The paper focuses on the British politics of sport and its historical development. In particular, the paper discusses the topic of the role of the state in regulating recreation and sport in Britain since the period of the seventies. The main terms such as ‘sport’, ‘leisure’, ‘recreation’ and ‘social inclusion’ are defined at the beginning of the discussion. First, the paper observes the state of British sport regulation until the seventies.
Then, the changes in sport politics are studied at national and local levels, and in two different periods: the ruling of Thatcher government and the government of Tony Blair. Chapter III is dedicated to discussing the ideology of participation implemented by Margaret Thatcher. Chapter IV instigates the regulation of sport by local authorities. And Chapter V studies Blair’s politics of sport. Finally, the evidences of the state regulation of sport are shown through the politics, education and through the changes in the national strategy.
At the end of the paper the key points are summarized and the analysis of the findings is given. The glossary of terms Before discussing the topic of the state regulation of sport and recreation, the following terms need to be defined: Sport – it can be characterised as a form of leisure physical activity that is planned, competitive and structured. Also, sport can be defined as a physical activity that involves large muscle groups, and requires certain strategic methods, “physical training and mental preparation and whose outcome is determined, within a rules framework, by skill, not chance.
Sport occurs in an organized, structured and competitive environment where a winner is declared. ” (Glossary) Leisure – is the part of time in the individual’s life that is separate from the time spent by the individual as necessary for his/her securing the necessities of life, personal care or sleep, and for himself/herself, and on those who are dependent on him, and on the accumulation of the surplus wealth.
Leisure implies freedom to act at will, unlike other forms of time consumption, which always have an element of compulsion, real or imaginary. Recreation – is a creative leisure. It also involves the idea of freedom, and divides it into the freedom of action and freedom of choice. Recreation is believed to bring happiness or immediate personal satisfaction. In character, recreation may be passive and active. Passive recreation refers to relaxation and rest without action at all, mildly active or semiactive.
Active recreation may be in participating in sports, riding, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, rowing, hiking, playing a musical instrument, singing, or acting in a play, painting a picture, travelling, gardening, engaging in different kinds of handicraft arts, studying for self-improvement, dancing, taking part in civic social, political, activities, writing, debating, or public speaking. Social inclusion – is a positive action aimed to include all groups and sectors of society in the process of decision-making and planning. II. The characteristics of sport in Britain until the 1970’s
Until the 1960’s sport in Britain is characterised by some scholars as voluntary, a traditional way of pastime, non-competitive and club-like. Michael Moran in the article British State after Statism writse that sport before the period of the 1960’s was “paradigmatic of the British tradition of self-regulation”. (Moran 2003) Club-like nature of British sport appeared in the nineteenth century, when individual sports, such as cricket or horse-racing, were dominated by metropolitan oligarchies, and in this way sport served as a means of informal integration into upper classes.
(Birley 1995a, 1995b ) Holt and Manson in their investigation of government sports policy emphasize on the fact that British sport before the 1970’s coincided with the existing ideology: “Sport was almost the quintessential voluntary activity, part of that long tradition of British voluntarism in which people pursued a wide variety of cultural, intellectual and social activities not because the state wanted them to but because they freely chose to. ” (Holt, Manson 2000, p.
146) Under the ideology of imperialism, the importance of sport increased as means of channelling and controlling potentially disruptive energies of the working class. (Holt 1989, p. 202-279; Jones 1988, p. 15-41) In post-war period there were the first attempts to change the state politics of sport. Moran points out that there was a promising “incremental growth” in two directions: state support and institutional frame. In 1964 the first British minister of sport was appointed, and in the same year such institution as the Sports Council was established.
Nevertheless, the support of Sports Council chaired by the Minister, as the scholars noted, revealed itself only in a way of advisory function. (Coghlan and Webb 1990; Holt and Manson 2000) Consequently, state regulation was not centralized and existed mainly as autonomous self-regulation, which lasted until the end of the 1980’s. (Moran 2003) Such historical review of sports policy in Britain provides with the basis to think that from the nineteenth century and throughout the main part of the twentieth century the role of the state in sport regulation did not change and did not have much progress.
