Professional sport

In this essay I will be looking at the influence in which professional sport has had on sport itself and how people perceive sport. The objective of this essay will be to define some key terms such as ethics, professional, sportsmanship and gamesmanship. I will elaborate on those points looking to provide a link to theories such as sociological and deviance and beliefs which I will then look to relate them to sport using a sporting example.

Ethics is a term that will be repeatedly used throughout this essay; Ethics has been defined in various ways by drawing on the principle of good and evil and what is right and what is wrong. This idea of what makes actions right and wrong are known as normative ethics. However over time normative ethics have become too complex to place people’s actions solely under the rightness and wrongness virtue. Consequently the study of normative ethics began to decline in the 20th century and were replaced by the evolution of modern day theories; consequentialism, deontology, virtue and discourse ethics (Gardiner, 2005).

Consequentialism refers to a morally right action that produces a positive consequence (Lang, 2006). An example of this would be maradona’s hand of god as it proved a negative outcome for England but a positive outcome for Argentina. Deontology theory refers to the goodness and rightness of an action even if it produces a negative consequence (Darwall, 2003). Deontological ethics, sometimes referred to as duty ethics, places the emphasis on following rules, or doing one’s duty. An example of this could be a football player diving in the box to win a penalty for his team, because he is doing his duty and doing the best action for their team.

Virtue ethics looks at personal judgement and is based on the individuals’ morals and values. An example of this could be challenging the umpire’s decision in both Tennis and Cricket. Discourse ethics identify ethical truths through the presupposition of discussion (Sprod, 2001). An example of this would be at a disciplinary hearing where the actions of the individual in question would be analysed and discussed as to what was ethically right for the action to be.

‘Sports are all about breaking down barriers; not just the barriers of speed and scores, championships and personal bests. It’s also about breaking down the stereotypes and the barriers that limit opportunities and a fair playing field for all’ (Boxill, 2003, p.6). This quote from Boxill (2003) draws on the principle of ethics within sport. Sport is now seen as been able to contribute positively to the development of individuals and in society. It is a means for physical, mental and social development and emphasis is now put into the way in which sport can act as a social good. This according to Rosen (2007) is achieved by people been taught the right morals through sport which can then be passed into society. This view is shared by functionalist sociologists who believe that sport can act as a moral good and teach us manners.

“Because of its wide popularity and inherent properties, sport can contribute to neighbourhood renewal by improving communities performance on four key indicators; health, crime, employment and education” (PAT 10). As cited in Stavenden & De Knop (1999) Slusher (1967) believes the concept of sport defies definition. However the council of Europe (1992) formerly defined sport as “all forms of physical activity, which through casual or organized participation, aim at improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships, or obtaining results in competition at all levels” (1992, p.1).This definition is widely used as it is seen to embrace both equity and equality into a sporting context. This is very important as it relates back to the first principle of the European sports charter which was to allow every willing individual a pathway into sports participation.

Main Body

The debate over what is an amateur and what is a professional is still under question (Dunning & Sheard, 1979). It is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between the two, following the development and attitudes towards sport are ever changing. The British culture was very much an amateur based culture up until late 1950’s many sports were only competed at an amateur level, and they played the game because they enjoyed it, very few people were able to compete at a professional level and only a few played sport for a living (Holt & Mason, 2000).

Professionals are considered elite athletes in their chosen sport, whether it be football, rugby or hockey there is no difference in how we interpret the term ‘professional’. Barnes (2006) claims professionals are paid to win and is therefore their only objective, whether fairly or by cheating. Professionals are full time athletes that make a living out of the sport they play. Originally professional sport was dominated by foreign athletes, “so much so that a separate tournament for those born and working in the United Kingdom” (Holt & Mason, 2000, p.64).

England is now seen as a dominant force in many sports and has a successful winning tradition however the football association are looking to cut down the amount of foreign footballers playing in England and are looking to introduce a new rule where you have to name 8 players who are considered to be a ‘home-grown talent’ in a 25 man squad. “We think it will give clubs an extra incentive to invest in youth. We think that one of the benefits will be that it will help the England team” (Scudamore, 2009).

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