Sociological Aspects of Modern Sports - Helmut Digel - ebook

Sociological Aspects of Modern Sports ebook

Helmut Digel



The book deals with the Sociological Aspects of Modern Sports and features articles on social change and sports development (e. g. the problem of doping and responsibility of science, talent identification and promotion), on the Olympics (e. g. the Olympic Idea and Reality, the Athletes’ Village) and on athletics (e. g. on the development of world athletics, what makes athletics valuable).

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Sport, Culture & Society, Vol. 10

Helmut Digel

Sociological Aspects of Modern Sports


The ”Sport, Culture & Society” series deals with issues intersecting sport, physical activity and cultural concerns. The focus of the book series is interdisciplinary, groundbreaking work that draws on different disciplines and theoretical approaches, such as sociology, philosophy, cultural anthropology, history, cultural studies, feminist studies, postmodernism, or critical theory. The ”Sport, Culture & Society” series seeks to reflect both, the variety of research concerns from a multi-disciplinary perspective and discussions of current topics in sport and physical activity and their relationship to culture.

The editors:

Karin Volkwein-Caplan (USA), Jasmin Tahmaseb McConatha (USA), and Keith Gilbert (UK)

For further information about the book series or the submission of proposals please contact:

Karin Volkwein-Caplan, West Chester University, Department of Kinesiology, West Chester, PA 19383, USA, e-mail: [email protected]

Jasmin Tahmaseb McConatha, West Chester University, Department of Kinesiology, West Chester, PA 19383, USA, e-mail: [email protected]

Keith Gilbert, University of the West of England, Hartpury College, Hartpury House, Gloucester, Gloustershire, GL19 3BE, UK, e-mail: [email protected]

Sport, Culture & Society, Vol. 10

Helmut Digel

Sociological Aspects of Modern Sports

Meyer & Meyer Sport

British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Helmut DigelSociological Aspects of Modern SportsMaidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2013(Sport, Culture & Society; Vol. 10)ISBN 978-1-84126-357-1

All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced—including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means— processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.

© 2013 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf, Indianapolis, Maidenhead, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Wien Member of the World Sports Publishers’ Association (WSPA)

Printed by: Beltz Druckpartner GmbH & Co. KGISBN 978-1-84126-357-1eISBN 978-1-78255-342-7E-Mail: [email protected]



Chapter I: Social Change and Sports Development

I.1  Perspectives of Sport in a Global World

I.2  Sports and the Media—Development Trends and Problems with a Lucrative Relationship

I.3  Guidelines for a Reflexive Modernization of the Development Cooperation in Sport

I.4  Sport and Sexuality

I.5 Toward a Visionary Sport Policy

Chapter II: High-performance Sport—Problems and Limits

II.1 The Problem of Doping and the Responsibility of Science

II.2 Do We Need an Anti-doping Law?

II.3 Intersexuality and High-performance Sport

II.4 Talent Identification and Promotion

II.5 A Comparison of Competitive Sport Systems

II.6 Faster, Higher, Further—the Future of Elite Sports

II.7 The Fundamentals to Protect Honest Athletes

Chapter III: On the Olympics

III.1 Olympic Challenges

III.2 Olympic Idea and Reality

III.3 Spectators in Olympic Sport

III.4 The Risks of the Youth Olympic Games

III.5 Why Athletes Villages Will Still be Required in the Future

III.6 Atlanta and the Lessons Learned

III.7 The Ping-pong Game of the Hypocrites

III.8 Olympic Games and Regional Development

Chapter IV: On Athletics

IV.1 On the Development of World Athletics

IV.2 Does Athletics Need Innovations?

IV.3 Toward Effective Organizational Structures in Sports Federations—from Amateurism to Professionalism

IV.4 Challenges to Athletics

IV.5 What Makes Athletics Valuable

IV.6 International Athletics on the Threshold of the 21st Century


Message from the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge

Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, was a true visionary. But even he might be surprised to see what has become of the organization he founded in 1894. Two years after the creation of the International Olympic Committee, the first Olympic Games in 1896 drew competitors from just 14 countries. More than a century later, the Olympic Games are the world’s premier sporting event, a global celebration of our common humanity that features top athletes from more than 200 National Olympic Committees and reaches a television audience in the billions.

The Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement have become a force for good on a grand scale, changing lives for the better, encouraging economic development and promoting positive values worldwide. The impact of the Games has encouraged a significant amount of scholarship into the sociological aspects of sport in general and the Olympic Games in particular. The International Olympic Committee welcomes and encourages academic interest in this area. Studying the sociological impact of sport with rigour and an open mind will help ensure that the Games continue to be a positive force.

Helmut Digel, a member of the International Association of Athletes Federations and a professor of sports sciences at the University of Tübingen, has made a significant contribution to that effort. Through his direct involvement in athletics, he understands the special role that sport plays in society. And today, he is sharing his thoughts and reflections on social change and its impact on sports development through this new commendable publication, Sociological aspects of modern sports.

Few other human activities have the ability to generate so much attention and passion on such a large scale. Sport is one of the biggest social movements in the world, and sports heroes have the power to inspire millions. It can help bridge social and economic divides, create jobs and lead people to healthier, more fulfilling lives. Although we are a long way from exploiting the full potential of sport, there is growing recognition among governments and non-governmental organizations that sport can play an important role in development. One of the best examples is the increasingly close cooperation between the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations—a partnership that culminated with the decision by the UN General Assembly in 2009 to grant the IOC Permanent UN Observer status.

The IOC and its constituent organizations—National Olympic Committees, International Federations and Organising Committees for the Olympic Games—are working with UN agencies and programs around the world to integrate sport into development efforts, peace-building and other projects. The Olympic Movement is also actively engaged in efforts to achieve the UN Millennium Goals in all eight of the priority areas identified by the UN, including gender equality, environmental sustainability, education and child health, and the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty.

Sport cannot solve all of the world’s ills. It is not a panacea. But it can and should be part of the solution. Sound research into the sociological aspects of sport will help ensure that we are making the most sport’s full potential.

Jacques Rogge

Chapter I:

Social Change and Sports Development

I.1 Perspectives of Sport in a Global World

Social change and sports development are related each to the other and, as with industrial societies, the system of sports is following the idea of ‘modernization’. For decades, a change of paradigms has and continues to occur and, as a result, the system of sports is facing new challenges and increasing risks that are to be mastered.

Sport has Changed

More than 50 years ago, I started my active sports career. Sport was my life. For the first time, I played in a youth-handball team, shot goals, was celebrated and dreamt of the national team. To me, sport meant practicing technique and tactics and, primarily, competition at the weekend. Athletics was almost equally important and soccer was played almost everywhere. Besides that I played in a table tennis team at position four. ‘Faster, higher, further’ was our maxim. Even at that time, the term ‘sport’ was ambiguous. It could mean school sport, competitive sport, military sport, or preventive sport. In comparison with today, especially in retrospect, life with sports was clear-cut and easy to grasp. At least for those who were personally active in sports, it was obvious what it meant. Today it seems to be different. To me sport is still the central purpose of life. I live for sport, write about sport, talk about it and sometimes, but too rarely, I practice sport. I play tennis, although as a juvenile, I regarded this sport as an elitist expression of an upper class and hence rejected it. I do special back and torso exercises without pursuing any traditional sports goal. I go on cycling tours with my family because I believe they are beneficial for our general well-being. More rarely, I torment myself as a runner since I still hope in vain that it will reduce my weight.

What sport means to me today has only little in common with what it used to mean in the past. However, even today, the sport of the old days still exists. The actual novelty of the situation is primarily that the term ‘sport’ has received a considerably larger and still growing variety of meanings.

Today, more and more activities are described by the term sport. Furthermore, a still growing variety of functions is to be accomplished by sport. A diffuse mixture of behavior patterns has developed from a limited number that were initially called sport. The allocation of this mixture to the total range of ‘sports’ depends largely on subjective value judgments. Breathing exercises, hiking, bathing, yoga, or jogging, depending on the point of view, are ‘real’ sports or ‘not’ sports at all. Codified rules, competition and performance classes are features and showpieces, if you definitely want to belong to the core of the sports family.

