Critically Compare the Concepts of Equal Opportunities and Sports Equity in British Sport

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Critically compare the concepts of equal opportunities and sports equity in British sport

This paper aims to compare the ideas of equal opportunities and sports equity with regard to sport in Britain. Within this structure, there will be particular emphasis on the theoretical approaches that are used to look at equality in British sport. A key part of this comparison is the study of (social) equality; this includes formal, radical and liberal interpretations of equality. The arguments and suggestions will be reinforced and supported by literature and other texts outside of just the sporting context. Many sports historians such as Holt (1989) say that sport, pre 20th Century, was almost private and restricted to the upper class minority. Recreational sports had a complex set of laws (i.e. tennis) this was to restrict participation from the lower classes. Another vestige of the times was the limitation of sport to women; this was not necessarily written law but was accepted none the less. Racism in sport was not tackled or even considered until well into the 20th century when the government introduced laws and legislation that banned prejudice based on race. As a consequence of these legalities, many recognised sporting institution in Great Britain have introduced policy and recommendations to deal with the problems of ‘inequality’ within their respective organisations. Nevertheless, as indicated by Guttman’s analysis (1978), continuous development in recent years has slowly begun to break down certain barriers to equality. Should someone wish to investigate further into actual modern equality work they can access a variety of net resources. A quick look at equality policies of the Football Association for example demonstrates that work is being done for the purpose of equality. Guttman (1978) even goes so far to say that in many sports worldwide, participants of any circumstance and environment are encouraged to participate. He also states however that equality in sport and its aims is seen by some as a distant achievement, it remains unrealistic. Guttman’s (1978) study illustrates that as sport entered the 2nd half of the 20th century, systems that control other components of a balanced society would also affect modern sporting institutions in the same way In order to better understand the aim of this paper, a number of key terms need some more clarity. The first term that needs defining is ‘equality’ and more specifically ‘basic equality’. According to Baker (2004) basic equality is the concept that people have the same worth and are consequently worthy of equal interest and value. Many would argue that certain individuals and groups have earned more respect than other people and therefore inequalities should exist. Maybe what we should be considering is a minimum level of equality, a fundamental idea of equality whereby people all exist at the same point of respect. This would mean putting a threshold on what it is to be human. As indicated by Craig and Beedie (2010) the study of equality is an area of fascination to many sporting sociologists. Coakley (2003, p326) states, that this curiosity is established because many believe that sport goes beyond monetary and economic inequalities. A common belief is that sport is available to all; irrelevant of which equality strand someone may fit into (age, race, ethnicity etc). According to Craig and Beedie (2010) some consider the sporting domain a discrimination free arena; where a result is contested on fair grounds and the result goes to those with the most aptitude or skill. Another key term is stratification. This is a way of breaking down the different levels of society based on their sociological group. This helps to highlight the in/equality that is present in sport. A number of actual examples have been highlighted by Craig and Beedie (2010). Examples of these stratification layers include; the system of class formation affects the poor, the working class, and the...
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