Longitudinal view on the social impact of a major sporting event: the case of the NW200 in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Boyd, Jacqueline McCart, Kirsty Devlin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Cursory reflection of research on the impact of events reveals a one-dimensional perspective. Leading academic commentators like Getz, Bowdin and Jago, to name but a few, have commented that there has been a pre-occupation with the economic costs, roles and impacts of events to the extent that social and cultural outcomes have been neglected. This does not mean there has been an absence of social and cultural impact research on events. Scholars such as Sherwood, Deery and Fredline, again to name only a few, have stressed the need to consider the social benefits and costs of hosting major sporting events, and these dimensions are now being addressed with respect to event management, but scholarly attention is still focused on the economic impacts and benefits of events. Where scholarly attention on communities has emerged is within the wider domain of research on the social impacts of tourism; much of this research pays scant attention to events within communities. Part of the challenge of conducting social impact research on events is that research is often time and place specific; commenting only on the impacts of an event on a community at a specific period in history. What is needed is for longitudinal research be undertaken to elicit views over a longer timeframe and assess the change(s) that may or may not occur within communities regarding the benefits and costs of hosting events. Furthermore, much community research has focused on the visitor over residents; where this has perhaps improved is with regard to second home development and the changes this temporary residence status brings to destination communities. As such, there is a need for longitudinal research on the social costs and benefits of events, gauging resident opinion on a tourism strategy that embraces events. The authors set out to achieve this with regard to the Northwest 200 event.The NorthWest 200 is a major sporting (motorcycle racing) event for Northern Ireland, attracting over 100,000 visitors to the coastal communities of Portrush and Portstewart and the service centre of Coleraine; a key area of the Province’s ‘pleasure periphery’. The road race has had a long heritage, dating back to 1929. Over recent years, the event has been transformed beyond just racing to a weeklong festival of events linked with motorbike heritage and racing. This paper reports the findings from a longitudinal case study that examined the impact that hosting and running this event has on the communities of both Portrush and Portstewart as the race course effectively ‘traps’ residents living within the road infrastructure that makes up the actual road race itself. Research took place in 2004 and 2012; where the focus was to assess the impacts of the event on the residents of the affected region itself, the social impact of other events held in the region, and establish what (if any) strategies and procedures have been implemented along the North Coast for the effective development of a wider strategy for events. A mixed method approach was adopted using both questionnaires to residents within certain areas of Portrush and Portstewart and conducting deep interviews with key informants responsible for hosting the event. The findings reported that certain negative impacts (drunkenness, littering, trespassing) have not changed over time and these were with respect to how visitors conducted themselves in the communities. Equally, however, the positive impacts of such events on communities have not changed over time with residents stressing the economic benefit to the region, and the holiday atmosphere generated by visitors. Recovery period after the event is over remains roughly unchanged with most respondents noting that it took up to three days for the community to return to a ‘pre event environment’. Change over time was noted with regard to how the event is managed, drawing on volunteers within the communities more and encouraging residents to voice their opinion over events as key drivers of tourism within the overall region. The research however also demonstrates that the event generates certain negative impacts and these are hard to overcome.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Tourism and Events: Opportunities, Impacts and Change
PublisherUlster University
ISBN (Print)978-1-85923-252-1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2012


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