Sport and Diplomacy: More than a Game

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FHEQ Level

Module overview

The module provides a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between sports and diplomacy.

The module focuses on getting students involved in the practice of Sports Diplomacy with guest lecturers and field trips, and the co-creation of outputs that can help students with their career development in this growing sector. e.g. student blog by Aashika Doshi [link]

Students are invited to be part of the Sport, Diplomacy and Governance Hub [link] and engage in a range of research, outreach and career development opportunities.

Sports Diplomacy is a matter of contemporary importance: see the latest insight here from
So what is Sports Diplomacy: Since the era of the ancient Olympic Games, sporting competition has assisted human societies in mediating estrangements, resolving conflict and sublimating competitive urges. Through sport, cities and states have represented themselves to, and communicated with foreign counterparts. In doing so, opposing sides – teams and the citizenry who support them – come to know one another, creating opportunities to build and sustain durable, ongoing and peaceful relationships. Such engagements with the ‘other’ simultaneously produce and reinforce each state and people’s own identity. These bilateral and multilateral processes of representation and communication constitute a form of diplomacy which has hitherto been under explored.
In more recent times, examples abound of sporting competition being employed to reduce tensions between states at odds with one another that thus lacked conventional channels of diplomatic relations Alongside some familiar examples – the ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ that opened communication and détente between the People’s Republic of China and the United States in the early 1970s, the rôle of sport in ending Apartheid in South Africa, or the Olympic teams of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) marching together in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympiad – more recent examples suggest that ‘sports-diplomacy’ is an increasingly necessary part of contemporary diplomatic practice. In other words, sporting fixtures – like diplomacy – may be regarded as a means of international discourse short of war.

Further, understanding sport’s capacity in the field of diplomacy challenges conventional state based approaches and sheds light upon a plethora of related issues: including international governance, international business, cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy. The role of governing bodies, such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, will be given particular attention as examples of major NGOs engaging in diplomacy.

This module is open to all Postgraduate Taught Students at SOAS.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

• An excellent ability to comprehend both conceptually and empirically the issues surrounding sport and diplomacy in international affairs, including the role of sport’s international governing bodies (International Olympic Committee, Federation International Football Association) as NGOs, sport’s role in the diplomacy of international business, as a vehicle for cultural diplomacy, and as a means of engaging in public diplomacy
• Comprehensive understanding of, and ability to critically review the relevant literature
• Aptitude in constructing and applying an appropriate analytical approach to issues relevant to the subject matter
• Capacity to source, integrate, analyse and summarise relevant research and data in the submission of assessments
• The relevant skills to propose, debate and appraise feasible issues relevant to the subject


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 2 hour lecture, one 1 hour tutorial and one 1 hour online component

Method of assessment

• Assessment one – Essay plan (1500 words); 15%
• Assessment two (5000 words); 85%

Suggested reading

• Geoffrey Allen Pigman & J. Simon Rofe. (2013) Sport and diplomacy: an introduction, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics. 17(9), pp.1095-1097. Pigman and Rofe 2014 Sport and Diplomacy an Introduction_Sport in Societ (pdf; 276kb)
• J Simon Rofe. (2016) Sport and Diplomacy: A Global Diplomacy Framework. Diplomacy & Statecraft, 27:2, 212-230. Rofe 2016 Sport and Diplomacy A Global Diplomacy (pdf; 1435kb)
• Stuart Murray (2012), The Two Halves of Sports-Diplomacy, Diplomacy & Statecraft, 23:3, 576-592.
• United Nations General Assembly (2016) Sport for Development and Peace -


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