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Sport is over-serious, says report

29 June 2012


Quad race: Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams and Nigel Havers as Lord Andrew Lindsay run in a scene from the digitally remastered 1981 film Chariots of Fire, to be released next month

Quad race: Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams and Nigel Havers as Lord Andrew Lindsay run in a scene from the digitally remastered 1981 film Chariots of F...

SPORT needs to be valued for its own sake, and released from the "demands of public utility", a new report suggests.

The report, Give Us Our Ball Back: Reclaiming sport for the common good, by Paul Bickley and Sam Tomlin, is published by the public-theology think tank Theos, and the Sports Think Tank.

"A theological understanding of sport relies on the concept of 'play'," it says. "Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner suggested that God was the 'ultimate player'. Creation did not need to happen, and though something meaningful was produced that pleased God (creation itself) the act of creating itself was of value.

"But play has become dominated by a version of the Protestant work ethic, stripped of its religious meaning. This has resulted in a fatal shift towards over-seriousness and an emphasis on extrinsic benefits."

Sport should be released from "the demands of public utility", and allowed "to occupy its rightful place in society - that of contributing to a full, happy and meaningful life".

The director of Sports Think Tank, Andy Reed, said: "Those of us who love sport need to remember to be cautious about placing unrealistic political, economic, and social demands on it, and relearn how to value it for its own sake."

The report also argues that "mega-events", such as the Olympics, "have no clear effect" on public participation in sport. "The biggest factor affecting participation is general life circumstances", such as moving, or getting married.

A poll of 2045 adults, commissioned by Theos and carried out by ComRes, found that 80 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement: "I'm inspired to play more sport at the moment because of the London 2012 Olympics." Sixty-four per cent of those who responded thought that the taxpayer had contributed too much for the Olympics.

Among the report's recommendations are that a conversation should take place "about the ethical nature of competition: what would it be for teams to have a deeper appreciation of the opportunities that come with the loss of a match, to understand the history, tradition and practices of a specific sport or to accept the fallibility of a match official without questioning his or her integrity?"

 Additional reporting by Barnaby Duggan.



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