Sports Coach

Foreign sports coaches stigmatised by sports media

24 June 2022

New, UK-first research by experts on sport psychology from London South Bank University (LSBU) found that media representation in the English, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish speaking press of foreign coaches is deeply polarised. Sometimes the same coach (e.g., football coach Mourinho) is portrayed as instrumental for sport development and success by their native country and also stigmatised as unsuccessful mercenaries with no attachment to the host country once they move abroad.

The LSBU research found:

  • Foreign sports coaches are often portrayed as either instrumental for sport development and success by their native country or stigmatised as unsuccessful mercenaries with no attachment to the host country once they move abroad.

  • The world’s media often accuses foreign coaches of lacking commitment to the national sport. They are portrayed as uncommitted and motivated to work abroad by financial gain. This is especially prevalent in Africa or Russia where foreign football coaches, in particular Europeans, are described as caring more about money than the sport itself. But previous research about the coaches’ motivations for migration paint a different picture of the migrant coaches themselves.
  • Issues such as language barriers, lack of attachment to the national culture, and the blaming of foreign coaches on the marginalisation of native coaches are all described by media as reasons for poor sporting outcomes by foreign coaches. These media criticisms appear in relation to poor performance but not when coaches are successful.
  • Should a coach move abroad they are often seen by their home country’s media as a pioneer. The media often praises them as a national symbol and applaud them for their ability to develop their sport abroad.

Mario Borges, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at LSBU and author of the report said: “The media plays a significant role in our perceptions of sports coaches. It heavily influences foreign coaches being portrayed as ‘outsiders’ who lack commitment.”

“It’s easy to imagine how this has played a part in the increased turn-over of coaches in elite sport and also the prevalence of racist and xenophobic abuse which we see in sport, particularly on the football terraces.”

The report recommends culture and media training should be provided by sporting federations, such as the FA, for coaches to be able to better interact with the media, fans and stakeholders of their new country.

How the research was conducted:

  • The research was led by Mario Borges Course Director BSc(Hons) Sports Coaching and Analysis at London South Bank University (LSBU)
  • The researchers analysed 257 media stories, online posts and articles published in Italian, English and Spanish written press between April 2012 and August 2014 including coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games.

Where the research was published: Sports Coaching Review - Borges, Rosado & de Oliveira (2022) – ‘Foreign coaches viewed through media discourse’