from social anthropology within the interview phase.


Government currently does not use sport to its fullest extent and continues to isolate it from policymaking. This problem is not exclusive to sport as other sectors, such as the arts or humanities, are also under-utilised. This is often due to a reliance on quantitative data. This data-driven approach fails to capture the potential of these sectors to support new and innovative policy decisions, instead perpetuating a very rigid structure within policy. Decision-makers should adopt a more hybrid approach to be more flexible and responsive. This is essential during a crisis.