However, the sports family has long had its adopted children. The behavior pattern of sport shows imperial traits. Moving bodies are sports bodies, and unmoving bodies also find a place under the umbrella of sport. Sport can be everything and everywhere—with or without codified rules; with compulsory participation or without obligation; integrated into a lasting organization or informally practiced; measured with externally set quality standards or informally agreed upon. State-municipal sport can be found next to private sport. New organizational structures labeled ‘sport’ are in great demand and make the assumption that the triumphant advance of sport—the sportification of our society—can hardly be stopped. Sport is increasingly becoming a lifetime companion of man, from kindergarten up to the sport of 90-year-olds. [1]

Changes in Society

The causes of this development can be identified. The material standard of living has been considerably rising for many social groups since the 1950s. As a result, a mass consumption has developed and has already partly developed into luxury consumption. The freedom to have a share in consumption is assured by participation in the job market. Consequently, the job market has not lost its importance. On the contrary—today it is more important than ever to have a job.

The dynamics of the job market require mobility, which again weakens the solidity of social networks. Due to this development, society has become extremely complex. In the process of increasing diversification, there is more and more appeal for only functional specific items in the sub-systems of this society. We can only temporarily commit ourselves to partial relationships: as neighbour, voter, sportsperson, tourist. Flexibility is the watchword.

This process has been beneficial in many respects. More and more people have greater autonomy than in the old days; more and more they find scope for expression and development that was formerly denied to them; more and more they have recourse to financial means that present them with individual choice especially in their free time. In the first decade of a new century, the values are promising: Always having free time, acting as a creative person, experiencing work and pleasure as a unity, receiving reward not only through work but also by acknowledgement and affection, being socially involved, laughing, being carefree, weeping uninhibitedly, being independent philosophically, being able to love and being able to find oneself. [2]

Who would not like to lay claim to this statement? Who does not wish creativity as a lifestyle? Who does not plead for tolerance, openness, truthfulness, and a greater depth in acceptable behavior? If sport contributes an important share in this matter, this can only be desirable.

The tendencies to individualism that are observable today can be interpreted in several ways. From a positive viewpoint, the new individualism can be understood as a desirable global change expressing a new understanding of work, family, culture, and society. Here, a turning toward a sense of life oriented by personal benefit is taking place. Also the tendency toward an expressive individualism is immense. This individualism forms a new version of a successful life, namely the desire not to be taken in and sacrificed in favor of comprehensive social goals and demands.

Considering such an understanding, it would only be logical if sport also corresponded with the tendency toward individualism, modernized and individualized its offers, and hence came up to people’s expectations in their freedom of choice.

Looking back at the last three decades, it becomes clear that exactly this has taken place in the world of sport. However, there is doubt about whether the path sports development has taken is the only correct one. If we want to understand this critical position, we have to have a closer look at the phenomenon of modernization.

Features of ‘Modernization’

It is characteristic of the idea of modernization that everything that was ‘modern’ yesterday must be modernized today. This modernization is reflected in all parts of society, but it can be especially and distinctly acknowledged in the fields of politics, economy and law, as well as in social and cultural areas.

Modernization itself is gaining acceptance primarily through specific developmental processes. Seven of these are especially worth mentioning in this context.

First, there is the ‘upgrading of the individual’ as it has taken place in advanced industrial societies in past decades. In sociology, one talks about the individualization of society. A gradual erosion of relatively firm partnerships that came down through the generations is affected by the process of individualization. Thus, Ulrich Beck talks about a releasing dimension that has formed the process of individualization. [3] Furthermore, this has led to a de-traditionalization of influences directing behavior and cultural norms. Traditional fields of knowledge have become irrelevant and have been replaced by new ones; previously relevant sets of belief have become superfluous. Beck describes this as ‘the dimension of losing its magic spell’. It is not particularly surprising that this release and ‘loss of magic’ has led to an acquisition of new forms of social integration as a reaction to disintegration tendencies. This could be described as a re-integration dimension.

A second characteristic is the more and more drastic rationalization of our thoughts and actions. Human bases of action are increasingly vehemently cleared of value-rational decision structures and replaced by purposerational ones. Central themes of ethical mentalities are gradually replaced by functionalistic considerations of effectivity. Life becomes increasingly an input/ output calculation; sober calculation replaces faithfulness to principles.

