Issues In Sport And Touch Football Sociology Essay Example
Issues In Sport And Touch Football Sociology Essay Example

Issues In Sport And Touch Football Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4397 words)
  • Published: August 21, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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This research examines the perception and construction of gender within the roles of touch football referees. The goal is to investigate gender equity in relation to the involvement and experiences of female referees in touch football. The main questions of this thesis revolve around the fair allocation of officiating sports roles. This concern also applies to individuals who may wish to transition from participating as athletes to officiating in sports. Roles in officiating and volunteering in sports have traditionally been heavily influenced by gender, with a higher representation of females in lower status positions.

Females have tended to dominate non-paid volunteer positions in featuring operations, while males are often over-represented in leadership roles. This inequality has been strongly opposed by researchers who have focused on gender in their studies. This thesis argues that the featuring practice of 'to


uch football,' although seen as a fair practice that reflects current social norms and values, could benefit from a gender analysis. To conduct the research, a case study approach was used to examine the role of female referees in a locally-based senior mixed touch football competition. The role of referees in this competition presents several unique factors that are highly relevant to this study.

Referring to the competition is open to both males and females in various categories. The selection of referees is done administratively, considering various procedures that address broader gender equity issues, including credentialism, professionalism, and gender bias. The research approach draws on elements of Norbert Elias's work, specifically the concept of figurationalism, as well as the post-structuralist approach of Actor Network Theory [ANT]. The methodology and analysis of the study examine touch football in a small rura

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setting by engaging with the experiences of touch football players who also serve as referees in the competition. The research holds significance for multiple reasons and at different levels.

Australian Government policies, such as the Active Woman's: National Policy for Women and Girls in Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity, 1999-2002 (1999a), and How to include Women and Girls in Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity: Schemes and Good Practice (1999b), require Australian athletics establishments to foster inclusive cultures that promote and value female participation in all aspects of athletics. However, social norms that perpetuate inequalities will persist unless they are critically examined and leadership is provided to drive change. Gender equity is recognized as a crucial strategy for ensuring the long-term growth of sports by ensuring equal opportunities in all areas. Additionally, promoting an appropriate gender mix at both the game and individual level can help counteract negative masculine traits like aggression and sexism within the sports community. Encouraging female involvement in officiating roles can reflect the diverse values of a mixed-gender competition and emphasize the positive societal and physical benefits of the game.Finally, the country being researched is of great interest to the researcher and is an area of study where there is prior knowledge about the roles within the sporting practice, as well as the ability and convenience for the researcher to engage with those involved locally.

Research Hypothesis

The aim of this study is to investigate whether a gendered approach to examining a local touch football competition will lead to improved outcomes for both male and female officials in the sport. Specifically, the focus of this study is on ensuring fair

representation of female referees in the diverse local touch football competition. The thesis will explore people's perceptions of gender differences in the role of a referee and propose strategies to achieve gender equity. This thesis should be viewed as an initial analysis of gender equity in umpiring within the context of touch football.

The CQUniversity Human Research Ethics Committee [ H12/02-019 ], Queensland Touch Association, and Central Queensland Touch Association have approved the research.

Research Background

Key Concerns in Athletics

Sport has historically been of interest to societal theorists and observers. Various approaches have been taken, ranging from macro and meta-analysis of sporting behaviors and outcomes to micro-level examinations of everyday aspects of sports. This study adopts a gendered, post-structuralist approach to explore the issue of gender equity in officiating roles in athletics. The following section provides background information on the central concerns that influenced the research process, as well as an introduction to touch football for those unfamiliar with the sport. Familiarity with the sport, including its history and values, will assist in understanding the research.

Gender in Athletics

The research explores the significance of gender in sports and recognizes it as a crucial social concept. The notion of gender provides insights into sports practices, enabling the improvement of individual and collective outcomes associated with specific sports. The study of gender in sociology has evolved alongside feminist movements, constituting an independent intellectual pursuit ( Weedon 1997 ). This dissertation employs a working definition of gender as a 'system of social practices' to critically examine the social arrangements within touch football ( Ridgeway and Smith-Lovin 1999, p. 192). These gendered social practices establish and perpetuate

gender distinctions, disparities, and inequalities.

