Cardiff Metropolitan University
Alcohol Use by Student Athletes - PhD Thesis (Final).pdf (1.63 MB)

Alcohol Use by Student Athletes

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posted on 2022-10-28, 13:18 authored by Marc HarrisMarc Harris
There is a deeply embedded drinking culture in sport and a need for a greater
understanding of the individual and cultural mechanisms which create and sustain it.
This thesis sought to understand this drinking culture (or ethos) by examining the
alcohol-related experiences of athletes prior to, and throughout, university. This
focussed on the group level dynamics, power relations and perceived value of alcohol,
and the environmental contributors to drinking. To develop a comprehensive
understanding of these phenomena, this thesis focussed on student rugby players in
particular and both qualitative and quantitative methods were used. In study one, an
online alcohol survey was distributed to students attending a single university in Wales,
and in study two, participants were invited to provided follow-up data at three timepoints
(Term 1, 2 and 3). In study three, fifteen semi-structured interviews were
conducted with male (n=9) and female (n=6) university rugby players. In study four, a
season-long case study of a male student rugby club was undertaken which utilised data
from a variety of sources including observations (across multiple leagues and teams),
traditional media reports, social media, conversational interviews, and semi-structured
interviews with male players, a director of rugby and director of student services. This
thesis provides novel evidence that a considerable proportion of athletes may be
inducted into problematic alcohol use during adolescence and enter university with
established drinking habits. Despite this, alcohol use is likely to increase further during
university. Several factors may support this increase. Firstly, alcohol use and
intoxication had symbolic value (capital) in sport, allowing individuals to negotiate a
better position within a social hierarchy. Second, consumption was embedded within a
rigid social calendar as tradition. Third, a plethora of environmental factors, such as
alcohol availability, pricing and marketing may have normalised a heavy drinking
culture. Collectively these factors may interact to prepare athletes for a heavy drinking
culture prior to their arrival at university and normalise this experience thereafter.



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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