Moran in British State after Statism repeated this idea in the following way: “the role of the state in sporting regulation had not changed greatly since the golden age of sporting codification in Britain in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. ” (Moran 2003) III. The politics of sport under the ruling of Thatcher’s administration Under the ruling of Thatcher government participation in sport was associated with the notion of “active citizenship”. In particular, the new agenda had two main dimensions:
1) encouraging the population to participate in sport on the basis of health benefits; 2) achieving increase in international competition and employing the factor “feel good is winning”. Due to the shifting political and social ideologies, the understanding of participation varied in each government. For example, the early Thatcher agenda emphasized on welfare rights in participation and claimed that equality ensured access for all people. This idea was repeated in Review of Sport England, which stated in 3.
10 that “public provision in justified in order to ensure that all parts of the community have access to a range of sporting provision. ” (the Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2001) In the later Thatcher agenda rights were reconstructed “away from the former universalism, towards a more overtly commodified and consumerism model”. (Ravenscroft 2005) Thus, the later Thatcher government introduced the idea that ‘successful’ citizens could show their success through participation.
(Ravenscroft 2005) Finally, participation was linked to social responsibility. In other words, it was citizen’s duty to participate in the public sphere, as well as to maintain health and to increase the amount of social capital in the economy. (Ravenscroft 2005) In order to decrease exclusion and to increase participation in sport, all types of barriers had to be eliminated. Existing recreational constraints literature distinguished three types of barrier at all levels – personal, interpersonal and societal. These barriers were: 1) Intrapersonal constraints.
They refer to psychological states, for example – depression, stress, anxiety, attributes, such as perceived skills and subjective evaluations, which influence on leisure preferences of individuals; 2) Interpersonal constraints. They result from relationships and interactions of individuals and influence of the participation of group leisure activities; 3) Structural barriers. They comprise the issues of financial resources, family commitment, the ability and knowledge of leisure opportunities, work commitment, and group attitudes to some activities.
The next step of the government was based on the idea that the understanding of the constraints through education and the provision of the necessary equipment would solve the problem of sports participation. To remove the structural constraint local authorities and parish councils provided with all kinds of sport facilities: school playing fields, sports grounds, leisure centres, swimming pools, village halls. Ravenscroft states that the lack of suitable buildings and equipment constituted the primary structural barrier to sport participation. (Ravenscroft 2005).
The data presented by Henley Centre (2003) estimates that the building programme achieved more than 600 leisure centres and public sports in England from the 1970s to the 1990s. IV. The process of commercialization of local authority of service delivery Due to the extensive building programme local authorities subsidized and increased access to their facilities from 1970 to 1990. According to Ravenscroft, during this period the local authorities developed integrated leisure departments, large facility provision programmes, encouraged dual use of school facilities.
The ideology of that time claimed the local delivery of leisure had to be the part of welfare state and thus the point of delivery became closely connected with the public sector. Ravenscroft concludes that at this time the politics of sport and leisure was targeted at the under-represented and poor sector of society and leisure was largely free. (Ravenscroft 2005). Under the ruling of Thatcher government the policies for local government broke integrated leisure departments. (Ravenscroft 2005).
The break-up occurred because of client/contractor split and as a result local authority service delivery got commercialized. Ravenscroft notes that commercialization of local leisure services resulted in the reduction of their quality and volume, which in its turn “caused a halt in the construction and even planned maintenance of public sport and leisure facilities. ” (Ravenscroft 2005). Gradually, large leisure departments changed into small client-side units, placed in the environment of local governments and charged far from the previous welfarist concerns.
In addition, many of the units employed public sector managers rather than leisure professionals. Public sector managers and technocrats were skilled only to negotiate and monitor arrangements with contractors. All in all, this new approach implemented by Thatcher government showed the tendency to put less stress on provision for sport per se and more on broad social goals, related to crime, health and inclusion. (Ravenscroft 2005). Further, the contractor organizations grew in size and turned from labour organizations and trusts into large leisure management companies with many contracts.
