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The Rugby Players Association’s Benevolent Fund: A Sociological Study of the Development of a Social Integration Discourse in Rugby Football.

GASTON, LINDSEY,EUGENE (2014) The Rugby Players Association’s Benevolent Fund: A Sociological Study of the Development of a Social Integration Discourse in Rugby Football. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines how player welfare and post-athletic retirement preparation is discussed by both professional rugby union athletes who play in the English Premiership and the Board of Trustees of the Rugby Players’ Association’s (RPA) Benevolent Fund, the non-profit division of the trade union which represents the employment and welfare interests of professional rugby union players in England. A career in professional sports is one that is uncertain and unpredictable (Roderick 2006a; McGillivray et al. 2005). A consequence of rugby union transitioning into a professional format on 26 August 1995 was that rugby union became a stand-alone career. Along with the transition in employment structure, the athlete became bigger, faster and stronger (Olds 2001; Norton and Olds 2000). This resulted in an increase of injury severity (Kaplan et al. 2008; Brooks and Kemp 2008; Bathgate et al. 2002; Garraway et al. 2000).
In an effort to address the growing concern of injury severity and injury induced retirement, the RPA created the Benevolent Fund in 2001. The Foundation was given the remit to provide assistance to professional rugby union players during times of injury or illness, which included programmes that assisted with medical treatment, rehabilitation, counselling and direct financial assistance. To specifically address the growing numbers of players being forced to retire due to injury, the RPA commenced its ‘Life After Rugby’ programme, which provides educational opportunities that helps athletes to acquire alternative careers.
The data gathered in this research shows, with the assistance of Levitas’s discourse models (2005, 2004, 1996a, 1996b, 1989), that there is a mixed level of involvement amongst rugby players in retirement preparation. It also underscores that players’ understanding of their risk of becoming ‘socially excluded’ – a prevailing concern of the RPA’s Benevolent Fund – is varied. The data shows that players who have spent more time as professional athletes are more likely to mirror the language used by the RPA to describe their policy objectives than those who have just recently started their professional sporting career. Early career rugby players are aware of the risk of injury, but they tend to ignore the possibility that it could happen to them personally. This research highlights the RPA’s successes with senior players but identifies the need for the RPA to modify their approach so as to encourage earlier adoption of the ‘Life After Rugby’ scheme by players just starting their career in professional sport.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Social Exclusion; Player Welfare; Retirement Preparation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2014 12:34

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