In the course of rationalization, economic rationality is expanded and gains supremacy. Individualization and rationalization fade into a utilitarian individualism. Personal benefit and maximization of personal advantage become a rule of human action. The expectation of benefit is put in relation to the necessary effort. Cost-benefit calculations become a characteristic of everyday life. They can be observed in children, as well as in youths and adults and can be found in school, in working life, and in free time. Taking advantage of privileges becomes a characteristic of today’s daily practice and so it also leads to a departure from the unified community to a certain extent. Masterly cost-benefit calculations become a mark of quality for competent action. Life is completely capitalized and marketed.

A special feature of the modernization of the modern age is its increasing legalization. New hierarchy and power proportions are created among its members. Legalization touches all areas of life, especially the social and cultural sectors of our society, and the private sphere is increasingly affected by questions of civil and public law.

At the same time, the influence of the media on daily life is increasing. The information technology industry is growing faster and faster while the traditional media merge into symbioses with new media. This development allows for new ways of communication and transfers in a global perspective, but it also reaches nearly every facet of life. The media define more and more decisively what is relevant and what is not.

The significance of sciences for very diverse sectors of society is increasing continuously. Science and experts as mediators for science get more and more into the role of ultimate umpire, deciding about benefits and truth. Political decisions are, for example, increasingly based on the recommendations of science. On the other hand, science is increasingly becoming amateur science, thus reaching people’s everyday lives. This becomes particularly evident in the field of medical and psychological knowledge. Along with the growing influence of science, one can observe a process of trivialization, which is making scientific findings increasingly insignificant.

The seventh important trend is identified by the term globalization. Today the term is applied in many ways. Frequently, the term integration could equally be used. It must first be stated that in spite of its incessant use, it is mostly not sufficiently understood, and the empirical evidence proving the process of globalization is scarce. It has to be pointed out, however, that policy-makers have started much too late in dealing with the implications of the present globalization. The latter has its origin in industrial companies and up to the present day, it has been largely limited to this field.

It refers to changes and an increase in cross-border activities of companies for the purpose of organizing development and production, obtaining materials, marketing and financing. At the moment, these entrepreneurial behavior patterns are going through a time of upheaval, primarily determined by new forms of flexible production. Globalization becomes evident in an empirical way in cross-border transfers of money, goods, services, and know-how. Evidence for this globalization process can be found in foreign direct investment, international cooperation at the company level, the changing structure of international trade, and the globalization of financial markets. Increasing direct foreign investment can primarily be explained by technological change, macroeconomic structural divergence, and governmental policies. It is linked with falling communication costs which form an essential basis of the globalization process. Hence, globalization is chiefly distinguished by a new labor market in which traditional influences are receding and standards of labor are undermined in advanced industrial societies. Here, economy dominates everything.

The rising new world society is, politically speaking, in a kind of state of nature. Everybody is fighting in an almost anarchical way, looking for his/her individual advantage. A globalization of capitalistic production and market conditions is effected; a re-feudalization of politics comes into being. Governments, political parties, and associations have to find a new identity. The most important conflicts of interest are settled by exchange, and the taxpayer pays the rising costs. There is an almost complete lack of democratic supervision.

Change of Paradigms

Having all these changes in mind, it makes sense to talk about a change of paradigms. This change is comparable to the replacement of an agricultural society by the Industrial Revolution. The emerging change from the industrial age to a society of information, knowledge and communication will include all people: industry and all its employees; the unemployed; private life; and free time. In this change of paradigms, there will be some key developments that concern the whole world. Growth will not necessarily take place in all areas that were important in the twentieth century. On account of the new possibilities of electronic data processing and new communication technologies, there will be new growth patterns for the national economies of the world. There will be areas where growth can be identified, and there already are areas of noticeable decline. The traditional nation state loses some of its traditional power to influence questions of growth and decline. Regional economic areas come into being in a world without borders; trade is proceeding in those areas. In the twenty first century, the key to prosperity evidently lies in thinking and acting via telephone lines and via the new media of satellite communication. Those regions that are not supported by a common vision of the population will hardly have a chance in this change of paradigms. They will be swallowed up and made redundant by the rest of the global community.

Considering this development, we have to consider the general question of which value systems shall mark this new world. This is closely linked with probably the most important question arising from the fact that new purposes of life have to be found when values such as work and professional success wane in importance. Which purposes of life will be important? How does man want to live in this new world?

