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ESLJ Volume 4 Number 2 Reviews

New Perspectives on Sport and ‘Deviance’: Consumption, Performativity and Social Control by Tony Blackshaw and Tim Crabbe.

Routledge, London, 2004, 211 pp £26.99, pbk (ISBN 0-415- 28885 -1).

‘The everyday makeup of contemporary sport in increasingly characterised by a perceived explosion of deviance - violence, drug taking, racism, homophobia, misogyny, corruption and excess. Whereas once these behaviours may have been subject to the moral judgments of authority, in the face of dramatic socio-cultural change they become more a matter of populist consumer gaze.’ (p i)


This book seeks to address these developments and provide a new and insightful approach towards the study of ‘deviance’ in sport. Whilst it is a text for sociology scholars and more specifically those interested in the field of sociology of sport and sociology of deviance, the subject matter is such that it captivates the reader. In testimony to some of the theories developed, consumer culture is now so pervasive that even reading a sociology text which discusses sex, perversity, sickness, filth and violence becomes compulsive and fascinating reading.


As a lawyer working in the sports industry, this reviewer found the more theoretical aspects of this book heavy going. It starts with a thorough examination of the thesis that the efficacy of the sociology of ‘deviance’ is exhausted – dead. The authors argue against this thesis and propose instead that the sociology of deviance needs to be re-invented as a new beginning enterprise.


The second part of the book, entitled ‘ Re-imagining Theory and Method’, explores the authors’ own theory and methodology and the introduction of features of the liquid modern consumer world as they relate to deviance in sport. The third part of the book, ‘Watching the Game’, presents the authors’ findings and analyses of specific areas. The first chapter deals with consumptive deviance in relation to the FA Premier League through the metaphor of a soap opera. The second chapter explores the performative social world of street ‘cruising’, whilst the final chapter ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ examines community sports and considers the shifting basis for the social control functions of sport.


This section of the book really pulls together interesting theories for the consumer ‘watching the game’. The fitting comparison with a soap opera is very clever. Eric Cantona’s kung fu style assault on a spectator; the arrest, trial and acquittal of several Leeds United players on public order charges and the sex life and lifestyle of the Beckhams are all detailed as various episodes of the Premiership soap opera, with their ability to raise the viewer ratings. ‘The story becomes bigger than the details from which it emerges, picking up detritus along the way in order to satisfy our own insatiable demand to be titillated by the intricate details of a ‘deviant’ celebrity life style’ (p 123).


Overall, this book provides a new basis for sociological debate in the fields of the sociology of sport and the sociology of ‘deviance’. It is a slim volume which is well written, the authors clearly have a fierce determination and enthusiasm for their subject and their hypothesis is clearly stated: ‘Our somewhat depressing point is that in the age of consumer capitalism, when those experiences come into contact with celebrity, they become commodity forms which are presented perfomatively, glamorised and, like the prospect of weapons of mass destruction, sexed up for our consumption’ (p 182) and for the majority of consumers the conclusion must be - long may that continue.


Urvasi Naidoo

In-House Lawyer, International Cricket Council

Naidoo, Urvasi, "New Perspectives on Sport and ‘Deviance’: Consumption, Performativity and Social Control by Tony Blackshaw and Tim Crabbe", Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, ISSN 1748-944X, October 2006, <>