The relationships between actors are organized based on differences, inequalities and societal norms. Gender encompasses societal, cultural and psychological traits associated with males and females within specific social contexts and translations. There are ongoing debates about the components of feminist theory, but generally, a theory is considered feminist if it challenges a harmful 'status quo' for females (Chafetz 1988; Hall 1996). Feminists employ various approaches to empower women. The objective of feminists is to eradicate sexism by empowering females (Weedon 1997), although there is considerable disagreement on the methods to achieve this goal.

One interpretation is that there are many individuals who have both masculine and feminine qualities that are more varied than distinct or binary expressions of gender. According to Miller (2009, p. 127), masculinity [and femininity] should be seen not as something inherent or fixed, but as a set of contingent characteristics and behaviors that exert influence over both males and females. Understanding gender means being able to change it, not just accepting it. Researchers should focus on the processes and relationships through which males and females navigate their gendered lives (Connell 2005). Gender cannot be simply defined as a specific category, as it is a fluid aspect of one's identity that is not limited to a finite number of gender classifications. However, there are differences in outcomes for males and females, which creates a challenging tension between the subjective fluidity of gender and the objective correlations with distinct outcomes.

Discussing the opportunity for women to compete in sports becomes complex and highly debated (Hall 1996; Hargreaves 1994). This is evident in debates surrounding separate sporting activities versus mixed competitions, as

well as the imbalance in media portrayals of women's sports compared to men's. As a clear indication of the importance of gender equality in sports, Australia ranks 23rd out of 135 countries on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index, highlighting a significant decline in relative progress (Hausmann, Tyson, Bekhouche and Zahidi 2011).

Research Approach - The Significance of Analyzing Touch Football

The research focuses on a case study of a local senior mixed touch football competition. The next section contextualizes the research by describing key aspects of touch football, along with a brief history of the sport's development in Australia.

Key Aspects of Touch Football

Field and Ball in Touch Football

Touch football, also known as touch rugby or touch, is commonly played on a rectangular field that is 70 meters long from score line to touch line

[ 2 ]

and 50 meters wide ( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) . The playing surface is typically grass, but other surfaces may be used. The game involves using an oval-shaped, inflated ball that is slightly smaller than rugby league and rugby union balls. The designated official ball size measures 36 centimeters in length and 55 centimeters in circumference ( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) .

Mode of Drama

The objective of touch football is for both teams to score touchdowns

[ 3 ]

and to prevent the opponents from scoring ( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) . The ball can be passed, flicked, knocked, handed, or thrown [ but not kicked ] sideways or backwards between teammates who

can run or move with the ball in an attempt to gain territorial advantage and score ( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) . Defending players stop the attacking team

[ 4 ]

from gaining territorial advantage by touching

[ 5 ]

the ball carrier and attacking players can initiate touches, which results in a stoppage of play and a restart with a rolled ball

[ 6 ]

( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) .


Unless specified otherwise, the team in possession of the ball has six touches before changing possession with the opposing team ( Touch Football Australia 2007 ) .

Following the 6th touch or the loss of ownership due to any other agencies, participants of the squad losing ownership are to manus or base on balls the ball to the nearest resistance participant, or topographic point the ball on the land at the grade[ 7 ] without hold (Touch Football Australia 2007). Attacking participants who ask for the ball are to be handed the ball. Players are non to detain the conversion process.


From the pat[ 8 ] for the start of the game or from a punishment, the supporting squad must be at least 10 meters from the point of the pat (Touch Football Australia 2007).

After a touch, the support squad must withdraw at least five meters from the spot where the touch occurred and stay there until the half touches the ball (Touch Football Australia 2007). Failing to withdraw the marked distance will result in being considered offside. Attempting to support while inside this distance

will lead to a penalty.


A touchdown is awarded when a player (without being touched and other than the half) places the ball on or over the team's attacking goal line and within the boundaries of the touchdown zone (Touch Football Australia 2007).

A touchdown is worth 1 point. The team that has scored the most touchdowns at the end of play is declared the winner. In the event of neither team scoring, or if both teams score the same number of touchdowns, a draw is declared.

The Half

The half [or running back] is subject to certain limitations that do not apply to other players. If the half is touched with the ball, the attacking team loses possession.

The half cannot score a touchdown as doing so results in a change of possession. If the half takes too long to retrieve the ball, the referee can call play on and defenders are allowed to move forward before the half touches the ball.

