‘I just can’t bear these procedures, I just want to be out there working with children’: an autoethnography on neoliberalism and youth sports charities in the UK

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This paper uses an autoethnography to recount my experiences with
SportHelp, a UK youth sports charity. Using a layered account format,
which jumps through time and space, I demonstrate the extent to which
neoliberal values have influenced the continuity and change of
SportHelp. This paper does not constitute an attack on the charity, its
staff, nor the charity sector. The focus is on how the wider neoliberal
context shapes how SportHelp operates. The findings are analysed in
terms of Foucault’s (2008, The birth of biopolitics. Lectures at the Collége
de France, 1978–79. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) notion of
governmentality by examining SportHelp’s monitoring and reporting
practices, as well as the managers’ use of New Public Management
discourse. The conclusion reflects on the extent to which neoliberal
governmentality, though in some instances beneficial for SportHelp,
ultimately does more harm than good. This paper, by offering an
‘insider’s view’, adds to the literature calling for a change in how policy
makers and funders shape the current hypercompetitive socio-political
landscape. Charities should be supported, not discouraged, to develop
holistic programmes that move beyond ‘economic rationales’ and are
capable of addressing the multifaceted needs of their service users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-865
Number of pages13
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number9
Early online date3 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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