Does the metropolis, inseparably connected with traditional industry, still have justification today? And, if not, in what kind of settlements do we want to live instead?

Contours of the Development and Consequences

In view of the observable changes, it is already possible to assume certain contours that are likely to characterize the beginning of the new century. A continued obligation for an increased application of redistribution policies is unavoidable in the development of a globalized economy, due to rationalization processes and new technologies. If more and more sections of society cannot make their living by gainful employment, there arises the necessity to provide them with a financial income.

There is no doubt that a redistribution policy is necessary to solve this issue. Redistribution is the requirement of economic reasoning. Given that companies in a globalized economy are urged to adapt quickly to the market, that they have to carry out thorough rationalization measures and hence unavoidable dismissals of employees, then it is equally obvious that such adaptations can only be enacted within an extended social system. This is true because the loss of jobs is less threatening where there is social security for those concerned. An economy can only adjust flexibly to new market conditions if redistribution in that society is implemented in favor of a broader social security.

The releasing processes cause the individual to understand himself less as a polyvalent cosmopolitan. He will be more likely to focus more on local connections. His place of residence has to cope with the tasks of integration that have to be solved urgently, considering the loss of gainful employment. For future municipal and town development this means that town and municipality structures that cultivate isolation and anonymity need to be changed in such a way that they enable individual human contact and personal perspectives. The coexistence of dwelling, free time, and places of work will be especially important.

As people cannot distinguish themselves in these situations by flexible dynamics but always have to adapt to new constraints, it will be critical to provide them with a ‘new’ personality: one that will succeed in living a meaningful life beyond adaptation to external pressures. Virtues such as mental independence, critical distance, and unconventionality will experience a new renaissance.

Education systems will also have to change. In the future, it will be less important to educate people in preparation for specific job perspectives if ‘gainful employment’ carries a much broader meaning. It will rather be more important to encourage a perspective of civilized behavior and to help people discover/develop personal interests. In the universities, those courses of study oriented toward a specific professional career will be given less emphasis. Focus will need to be on mediating students’ curiosity and interest in substantial social matters, with universities themselves having to function in a more integral way than they currently do in order to compensate for the loss of traditional education. Study will be seen as a process of an intensive finding of self.

Considering these changes, it is already foreseeable that a society without gainful employment opportunities will also create new conditions for arts and culture. Culture will serve less as a distraction for stressed members of the system of gainful employment but might rather be about inspiration; it could become a meaningful area of life. The consequences of globalization must therefore not only be seen negatively. They also offer chances that have been recognized too rarely up to now.

Sports in the Mirror of the Last Decades

In this process of social transition, there now arises the question of how sports, as one of the most successful cultural phenomena of the twentieth century, is affected by these trends. A look in the mirror at sports in recent decades can help us in answering this question. General, as well as specific, aspects of social change can be detected.

The picture that comes into view is split. We can recognize some striking characteristics as indications of problems that could accompany and burden life in sports in the coming years. Some aspects are to be highlighted.

The ideology of the market has formed recent decades, especially in sports. The entire economization of all areas of life is marching on. This favors the already existing individualization spiral and shows a modern age dominated by the basic figure of the unattached, the single. But this also means that ‘constructions of independence’ have become ‘prison bars of loneliness.’ [4] Recent years have been characterized by the fundamental contradictions of industrial society. The contradictions directed toward private life and toward the level of the individual are aggravating.

The mirror of sport shows us that the process of destigmatization of behavior patterns and life spheres is also taking place in sport. The increasing freedom of choice for the individual and the simultaneous weakening of traditional relationships will influence him/her in the future. Decision-making obligations for the individual will arise more and more. Everything has to be discussed, justified, and its consequences considered. Self-evident matters become a source of conflict. Destigmatization, increasing freedom of choice, and the loss of traditional relationships become problems without an apparent solution. For many people, the lifestyles produced by entertainment, consumption, and the media industry become landmarks amid objects of imitation. Stressing differences has a special meaning. Identity and uniformity are not in demand but rather variety linked with very individual forms of stylization.

