Introducing the Routledge Handbook of Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights

Centre for Sport and Human Rights

In 2023 the Centre for Sport and Human Rights gathered together the leading global experts to produce The Routledge Handbook of Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights. The Centre’s Deputy CEO and handbook editor William Rook explains the importance of the book.

Why did you decide to edit the book?

There has been so much good work done on mega-sporting events since we first convened the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights back in 2015, this was an opportunity take stock, update and refresh the analysis, provide a platform for longstanding experts and collaborators, and - through an open call for contributions - find new global voices and experts to include. Now in 2024 more and more mega-events are being awarded with human rights criteria in bidding or hosting requirements, so this is a resource for events themselves, other ecosystem stakeholders and a capstone project for lots of the early work we convened on MSEs. We’ve also noted an increase in higher education study programmes that look at sport and human rights - so we wanted to provide a resource for students and course leaders.

There are 54 authors writing 42 chapters on a huge variety of Sport and Human Rights topics, how did you set about defining the subject areas?

The structure is hopefully quite simple. First of all we’re trying to situate sports events within broader scholarship on business and human rights - so we start with the normative framework that applies - basically considering how sports events and human rights are connected in a factual and legal context. Then we look at what an MSE is by unpacking the lifecycle of an event - with chapters on the various lifecycle phases such as bidding, construction, games-time, and legacy. With that we give the reader a good sense of what an MSE is, its various constituting phases and what risks are attached at each stage. This leads to a section with chapters about the institutional actors that come together to deliver an MSE - showing the respective roles of sports bodies, organising committees, sponsors, broadcasters, suppliers or governments in delivering an event - and what their human rights responsibilities are.  This provides a foundation for a section on affected groups - addressing how different groups like athletes, workers, children, gender minorites and persons with disabilities can be impacted positively and negatively by MSEs. The totally new bit is the final section which offers a series of case studies and insights from particular events or practical experiences. Of course, the themes and topics are quite interlinked. Therefore, we have cross-referenced various related concepts and themes throughout the book which should be helpful for the reader. 

How did you gather together all the authors? What sort of people are involved?

The author group represents some of the leading global experts on these issues - many of which have been collaborators and supporters of CSHR over the years and who led the development of an early set of white papers back in 2017. But of course in that time new experts have come to the fore, new issues have come into scope, and the status quo has changed quite substantially - so this was a nice way to bring together some people we’ve worked with for a long time with some that have entered the field in the meantime. We did an open call for submissions that led to some very interesting contributions from across the globe, and brought all of the authors together a couple of times to workshop and peer review their draft chapters. The outcome is quite a practical volume with contributions from a good mix of academics and practitioners.

Who do you think is the audience for this book?

We developed this book primarily to be helpful to anyone involved in bidding for or delivering a major event, and for those who engage with and interact with MSEs, including from civil society, affected groups and the commercial actors - the whole sport ecosystem really. For that reason, it has been written to be accessible and with the intention to bring to life the human rights dimensions of MSEs, and what specific roles and responsibilities different actors have. As a result - it’s also a general primer for an interested audience and would be a good course text for human rights, sports law and sports management programmes. 

What do you think it says about the Centre that it was able to pull together this definitive book?

CSHR has been established to offer human rights expertise to the world of sport and to convene a wide multi-stakeholder network. This book is a product of that collective expertise and our strong and committed network. It’s also the output of personal commitment from individual authors from across the ecosystem who dedicated their time to share their knowledge in this format, which for some was a new experience. It shows the trust in Centre’s work, its mission and its expertise from a wide ranging group of academics and practitioners. 

It’s a serious, in-depth work, the guidebook of Mega-Sporting Events and Human rights if you like. Any plans to turn it into more bite-sized multi-media chunks?

We don’t expect people to read this cover to cover - but hopefully the way it is structured can help people finding easily the information they need and then motivating them to read further. In particular, the internal cross-refrencing of the book content should be helpful. And of course we hope it’s something that gets regular referral! There is so much good content in the book, we want to share some of the key lessons via various more accessible formats - social media posts, interviews with authors, podcasts, summaries etc. We won’t just be putting it on the shelf - so stand by for lots more content based on this book - in the form of courses, teaching resources, videos and so on.

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