Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Sad Day For English History

Last night as the England football team made their early departure for contention for the European Cup next year Alan Hanson said "This is a sad day for English history". Well I like watching football so I was sorry to see the team go out but I hardly think it registers on the scale of historical events. I mean when I'm 103 am I going to be sat in a rocking chair telling my grandchildren "I remember 2007, we went and murdered thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, and then we lost to Croatia"? No.

I have no problem with people playing sports, I think that's great, I think more people should be encouraged to play sports. I have a big problem though with corporate sponsorship and huge-scale government funding for facilities and events that only a tiny elite will ever get to be involved with. And I have a problem with the sport = good mentality that sits behind our Olympic ambitions and behind the way that some city councils help pay for sports stadiums in their cities.

My problem is with the idea that it's some sort of societal good for lots of people to watch sports. I don't see any evidence that watching sports encourages the watchers to play sport themselves. More like it encourages them to eat pies and sit on the sofa with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other.

Professional sports are also profoundly discriminatory. Women's events are often paid less and relegated to obscure TV stations. A relatively tiny number of women make a living as sportspeople, compared to thousands of men. Last night in front of the match - which I watched with a Scottish friend and Mr Cru - who is American - I was being teased somewhat about Englands performance and flippantly remarked "It's not my team, I support England Women". But the more I thought about how much Scotland, Germany or Argentina's players and fans might hate England, it occurred to me - surely no-one hates England Men's Team like England Women's Team do? The women on the England team have no hope of earning a professional wage from their sport in their own country. They get little or no glory, they're not paid to do adverts, commentate or coach major international teams when they retire. Yet they know full well the men doing the same job as them typically have 20 cars each, huge mansions, earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week and are featured with their glamourous wives in the likes of Hello and OK magazine in sumptuous surroundings. If I played for England Women I would be bitterly laughing my socks off at the men right now.

The other thing about watching sports is that it often leads to big groups of men meeting up and developing a rather tribal mentality. We have a long and less-than-proud history in this country of football crowds getting out of hand. And there's a reason some pubs don't let people in in team shirts - because it can create an intimidating atmosphere. As if to confirm that for me my attention was drawn to a rather disturbing post over at Shakesville.

...and yes the photo is me, in my platinum blonde years playing for (and captaining) Onnabelievable LFC, Tokyo.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Iceman said...

"My problem is with the idea that it's some sort of societal good for lots of people to watch sports. I don't see any evidence that watching sports encourages the watchers to play sport themselves. More like it encourages them to eat pies and sit on the sofa with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other."

Watching sports and actually being physically active are probably inversely correlated, as a look at the waistline of typical US sports fans would tell you.

"The women on the England team have no hope of earning a professional wage from their sport in their own country. They get little or no glory, they're not paid to do adverts, commentate or coach major international teams when they retire."

The wives of the male footballers get more attention than the female footballers.

"We have a long and less-than-proud history in this country of football crowds getting out of hand."

I bet the Swiss and Austrian police were relieved when England didn't qualify!

"As if to confirm that for me my attention was drawn to a rather disturbing post over at Shakesville."

It's common, unfortunately. Growing up my father took me to games of that exact team where fans passed around blow-up dolls and they catcalled the few women in the audience. Many families won't take their children to football games because of the atmosphere in the stands.

"Professional sports are also profoundly discriminatory. Women's events are often paid less and relegated to obscure TV stations."

The only women's sports that get any real media coverage at all in the US are figure skating and tennis, and that's because advertisers use those sports to reach wealthy women. Women's basketball and soccer are a complete non-event.

2:54 pm  
Blogger Bianca Reagan said...

I agree. :)

10:09 pm  

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