Sport and the state: ideology and practice

Willey, David Leonard (1989). Sport and the state: ideology and practice. PhD thesis The Open University.



The focus of the study is the growing involvement of the British state in sport from the early 1960s to the mid to late 1980s. The thesis maintains that the close association of the organisation of sport with education shifted under government and business influence towards an instrumental welfare role for the state, and towards a privatised entertainment oriented practice linked to business sponsorship and media influence.

Investigation is based largely on primary material derived from documentary and interview sources, and draws on a critical analysis of relevant contributions in the sociology of sport categorised here under pluralist, social reproduction, culturalist and state-investment perspectives. Particular use is made of the concepts of collective consumption, corporatism and hegemony.

The central theme is that sport has served a legitimatory purpose for the state. It is argued that state involvement in sport has a structural relationship with changing economic conditions, that political responses involved a complexity of factors, and that the ideological structuring and restructuring of the content and organisation of sporting practices has been framed by a tension between conservative and liberal forces. The Labour Party-led expansion of provision for sport has been shown to have been primarily a 'statist' stance underpinned by a corporate management ideology which, though increasing facilities, actually worked to reinforce inequalities. The Conservative Party though emphasising freedom and independence for organisations in sport has promoted central control and market values.

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