User:U3036419/Sport as a social divider

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Presentation - Sport as a social divider[edit]

Please find below the link which will direct you to my presentation. This presentation will give you an overview of the topic of sport as a social divider and will also draw upon conclusions and factors to consider when analysing this topic. The presentation will go through the why sport divides society and provide real life examples of how this particular notion is practised within the business and political world. The presentation will also draw upon certain impacts in society and the extensive role of the government on the local, national and international stage. The presentation will conclude with a brief summary of the major points of the report. I have kept the presentation as simple as possible to easily demonstrate the main points of the presentation. I hope you find the presentation useful and enriching and also that you take into consideration the issues which are addressed in the presentation and also the below report.


Collingwood v Essendon, ANZAC Day Match 2010: Image by Gavin Anderson

Sport as a social divider: an introduction[edit]

Sport as a social divider is a powerful and intriguing tool which fascinates different people and different cultures in a number of ways. Sport has the ability to divide the society we live in, from jovial banter to high pressure, competitive situations.

As a member of your known community, each individual has their known opinion when it comes to sport. Some parts of society believe there are more important and pressing issues which need to be addressed and should be at the forefront of political decisions - such as the need for a better health system, greater emphasis on education or a reform of the public transport system. These individuals have the mindset that sport is merely ‘a hobby’.

In contrast, others believe that sport is the core of how communities functions and denotes values which people use in this daily routine we call life, believing it provides the opportunity for physical activity, interaction and networking to take place, underpinning a healthy lifestyle for all. As famous American football coach Vince Lombardi once said ‘Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard-work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority’. (Lombardi, 2011).

Pictured here is two players from soccer clubs competing for the ball. Image by Mango Peel Media Services

What is sport and where is its place in society?[edit]

Most of us have a good grasp on what we think the meaning of sport is, a good enough grasp to talk about sport, to play sport, to administer sport or even watch and read about it. Sport in a social context is much more complex, as society shapes and defines the importance of sport.

Society is referred to a ‘collection of people living in a defined geographic territory and united by a political system and a shared sense of self-identification that distinguishes them from other people’ (Coakley, 2009). Seen as different, social significance of sport varies and continues to change with how it is perceived.

Sport as a standalone unit encompasses a wide spread understanding of what it actually is. It is a generic term which is often difficult to define and means that the term sport is often pigeonholed. Sports are ‘institutionalised competitive activities that involve rigorous physical exertion or the use of relatively complex physical skills by participants motivated by internal and external rewards’ (Coakley, 2009).

Whilst it is important recognise the definition of sport, interpretation of the word often means important social functions are not taken into consideration and their impact not evaluated. Two important questions which must be asked in a social context are what activities do people in particular societies identify as sport and how do you measure the importance of sport in society?

Role of the Government[edit]

In Australian society, there is a high value placed on sport. Politics and sport have held a longstanding relationship with each other and as a result have become intertwined in the Australian way of living. (PDHPE, Application and Inquiry, 2011). The most important sporting event of the calendar which governments place undoubtedly the most emphasis on is the Olympics. The Olympics Games have been described as more than a major sports festival. They are a catalyst for change and political manoeuvring and are a measurement which the Government and society use to calculate the success of their nations sporting involvement. (Shilbury et al. 2006).

The Australian government, as part of the 2010 - 2011 budget announced their new vision for sport in Australia. Tagged ‘The Pathway to Success’, the new sport direction is backed up by $195 million in additional funding, which was ‘the largest-ever injection into Australian sport’(Australian Sports Commission, 2011). Important inferences came to the surface after the funds were injected into Australian sport. The Australian government placed particular emphasis on increasing the number of Australians participating in sport as well as strengthening sporting pathways to link grassroots development and high performance sport, and strive for success (Australian Sports Commission, 2011). This monumental introduction of funds truly showed that Australians value sport and that sport was the essence of the society in which we live in. It plays a major role in shaping Australia’s identity and culture and provides a binding element in the social fabric of Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2011).

Why does sport divide society?[edit]

Sport is fickle in the simplest of terms. It has the power to unite and more interestingly divide the sections of society which we live in. Sport is competitive, tribal and it’s the us v them mentality. State of Origin is the perfect example of how sport can divide society. This contest divides the two states - New South Wales and Queensland and when that time of the year comes around, it is treated like war. Friends become foes, and mates become enemies merely for barracking the side which you don’t follow. Sport is a contest, and at the basic level of human interaction, nobody likes to lose. (Constantine, 2008).

