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Sport and Religion News

The Guardian: Author and priest Randall Balmer: ‘Sport has eclipsed religion as the US pastime’

In his new book, the scholar examines how religion shaped the
history of major sports in North America

Read the full article here.

The Conversation: How sport became the new religion – a 200-year story of society’s ‘great conversion’

Hugh McLeod
Emeritus Professor of Church
History, University of Birmingham

“Jesus Christ was a sportsman.” Or so claimed a preacher at one of the regular sporting services that were held throughout the first half of the 20th century in Protestant churches all over Britain.

Read the full article here.


New journal article: How Sports Tribes Compare to Political and Religious Identification: Relationships to Violent Extremism and Radicalization

in Sociology of Sport Journal
Andrew C. Billings, Nathan A. Towery, Sean R. Sadri, and Elisabetta Zengaro
First Published Online: 18 Aug 2022


A national survey of 314 Americans was utilized to determine the degree in which sport identification functions similarly to political and religious identification as well as the degree to which each of the three forms of tribalism correlate with violent extremism and violent radicalization. Results found that sport identification correlated with extremism but not radicalization, political identification correlated with both, and religious identification correlated with neither. Moreover, each type of identification positively correlated with the other, and subgroups within each form of identification functioned similarly. Ramifications for social identity theory are advanced, arguing that whether one identifies with these groups appears more pertinent than which group identifies within that identity association regarding propensity for violent extremism and radicalization. Avenues for future research are advanced.

Event: Football and Religion: Tales of Hope, Play and Passion

by Layal Mohammad

Presented by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Centre Gallery, this exhibition explores the relationship between football and religion and how the two are often connected, with players praying on the pitch and fans observing religious rituals in tandem. The wider narrative across the exhibition examines football’s ability to champion social causes, promote marginalised voices, and create opportunities for inclusion and diversity in ways no other sport can.

The exhibition provides a narrative on the subject through a snapshot of social history and contemporary commentary with a selection of books, magazines and newspaper articles, relevant objects, and artefacts. This narrative provides the contextual backdrop for a series of new artworks created by visual artist, illustrator, and animator Ed Merlin Murray.

The exhibition, Football and Religion, includes something for everyone — from eye-catching immersive illustrated animations to interactive art and a host of inspirational media that allow visitors to delve into the subject as much as they wish.

Visit the Aga Khan Centre Gallery for more details about the exhibition:


• Kevin Coleman: Formerly of Brentford FC (Chair).

• Ed Merlin Murray: Visual artist and animator.

• Karshima Inayat: Gilgit League Pakistan.

• Dr Zafar Iqbal: Head of Sports Medicine, Crystal Palace FC.

• Matt Baker: Director of Sports Chaplaincy UK and Chaplain for Charlton Athletic FC.

• Linvoy Primus: Former Portsmouth and Charlton FC.

• Yasmin Abukar: Founder Sisterhood FC.

Dates and Times

Panel Discussion: 1 September 2022, 18:00-19:00 (London Time)

Exhibition Viewing: 1 September 2022, 19:00-20:00

Exhibition Viewing: 2 September – 4 December 2022


Aga Khan Centre (Atrium Conference Room and Gallery),
10 Handyside Street,
London N1C 4DN


The event is free, but booking is essential:

To attend in person, register via Eventbrite:

To attend online, register via Zoom:


New Book: On the Eighth Day: A Catholic Theology of Sport 

Matt Hoven, Jay Carney, and Max Engel have published a new book titled, On the Eighth Day: A Catholic Theology of Sport ( The authors provide a theological overview of sports today for undergraduate and academic readers. There is a 40% discount code (“8day40”) available on the publisher’s website.

During a 1980s Edmonton Oilers game, fans unveiled a banner claiming, “On the 8th day, God created Gretzky.” Intersections between religious belief and sporting participation are nothing new, where players, coaches, and fans are known to pray, cross themselves, and point to the heavens during a game. But what should be the relationship between sports and religious faith?
On the Eighth Day introduces the theology of sport from a Catholic standpoint. It wrestles with sport’s universal appeal, its rich symbolism, and its spiritual and moral characteristics. Sport is a place where embodied games can be sacramental; where traditions of the past speak to contemporary peoples; and where truth and justice are demanded in a world affected by sin.
The eighth day recalls the playful, re-creative work of God the Creator embodied in Christ’s resurrection. In this sense, this book marks out a “new day” in Chris- tian attitudes toward modern sport and the continuing call to redeem sport in service of human flourishing. Comprehensive yet accessible, the book will engage thoughtful lay sports fans and academic students alike.

Third Global Congress on Sport and Christianity (3GCSC)

Please note the registration deadline is 31st July 2022.

The Third Global Congress on Sport and Christianity (3GCSC) is a three-day event to be hosted by Ridley Hall in Cambridge, England, between Thursday 18th August and Sunday 21st August, 2022

The over-arching theme of the Congress is ‘servant leadership’ and, more specifically, the exploration of ways in which practitioners and academics can best serve the requirements of the field of sports ministry and chaplaincy theologically, conceptually, practically and spiritually.

