In Criminal Justice Matters (CJM) No 88 June 2012 Ellis Cashmore argues that, for all its apparent innocuousness, sport is a harmful presence in society.
The time and energy we put into sport could be more profitable deployed. Sport is not only futile, arbitrary and and wasteful: it is a malign presence that, it was once thought, would serve as a source of moral inspiration, but which has merely become part of an apparatus that buttresses consumer culture.I can't disagree with the sentiment of this sprint jeremiad. However, obviously as I continue to play and watch sport live and mediatised (as I type a window in my computer is showing the Kitzbuhel Triathlon* and I shall be watching England v Italy in Euro 2012 later) I must have some differences. Those differences are politico-ideological but I'll try and drag criminology too.
It feels as if Cashmore has been let down by sport and that he might have formerly believed that it could, 'deliver peace on earth, save the planet from environmental disaster, or assist the discovery of a cure for cancer'. I have never believed that sport was anything other than a part of society (despite it's pretensions to special status and demands for immunity from politics or law) and subject to all of the problems of society.
And that problem is 'money' or 'consumer culture' as Cashmore has it. Or, capitalism. None of the problems he addresses are new but have become more concentrated, and particularly in soccer, which he takes largely as his example. His approach reminds me of Brohm's classic Sport, a prison of measured time and more recently of Marc Perelman's Barbaric Sport.
So what of the criminology? The publisher's of CJM (and I have some sympathy with this approach) favour a broad vision of crime to incorporate harms not always or appropriately dealt with by law and criminal justice. Cashmore's piece takes the broadest approach in denouncing sport. Within this tradition I'd be happier pulling the focus in a touch and worrying about the matters that Fussey raises in his article in CJM 88 which I'll examine later.
And in the spirit of Richard Neville's Playpower suggest that sport, like drugs should be recreational.
*the Brownlee brothers first and second.