The biggest of them – DC Leisure and Leisure Connection – are now larger than the companies they replaced, and have more differentiated business strategy and structure than any of their predecessors had. (Ravenscroft 2005). In particular, DC Leisure covers 120 facilities and has about 50 contracts, while the working stuff of DC Leisure Management consists of 6 000 people in not less than 90 facilities run by 30 local authorities. (Ravenscroft 2005). Ravenscroft in the article Local Delivery differentiates the following types of contracts used by leisure management companies:
1) Creating industrial and provident society trusts run of a fixed-free basis by commercial companies; 2) Externalization of operation by wholly-owned subsidiaries of leisure-management companies or local authorities; 3) Joint ventures; 4) Management projects funded by means of PFI/PPP routes. Nowadays leisure management companies can be estimated as more positive than negative. They produce their own training programs and corporate approaches, build their own career structures. A great number of contemporary leisure management companies have their own enterprises, for example, health and fitness clubs.
In this way, according to Ravenscroft, they develop local delivery into mixed economy, where the pursuit of commercial profits does not contradict community goals any longer. V. British sport politics under the ruling of Blair’s administration The radical changes in British sport politics occurred in the 1990’s. (Moran 2003) The intuitional reforms came in 1997, when Sport England was founded. The new institution was aimed to replace the Great Britain Sports Council, which had proved to be ineffective.
Sport England was set as a public organ which would implement the national strategy for sport. Sport England was subordinated to Parliament through the body of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Council of Sport England was appointed by the Secretary of State. Sport England functioned as an executive, which maintained and developed the sporting infrastructure of the nation and which allocated substantial funds. The organization of Sport England was funded by the mix of Exchequer Grant and Lottery. (Sport England 2002) 1) The role of Sport England
The constitution of Sport England titled – The Quiquennial Review of Sport England – and published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2001 claimed on the following: – the state has identified the important role of sport for people and has offered its strategy for sport named A Sport Future for All; – the Cunningham review of the funding will help Sport England and UK Sport to attain the highest level of development; – Regional Government will provide with new opportunities for sport; – The social and economic impact of sport receives a growing recognition.
The future of Sport England seen by the Government’s Plan for Sport, according to the Review of Sport England, was a “powerful sports development organization creating the infrastructure to ensure sustainable sporting provision by enabling partners and facilitating partnerships. ” (the Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2001) Among the key issues of the Review of Sport England were mentioned: – more participation of young people, women, people with disabilities and ethnic minority groups; – education in sports coaching and better training of sportsmen;
– UK sport promotion overseas; – Reformation of sports governing bodies and their modernization; – Excellence at every level must be encouraged; – Promoting the core role of UK for International Sports Federations; – Using sport activity as a means of regeneration. On the whole, the review of the statute of Sport England reveals that this institution created by government fully embodied state strategy, plans and politics concerning sport and recreation. 2) The role of UK Sport Another organization – UK Sport came into existence in the same period – 1997.
Unlike Sport England, UK Sport was designed to improve the performance of elite sports and to manage sporting international relationships. While Sport England was concerned with domestic sports, UK Sport was focused on the prestige of British representatives on international sports arena, for example the Olympics or the soccer World Cup. The statute of UK Sport claimed that “the work of UK Sport is targeted towards developing and supporting a system capable of producing a constant flow of world class performers”.
(UK Sport 2002) The instrument of achieving the goals set by UK Sport was the distribution of exchequer funding and lottery grants “in return for a commitment by individual sporting governing bodies to achieve agreed performance targets. ” (Moran 2003) In this way, it can be concluded that the work and the international representation of UK Sport was based on the performance of some local sporting governing organs, which in their turn could belong to the sporting infrastructure developed by Sport England.
According to Moran, the radical alteration of the view on sport expressed by the government was caused by the desire to better British performance at the elite level and in this way to raise the index of the national prestige. The evidence of this can be found in mass media of the nineties. In 1995 the Department of National Heritage published Sport: Raising the Game, which was a response to poor results of British sportsmen in the international competitions equal to Olympics.
(the Department of National Heritage 1995) Moran in his research British State after Statism gives the following estimation of this event: “Raising the Game was the immediate stimulus for the reorganization that created Sport England and UK Sport in 1997, and as the title suggests it was mostly concerned with the problem of managing performance in elite sports. ” (Moran 2003) Thus, the creation of sporting infrastructure and the following reforms of sport governance were the first true signs of new sports politics of the state, which started to view sport as a tool of raising national prestige.