University academics and Leicester sports coaches team up in ERASMUS research project on ethics code for grassroots sport across Europe

Posted by ap507 at Jun 14, 2016 11:09 AM |
University of Leicester experts involved in development of ethics app for grassroots sports clubs

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 14 June 2016

Posters on The Big Six from AFC Barwell are available to view here:

Leicester City Football Club led the way in professional football excellence in England in 2016, but now the public focus has shifted once more to football's problems – the depressing hooliganism stories from Euro 2016.

So we need to shift attention again to the positive sides of the game, as local academics and football coaches from Leicestershire work together with colleagues in Europe to improve fairness in grassroots sport.

Football expert John Williams from the DICE unit and the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester, along with two local grassroots sports volunteers from AFC Barwell, Director of Football Darren Finney, and club Chairman Michael Sumner, recently returned from a meeting in Modena, Italy of the ERASMUS-funded E4S (Ethics for Sports) project.

The E4S project involves five European countries and is aimed at developing an ethics app for grassroots sports clubs and a code of sporting ethics that is simple and easily transferrable across sports and across EU countries.

Finally, it will produce an electronic handbook of good practice drawn from each of the five countries involved.

AFC Barwell has around 300 junior players and is the exclusive research focus for the British side of this exciting five-country ERASMUS project. 

John Williams has already conducted interviews with coaches, parents and administrators at Barwell and a discussion of this material was one of the main features of the recent meeting in Modena.

John Williams said: “It is important we look at how we can promote fair play across grassroots sport. Seeking out and spreading good practice is vital. It is very clear that AFC Barwell is incredibly important to its local area and that it has progressive views about making sure its parents and young players understand why sport should be played fairly. The club is very open - it has an inclusive section for young people with disabilities or behavioural issues – and it welcomes any young person to join, regardless of ability.

“Like many people involved in local sport, AFC Barwell volunteers worry about some of the lessons young players might learn from the professional game, where winning is central to any ethical code. AFC Barwell values winning, but it probably values more its wider role in promoting fairness and helping to develop young people as confident, good citizens and responsible members of the local community. This is what sports clubs should do and this club makes a great role model for the E4S campaign in Europe.”

Director of Football, Darren Finney, has been with the AFC Barwell club for more than ten years. He values the role of the club in this new European project and expects grassroots sport in the area to learn a lot from its European exchanges.

Darren Finney said: “It is a great honour for a grassroots club in Leicestershire like ours to be involved in this European project, especially since Leicester City has brought such global attention to sport in this area. We try to get over to the coaches at the club that this is not just about sport; that what we are teaching the kids are life skills. And these life skills include playing fairly and being fair: trying to win but knowing that winning isn’t everything, and understanding the reasons why you might have lost.

“If we have a new group of players and parents we always tell them how we expect young people to play the game, what we want from parents and how we want the kids to have fun, enjoy what they’re doing, win, lose or draw.  You can actually learn more from losing, as a player and coach, than winning every week.”

Michael Sumner is Chairman at AFC Barwell club and will be directly involved in developing the sports ethics app with other members of the E4S group. He thinks parents have a key role to play in promoting fairness in junior local sport. 

Sumner said: “It is fascinating to hear about local sport in other countries through E4S. To be fair, behaviour in football at our level in England is generally very good, and we hope to build on that through the E4S project. But having seen some other clubs, especially on match-days, I think we do try to put a little more of an emphasis on enjoyment and the development of our players, rather than going out there to get a result.

“And I think that also boils down to our set of parents. Ours, compared to others we occasionally see, are markedly different. Because we work on this, our parents behave in a way you would expect them to, in terms of supporting their kids. Rather than shouting and yelling and screaming at other players, they are supportive of our own players – and often the opposition as well. They uphold the values that we try to portray as a club.”

The E4S group have already come up with the basis for a framework for a simple code of ethics the group hopes to develop and spread around grassroots sport in Europe. The group has provisionally called this framework ‘The Big Six.’

These are values and approaches to sport the E4S group hope will underpin how grassroots sport is coached and played across Europe in future.


1.   Help team-mates, respect opponents

2.   Follow the rules/laws

3.   Play fair, don’t cheat

4.   Only hear the coach

5.   No referee, no game

6.   Have fun – and try to win!

Posters on The Big Six from AFC Barwell are available to view here:

 John Williams from DICE at the University of Leicester added: “The beauty of developing a code like this one is that it is simple and everyone can understand it. It can be promoted on social media but also on club websites, posters in changing rooms, and via t-shirts and merchandise. We hope to get sporting bodies in Europe interested in supporting the message. Maybe Leicester will become globally known not only for its sporting excellence, but also for its positive promotion of fairness and inclusion in sport.”

The E4S group will now refine and spread the Big Six concept: AFC Barwell has already produced designs for posters for the club. The project will also collect some more interview and survey data from each of the partner countries, produce the electronic handbook, and develop the fairness app. The group meets next in Rennes, France, in November or December this year.


Notes to editors:

Contacts:  John Williams:




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