Moreover, in sports a multiplication and differentiation of partial fields and hence of value patterns can be observed. Due to an increase in the number of organizations and institutions, the individual is all the more dependent on his ability to be flexible and on an exchange of roles. Rationalities of action in one area of life do not necessarily have to correspond with other areas. For many, life is somehow becoming a ‘choice of menu.’ Numerous combinations are possible.

The conflict of the sexes in sport has entered into a new stage. Inequality in the field of education and law has not only treated women unequally in professional life, the family and politics, but also in sport this has become clearer and more obvious than ever before. The male policy of only verbal commitment has become increasingly unsuccessful.

We can see problems that we can call crises of human experience. Ever-increasing flexibility in the field of work has brought about higher incomes for only a few, and more individual free time for a few, and more personal time sovereignty for a few. For most employees, this has led to more night and shift work, more Saturday and Sunday work, as well as increased isolation and detachment from a commonly spent lifetime. The individual may have become richer materially but is increasingly under pressure in terms of time. Sport is especially affected. More and more people are yearning for a time structure that corresponds with their organic rhythm and the cyclic movements of nature.

We have to identify a problem of environment; the ‘playground in the Alps’ and ‘sports facilities close to the place of residence’ are diametrically opposite poles. An increasing number of people realize the connection existing between ‘plotted’ and ‘armored’ urban sports architecture and the escape from a world of performance into free nature.[5]

Due to a critical unimaginativeness, the mass media (especially television) are driven more than ever by the principles of the marketplace. Counting on the forgetfulness of its consumers and characterized by an ephemeral spirit of the times, television influences the perception patterns of its consumers, manipulates its messages with superficial entertainment interest and so sells questionable products. Sports coverage plays a central role in this context.

The renaissance of national values is striking. This can be observed wherever there are sporting comparisons between nations at Olympic Games or at world or European championships. The recognizable nationalisms are ‘however mostly’ nourished by images from the past that put a misleading complexion on the present and the future.

Demographically the elderly present the biggest socio-political challenge. Their importance becomes clear when we see that in many industrial societies today people above the age of 60 constitute a quarter of the total population. There is the danger that post-industrial societies will become ‘selected’ societies, even more than is already the case. This is not least because of the problem of an adequate old-age pension scheme, but also due to difficulties involved in integration between North, South, East, and West. Inequality will increase. The selection concerns parts of the older generation and some juveniles, but there is also a selection according to sex. ‘New foreigners’ are more frequently falling through the socio-political net of our society.

The general development of our society does not only show positive tendencies. In recent centuries, the changes in working life caused traditional class loyalties to disintegrate. The individual increasingly has to look after himself and experiences his individual fate in the labor market with all its risks, chances, and contradictions. The paradox is that increasing differentiation of individual situations is accompanied by an extreme standardization of life patterns. Our society is becoming more ambivalent than it already is. Paradoxes are accumulating. (Risky chances seems to be the epitaph of our time.) [6] Processes with intensive momentum of their own are to be observed more frequently, with us seemingly ill equipped to stop them. The constantly accelerating modernization of our society creates ever more serious consequences in terms of problems and burdens. Elevator effects have apparently brought our society to the top. Real enhancement in prosperity, however, has shifted a physical minimizing of existence into the distance. Nevertheless, social inequality remains the central problem to the further development of our society.

Modern societies are split. The image of the one-third/two-thirds society might be exaggerated. On the tide of contemporary efforts to create a new social policy, this instance is becoming more appropriate day by day.

Let us take a closer look at those who are separated from the majority in our split society. First of all, there are millions of unemployed amidst an economic boom, with, consequently, record numbers dependent on social security. In the USA and Europe, millions of people are living on the fringes of subsistence. Today’s poverty is the poverty of the unemployed, of old people, of those in need of care, of those in debt, of foreigners, and single mothers. In terms of income distribution it is becoming ever more evident that those in the lower third of private households receive an ever-decreasing income. The middle third has 25 percent of total income at its disposal, but the upper third more than 60 percent. At the same time, the profits of independent enterprises continue to increase, having risen four times as much as take-home salaries. The disposable income of self-employed households was four times as much as the disposable income of employee households in the 1990s. These figures make it clear that it is time to talk about social injustice in modern societies.

Yet official sports politics much too rarely take note of this fact. Sport has come to an arrangement with mainstream society. It is on the side of those who follow market logic. It is not surprising, however, that critics see it as a driving force for social injustice.

