In the literature related to the study of sport, the idea of phenomenology appears with various meanings. The aim of this paper is to sketch the nature, methods and central concepts of phenomenology, and thereby to distinguish philosophical phenomenology from its empirical applications. We shall begin by providing an overview of what we think phenomenology is and is not, by introducing the following points: we distinguish phenomenology from phenomenalism; the ontological from the ontic; transcendental subjectivity from subjectivity; phenomenology from phenomenography; and phenomenology from other kinds of empirical qualitative methodology. Next, we examine the two most important British studies to include overviews of phenomenological work in relation to sociology of sport. We then take a critical view of the work of one research paper that gives a particularly clear description of the method of ‘empirical phenomenology’. Throughout, we insist on the simple basics: that phenomenology is not simply the study of empirical phenomena, is not a form of subjectivism, is not about someone’s personal experience or personal perspective, and that it is not to be confused with ‘qualitative research methods’. We further insist that, if a researcher wishes to use the name ‘phenomenology’ for his or her research, he or she should explain just what it is (about the method or the concepts, or the outcomes) that informs or results from the research programme, in order to justify the name.