Commencement/Recommencement of Play

Play is started by a pat at the beginning of each half, following a touchdown and when a penalty is awarded. The pat is performed by an attacking player placing the ball on the ground at or behind the mark[11], releasing both hands from the ball, touching the ball with either foot a distance of no more than one meter and recovering the ball flawlessly (Touch Football Australia 2007).

The defensive team must stay at least 10 meters away from the line during the pat, unless they are on their own mark line. Once the ball carrier touches the ball with their foot, the

defensive players can move. The player who performed the pat can be touched without losing possession. The offensive team must be behind the ball when it is tapped. The offensive team can move the ball up to ten meters directly behind the designated line when taking a penalty pat.

The defending side must remain 10 meters away from both the original grade and the new grade.

Player Dress Code

All participants must wear proper squad uniforms. Uniforms usually include upper dress [jerseys or Polo shirts], shorts [or Jockey shorts for female participants], and socks with footwear (Touch Football Australia 2007). Screw-in cleats are prohibited for all players.

Light leather or man-made boots with soft-moulded colloidal suspensions are allowed as long as sole spikes are not longer than 13 millimeters (Touch Football Australia 2007). All players must have a visible identification number on the front or back of their jersey (Touch Football Australia 2007). Players are not allowed to participate in any match while wearing any type of jewelry. Long or sharp fingernails should be trimmed or taped.

Administration of Touch Football

The referee, line judges, and touchdown zone officials are essential to the game of Touch football. A game must have at least one referee, but most significant games involve one chief referee and two sideline referees. These officials constantly interchange their roles throughout the game (Touch Football Australia 2007).

The main referee is the sole authority on matters of fact and is required to intervene on the rules of the game during play (Touch Football Australia 2007). The main referee has the power to enforce any penalty necessary to control the match and specifically

award punishments for violations against the rules (Touch Football Australia 2007). Assistant referees and touchdown zone officials assist the main referee with tasks related to out of bounds, goal lines, and touchdown zone lines, as well as other matters as directed by the main referee. Their typical duties include indicating the 10-meter distance for penalty restarts, controlling substitutions, matters of obstruction, and providing advice when requested by the main referee (Touch Football Australia 2007). The main referee must possess a whistle to control the game. The start of play and a touchdown are indicated by long whistle blasts.

The text discusses the whistle used in Australian touch football games, specifically the Acme Thunderer 58.5 whistle. It also mentions the rules of the game, including the composition and permutation of teams. Each squad consists of 14 participants, with a maximum of six players allowed on the field at any time. In some competitions, only three males are allowed on the field, while the minimum requirement for males on the field is one.

Players have the ability to be replaced at any time during the game according to the 'interchange process' (Touch Football Australia 2007, p. 10). The number of times a player can substitute is unlimited, but substitutions can only be made from players who are registered at the start of the game (Touch Football Australia 2007).


The match lasts for 45 minutes, with two halves of 20 minutes each.

There is a five minute interruption in the half clip. Once the clip expires, the drama continues until the ball following becomes dead [12] (Touch Football Australia 2007). If a punishment is awarded during this period, it must

be taken.

Competition Points

Points are awarded in competition matches throughout the season.

Teams are given three points for a win or a pass, two points for a draw and one point for a loss or a forfeit (Touch Football Australia 2007).


A punishment is given for any violation according to the game regulations (Touch Football Australia 2007). For example, the non-offending team is punished if the ball is passed forward, a 'touch and pass' is committed, a player fails to roll the ball at the mark, an obstruction is committed, a supporting player fails to retreat in a straight line to an onside position, a player is offside [on-field player or substitute], and a player acts against the rules or spirit of the game (Touch Football Australia 2007).


Teams are divided into three positions: two 'middles' [the central participants], two 'wings' [the players on either edge of the field], and two 'links' [the players between the wings and centers].


Touch football is commonly played in four different skill classes ranging from A class [the most competitive] to B, C, and D grade [the least experienced and usually the least competitive].

The History of Touch Football in Australia

Touch football in Australia has gone through various changes and has now become known as a relatively fast-paced game. These changes in the sport's structure have allowed for the continual growth of touch football.