A central aspiration of the gathering will be to promote the application of these ideas in line with the historical aims of the Congress and to consider how an intentional servant leadership approach might facilitate further synergies, connections and partnerships across the sector via the (co)creation of collaborative dialogue. We will be encouraging all of our speakers to consider these issues.

The aims of the Congress

In the line with the overarching ethos of the Congress, the aims of the 3GCSC are to:

  • Encourage global collaboration between academics, practitioners, politicians, policy-makers, church leaders (lay and ordained), administrators, and athletes;
    Stimulate high quality academic and practitioner publications that have societal impact;
  • Encourage, equip and serve individuals, collectives and organisations in their sphere of influence through intentional mentoring, collaboration and partnership;
  • Stimulate a ‘culture shift’ in modern sport via the sharing of ideas and practices and a ‘coming together’ of individuals from across academic and practitioner disciplines and all streams and denominations of Christianity, culminating in an inclusive and ecumenical event.

News Article: How Voluntary Were Those Voluntary Prayers? (Philidelphia, Jewish Exponent, July 6, 2022)

Rabbi Charles L. Arian reflects on the Supreme Court decision in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

News Article: Supreme Court Says Coach’s Prayer After Games Is Protected by First Amendment (AP, June 27, 2022)

Read about the Supreme Court decision in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

News Article: Evangelicalism & Brazil: The religious movement that spread through a national team (BBC, March 22, 2022)

“It was derby day in Belo Horizonte, but that wouldn’t change anything. Joao Leite believed he had a mission assigned to him by Jesus Christ: to spread God’s word among other football players. …”

News Article: Alpine skiing-Israel’s first winter Paralympian balances sport, religion (Reuters, March 13, 2022)

“Most athletes would never give up the chance to compete at an Olympic event they have spent years preparing for, but such is Sheyne Vaspi’s devotion to her faith that the Israeli skier chose religion over sport at the Beijing Winter Paralympics. …”

Research Article: A model for formulating the relationship between religion and sport performance: a grounded theory approach (Noh & Shadhan, 2021)

International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Abstract: The aim of this research was to formulate a model for understanding the relationship between religion and sport performance using a grounded theory approach. Using a purposive sampling method, 21 elite athletes (11 females, 10 males), aged 19–26 years (mean age = 23.14; SD = 2.03) were recruited to participate. Participants were from different sporting backgrounds such as archery (n = 2), athletics (n = 5), badminton (n = 7), diving (n = 2), soccer (n = 1), table tennis (n = 1), rugby (n = 1), softball (n = 1), and squash (n = 1). Participants identified their religion as Islam (n = 13), Buddhist (n = 5), Christian (n = 2), and Hindu (n = 1). The constant comparative method of data analysis with open, axial, and selective coding was used to generate the model. From the analysis, a Religion and Sport Performance (RSP) model identified three fundamental factors (religious practices, degrees of religious beliefs, and religious culture) and six contributing factors (coping strategy, religious support, psychological effects, performance outcomes, religious dietary practices, and mental health and healing). The fundamental and contributing factors in this research are significant influences on athletes’ lives and their sporting performances. The RSP model provides a foundational framework applicable to the design of intervention programmes to enhance sport performance and to help coaches or sport psychologists understand the critical role of religion in athletes’ lives.

News Article: Muslim athletes charter: Premier League clubs sign up to ‘first of its kind’ code

“When Paul Pogba recently removed a bottle of Heineken from the table at a news conference, it drew widespread attention.

Drinking, promoting or advertising alcohol is forbidden in Islam and as a devout Muslim, Pogba may have felt the need to distance himself from the situation, but should he have been put in that position in the first place?”

News Article: Touchdowns and transendence. How football makes a communal, sacred space

Columnist and former religion editor Ray Waddle reflects on college football’s meanings.

News Article: Pope Francis hosts NBA players to talk social justice

ESPN reported about this unprecedented event.

News Article: Stuck at Home With: LPGA lay chaplain Cris Stevens

Golfweek featured Cris Stevens work with the LPGA

Online Article: Our Need for Sports During the Pandemic is Far Deeper than just Entertainment

Terry Shoemaker, lecturer at Arizona State University in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, pondered the role of sport and religion in society during the COVID-19 pandemic

Research Article: A systematic review of religion/spirituality and sport: A psychological perspective

Noh, Y.-E., & Shahdan, S. (2020). A systematic review of religion/spirituality and sport: A psychological perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 46.


  • Religious/spiritual beliefs (R/S) plays a vital role in enhancing sport performance.
    R/S contributes to athletes’ well-being.
  • R/S helps athletes to cope better when facing stressful situations.
  • R/S builds a trusting relationship between consultants and athletes.

Research Article: In praise of God: Sport as worship in the practice and self-understanding of elite athletes.

Ellis, R., & Weir, J. S. (2020). In praise of God: Sport as worship in the practice and self-understanding of elite athletes. Religions, 11(12), 677. doi:10.3390/rel11120677


The authors begin by considering the nature of Christian worship, examining worship as a phenomenon, key biblical and theological ideas, the relationship of worship to sacred places and times, and the relation of worship to everyday life. …The article suggests that, while the correspondence may not be complete or exact, there is good reason to take seriously the claims of elite athletes of faith that their sporting performance should be regarded as an act of worship.