Magoosh GRE

Sport a leisure spectator activity

| January 3, 2015

Sports play a vital role in modern contemporary society. It is an integral part of life essential for the physical and mental well-being of individuals (Craig & Beedie, 2008). Not only is it a physical activity but also an area where people socially interact. Maguire et al (2002) suggested that sport and leisure activities are crucial for the social being of and individual and that they are intricately linked to politics and the society. For most people, sports play a fundamental role whether as passive spectators or active participants.

Generally, sports has been praised for its numerous benefits which include: bridging the cultural and ethnic divides, improving on health and fitness, creating opportunities for employments and businesses to flourish, fostering teamwork and fair competition, contributing to the cross cultural dialogue and ensuring peaceful-coexistence (Levenson & Christensen, 1996).

There is a small but growing body of sociological literature with reference to sports as a spectator activity. At present the coverage in sports sociology, in particular the spectator phenomenon is still sketchy and thin, with many residual areas still unexplored. Relatively few studies have explored extensively on professional sports as the major spectator activity in the modern society. Ascertaining the various factors that motivate individuals to watch sports remains a practical and theoretical challenge for researchers and sports practitioners (Laker, 2002).
Studies by James & Ridinger (2002), Bilyeu & Wann (2002) and Wann & Ensor (2001) examined the effect of demographic characteristics such as race and gender on the outcome of spectator sports, whilst Wann & Wilson (1999a) and Wann, Schrader & Wilson (1999) explored on the motivation patterns and how this motivation is related to the preference of the type of sporting activity. The general impression is that research into sports sociology in the modern contemporary society has been sketchy. This essay thus significantly contributes to the research topic by discussing the different ways through which professional sport has impacted upon the modern day leisure life.

More recently, sport has become a major leisure activity globally (Houlihan, 2008). Its prominence in the media which devotes considerable more coverage has significantly contributed to its popularity (Jarvie, 2006. Generally, there is a wide variety of sports which cater for a large number of spectators. Some are minority or class based sports such as rugby, golf and yachting while others such as football appeal to majority tastes (Coakley & Pike, 2009).

In Britain, the most common professional spectator sports are football, golf, rugby, hockey, badminton, tennis, cycling, rock climbing, motor racing and swimming (Coakley & Dunning, 2002). Reading about sports or watching games on big screens or at the stadium has become more prevalent in today’s society. This represents a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the modern society.
Professional sports have impacted upon the modern day leisure life in a variety of ways. Firstly, professional football has led to people visiting clubs and the local pubs to watch football along with other fans (Coakley, 2007). Mintel reports (2010), which provide data on the consumer market in the UK and the leisure trends, identified that most people choose to go to the pubs to watch football activities on weekends. Watching television has become a major leisure activity in the UK.

According to the National Statistics’ UK 2010 Time Use Survey, despite the age difference, people on average spend 168 minutes daily in front of the TV set which accounts for about 45% of the total leisure time. Watching sports at a local pub or restaurant takes the peak in the ranking of the top leisure activities in the UK. Many of the British people love sports and visiting the pubs to watch football is an important part of their life. Sports have therefore transformed pubs to become social institutions which cater for diverse ethnic groups who meet to share the same interest. The pub has thus become Britain’s most envied and imperfectly imitated institution as sports lovers gather on neutral grounds to watch popular matches such West Ham United vs Manchester United.

Secondly, sports have led to people queuing outside Wimbledon events, world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, to watch popular matches. People could choose to queue outside Wimbledon events to watch England’s defending champion Raphael Nadal beat Andy Murray. Wimbledon has become a famous tennis tournament globally with players from over 60 countries and is widely watched by millions of fans worldwide. In the UK, tickets for Wimbledon are always on demand. Given the fierce demand, the club now operates on a lottery for advanced sales. The ticket prices normally range at £29-£100 and sell out months in advance. The long queues for Wimbledon events represent a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the Britain.

Thirdly, among the most popular professional sports in the UK is rugby football (Britain Hargreaves, 1994). It is divided into two categories, namely: the rugby union and rugby league (Cashmore, 2010). Rugby union is confined to amateur clubs and is often exclusively a public school influenced game (Cashmore, 2010). On the other hand, rugby league comprise of professional teams and extends to a working class sport (Craig & Beedie, 2008). A vast number of Britons are seen booking for tickets at Wembley delight for only £10 to watch popular matches such as Warrington VS Wigan (Donnelly, 2008).

Cricket is also popular in the Great Britain. It is a summer sport in Britain and is both a professional and amateur sport (Craig & Beedie, 2008). The professional sport is largely confined to welsh and English county sides of the country (Craig & Beedie, 2008). Some of the Britons spend their leisure time watching cricket either at a local pub, restaurant, or club. Others prefer attending cricket matches at the stadium where they book for tickets in advance.

Certainly, professional sports play an integral part in the British life. This is evident from the huge numbers that attend to sporting events or watch from the pubs, hotels, restaurants, clubs or back at home. In the UK tickets are fast selling for the British open golf championship 2011 tournament which will be held on the famous links land course of Royal St. Georges (Cashmore, 2000). Watching golf’s elite compete in this tournament is quite a thrill to a number of British fans.

This research has identified that professional sports has become a major spectator activity in the UK. In a number of ways, professional sports have shaped the modern day leisure life as shown from above where people may go to clubs to watch football, attend Wimbledon events, secure tickets to watch rugby at the stadium, attend to golf championship tournaments, or watch cricket at the local pub, restaurant or hotel. Additionally, others may opt to read the sports magazines such as UK’s biggest selling weekly football magazine and newspapers to get an update on sports.

Britain is very much shaped around leisure, sport in particular. The choice of sporting activity is largely influenced by the social standing. An analysis of the social status on the level of participation in sports in Britain shows a tendency for participants to be mainly influenced by their social standing. Some sporting activities such as golf and cricket are linked with the class system. In his book “cricket”, William (1989) described how cricket was linked with the class system. Cricket and golf has ever since been inseparably intertwined with the high class system. While football appealed to a majority of the entire population in Britain.

It should also be noted that sports has historically been marred by inequalities. Sports, in Britain and around the globe, are generally male dominated. Whilst, sport is male dominated, women opt for the fitness class sector with popular activities such as yoga, circuit training and aerobics (Coakley, 2007). Given the gendered and social difference associated with sporting activities, it raises the question as to whether sports can be sustained as a leisure activity. Why is it that sports have generally been tied up by gendered stereotypes? Why are there more male sports fans than women? How are men’s sporting events valued compared to women’s? The puzzle remains: can sport as a leisure activity be sustained?

The professional sporting industry has become very lucrative and is closely associated with brand merchandizing, sponsorship schemes, non-sport sales and television incomes. According to Keynote report (2010) most consumers in the UK spent over £10bn on sports in 2008: an expenditure covering the club membership fees, personal equipment, sportswear and the cost of watching live sport. Despite being a leisure activity, the local and national businesses are reaping benefits by tailoring their services in line with the particular sporting event (Coakley, 2007).

Professional sport has generally impacted upon the modern day leisure life. Watching sports either at a local pub, club, restaurant or hotel represents a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the modern times.
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