Humble Origins

Touch football had humble beginnings. It was initially used as a training model for rugby league and rugby union teams during the summer months of the 1950s and 1960s, and was not initially recognized as a sport in its own right

(Touch Football South Australia n.d.).

) An increasing number of individuals, primarily males over the age of 25 [14], were enlisted to join touch football teams and official tournaments were formed (Touch Football Western Australia 2007; Townsville Castle Hill Touch Association n.d.). The rise in popularity of touch football can be attributed to its perception as a relatively safe alternative to rugby league and rugby union (Touch Football Victoria 2009).

Touch football was also seen as a social activity that provided an opportunity for participants and fans to come together in a relaxed sports setting. The first official game of touch football in Australia was held in South Sydney, a strong rugby conference area. The South Sydney Touch Association was established in 1968 and organized a competition at Pioneer Park, Malabar that same year. Shortly after, the sport became popular in several inner-city areas of Sydney. As a result, the New South Wales Touch Association was formed in 1972, which included six regions: Southern Suns, Sydney Scorpions, Sydney Rebels, Sydney Mets, Hunter Western Hornets, and Northern Eagles. There were about 1,500 registered participants (Shilbury and Kellett 2006; Touch Football South Australia n.d.).

The first state association in Wagga Wagga was established in 1973. Adult females started playing touch football at a representative level in 1979 (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009). Touch football attracted ex-rugby players who had retired due to age or injury, as well as individuals who were not able or willing to play rugby but were interested in playing a form of "rugby" (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009). The game developed due to an increased

awareness of fitness among the adult population and the availability of former rugby players to participate (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009).

The Evolution of Touch Football as an Individual Sport

Touch football gradually spread to various regions in New South Wales before it was recognized as an official sport in Brisbane ( Touch Football South Australia n.d. ; Touch Football Victoria 2009 ). The game then expanded to all other states and territories in Australia, leading to the establishment of the Australian Touch Association, now known as Touch Football Australia, in November 1978 ( Touch Football South Australia n.d. ; Touch Football Victoria 2009 ). As these associations were formed, standardized game regulations were introduced. However, it was not until late 1980 that a formal 'rule book' was developed ( Touch Football Victoria 2009 ).

In September 1981, the sport of touch football agreed to change its name from 'touch football' to 'touch'
, although it has also been referred to as 'touch rugby' by many (Touch Football Australian Capital Territory 2007). Several other changes followed, including the introduction of a smaller official touch ball compared to both rugby league and rugby union balls, and a reduction in the size of the playing field to 70 meters by 50 meters (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009). Significant rule changes also occurred during this time, transitioning from seven players per side in 1980 to six-a-side (Touch Football Australian Capital Territory 2007; Touch Football Victoria 2009).

Shortly after, the marker

[ 16 ]

was removed from the axial rotation ball and the half was prevented from being able

to hit a touchdown (Touch Football Australian Capital Territory 2007). Recently, the Australian Touch Association has rebranded the athletics as 'touch football' in an effort to clarify that it is a 'sport with a ball' (Touch Football South Australia n.d.). While tackles and scrums are non elements of touch football, Touch Football Victoria (2009) suggested using the term 'touch rugby' lends itself to a feeling that the athletics may be of a rough, physical nature, which is anything but true. Touch football was originally played under rugby conference laws without activities that comprised difficult physical contact (Coffey 2010).

The simplicity, skill-based approach, and non-contact nature, along with the social and communication benefits and minimal equipment requirements, have become key aspects of modern touch football.

Emergence of Elite Competition

While most touch football games are played at a local level, there have been notable state-level competitions in touch football. The first interstate clashes in touch football occurred when the Brisbane Touch Association representative team played against the South Sydney team in 1973, 1974, and 1975. Throughout the development of standardized rules for the sport, there has been a history of negotiated agreements.

For example, South Sydney wanted to organize interstate matches played with ten players on each side, but Brisbane refused. As a result, the matches were played with eight players on each side on a regulation-sized rugby field, measuring 112 to 122 meters by 68 meters (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009). One of the games in the series served as an opening match for an interstate rugby conference clash (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009). Additionally, touch football was played as a

prelude to the Sydney rugby conference grand final in 1976 (Touch Football South Australia n.d.; Touch Football Victoria 2009).

