Sport and identity: Swansea conference examines why sport is more than a game

Swansea University School of Management staged its one-day ‘Gwlad, Gwlad: Sport, More Than a Game’ conference on Thursday, April 14, at the Taliesin Arts Centre, Singleton Park Campus.

Gwlad Gwlad 1The conference’s line-up included Laura McAllister of Sport Wales, who chaired the event; Keith Wood, W2 Consulting, broadcaster and former Irish Rugby International, who led a panel discussion on ‘The Irish and Scottish Experience; and Wales football manager Chris Coleman, who discussed ‘The FAW and the Euros 2016: Engaging With the Nation’.

Representatives from Barcelona FC, Swansea City FC, Munster RFC, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the Scottish FA, the Danish Super League, Mal Pope, musician, broadcaster and Jack to a King co-executive producer, and Julian Jenkins, founder of Fanalyse, were among those contributing to conference sessions – creating a unique event for Wales in its Year of Adventure 2016.

The conference, which took place from 9am until 16:30pm, was open to all and entrance was free of charge. Donations to Sport Relief 2016 were accepted on the day. Delegates were also encouraged to wear their team or country colours (shirts, scarves etc).

Gwlad Gwlad 2One of the academics leading the conference, Dr Alan Sandry of Swansea University’s European Institute of Identities, said: “The conference’s key themes were sport and identity; celebrating what sport means to all of us. Through case studies and panel discussions, the conference explored and discussed the relationship between sport, sports teams, and the ‘fields of dreams’ stadia that accommodate these teams, with the identities, branding and positioning of their host cities, regions and nations.

“It also recognised that sport, especially team sports, amount to nothing unless there is the full participation and commitment of the fans; the bill payers, lest we forget!

“The conference title, ‘Gwlad, Gwlad’, is a segment from Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh national anthem.  With its follow up line, “Pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad”, the singer professes their faithfulness to their country.  This allegiance, in public form, is fundamental to the notion of national representation; identity at its pinnacle, one could argue.

Gwlad Gwlad 3“Equally, however, on a more localised scale, we also witness participants and fans showing ‘fanatical’ support for their village, town, city or regional teams, and their respective identities. Thus, we can trace a multi-layered effect.

“With that as a backdrop, some key questions arise about the social, cultural, political and economic conditions in which each and every one of us, as sports activists and practitioners, find ourselves: How can we nurture, and maintain, sporting, and community, relationships that bind us closer together?

“The ‘Gwlad, Gwlad: Sport, More Than a Game’ conference offered a platform for discussions, conversations and networking. We all learned a bit more about our favourite sport, and found out some interesting facts, or heard some forthright opinions, on lesser known sports.”

The ‘Gwlad, Gwlad: Sport, More Than a Game’ conference was organised by Swansea University’s School of Management, in partnership with the University’s European Institute of Identities and International Dynamic Destinations, Populous Architects, W2 Consulting, and Edwards Holidays.

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