From Ancient Greece to the present day, male sporting idols have been held up as figureheads of manliness, but our ideas of what constitutes the ‘ideal man’ have slowly shifted over time.

Take the ultimate football icon, David Beckham; our panelist, the sociologist Ellis Cashmore, argues that Beckham has transformed the way in which many men perceive ideals of masculinity – aggressive competitor on the pitch, loving husband, doting father and fashion model off it – and has helped to give men a healthy role model.

Despite this, unsettling stories of homophobia and sexism abound in the sporting world. It remains a stark fact that the only professional footballer in the UK to come out as gay, Justin Fashanu, tragically took his own life in 1998. So does sport still have a problem in accepting different versions of masculinity?

Two novelists whose work addresses the complexity of men’s lives, David Park and Ross Raisin, join Ellis Cashmore and chair Iain Bloomfield to discuss masculinity in sport and to ask the crucial question: how can we make it better for future generations of sporting stars?

About The Speakers

Ellis Cashmore

Ellis Cashmore is the author of Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption (Bloomsbury, 2016), Celebrity Culture (Routledge, 2015) and other titles on contemporary culture. He is currently visiting professor of sociology at Aston University, UK. Among his previous universities are Hong Kong and Tampa, USA.

David Park

David Park has written nine previous books, most recently, The Poets’ Wives, which was selected as Belfast’s Choice for One City One Book 2014. He has won the Authors’ Club First Novel Award, the Bass Ireland Arts Award for Literature, the Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize, the American Ireland Fund Literary.

Photo by Bobbie Hanvey.



Ross Raisin

Raisin’s debut novel God’s Own Country was published in 2008 and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and won Raisin the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. In 2013, he was included in the Granta list of 20 best young writers.  His latest book, A Natural, is a moving coming out story in the context of a professional football team.   He is currently a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story.

Photo by Urszula Soltys.

About The Chair

Iain Bloomfield

Iain Bloomfield is the outgoing Artistic Director and Head of Arts at the University of Bradford.  He has a thirty (plus) year career making and developing new performance work in theatres and community spaces. He will continue to do a lot more of that when he leaves.