Explain how social class is related to sport participation. It is argued that sport is formally open to all, however in 2008 the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a ten year study in which it stated that “there are no signs that the gap in participation between lower and higher socioeconomic strata is narrowing” (Stamatatakis, & Chaudhury, 2008). People in high income, high education and high status occupations participate in more sport. It is statements like this that are at the heart of the discussion over the relationship between social class, inequality and sports participation.
This debate is part of a wider concept known as social stratification that includes social divisions based on race, gender and ethnicity. This essay will however focus on social class however much of the arguments and observations are universal in terms of a smaller privileged group of wealthier individuals who can afford to watch and play sport and who use it to positively differentiate themselves from lower class groups. Health professionals, educationalists and politicians attempting to combat the obesity epidemic and reduce expenditure on health provision are constantly ncouraging wider sports participation across society.
Donnelly, (1999) refers to this approach to sports participation as evidence of an agency theory, and centres on the belief that “individuals are free to act in a manner of their own choosing” and that social factors such as class do not present barriers to participation in sport. The belief that sports participation has indisputable benefits for all levels of society has wide mainstream appeal, and is also supported in traditional functionalist theory. Sport is seen as an important social arrangement that adds to the cohesive social rder of society, and provides positive physical and social benefits to its citizens.
Mainstream supporters of this popular view; notably the powerful and wealthy decision makers in society, largely ignore any debate on social class within sport insisting that it holds a unique egalitarian status. Sport’s credentials, as a social force for good, that can unify people from all social backgrounds has been attacked over the last 30 years by the Marxist conflict and critical theories. It is argued that the institutionalised ideology of meritocracy embedded in sport reinforces wider social inequality under the myth of a social eritocracy.
Sport only serves the wealthier social classes and that sport itself is a divisive social tool used to reinforce class differences. Economic status is one of the obvious ways that can determine sports participation and divide social groups by defining monetarily who can afford the costs, the time and the access to transport links to take part in certain sports. High club membership fees and the equipment costs associated with certain sports explain why they are still the exclusive domain of the wealthier classes with the poor socially excluded on