Translation, intensification and fabrication: professional football academy coaches’ enactment of the Elite Player Performance Plan

Jimmy O’Gorman*, Mark Partington, Paul Potrac, Lee Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The micro-level enactment of elite sport policy has received little critical coverage in the sociology of sport subdiscipline. This paper provides original insights into how coaches working in professional youth football academies variously interpreted, experienced and engaged with The FA Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). In-depth, cyclical interviews were used to generate data for this study. The transcripts were rigorously analysed using an iterative-phronetic approach, with Ball's critical theorising on policy enactment providing the primary heuristic framework. Our analysis highlighted the challenging nature of coaches’ engagement with, and enactment of, this policy. Specifically, the findings address (a) the intensification of the participants’ work-based tasks and duties, (b) increased accountability for player outcomes, (c) a loss in their professional autonomy and raised levels of managerial surveillance, (d) their strategic use of fabrications to represent themselves and their respective academies in favourable and policy-compliant ways to those that scrutinised their work. The findings also raise further questions regarding the need to better understand (a) the role of sports coaches in elite sport policy processes, especially when undertaking second-order administrative activities alongside their primary coaching roles and (b) the reasons why sports coaches continue to toil (or not) in workplaces characterised by increasing intensification and performance evaluation. Relatedly, moreover, how and in what ways the products of coaches’ work in these situations is understood and utilised by those in authoritative positions in elite sport requires critical consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-325
Number of pages17
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021


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