The key objectives of this two-year project were:
A broad-ranging survey was used to determine the scope, extent and sociological features of sport migration and provided the context for detailed ethnographic case studies of six sports: basketball, cricket, women’s field hockey, ice hockey, rugby and tennis. Field data were collected through interviews, focused case studies of particular sports and by researcher involvement in local sports as both observer and participant.
Although sports migrants come to Northern Ireland from all over the globe, two major migration flows into Northern Ireland were identified: a South-North flow from the Southern Hemisphere and a West-East flow from North America. Most of these migrants are white, middle class men who usually migrate to develop their careers in ways not possible in their place of origin. Sports migrants often have to produce immediate results legitimated by athletic success or face losing their jobs. Their involvement in local sport has contributed to a transnational ethos that envisions the organization of sport in capitalistic terms and their presence has accentuated and reinforced the economic divide between larger, elite clubs and smaller less well resourced ones. While they play only a limited role in institutional and infrastructural development of sport in Northern Ireland, these migrant sports athletes are changing the way some sports are watched and performed there. The overall impact of this transnational movement of sports migrants has been to enhance the business model of sport development in Northern Ireland.