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Behaviour of Sports Stars is Evidence of the Original Amateur Basis of UK Sports Culture

Originally Published 21 December 2001
A new book entitled Amateurism in Sport by University of Warwick researcher Lincoln Allison suggests that the valuable amateur ethos of UK sport may be dying but it has not been completely overwhelmed by professionalism and big business - in fact the recent poor behaviour of UK football stars shows strong signs of UK sport's amateur roots.

He argues that the vast sums footballers are paid may in fact partly undermine the culture of professionalism in football, and give those players some of the sense of freedom enjoyed by amateur sportsmen. He says some footballers:

"..are paid so much that they do not have to worry about the future. They can afford to enjoy their football and have to worry much less than their predecessors about pleasing their employers - by the late 1990s football managers were frequently complaining that it was difficult to discipline or control players who were not already multimillionaires."

The book also explodes some of the myths of a golden age of innocent amateurism in UK sport. It details, for instance, the history of the third Lord Tennyson (grandson of the poet) who prided himself on being the amateur unpaid captain of the English Cricket team in the 1920s, but yet wrote the cricketing book Sticky Wickets as a means of getting out of debt and even demanded a £100 fee for a cricketing poem he composed for a national newspaper.

The book also disposes of the other major myth that there was a golden age of innocent amateurism in which one played sport only as a game in itself rather than playing to win. He points out examples disproving this myth such Douglas Jardine - the amateur captain of the England cricket team tour to Australia in 1932-3 where he used fast bowlers in the aggressive "body-line" bowling technique.

Lincoln points out that UK sports amateur ethos and roots were, and are, crucial for the development of almost every sport in the UK - particularly as communities came to together to develop nation-wide spread of sports clubs and facilities. However that community backbone of UK sport may actually be undermined by the commercial pressures and constraints of lottery funding of sports.

For further information contact:

Lincoln Allison, Dept of Politics and International Studies,
University of Warwick
Tel: 01926 424610 (home) 024 76523307 (office)



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