And Mckeown, M. (2012) a critical exploration of using football in health and welfare programs: Gender, masculinities and social relations. Journal of Sport and Social Issues. 36(4): 387-409 A

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Concluding Thoughts

By harnessing the humane and democratic possibilities in sport, football initiatives might bring together mutual interests (for example between diverse groups of men; men and women) to forge alliances based on solidarity, trust and respect. In this respect it is worth

noting that our ‘relational’ approach to gender means that men and womens welfare is interrelated and interdependent (Broom, 2009). Although mens health and welfare cannot be reduced to gender inequalities or gender relations, ideologies and practices of gender’ structure how these problems are manifested, lived out and addressed. This does not mean that football initiatives should necessarily be mixed sex because, in the current gender order, there may be something about the homosocial environment that facilitates sharing and reflection. However, this situation is certainly something to be questioned, interrogated and reflected upon. Our point is that if health and welfare programmes are to draw on football to engage men, it important that they understand the role of football in re-asserting, re-working and potentially challenging dominant gender relations. In particular, if public health initiatives are to use football to address mens health, then the paradoxes of football, masculinity and health need to be taken seriously when these initiatives are developed and theorised.
We cannot predict in advance whether such projects will challenge or reproduce gender relations, and it is more likely that they will do both simultaneously - that is the paradox. It will ultimately depend on the way initiatives are developed in practice and the wider context in which they are implemented. This has been an exploratory paper and we recommend more research to investigate the precise mechanisms, social relations and dynamics in football welfare programmes. For example, it would interesting to explore any potential differences between projects which are mixed, men or women only (and if they are facilitated by men or women) and whether this has any impact on participants experience of them; both their benefits; and their potential to challenge prevailing gender relations. Perhaps more importantly, it would be worth exploring the possibility and desirability of making the social relational aspects of gender more central to the content of these initiatives.

The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees for suggestions which helped to strengthen this paper.


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