Sport can divide society as individuals place importance on different aspects of their life and what they deem to be important. Sport is often used as a political driver in campaigns and if sections of society do not agree them, division occurs. Sport is a special category within society as the benefits of being involved in it, are more often indirect than direct. This leads to dissatisfaction and contempt for sport as they believe that too much of an emphasis is placed on this function. Those who believe that there is no connection between sport and government will most likely be ignored when government involvement occurs. (Coakley, 2009).

Tensions come to a head: State of Origin players Sam Thaiday and Beau Scott. Image by HeavenlyDevine

Tensions between ethnic groups in Australian soccer: an insight[edit]

As sport does divide the society in which we live in, it is important to establish a strong background of previous events in our history to determine the severity of the division. A great example of social division was in 2001 during a soccer match between the Melbourne Knights and the Perth Glory. The Melbourne Knights traditionally have a strong Croatian following within the then National Soccer League and conversely the Perth Glory has a strong Macedonian following. During this particular match, it became evident that ethnic tensions were beginning to rise due to a flare being set off and thrown onto the field during play.

Following the conclusion of the match, a group of Melbourne Knights fans took it upon themselves to attack the Perth Glory players where a number of people were injured during the scuffle. Soccer Australia denied the claims that ethnic tensions were to blame for the incident but during the match it became clear that these two rival teams had much more to battle about then what was shown on the field. Soccer Australia continued to deny that the ethnic tensions played any part in the violence which was witnessed, claiming it to be a ‘one-off incident’ deemed to be anti-social behaviour. When probed to explain, Soccer Australia believed it was not a result of the old Serb-Croat rivalry. (Vincent, 2001).

Sport as a social divider is evident in this example. Ethnic tensions and rivalry played a large part in this match and for the majority of the crowd at this particular sporting event, they were well behaved, however sport in the modern world is a business. Being a spectator at this particular match would have no doubt tainted the appearance of both clubs and left a considerable sour taste in the mouths of fans and spectators. In a recent survey of people involved in soccer, it suggested that it was the most violent of any football code in Australia and crowd behaviour at soccer matches was rated as the worst of any sport. (O'Hara, 1994).

But when does this social division because of political rivalry start impacting on sport and business? When do people start voting with their feet to stand up against it? Sport and business must interact together to ensure that it does not affect their relationship and how they operate together otherwise the sporting industry places itself into a dangerous position amongst Australian society.

Sporting Star: Tiger Woods in action at a recent golf tournament

Behavioural issues in the sport and social domain[edit]

On an international level, sport plays a major role in how we as individuals see ourselves and in turn what we aspire to be. Even sports stars, like it or not, shape the way society functions and encourage us to explore what our values and morals are and who we aspire to be. International sports stars such as Tiger Woods and national sports stars such as Ben Cousins have displayed poor behaviour in the sports scene. This has led to society to question their actions and make a decision on what they believe is right and just. These sort of bad-boy images which are portrayed in the media give society fuel to suggest that perhaps not all good comes from sport, particularly when these sort of sports stars are in fact role models to those in our own society. The attention that is given to high profile sports stars who exercise poor behaviour is nearly unbelievable. After Tiger Woods was caught out on a number of indiscretions he made this statement ‘I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.’ Off-the-field activities are providing larger and more headlines and less on game stories, statistics and feature articles (Pollack 2007). This is a worrying issue among sport and society as it has the ability to affect all stakeholders involved and indirectly businesses who pride themselves on being involved in sport, in some capacity

In the end[edit]

Sport in the social context will continue to evolve and prosper as a favourite past time in particularly Australian society. Sport is a unique tool as it encompasses many different aspects of life. Whether you play sport, watch sport, work in sport or read about sport you are still consuming the product of sport and what it has to offer. It has the capability to encompass large amounts of people, even if those people are not sport followers, they are still indirectly related to it in some way. The level at which societies engage in sport will change over time and this factor will also contribute to how you are affected by sport and divided by it. It is important to recognise that sport in society will continue to create debate and offer difference of opinions and this is why it important to consider the political and business motivations towards society concepts about sport.

Sport has many different levels which it encompasses, from the grass-root stage to the professional level where livelihoods and income can be generated. It will remain as a hot topic on the social agenda of a number of stakeholders, as people continue to debate the importance of sport and its place in society’s hierarchy.


  • Coakley, J, Hallinan, C, Jackson, S & Mewett P 2009, 'Sports in Society: Issues and controversies in Australia and New Zealand', 1st edn, McGraw-Hill Australia, North Ryde NSW
  • Pollack, J 2007 'Bad Behaviour Reigns', St Louis Journalism Review, retrieved from SPORTDiscus with full text database.
  • Shilbury, D, Deane, J & Kellett, P 2006, 'Sport Management in Australia: an organisational overview', 3rd edn, Strategic Sport Management Pty Ltd, Benleigh East, VIC