Have you ever wondered where sport began and how it has developed into an inclusive and international game and if it has always been like this?
In the pre-industrial era society was split into two social classes by the feudal system. The feudal system was comprised of the upper class which included gentry and aristocracy, and the lower class- which compromised of the peasants that would work the land that the gentry and aristocracy owned. There was a stark difference in the type of 'popular recreation' that the classes would participate and compete it. The upper class tended to participate in more skill-based activities as they had more time to practise and compete. One example is Real Tennis. Real tennis required specialist equipment as well as a specialised court which was expensive and therefore was unaccessible to the lower class to participate in. An example of where there is a Real Tennis court is Hampton Court as Henry the 8th was a keen player! Real tennis also had complex rules as the upper class had access to public schools including the likes of Harrow and Eton- therefore they were well educated and literate- whereas the lower class where illiterate as they had no access to education. Real tennis was also respectable and not violent representing the upper class values. The upper class also had access to transport including horse and cart and therefore were able to travel regionally to compete and participate against other players and they also had an abundance of time to be able to practise the game.
In contrast to this, the lower class in pre-industrial sport played mostly force-based sports. For example, mob football. These were mob games and invasion games which were rowdy and violent which represented the harsh lifestyle of the lower class in pre-industrial Britain. The rules of the game were passed through word of mouth and therefore were simple and unwritten as the lower class had no access to education. Popular recreation were only played on holy days and festivals as the seasonal calendar impacted the lower class having little if any time to participate in sport and were based around pubs. The sport was also played in natural facilities and there was no specialised expensive equipment. For example mob football was played through the village and on fields and swimming was undertaken in rivers. Also, roads were in a poor state which prevented people from leaving their village and therefore rules varied from village to village as games were localised.
In pre-industrial Britain women participated in different activities to men- which were not 'too strenuous' or 'too dangerous' as they were seen as the 'weaker sex'. For example, upper class women would take part in Archery and lower class women would take part in 'smock races'.
There was also little law and order in pre-industrial Britain as there was no police force. This meant activities were violent and rowdy. For example, bare-knuckle fighting and animal baiting represented the lack of order and civilisation as well as animal cruelty. Also, games including mob football had a lack of rules showing a lack of law and order in society at this time.
In the 1800s, the industrial revolution occurred. This caused a mass migration from rural to urban areas and the working class no longer worked on the fields, yet now in factories. In the first half of the 1800s there was a decrease in participation of sport due to the long factory working hours and working on 'machine time' instead of 'seasonal time'. The working class also had a lack of time to participate in sport due to only having 4 days of holiday per year. There was also poor working conditions as well as poor health due to the unclean urban conditions and lack of sanitation.
However, the industrial revolution caused the new middle class to form and they became wealthier and more significant. These middle class men attended private schools similar to the public schools which the upper class aristocracy attended which caused the spread of the games.These were factory owners as well as business men. The middle class used their business skills to form national governing bodies and codified rules to develop standardised rules. The middle class factory owners also formed factory teams as well as church teams. This was called 'industrial patronage' and other factories would compete against each other.
The industrial revolution caused the development of 'rational recreation'- this was sport with a purpose as it is seen as sport in the image of god. Rational recreation focused on developing the values of sportsmanship aswell as fair play and focused on sport being participated for intrinsic value such as enjoyment and satisfaction and not predominantly focusing on winning. The idea of 'athletes' combined moral integrity as well as physical endeavour.
In the second half of the 19th century there was an increase in involvement in sport. The factory acts were passed in the 1870s which installed the concept of the 'half-day Saturday' as well as an early close on Wednesdays. Law was also instilled which limited the working class to 12 hour working days. Also, there was an increase in public holidays. This allowed the working class more time to be able to participate and play sport. There was also the creation of the steam train which allowed people to travel to different regions which was cheap to allow individuals from the working class to travel to compete as well as spectate sport for a low cost. Therefore, as well as participation of sport increasing- spectatorship also increased. As well as time and transport improving, sanitation also improved. the public baths and wash-houses act was passed making it affordable for towns to build public baths. This improved sanitation and health as people were able to clean themselves as well as their clothes in the wash-houses. There was also an increase in wages for the working class meaning they had more disposable income to be able to spend on rational recreation. There was also an increase in technology, so puporse built facilities were constructed including football stadiums. However, sport still remained exclusive- for example the working class still remained banned from athletics as well as swimming.
Also, in the 19th century the status of women began to change due to the shortage of men as there was high mortality rates and many of them serving in the army, so the stereotype of women being expected to marry, have children and be financially dependent on their husbands and regarding education for women as useless began to change. This had an encouraging effect on women being more involved in sport and physical education in schools.
Furthermore, the development of laws in the 19th century affected the types of activities undertaken. The development of the police caused there to be a decline in blood sports as well as animal cruelty activities including cock fighting as well as animal baiting.
In the 20th Century sport was still segregated by the upper, middle and lower class. The upper and middle class focused on amateurism. This is the idea that people should compete in sporting activities for intrinsic value and not for a monetary reward for participating. However, the lower class were mainly proffessionals- these were athletes that competed in sport to earn an income by participating. An example of a lower class professional game is association football as well as Rugby League. The factories would give their workers broken-time payments which meant the factory owners would pay their workers to compete in sport. However, this idea was against the amateur principles of the upper classes. This caused tensions and led to the split of rugby into Rugby Union and Rugby League in 1895. In some sports: for example: Cricket both amateurs as well as professionals played together in the same team. Yet the lower class professionals bowled and cleaned the kit.
Education also improved dramatically in the 20th century. the development of the education act in 1944 as well as grammar schools, secondary modern schools and secondary technical schools meant that the school's curriculum must include physical education and sports teams, extra-curriculum and competitions were promoted.
In the 21st century sport is still associated with specific classes for example golf and horse-riding are still traditionally middle and upper class sports. However, there is now more social mobility within societies and people are able to move from the lower class into the middle class and sports also now consist of a broad range of professionals from all backgrounds.
Also, in the 21st century there are increasing numbers of women being involved in sport and it is no longer seen as 'unfemine' and there are many female sport role models, for example: Jessica Ennis.
Law and order has also since improved in the 21st century. the rights of spectators as well as athletes are now protected by the law. For example: banning order have been put in place to stop disruptive spectators and fans from travelling abroad. Also, laws have been put in place to prevent discrimination based on gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion exist in the UK and these have had an influence on sport. Globalisation has also impacted sport in the 21st century. Globalisation has caused the increased TV coverage of sports and also the number of people that watch sport. There is also now more freedom of movement and people are able to travel internationally by plane as cheap air travel is avalaible due to the development of technology and transport to compete and spectate in sport.