Managed Migration and Social Cohesion

Sport plays an important role in contributing to social cohesion and can facilitate the integration of migrants into society by promoting a shared sense of belonging and participation. As it is not based on faith or belief systems, participating in sport easily opens itself to creating links between people from different cultures, countries and backgrounds [1].  

Following the appointment of the coalition Government in 2010, the points based system for managed migration is set to change again for the 2/3 of migrants wishing to enter the UK from outside the European Union. The intention of this is to, ‘reduce net migration to “tens of thousands” a year’, which will create a more targeted approach to migration that aims to fill gaps in the labour market.     

There will be fewer non EU migrants entering the UK in coming years and the focus on employment for their arrival may result in not all sectors of society welcoming migrants. Migrants will be unlikely to have all of their family with them in the UK and there will be an increased potential for them to feel isolated. Social cohesion will be more important than ever, and yet may also be more difficult than ever.

The complex interaction between sport and identity politics on both a national and local level puts sport in a position where it is both capable of helping, or potentially hindering social cohesion. How the coalition Government tackles social cohesion in relation to it’s stance on managed migration may further contribute to perceptions on the value of sport as instrumental (for its role in society) rather than intrinsic (for the value of the physical activity itself).

What are the implications?

  • A lack of social cohesion may result in the formation of migrant community clubs, either in new sports or migrant teams for existing sports, these could potentially burgeon the gap
  • Existing community sports clubs may become increasingly more important in offering migrants a sense of belonging in the UK
  • Different challenges and opportunities will exist in urban and rural areas based on the labour markets needs
  • Issues around equality may also come to the fore given a new focus on inclusion
  • Junior members of community sports clubs may increasingly include non-native children, but their parents may be less willing to offer their time to volunteer. This could lead to extreme measures, for example in Holland a community football clubs has banned non-native children from joining the club as the parents are not seen to contribute to the workload of running the club [2]
  • There may be increasing funding opportunities available for organisations involved with community cohesion projects
  • Governance of voluntary run organisations may need to be more inclusive and the existing traditional model may need to be re-examined
  • Sports clubs could come into existence that would be organised outside the scope of National Governing Bodies and therefore not be able to take part in community leagues etc. This could limit the opposition for formal, established clubs and limit friendly competition which organised sport is built on

Moving forward

  • How could your organisation play a role in enhancing social cohesion?
  • What proportion of your volunteers are from migrant communities? How could you appeal more to a wider range of people?
  • How is the governance of your organisation constituted? Are a range of backgrounds and needs represented at a top level?
  • Is there a lack of provision within your organisation due to caps on migration?
  • Is your organisation likely to face increasing pressure on resources in the immediate future? What changes might bring this about? What can you do to counteract these?  

Want to Know More?

2008-09 Citizenship Survey: Volunteering and Charitable Giving Topic Report

Published by: Communities and Local Government 2008-09

Date: April 2010

Format: PDF

What is it? A Survey based on a nationally representative sample of 10,000 people in England and Wales, with an additional sample of 5,000 from ethnical minorities. The survey covers community cohesion, empowered communities, race, religion and equalities as well as a specific part on volunteering and charitable giving.

How useful is this? The report is quite recent and has a very useful breakdown of volunteering differences between groups in the society. For example, it has an overview of gender, age, socio-economic, educational and ethnical variation in volunteering. At the same time it has a useful distinguishing between formal and informal volunteering.

Black and Minority Ethnics “Volunteering for Communities” in Sport Report

Published by: Sporting Equals

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? A pilot study of a Volunteering for communities project. The project was initiated in 2007 and operated for 12 months. Four regions were involved: Yorkshire, West Midlands, London and the North West.

How useful is this? The report is a good source of practical information of what can be done to increase the participation among BME communities. It has some practical answers with respect to the reason for the lack of voluntary participation.  

Migrant and Ethnic Minority Volunteering

Published by: Institute for Volunteering Research

Date: 2003

Format: PDF

What is it? A report of the United Kingdom section of the study, conducted as part of the Transnational Exchange Programme which also included Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Its focus is on volunteers from black and ethnic minority communities.

How useful is this? The report is not based on recent research and some information will be out dated. The research conducted into the barriers to black and minority volunteering is, however, very interesting and could give further food for thought.  


[1] White Paper on Sport -European Commission, 2009 [back]

[2] Dutch Football Club bans non-native children -Radio Netherlands Worldwide, May 2010 [back]

Last updated at 14:18 Tue 29/Mar/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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