This chapter starts by referring to the importance put on sport by politicians and states—from the ancient Greeks and Romans right through to current governments. It moves on to consider the diversity of settings and the nature of provision. The various benefits of sport to society, communities, organizations and individuals are then considered, followed by some debate over the aims and objectives of sport in various situations.
The second half of the chapter examines a number of the key current issues facing sport, including women in sport, professionalism and commitment, team spirit, political context, sport and health, the European dimension, and sports venues and facilities.
I think we have undervalued sport and the place of it in our national life… You watch the morale rise in any sport when we get a good team. People like sport and they enjoy it; it is part of our national psychology.
John Major, BBC TV Interview, August 1993
It can be argued that sport has always preoccupied the mind of humans, perhaps inordinately given its importance. Going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, physical prowess in relevant sporting fields was seen as important and a mark of someone's characteristics and worth. This perceived status has always put it in the public eye and made it subject to scrutiny, comment and criticism.
Even in modern times, apart from the period of the two world wars, the role of sport and its importance in our society has been a matter of debate in the media and in all forums of society. The social meeting places (including public houses) of our culture constantly reverberate to animated discussions on the sporting prowess and success, or lack of it, of our national team or local favourites. This prominence of sport has caused its own special problems on many occasions, and has led some dictatorial political figures to exploit its importance in the public mind for their own devious ends.
The marrying of many issues has led to a confusion for sports administrators and participants and has often given added pressure to their involvement. This, for example, can be seen in the relationship between sport and