Sport’s Political Challenges

What could be the necessary consequences for future sports policies? To what should sport pay attention if it also wants to be successful in socio-political terms? The differentiation of sport systems not only changes what sport clubs offer, in the first place it produces a creeping adaptation. Therefore, our thesis is: The organizations that offer sport in our society are becoming more and more similar. This is true in respect to their form of organization, as well as to their content and offers. This becomes clear if clubs are compared with other clubs or subjected to a comparison with commercial suppliers and with municipal and federal sports organizations.

Sports associations and sports clubs were formerly characterized by offering their members a range of sports that had often grown out of different ideologies and because of contrasting sense orientations. Now these differences have been minimized and the adaptation processes in sports organizations in particular have led to an increasing convergence of policy and purpose among sports clubs and commercial suppliers and businesses. The reason for this development is, in the first place, an expansion of sports supply as well as an addition of new sportive services. The process of adaptation is a process in which the clubs primarily adopt the ideas and objects of their supposed competitors. These are partly copies of the new sport patterns that have been developed by the free sports market or in the municipal and federal field.


In the long term, democracies cannot flourish without the feeling of solidarity, without our willingness to put others again and again into a position that is more or less equal to our own, even though this may cost us a share of our own personal prosperity. First, the perception of a common nature disappears; then—because we do not recognize ourselves in others any more—the active participation in their fate and finally the desire to be equal among equals is also diminished. Today, therefore, the question arises as to whether the historical compromise of capitalism and democracy could fail exactly at the moment when the alliance between capitalism and history seems to be complete.

Accordingly, it is an open question as to whether modern societies increasingly lose their social and political cohesion and whether their social assets decline. The social networks and the relationships that exist among people distinguish the latter. These assets are an important resource for each individual and guarantee social cohesion. Various networks are to be contemplated. Family and friendship or other networks are equally part of them, as is the integration of the individual into associations and clubs. Voluntary unions especially can support the social and political integration of the community as they enable participation in social and political life. Hence the extent to which members of society can take part in social and political life by means of membership in such organizations is important for the evaluation of a society’s quality.

Social networks are of central importance for the psychosocial well being of man. Sports can be considered as social networks, often providing emotional support, assisting in the growth of self-esteem and in offering practical daily help. In the future, it will therefore primarily be a question of whether sports organizations are open to this experience. Bourdieu talks about our social capital in this context. A part of this will be that the sports club or venue is seen as a place like home. It has to be a place of successful communication and socialization, as well as a protest against a uniform world. All of this does not come by itself, but has to be worked hard for and proven daily. There are conclusive findings showing that the availability and quality of support from our own network of relationships are decisive in how well we cope with our problems. Social networks form a kind of escort among social dangers—they can be viewed as social cushions. However, the socio-economically underprivileged and socially marginalized groups have particular deficits in the stability of their networks. They are especially not able to work on relationships in initiatives of their own. The St. Matthew effect operates: ‘For the man who has will be given more, till he has enough and to spare; and the man who has not will forfeit even what he has.’ Those in our society who have more disposable income and have education today will not only have more helpers but also more contact partners. Hence, those who have greater financial means and more knowledge will also have more helpers in their hour of need and more contacts in everyday life. Therefore, socio-political programs to promote networks are indispensable. Sport must be judged by whether it contributes anything to this matter. It is important to promote more tolerance, patience, and readiness for sharing. In the interest of socially balanced development, we have to have a particular interest in the readiness and ability of our citizens for integration and the social institutions in charge. Sport is called upon to contribute its share.


[1] Digel, ‘Die Versportlichung’.

[2] Robertson, ‚Szenarien fur Lebensweisen und Gesundheit‘.

[3] Beck, ‚Risikogesellschaft‘.

[4] Beck, ‚Jenseits von Frauen- und Männerrolle‘.

[5] Digel, ‚Sports in a Risk Society’.

[6] Keupp, ‚Riskante Chancen‘.


Beck, U. (1986). Risikogesellschaft. Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne [Risk Society. On the way to a Modern Spirit]. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Beck, U. (1991) Jenseits von Frauen- und Männerrolle oder: die Zukunft der Familie [Beyond the role of women and men]. Universitas, 46, n.p.

