Sports Essay: Sports as a major leisure spectator activity

Sports play a vital role in modern contemporary society. It is an integral part of life essential for the physical and mental well-being of individuals. More recently, sport has become a major leisure activity globally (Houlihan, 2008). Its prominence in the media which devotes considerable more coverage has significantly contributed to sports as a major leisure spectator activity. This essay explores on sports as a major leisure spectator activity. Further, it examines the various ways through which sports impact on modern day leisure life.

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Sports play a vital role in modern contemporary society. It is an integral part of life essential for the physical and mental well-being of individuals (Craig & Beedie, 2008). Not only is it a physical activity but also an area where people socially interact. Maguire et al (2002) suggested that sport and leisure activities are an integral part of social life and that they are intricately linked to politics and the society. For most people, sports play a fundamental role whether as passive spectators or active participants.
Generally, sports has been praised for its numerous benefits which include: bridging the cultural and ethnic divides, improving on health and fitness, creating opportunities for employments and businesses to flourish, fostering teamwork and fair competition, contributing to the cross cultural dialogue and ensuring peaceful-coexistence (Levenson & Christensen, 1996).
There is a small but growing body of sociological literature with reference to sports as a spectator activity. At present the coverage in sports sociology, in particular the spectator phenomenon is still sketchy and thin, with many residual areas still unexplored. Relatively few studies have explored extensively on professional sports as the major spectator activity in the modern society. Ascertaining the various factors that motivate individuals to watch sports remains a practical and theoretical challenge for researchers and sports practitioners (Laker, 2002).
Studies by James & Ridinger (2002), Bilyeu & Wann (2002) and Wann & Ensor (2001) examined the effect of demographic characteristics such as race and gender on the outcome of spectator sports, whilst Wann & Wilson (1999a) and Wann, Schrader & Wilson (1999) explored on the motivation patterns and how motivation is related to the preference of the type of sporting activity. The general impression is that research into sports sociology in the modern contemporary society has been sketchy. This essay thus significantly contributes to the research topic by discussing the different ways through which professional sport has impacted upon the modern day leisure life.
More recently, sport has become a major leisure activity globally (Houlihan, 2008). Its prominence in the media which devotes considerable more coverage has significantly contributed to sports as a major leisure spectator activity (Jarvie, 2006). Research has identified that a vast number of people attend to sporting events. There is a wide variety of sports which cater for a large number of spectators. Some are minority or class based sports such as rugby, golf and yachting while others such as football appeal to majority tastes (Coakley & Pike, 2009).
Britain today is very much shaped around leisure, sport in particular (Coakley & Pike, 2009). The most common professional spectator sports in Britain are football, golf, rugby, hockey, badminton, tennis, cycling, motor racing and swimming (Coakley & Dunning, 2002). Professional football, however, is by far the most popular spectator sport in Britain. Reading about sports or watching games on big screens or at the stadium has become more prevalent in today’s society. This represents a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the modern society.
Professional sports have impacted upon the modern day leisure life in a variety of ways. Firstly, professional football has led to people visiting clubs and the local pubs to watch football along with other fans (Coakley, 2007). According to the Mintel database which provides data on the consumer market in the UK and the leisure trends, most people choose to go to the pubs to watch football activities on weekends. Many of the British people love sports and visiting the pubs to watch football is an important part of their life. Sports have therefore transformed pubs to become social institutions which cater for diverse ethnic groups who meet to share the same interest. The pub has thus become Britain’s most envied and imperfectly imitated institution as sports lovers gather on neutral grounds and enjoy their leisure time watching football. Most of the football fans would visit clubs and pubs to watch popular matches such as a match between West Ham United vs Manchester United.
Secondly, sports have led to people queuing outside Wimbledon events, world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, to watch matches between the best tennis players ever witnessed in history. People could choose to queue outside Wimbledon events to watch England’s defending champion Raphael Nadal beat Andy Murray. According to Coakley & Pike (2009), Since its inception in 1877, wimbledon has become a famous tennis tournament globally with players from over 60 countries and is widely watched by millions of fans worldwide. In the UK, tickets for Wimbledon are always on demand. Given the fierce demand by spectators to watch wimbledon events, the club now operates on a lottery for advanced sales. The ticket prices normally range at ?29-?100 and sell out months in advance. The long queues for Wimbledon events represent a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the Britain.
Thirdly, among the most prominent professional sports in the UK is rugby football which is quite popular in winter pastime and is widely watched in (Britain Hargreaves, 1994). It is divided into two categories, namely: the rugby union and rugby league (Cashmore, 2010). Rugby union is confined to amateur clubs and is often exclusively a public school influenced game (Cashmore, 2010). In 1995, it became more professional and now covers a wider social spectrum. On the other hand, rugby league comprise of professional teams and extends to a working class sport (Craig & Beedie, 2008). A vast number of Britons are seen booking for tickets at Wembley delight for only ?10 to watch popular matches (Donnelly, 2008). Over the weekends, these Britons would book to watch popular matches such as Warrington VS Wigan. This shows that professional sport is quickly impacting on modern day leisure life with a large number booking for tickets to watch rugby games.
Cricket is also popular in the Great Britain. It is a summer sport in Britain and is both a professional and amateur sport (Craig & Beedie, 2008). The professional sport is largely confined to welsh and English county sides of the country (Craig & Beedie, 2008). Some of the Britons spend their leisure time watching cricket either at a local pub, restaurant, or club. Others prefer attending cricket matches at the stadium where they book for tickets in advance. It should however be noted that, attendance at cricket matches has overtime been declining and that this contemporary game has lost some of its attractiveness and is in the danger of becoming a minority sport (Collins, 2008). Cricket has moved in overly professional and money dominated directions and is quickly losing its many spectators (Craig & Beedie, 2008).
Certainly, professional sports play an integral part in the British life. This is evident from the huge numbers that attend to sporting events or watch from the pubs, hotels, restaurants, clubs or back at home. In the UK tickets are fast selling for the British open golf championship 2011 tournament which will be held on the famous links land course of Royal St. Georges (Cashmore, 2000). Watching golf’s elite compete in this tournament is quite a thrill to a number of British fans. Witnessing superstars tackle each other is a once in a life time opportunity for a number of British fans hence the huge numbers for the golf tickets.
Research has identified that professional sports has become a major spectator activity in the UK as well as globally. In a number of ways, professional sports have shaped the modern day leisure life as shown from above where people may go to clubs to watch football, attend Wimbledon events, secure tickets to watch rugby at the stadium, attend to golf championship tournaments, or watch cricket at the local pub, restaurant or hotel. Additionally, others may opt to read the sports magazines such as UK’s biggest selling weekly football magazine and newspapers to get an update on sports. Undoubtedly, sports have become a major spectator activity.
It should however be noted that sports is still marred by inequalities. Sports, in Britain and around the globe, are generally male dominated. Whilst, sport is male dominated, women opt for the fitness class sector with popular activities such as yoga, circuit training and aerobics (Coakley, 2007). Nonetheless, the professional sporting industry has become very lucrative and is closely associated with brand merchandizing, sponsorship schemes, non-sport sales and television incomes. Despite being a leisure activity, the local and national businesses are reaping benefits by tailoring their services in line with the particular sporting event (Coakley, 2007).
Watching sports either at a local pub, club, restaurant or hotel represents a predominant form of leisure behaviour in the modern times. Media has significantly contributed to sports by devoting a wider coverage on sporting activities and events in the UK and around the globe. Clearly, professional sports have become a major spectator activity. Their impacts on modern day leisure life are profound.
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