Sport as a cultural system: sports policies and (new) ethnicities in Lyon and Birmingham


‘Sport promotes integration’: this idea seems to be commonly accepted both in France and in the UK, even though the authorities in each country see the issue of ‘ethnic minorities’ very differently. This article draws on research based on interviews with the main actors of ‘socio–sports’ policies in the cities of Lyon and Birmingham and on analysis of consultation procedures and official documents, to show that sport provides a set of symbolic markers that helps the authorities, professionals and ‘ethnic minorities’ to get their bearings in an uncertain multicultural situation. Although ‘ethnic minorities’ try to control the direction of sports policies in pursuit of their own objectives, their strategies tend to be ‘routinized’ around markers legitimized by the authorities in response to the success of certain sporting practices. Sports policies, therefore, promote ‘security’ of identity for these ‘minorities’ by ‘mapping’ their environment using the values and principles of sport.