Category Archives: Sport

Sociology and Sport

What has been called ‘the athletic imperative’ has been defined as intrinsic to the human condition. Every person, one historian maintains, is born with athletic capability and every person is predestined, ‘hard wired’, to develop that physical potential. Moreover, ‘competition’ is of impressively ancient lineage, even if it is not inborn. It has to do with evolution and survival. The… Read More »

Workers’ Olympics

The instructive story of the ‘Workers’ Olympics’ has been neglected, glossed over by many historians of sport. In this blog I draw in particular on the pioneering work of James Riordan (see below). In some ways it was less the idealism of de Coubertin, founder-in-chief of the ‘reconstructed’ modern Olympiad, than its institutional product that… Read More »

Classical Left Theories of Sport

Alienation is a pivotal notion in the writings of the young Marx, and one which is perhaps most accessible via an understanding of his views on human nature. Unlike other species, humans are endowed with consciousness and a facility to link consciousness to action. Human action has always and necessarily incorporated acting on nature to… Read More »

The Social Institution of Football: 3 – Financial Capitalism

This third and final blog asks what next for football in England and elsewhere? The ‘super clubs’ have become mature businesses. But because of the sport’s regulatory structures they seem to be businesses with limited opportunities for expansion, either by horizontal integration (namely, by taking over other companies in the same line of business) or… Read More »

The Social Institution of Football: 2 – TV and Wage Inflation

It has been estimated that there were 4740 professional players turning out for 158 English clubs by the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. By this time crowd in excess of 100,000 were regularly attending FA Cup Finals at the Crystal Palace. The minimum price of admission for a League match was sixpence (2.5p),… Read More »

The Social Institution of Football: 1 – Origins

Football has a long ancestry, reaching back even to Neolithic times. Its early folk forms in Europe and the Americas are reasonably well researched. In medieval England it was often associated with violence. Players not infrequently drew daggers during matches in the 13th and 14th centuries. Contests often provided opportunities for the settling of outstanding… Read More »

Sociology, Sportization and Cricket: Post-WWII

A second overly long blog on the English game – sorry! The Second World War, 1939-45, saw cricket at all levels both as a readily adjourned pursuit and as a way of surviving, even resisting, personal suffering and total upheaval. In its aftermath first-class cricketers who had ‘served’ had to readjust to post-war circumstance. The… Read More »

Sociology, Sportization and Cricket: To WWII

As with most sports, cricket probably had numerous precursors, some of which doubtless remain unknown to us; but its true origins have never been nailed down. There is documentary evidence that a young man, John Derrick, was accustomed to playing ‘crekett’ in the environs of Guildford, Surrey, in the 1550s. By the beginning of the… Read More »

Sociology and Sportization

A grasp of contemporary Western sport might be attained via reflections on its parentage; and there is widespread agreement among historians and sociologists that the birth of modern sport, if not necessarily its conception, occurred in England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Departing from the rather formal analysis of Guttman and others, Dunning… Read More »

Sport, Financial Capitalism and Usain Bolt

Do financial capitalism and its accoutrements, extending to a distinctively postmodern culture, warrant a revision of the characterization of modern sport? Have things moved on? It will be remembered that modern sport was thought to justify unambiguously positive responses to each of Guttman’s original criteria of: secularism, equality, specialization, rationalization, bureaucratization, quantification and records. It… Read More »