Sport and the left… August 8, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Here’s a repost in its entirety of a long and thoughtful comment by Jolly Red Giant which engages with the above. He raises one small caveat to contextualise it when he writes “I would suggest there are two separate issues – 1. How to encourage young people to get exercise and the role of PE in schools, and 2. the role of sports within society and how sports should be organised within society”.
In last 30 years in particular sport has become dominated by money – it is the sole focus of the IOC, most of the sports federations and all the leading athletes.
There is a difference between team sports and sports clubs and individual competition. Individuals can dominate particular sports for a limited period but eventually age catches up with competitors and they are replace by the new kid on the block. Team sports allow for ongoing and continuous domination by the better supported and wealthier clubs which makes them attractive to ownership by the ruling capitalist elites and multinational media conglomerates like Sky. This is demonstrated by the buying up of English soccer clubs by American conglomerates. The American conglomerates are buying these clubs as investments intended to generate profits. The Arab takeover of clubs appears to be based on a different pretext – namely trying to dominate by sheer wealth, throwing money at the clubs in an attempt to dominate in the same way they have attempted to dominate horse-racing with stables like Godolphin.
I was watching something on tv this morning and they spoke about a soccer player in the 1950s who dropped from the old English first division to play non-league football because he could earn more as a part-timer in non-league than the football league salary cap of £25 a week would allow. These days the likes of Wayne Rooney can earn more in a week than the entire paying budget of a Conference team like Ebbsfleet where full-time professional players can earn as little as £200 per week. In order to prevent the super-rich clubs dominating in sports like soccer salary caps are crucial, provided they also include a minimum wage for players.
Right-wing always go on about competition and how socialists oppose ‘competition’. This is crap. There is nothing wrong with competition providing the competition is about is about striving for improvement and advancement. Capitalist competition is all about destruction, about driving your competition into the ground and striving for a monopoly position. In sports today events are dominated by ‘sponsors’ and the media – all we have to do is look at the Olympics. Spectators arre prevented from bringing lunch packs and drinks into events in order to force them to buy McDonalds ar the products of other ‘sponsors’. People are not allowed to video or photo events because of ‘copyright’ etc. The IOC is dominated by financial considerations, corruption, political maneuvering etc and little to do with sport which is merely a vehicle to be used.
Referring to comment by Fergus about national jingoism, I think we are somewht more aware of it because of all the ‘Team GB’ hype based around the Olympics in London and the BBC’s coverage. I think it grates on us a bit more than it would on others. With the probable exception of some of the Americans I think most of the athletes have participated in a sporting spirit. Many of these athletes would know one another well from regular competition and many would actually train together.
I agree with Jim to a degree about the need to completely revise physical activity in school. I would approach it slighly differently. I believe there needs to be daily compulsory, non-competitive exercise for all school students. The majority of students do not like competitive sports and do not like participating in PE classes which tend to involve team sports because of class sizes. This is an example of the short-sightedness of capitalism where spending extra creating an environment where school students would engage in exercise on a daily basis would result in massive savings in health expenditure 30+ years later. The opposite is happening – a local school because of cutbacks have stopped using the nearby local leisure centre because it cannot afford to pay the rent of the gym. This has resulted in the school now using the school gym for PE classes which is about a third the size of the leisure centre further restricting what students and do and leading to more students opting not to participate in PE classes. At the same time the community run leisure centre is struggling financially losing income from local school and suffering cuts in local council grants.
Coupled with compulsory exercise there should be major expansion in school sports. Recent cutbacks have resulted in drastic cuts in competitive sports. Schools no longer receive substitution cover for teachers traveling with sports teams and in most schools competitive inter-schools sports are now dependent on teachers agreeing to voluntarily cover teachers absent for sports events. In most other cases schools are simply opting out of competitive sports leading to a drop in student participation in sports.
School sports are mainly focussed on team sports and an effort needs to be made to develop individual sports as well. There should be a greater use and planning of association coaches actively participating in schools. Students showing talent and promise should be invited to regular elite training sessions and competitions. Tutoring should be made available for students in elite camps.
Ireland has ample wealth to provide significant community owned and developed sports facilities. One of the most annoying aspects of the development of facilities in this country is the parochialism of certain sporting organisations who will happily use taxpayers money and community donations to to build and develop facilities and then restrict who can use them. Why can’t Croke Park and Landsdowne Road be shared by the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU. It would be a much better idea for GAA matches that attract a crowd of 30-40,000 to be played in Landsdowne Road than a half empty Croke Park. Similarly in Limerick – the GAA ground has a capacity of about 50,000, Thomond Park has 27,000. Th Markets Field could easily be renovated to accomodate an 8-10,000 capacity and sports rotated between all three depending on expected attendances.
Korea are no.1 in the world in archery. Every workplace has it own archery team. Workers are provided with paid time off of work for training and competition. Those who show elite talent are paid full-time to engage in an intensive long-term training programme. The objective is to develop a long-term strategy to ensure continued excellence in the sport. A similar approach was adopted in the former Eastern bloc countries until sport became a pawn in the cold war and the athletes were tanked up with drugs.
Sports can be infectious – it can raise people’s spirits (the prime example in this country was the impact of the Irish participaton in Euro 88). Active competitive sport can encourge increased participation in sport by wider sectors of the community and increased attendance at sporting activities. Sport is one of the most beneficial activities human beings can engage in across all spheres of society, social, cultural and physical.
Finally, local sports facilities and leisure facilities should be available to the local community free of charge. One of the biggest inhibitors to the use of leisure facilities by the general population is the cost. Similarly admission prices for sporting events prevents people for attending sports contests. Funding for sports and leisure facilites should come from central funds – from the health budget. Elite training facilities and programmes should be developed to assist elite athletes. Workplaces and colleges should facilitate full-time elite athletes. Certainly accept donations for the use of leisure facilities and for spectator admission but nobody should be prohibited from such activities because of lack of finance.
Of course none of this is possible under capitalism. It doesn’t fit in with the establishment’s agenda of creating a passive audience paying large sums of money to watch overpaid athletes perform for the benefit of advertisers and media moguls. While watching these sports, audiences are conditioned to consume vast quantities of unhealthy products. The general population is not incentivised by elite sports to engage in sporting activity but to simply spend money while increasingly becoming couch potatoes. The conglomerates couldn’t care less about obesity, their concern is profits and private health care will later cash in on the consequential health crisis that is increasingly becoming evident.