Soccer Stadium

Sports as a Social Phenomenon

Sports play an important role in our daily life today. Sport has a big impact on anyone’s life be it physically, mentally or spiritually. It has become the major part of people’s leisure time and also for staying fit and healthy. There should be no questions about why sport is an important which even people who dislike it would find difficulty to deny. The attention drawn by sports in mass media, the amount of money spent on it, the dependency of business companies for their advertisement, the involvement of state to combat violence , youth divergence and its contribution to health and national prestige , the indirect dependency of  livelihood of people, the emotional and symbolic resonance of sports for national unity and international peace and integrity of the human society. No other activity has served such a huge involvement of people all over the world as sport.

In short, in modern societies, sport has become an important identification of individuals with the collectivities to which they belong;that is, in the formation and expression of their ‘we-feelings’ and ‘we-I’ balance. Through their identification with a sports team, people can express their identification with the city that it represents or the ethic groups they belong to. Especially , since the end of ‘Cold War’ that saw the disappearance of many older patterns of work and social integration came new forms of social pattern , work and integration globally. Example, the former Soviet Union may have collapsed, Yugoslavia may have been embroiled in civil war ; the nations of Western Europe may or may not be about to form a federal state but, in the midst of all these anxiety-provoking troubles, Moscow Dynamo, Rangers, Celtic, the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blues ,the Arsenal, Juventus, FC Barcelona, live on!

Sport is not seen as physical performance rather can be regarded as a cultural practice experienced by an individual. In Arnold’s (1992) words, sport is

“a culturally valued human practise” organized by its own rules that, like other forms of cultural activity, constitutes the “ source of our possibilities” and understanding of “what is to be a person”.

In the early decades of American society, sports was not considered a serious enough subject in comparison ,for example, with crime, or racial and ethnic conflict .The best work in formal sociology of sports was found in the critical writing and activism of  Harry Edwards at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. Edward was the founder of Black Power Movement in America. He was the first sociologist to question the sports authority about the exploitation faced by athletes , black athletes in particular.

Sports as a social phenomenon leads to questions such as: Why are some sports popular in one society but not another? Why are sporting events and sport teams organised in different ways from one society to next? How sports is related with other aspects of society such as family, religion, education, government and the media? In summary, sport is an important part of culture, which differs from place to place and generation to generation.

Sport in its entirety is an aspect of the social world that is created in a particular social context. Here is the list of some subjects that sport sociology studies:

  • Higher education and sport

The development of modern sport as a global entity have been externally linked to education. Modern sport originated in educational institutes primarily in Britain during the mid to late 19th century, and was adapted worldwide as an integral part of their educational system. Within these institutions, sport was originally seen as a device for building and demonstrating ‘character’, making it an important extracurricular activity in schools and colleges.
  • Gender discrimination in sports

The wage gap is one of the most serious issues of gender discrimination in sports, and it can be verified by countless examples. In the ranking of the “World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes”, there is just one women, Serena Williams. Another example, in basketball, there is a huge pay disparity between NBA and WNBA. The WNBA has 34 games in its season whereas NBA has 82. However, the highest-paid player in WNBA makes approximately one-fifth that of the lowest-paid player in the NBA.

The media coverage of women is also a serious problem of gender discrimination in sports. According to the Tucker Center for Research on girls and Women in Sports, although approximately 40% of sport and physical activity participants are women, women’s sports receive only 4% of all sports media coverage. In addition, women-only sports stories totalled just 3.5% of all sports stories in a study of four  major newspapers ( USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Orange Country Resister and the Dallas Morning news)[]  Problem is not only with the less coverage by the media but also the content of their stories. Media coverage often sexualizes women’s sport.

Finally, the stereotypes about woman athletes not only is a problem but also harms the performance of women athletes.”No matter how toughened a sport woman may be, her organism is not cut to sustain certain shock” – this statement was said by Boron Pierre de Coubertin who founded the modern Olympics. It implies that women are too weak for sports.

There are definitely women taking part is a lot of sports from quiet sometimes but although filled with much challenges in every way they are paved to. There have been times when few of them did fight for their rights too. Some noteworthy were – Helene Madison of the USA, the 1st woman to win the 10-yard freestyle in a minute at the  Olympics 1932,  Maria-Teresa de Filippis of Italy,the first woman to compete in a European Grand Prix auto race in 1958, and Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who in 1994 became the first African woman to win a major marathon. These achievements were made in the face of numerous barriers based on gender discrimination.