The inaugural National Championships took place on the Gold Coast in December 1980. It was a competition between New South Wales and Queensland. Only three divisions were contested that year, including the open men's and women's divisions and the over 35 men's division. The event included approximately 700-1,000 officials and participants. By 1995, the National Championships had grown to include 11 divisions and had a total of 1,500 officials and participants.

Development of the game led to the National Touch League, formerly known as the National Championships, catering to open, under 20s, and senior divisions by 2005 (Touch Football Western Australia 2007).

The Rise of Internationalism

The success of interstate clashes sparked interest in international competitions. In 1985, the Federation of International Touch was established in Melbourne with Papua New Guinea, Canada, the USA, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia as the founding members (Touch Football Victoria 2009). The first officially recognized international game took place on 23 March 1985 at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground in a trial series between Australia and New Zealand (Touch Football Victoria 2009).

The game of touch football has become popular globally, as evidenced by the participation of teams from 26 different countries in the last World Cup held in Edinburgh, Scotland. These teams included Spain, South Africa, Japan, USA, Scotland, Singapore, and the Cook Islands (Federation of International Touch 2011a; 2011b). Touch football is known for its emphasis on teamwork and physical fitness, making it a national phenomenon (Coffey 2010). The non-contact format of the sport allows people of all ages and genders to participate,

in various forms.

Referee Demand in Touch Football

As mentioned earlier, touch football has its own set of rules and regulations that require referees to act as ultimate authorities in the game.

While there is clarity about the need for officials in the touch football competition and a well-established set of rules, there is some ambiguity in the way the sport is played. This allows for negotiated changes to the playing environment and different interpretations of the rules. Like in most sports, the performance of referees is a topic of discussion and can cause some concerns. Officiating in sports can be challenging, especially in a fast-paced sport like touch football where referees have limited technological assistance at the local level. The need for referees at local sporting events has been mentioned frequently in recent years, leading to the implementation of various recruitment and retention strategies.

The success of these schemes differs to different extents in athletics. The argument of this thesis is that touch football is not just a new game, but also an opportunity to comprehend the gendered aspect of sports. To explore this, the thesis examines a locally-based senior mixed touch football competition. The goal is to enhance understanding of the gendered nature of umpiring roles by conducting personal interviews with participants, including female referees in the competition.

This thesis aims to explore the perception and construction of gender in touch football refereeing in order to propose strategies for recruiting and retaining female referees. The structure of the thesis is as follows:

Structure of the Thesis

Chapter Two examines relevant theoretical concerns derived from the works of Norbert Elias and Bruno Latour, particularly in relation to gender.

It also reviews existing literature on gender in sports.

Furthermore, Chapter Three discusses the research approach that was employed for this study.

This passage outlines the methods used to investigate the gendered nature of umpiring functions in touch football, as well as the analysis methods employed. It also discusses the ethical considerations involved in the research process and the limitations of the study. Chapter Four presents the research findings, starting with the results of desktop research. These findings are presented using quantitative data, which objectively describes the gender disparity in the sport. Additionally, qualitative data obtained from in-depth interviews with 11 members of the touch administration is presented.

This information was compiled after the initial quantitative research was completed in the research procedure. The consequences of participant observation are presented 3rd. Chapter Five discusses the resulting findings from the research. The significance of the findings is also discussed.

Chapter Six: The Decision and Future Research

Chapter Two: Literature Review


In Chapter One, the preliminary statement proposes that touch football is a unique sporting practice that involves various social patterns and values, which are often influenced by gender. This chapter aims to expand the discussion through an exploration of sociological literature focusing on the role of gender in sports and specifically on the role of referees and relevant issues discussed in this thesis. The literature highlights several constraints faced by female sports officials.

However, in order to provide context for the identified constraints, it is necessary to first examine the theoretical generalizations and heuristic insights from Eliasian analysis and Actor Network Theory.

Theoretical Models

Eliasian Analysis

Norbert Elias's work has been influential in the field of sociology of athletics and offers valuable

insights into the understanding of sporting patterns (Elias and Dunning 1970; Tormenting 1990, 1994; Dunning and Maguire 1996; Kew 1990; Maguire 1993). In this thesis, it is important to review Elias's work. According to Elias, power is a 'game' of interdependencies with historical significance.

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