In Chapter 2 it was argued that a combination of sports evangelism, underpinned by the mythopoeic character of sport, promoted by conceptual entrepreneurs and supported by forms of incestuous amplification tends to generate a particular attitude towards knowledge and evidence. In fact belief and faith by definition do not depend on, or need, proof or evidence. In this regard commentators have pointed to the tendency towards ‘unquestioned beliefs grounded in wishful thinking’ (Coakley, 2011: 307). Where evidence is offered it is often in testimonial form with ‘heartfelt narratives, evocative images, and quotable sound bites’ (Hartmann and Kwauk, 2011: 286). Others simply point to the general lack of systematic analysis and assessment (Kruse, 2006). It is an interesting question as to whether this situation reflects the political desire to view it as an emerging ‘new field’ in its ‘formative stage’ (Kay, 2009: 1177), or whether the very ideological and political construction of the policy area mitigates against objective analysis, or an acknowledgement of the not wholly positive implications of a substantial body of existing research on the use of sport for personal and social change (Coalter, 2007; Coakley, 2011). However, although this seems to have taken a rather extreme form in sport-for-

development – where even critics of supposed ‘neo-colonialist’ funders seem to retain a basic belief in the developmental potential of ‘sport’ (Lindsey and Grattan, 2012), it also reflects the more general problem that ‘evaluation is a rational exercise that takes place in a political context’ (Weiss, 1993: 94). Others have suggested that it is naive to confuse research findings with evidence and therefore fail to understand that even robust research competes for attention with a range of other, often more influential, factors (Solesbury 2001). Davis (2004) argues that policy making involves a range of factors that act to filter and interpret the value of evidence – values/ideologies/political beliefs, habit and traditions, lobbyists, pressure groups and resources available for

policy implementation all work in various ways to determine the perceived need for information and, more especially, its relevance. Pisani (2008), in the closely related field of HIV and AIDS prevention, argues that many programmes are based on false assumptions because of the systematic ignoring of morally or politically uncomfortable evidence. For example, despite clear evidence that the use of condoms and needle exchanges substantially reduces infection rates, such policies are opposed by those who reject birth control, or argue that needle exchanges simply encourage drug use – a position adopted by USAID until the election of Barack Obama as president of the USA. In Chapter 2 we noted Weiss’ (1993) argument that policies and programmes are

the products of processes of lobbying, persuasion, negotiation and alliance building and holders of diverse values and different interests have to be won over. This frequently produces inflated promises and unrealistic goals and that this is most likely to occur in marginal policy areas – such as sport-for-development (Levermore, 2008; Kidd, 2008). These result in the formulation of desired impacts and outcomes that lack the clarity and intellectual coherence that evaluation criteria should have. Consequently, the programmes that researchers seek to evaluate are not neutral experiments, but are the product of political decisions and strategic partnerships. In fact, in sport-for-development such partnerships often seem as important as the programmes that they deliver – especially partnerships with influential UN agencies or international governing bodies of sport. In this context Weiss (1993: 96) reminds us of realpolitik by arguing that ‘a considerable amount of ineffectiveness may be tolerated if a program fits well with prevailing values, if it satisfies voters, or if it pays off political debts’. Consequently, a lack of clarity, precision and intellectual coherence regarding evaluation criteria might simply reflect political necessities and be inherent in such processes. Such a position has clear, but not particularly positive, implications for the role and

function of monitoring and evaluation. Such processes and a desire to offer an economy of remedies often result in situations where ‘intermediate objectives are missing, providing targets for how much and when results were expected’, and ‘indicators are used in the application for funds, but not for actual monitoring and reporting’, with the absence of clear targets ‘making it difficult to assess performance’ (Kruse, 2006: 27; see also Coalter, 2006; 2007). For example, the research reported in later chapters was undertaken as part of an attempt to build a strategic alliance between a generic aid organisation and a quasi-governmental sports promotion agency. Perhaps this explains the somewhat imprecise aims ‘to test the hypothesis that sport contributes to the personal development and well-being of disadvantaged children and young people and brings wider benefits to the community’. One might regard this statement as indicating politically necessary studied vagueness. The precise meaning of such terms, the nature of relevant indicators and the problems involved in definition and measurement will be discussed in later chapters. A useful illustration of the relationship between ideology, politics and research

evidence is provided by the allied area of self-esteem (which we will look at in-depth in Chapter 5). In 1986 the Californian State Legislature funded the Task Force to

Promote Self-esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. This explored the potential of self-esteem to help to solve problems of crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, school under-achievement and pollution (Baumeister et al., 2003; Hewitt, 1998). The final report’s conclusion was unequivocal: ‘People who esteem themselves are less likely to engage in … crime’. However, the Task Force’s own academic consultants, Scheff et al. (1989), found the opposite message in the same evidence: ‘the conclusion we draw from the reviews, [is that] the relationships reported between self-esteem and deviance have been weak or null’ (Emler, 2001b: 18). In the Introduction to the report it is stated that:

Diminished self-esteem stands as a powerful independent variable (condition, cause, factor) in the genesis of major social problems. We all know this to be true… The real problem is… how we can determine that it is scientifically true.