1932 Olympic Games, Los Angeles, USA, Swimming, USA’s Helena Madison (R) who won the gold medal in the Women’s 100 metres Freestyle with silver medallist Den Ouden of Holland


  • Mass Media and Sport, including Popular Culture

The arena became a global one and the audience grew to enormous proportions. The mass media has turned sport into a global phenomenon, there is hardly any place where sport is absent in the world. The mass media caused audiences of sporting events to grow, which soon turned into new opportunities for sport to generate profits. When mass culture caused audiences of sporting events to grow, sport became both commercialised and professionalised as a result new professions emerged in the process which included a coach, physician, masseur, manager and so on. The mass media trigger changes in sport which make sport a more attractive experience. This is particularly true in the case of television, as it gathers attention of huge number of audience. Modern societies are fascinated by sport and also the sport star in particularly who become mass culture stars. They are admired, respected and have a high social standing.  The media covers not only their athletic life but also about their private lives.

The mass media help make sport a democratic phenomenon, because, virtually everybody regardless of their sex, age, affluence, education and place of residence are able to follow sporting events such as the Olympic Games, World Championships and so on. It is because of mass media that public can learn about regulations which govern a given sport. The mass media create connections between social communities which differs from one another.

  • Sport as a functional alternative to Religion

It might seem little weird but Sports and Religion are connected. There are certain things that Sports definitely teach just like Religion does but just in different way.In fact, both have symbols too.Every sport has a worldwide fan base just like devotees lare fan-based towards their gods.There is unsaid emotional connect between people and religion in both sports and religion. In most of the contemporary world, however, religion and sports occupy separate but complimentary conceptual realms.

According to few scholars- Olympics originated in Greece in 776 BC as a way to honor the weather and sky god, Zeus. Zeus, in the pantheon of Greek gods, was the same as Jupiter in Roman society and was seen as the most important god. The ancient Mayan culture in Central America, priests presided over ball games on playing grounds adjacent to their sacred places.

  •          Sports success and Racism

Racism is the belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your won, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races. One of the first evidence of racism was towards Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics 1936 who was one of the first black people to be noticed in the Olympics; also he shocked the world by winning 4 gold medals in the Olympics. At that time, Hitler’s Nazi party was in power. He used the games for propaganda purposes to shoe the superiority of the German people. The black American athlete Jesse Owens defeated Hitler’s aim by winning four gold medals. Hitler congratulated the German winners but not Owens.

Through sports many athletes have been able to get recognised worldwide and have climbed the  racial barriers. Sports success has not only help these athletes to uplift their life but to establish a fact that no race is superior to another , that one’s strength depends on their own mental and physical abilities and not their race. For example, Black athletes played basketball and American football as their symbol of power and dominance . For them , basketball and football was more than sports, it was their voice to empower black community back in 1970s. The campaign to eliminate racism, discrimination and intolerance from football has become a major priority for UEFA in recent years: NO TO RACISM.


Social problems and Sport- including drugs, sports violence, and injuries

1.Substance Abuse

Drugs use has become a social menace. From weed/marijuana to other performance-enhancing drugs there is definitely no end to supply or demand here.In fact, in better words this can be called “Doping” as well.In fact in the early 1900’s ; Race Horses were given medications to speed up on tracks – such is the capacity of abuse beyond human race too.Sometimes, even athletes and coaches are also found responsible for these actions.

2. Violence

There has been lot of conflict between whether the violence in the sport should be banned. Many sports like football, hockey , basketball, rugby e.t.c are a sport of contact and being violent is allowed till the athlete plays by the rule but sport like boxing where both the boxer injure themselves to the extent of danger might draw the opinion for the sport being banned. Other violent behaviour may come from the crowd itself. Vicious sporting events have occur in the past such as the Glasgow Derby in Scotland in 1971 where 66 fans were crushed to death, or the Hillsborough Stadium, FA Cup semi final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool where over 93 football supporters were killed in 1989.

3.   Injuries

Regarding to treat their bodies as machines is not quiet good for athletes and weapons. Somewhat for this reason, previous professional players in America have about 56 years of average life-expectancy which is 15 years shorter than the overall average life-expectancy of U.S. males. American culture and the media still glorify the violence in sports despite the thousands of serious and permanent injuries that occur every year. Playing through pain can lead to serious damage even though to athletes, it might look as if its giving them a tough persona.


Sometimes, we get so lost in the glitz of sports that we forget the other aspects connected to it which is equally important while taking into considerations.






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