The Lived Experiences of Southern Hemisphere Professional Rugby League Migrants in the United Kingdom: “It’s a Long Way to the Super League.”
This research investigated the lived experiences of professional Oceanian sports migrants employed in rugby league in the United Kingdom (UK), and the impact migration had upon player identities. The migrant pathway from Oceania to the UK is well established in rugby. However, the experiences of rugby league players have not previously been studied. Moreover, rugby league is a sport in which debate concerning the merits of employing labour migrants from Oceania is prevalent and ongoing due to the success of international antipodean teams, particularly Australia. The study was guided by figurational principles in order to gain insight into sports labour migration in rugby league as part of wider globalisation processes. The study utilised data obtained from 14 semi-structured interviews and 26 questionnaires completed by professional rugby league players in the premier European club competition, the ‘Superleague.’ Specific issues facing this group of migrant professionals were investigated. Motivations to migrate were intensely personal and multi-faceted. Although finance featured, personal development and sporting goals were often paramount. However, player control career choices were often limited, associated with poor preparation. This resulted in considerable personal and cultural challenges, particularly among players without European ancestry. The study also highlighted how the identities of ethnic subgroups within a more general group of labour migrants can emerge and be strengthened as a result of migration. Furthermore, the study highlighted how the issues presented by migrating in sport can affect some groups of migrants in an entirely unique manner. In particular, Pacific Islanders, Maoris and Papua New Guineans found the cultural adaptation required of a move to England challenging. These differences between subgroups are considered in light of previous work on a labour migrant typology presented by Stead and Maguire (2000) which has implications for future research into the global sports migration phenomena.
Keywords: Labour Migration, Figurations, Globalisation, Lived Experiences, Rugby League, Identity
Adam Brian Evans
Lecturer, School of Sport, Coaching and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln
Adam’s research focuses upon the sociology of sport and physical activity. His interests include sports globalization, including the development of sport and physical activity in the United Kingdom (particularly aquatic activity), and international sports labor migration (particularly in Rugby League and Association Football). His research has a particular emphasis on understanding the lived experiences of participation in sport and physical activity among both elite and traditionally excluded groups. His current research includes a phenomenological investigation into older adults’ experiences of physical activity during cardiac rehabilitation, an evaluation of the Lincolnshire Sports Partnership’s ‘school wheelchair project,’ and an investigation into best practice for Exercise Referral Schemes in Eastern England.