The contours, dynamics and impacts of African football migration to South Africa

Solberg, Eirik Futsaeter (2008-12)

Thesis (MA (Political Science. International Studies)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


This study explores the contours, dynamics and impacts of African football migration to South Africa. It argues that there has been a change in the international political economy of sport, and that this change is affecting world football migration. In addition to the study’s primary focus on African football migration, it also reviews substantial parts of the literature concerning the phenomenon of football migration, in order to explain which dynamics characterise football migration. The thesis also accounts for the incentives that motivate African football migration to South Africa, and the impact such players have on the South African domestic elite league. The study identifies which incentives exist for promoting football cooperation in the context of Southern Africa, and how football migration patterns correlate or contrast with general migration patterns to South Africa. The study makes use of two theoretical frameworks, by Paul Darby and Joseph Maguire, to understand and explain player migration. These frameworks provide an understanding of the different aspects and structures shaping player migration, and should be interpreted as complementary and not contrasting approaches. The examination of the frameworks’ theoretical deficiencies and implications provides the basis for further research in the conclusion. The conclusion argues that there exists a need to create a new theoretical framework within which future studies can be concluded. The study is motivated by the general lack of academic research on the specific subject and migration to South Africa. The latter is suggested by the body of literature, concerning African migration to South Africa, which argues for more research on the issue to get a better understanding of the current situation. This study is based on both primary and secondary sources, the latter being represented by e.g. academic journal articles and books. In addition it was necessary to conduct fieldwork to provide answers to the research questions. The study makes use of exploratory qualitative methods in order to provide a conclusion, and to answer the research questions. It can be characterised as exploratory because it will offer new insights into a specific issue which, until now, has not been researched extensively. The analysis of the data and desktop research revealed certain trends, and provides a basis for answering the research questions. The study concludes that football migration, like conventional migration, is very complex and influenced by several interwoven factors. Hence a broad scope is crucial to understand the phenomenon correctly and not exaggerate the importance of some factors above others. In the conclusion the current position of the PSL is explained in relation to the two theoretical frameworks and the work of Pierre Lanfranchi and Matthew Taylor. It is argued that the PSL, unlike most other African leagues, has managed to cope with the ‘enduring problem of African football’, and has transformed into a commercialised, commoditised league heavily influenced by corporate interests.

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