Changing Face in Sport

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Whether you follow football, rugby, athletics or any other type of sport, the experience, interest and the whole approach of sports has changed immensely over the past century. Before the late 19th century, sport was somehow provisional event with absolutely no interest from the government but has now as not only it is national but global phenomenon (Houlihan, 1997, p.1). Sport has grown from being a recreational event since the end of the 19th century into a global, and commodity and commercial event. This essay will discuss how sport has transformed from local event to an international centre-piece in the last 100 years.

Today’s sport is bound up in a global network of interdependency chains that are marked by global flows and uneven power relations (Maguire, 2005). Globalized audience since the late 19th century has ever been increasing as a result of the development of satellite television (Houlihan, 1997, p.1; Gupta, 2009, p1781). For instance in the years 1998, 2002 and 2006 the FIFA World Cup finals attracted global audiences of 1.3 billion, 1.1 billion and 715.1 million respectively (Harris, 2007). The growth of technologies such as the internet and mobile phones has also lead to global audience of sport. Globalization of sport has also lead to the participation of people from different ethnicity and the increase in gender awareness all around the world. In 1978, in the United States of America, a law was passed on to include women in sports to achieve gender diversity and equity and participation opportunities (Lapchick, 1996, p.93).

Again, commercialization and commodification of sport have changed since the late 19th century. According to Levinson and Christensen (2005) commercialization of sport is more pervasive today than the late 19th century. Commercialization of the modern games has become more business-like as sport organisations have become money centred and responsive to customers’ needs (Houlihan, 2008, p.308; Levinson and Christensen, 2005). For instance, FIFA’s President João Havelange transforming the World Cup into a big business with global audiences and profits by attracting multinational companies such Coca-Cola and Adidas with lucrative sponsorship and selling TV and radio rights (Homburg, 2008; Boyle and Haggerty, 2009 cited in Eick, 2011). The TV rights and advertising revenue of the 1980 Moscow Olympics were estimated around $87 million and $150 million respectively (Hargreaves, 1982, p.38; Levinson and Christensen, 2005). These rights on the rise ever since commercialisation and commodification of sport were introduced. The rights to broadcast the Olympics from 1996 to 2008 in the United States cost the television network NBC $4 billion (Jackson and Andrews, 2005, p.9).

In recent decades, commodification and commercialization of sport have changed greatly as they define the relationship between fans and athletes. The relationship between athletes and fans in the modern sport is seen as a business contract as fans pay good money to watch them and therefore expect good entertainment from the athletes (Coakley and Donnelly, 1999, p. 178). The athletes’ images or likenesses are sold to promote product. Nike in the year 2000 signed Tiger Woods on a five-year deal worth over $100 million (Jackson and Andrews, 2005, p.9) and in 2006, Adidas signed Lionel Messi also on a five-year deal worth £400,000 a year (Dunnell, n.d.). The athletes themselves in the modern sport are seen as commodities as clubs make place huge offers to acquire their services. Taking a look at how much football clubs pay to acquire the services of players are enormous in the modern game. The sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid FC from Manchester United FC for an amount of £80 million in 2009 is a very good example of how athletes are as seen today as commodities (BBC, 2009).

The international events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have created influx of income for the hosting government. The...
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