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