Touring, travelling and accelerated mobilities: Team and player mobilities in New Zealand rugby union
Elias (1986) and Leifer (1995) provide accounts of amateur and professional sports that pay attention to the way in which team travel structures both the establishment of organised competitions and, in turn, the relationships between organisers, players and spectators. Elias (1986) argues that travel by teams is the critical factor provoking the transformation of local pastimes into national and international sports overseen by supervisory bodies. In his argument, travelling teams, operating across geographically distant locations, provoke the need for the establishment of uniform rules and autonomous administrative arrangements. In turn, these supervisory bodies take over effective control of the game. They become responsible for the co-ordination of all local clubs and the organisation of a national team. This logic of travel and the autonomy of organisational development are pre-
sented with reference to cricket. With his characteristic ‘eye’ for social organisation, he notes: ‘when it became customary to organize game-contests above the local level because cricket teams were travelling from one place to another, it was necessary to ensure uniformity of the game’ (Elias, 1986, p. 39). For our purposes the significance of his argument is the recognition that the collective travel of teams between places promotes both rationalisation of the rules of the game and furthers local ties by providing for comparisons between teams representing places. We will show how this argument, one that emphasises the civilising function of sport, overlaps with one side of the local argument on rugby union in New Zealand. The regulation of sports in Leifer’s (1995) argument is concerned less with the
rules of the game and more with offsetting the financial threats posed by fickle public identification with professional teams. For Leifer (1995), professional sports expand through three interlocking processes: team attachment to cities; the routinisation of travel, in the form of organised league competitions; and control over professional player mobility through the establishment of exceptional sports labour markets. He notes that ‘the first professional sport teams roamed the countryside playing pieced-together local teams, billing nearly every match-up as a championship in order to attract crowds’ (p. 27). These mobile, independent
professional teams not only spread interest in games, and diffused new technologies of play, but were also the precursors for the establishment of the major sports leagues based on city teams. Following Elias (1986), Leifer views the development of professional leagues as ‘a sort of culmination of the civilizing process’ (1995, p. 26). In his account this development was controversial in so far as it threatened amateur teams that were integrally tied to pre-existing groups such as clubs, schools and workplaces. In this context, professional players were initially regarded as ‘unsavoury mercenaries’ (1995, p. 28). Leifer (1995) also stresses the way in which team travel induces both uniformity
above the level of the local and comparison between different local teams. In his argument team mobility is re-organised in the form of financially stable league competitions structured by the repetition of home and away games throughout a pre-determined season. This process of guaranteed repetition not only marks the novelty of leagues but also facilitates the preservation of teams attached to cities and the placing of constraints on individual player mobility between teams. Elias’ (1986) and Leifer’s (1995) emphasis on the significance of team mobilities
for reconfiguring local traditions and organising spectator sports is supplemented in the literature on sport and labour migration by accounts of the mobilities and motivations of individual athletes (Bale, 1991; Bale and Maguire, 1994; Wilson, 1994; Maguire and Stead, 1998a; Maguire, 1999; McGovern, 2000; Magee and Sugden, 2002; Maguire, 2004). For example, Maguire (1996) has drawn on Appadurai’s (1990) ‘ethnoscapes’ to develop typologies of the motivations of both amateur and professional sports migrants. He documents types of mobility characteristic of pioneers, settlers, returnees, mercenaries and nomadic cosmopolitans. These typologies will be drawn upon to identify differences in the mobility patterns of the amateur and professional periods of the game.