Sports have been known to develop out of sporting competitions and events, such as athletics, rugby, basketball, baseball and football. But sports also exist in the arena of games developed for competitive skill: cricket, table tennis, chess, billiards, golf, horse racing and snooker, for example. Each of these sports can be classified by how regularly and what kind of competition they have, but the essence of each game is its competitive spirit, something shared by all sports.
There is no simple answer to defining sports. The history of the word sport can be traced back to Ancient Greece, when it came to being called Association Football or Greek Sports (a play on the term ‘gammon’). The very idea of a contest between two evenly matched teams was alien to the earliest Romans, who preferred a more physically active life. But over the years the idea of sport itself has become rooted in both physical and social factors, making sport an integral part of all cultures around the world today.
The first major sport to gain global recognition was basketball, with its long tradition of Association Basketball, now played in over 120 countries. Basketball has evolved from a humble pastime to an enormous passion, with thousands of worldwide fans and a daily dose of commentary and analysis in almost every country. And with this fan base came widespread exposure, with TV coverage spreading the sport to millions of homes and changing the face of global sports reporting altogether. Television channels dedicated to Association Football and its games have been counted among the biggest sports stories of the century, with ESPN in the US and Sky Sports in the UK covering almost every international tournament.
Association Football enjoys huge popularity in North America where it is second only behind football in terms of television coverage. In the UK, too, Association Football is a hugely popular sport, with the National Football League (NFL) bringing in record ratings for the past three decades. Football on television and radio in the UK has become a massive business, with a variety of sports channels dedicated to coverage of live matches. A typical Saturday afternoon in the UK may see more than forty different sports programmes being aired live, making it one of the most unpredictable sports stories of any time of day. The huge global following for the game means that, even in non-English speaking nations, people can follow Association Football and enjoy a truly international sporting occasion.
International football is also spread around the world through association football and its own unique history and the World Cup tournament. Each World Cup brings a different sporting culture to the surface of competition, with extra spice added through disciplinary issues, controversial refereeing decisions and fan unrest. The popularity of this tournament means that it is now second only to the NFL in terms of revenue generated, giving it the potential to overtake football as the single biggest source of income for governing bodies. The World Cup is also the catalyst for much larger tournaments such as the Olympic Games, making it even more important that governing bodies promote the sport so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Promoting sports events can have a profound effect on children’s attitudes towards health, fitness and even social justice – making it an important area to work in if you are aiming to influence young people’s attitudes towards the world, sport and life in general.
Despite the growth of world cup and the exponential increase in the number of football games being played, the governance of sporting events is still relatively weak. One of the few areas that is consistently regulated is the introduction of a four corner kick, which has the purpose of allowing players to hit the ball from two directions at once. This is designed to encourage fair play and eliminate kick-abouts, although this kind of action has sometimes led to unfortunate consequences. The introduction of a system whereby the fourth corner kick is no longer compulsory will hopefully ensure fair competition throughout the game.