Bourdieu, P. (1982). Die feinen Unterschiede: Kritik der Gesellschaftlichen Urteilskraft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Digel, H. (1990). Die Versportlichung unserer Kultur und deren Folgen für den Sport—ein Beitrag zur Uneigentlichkeit des Sports. In H. Gabler & U. Gohner (eds.), Für einen besseren Sport. Themen, Entwicklungen und Perspektiven aus Sport und Sportwissenschaft (pp. 73-96). Schomdorf: Hofmann.

Digel, H. (1992). Sports in a Risk Society. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 27 (3), 257-73.

Digel, H. (1995). Sport in a Changing Society. Sociological Essays. Schomdorf: Hofmann.

Keupp, H. (1990). Riskante Chancen. Das Subjekt im gesellschaftlichen Wandel [Chancy risks. The subject in the change of society]. Universitas, 45, n.p.

Robertson, J. Szenarien für Lebensweisen und Gesundheit [Scenarios for lifestyle and health]. In Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (ed.), Gesundheitsförderung in der Arbeitswelt. Beitrage einer internationalen Tagung in Köln vom 07. bis 10. Oktober 1985 (pp. 227-248). Berlin: Springer.

I.2 Sports and the Media—Development Trends and Problems with a Lucrative Relationship

The subject of sports and the media can be defined as the mandate that is fulfilled when the development of modern sports (over the course of the past few decades) has been portrayed appropriately and when the same is done for media development. Furthermore, this development has been accomplished when the relationship between sports and mass media has received a more specific characterization. In addition, it must be made clear why this relationship can be called lucrative and in what way this relationship presents inherent problems. When alluding to the possible trends that characterize this relationship, the mandate can be seen as fulfilled.

Post-World War II Development of Sports

To appropriately characterize the phenomenon of modern sports such as we know it today, it is helpful to remember the past. Forty years ago, I went to school in Stuttgart, Germany. In those days, team handball was my life’s focus. In school, there was a class called ”physical education.” The teachers were officially called physical educators, even though they were ”Turnlehrer” from the students’ point of view. The most popular sports games were dodge ball, smash ball, relay games, team handball, and soccer. Retter and Schlienz, and later Waldner and Geiger, were our idols, provided by the VfB Stuttgart soccer club. The Epiphany team handball tournament at Stuttgart Killesberg would attract as many as 6,000 spectators. Teenagers feverishly awaited the green sports report on Sunday nights, and soccer games regularly sparked minor, small town conflicts. Geoffrey Duke was the uncrowned hero of the 500-cm3 class at the Solitude, Baltisperger from Reutlingen was our national hero, Max Resch was our boxing idol, and we eagerly looked forward to the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

Since that time, sports have undergone an almost revolutionary change. A relatively simple, straightforward sports scene has evolved into one of the most important social subsystems whose complexity is only barely manageable. The changes that have taken place can be described as the process of our society’s sportization.

If we retrace the sportization of our society over the past 40 years, we can see that sports possess imperial characteristics. Nowadays everyone talks about sports. Wherever communication takes place in this society, sports talk is not far off. Whether in the German Bundestag or at the local pub, whether in the public media, at universities, or in forums, sports as a topic of communication is experiencing a boom. Sports have become synonymous with the entire exercise, game, and physical culture in our society. It has led to a broadening of the meaning of the term sports, and everywhere we can see places assigned the term sport and activities that are more closely identified with the term sport. Sports refers to the immobile body, as well as the accelerating body. Thus, yoga is a part of sports as much as rhythmic breathing, jogging, and hiking, but the quintessence of sports still exists, specifically within traditional sports and their competitive elements. Practically everything has become a sport. And sports can now be found everywhere. If, in the past, sports were limited to the traditional sports facilities, such as rectangular gymnasiums and outdoor playing fields that were defined by the rules of the sport, now sports are played in the air, on the ground, and in the water, offering all the different varieties these spaces facilitate. Next to an expansion of facilities, a change with respect to sports participants is also noticeable. Nowadays sports are an activity for every man and woman; in fact, sports have developed into a mass-phenomenon in the true sense of the word. If 40 years ago sports were a young people’s activity (and primarily male, at that) then it has certainly changed. With what they have to offer, sports have managed to reach nearly all groups in our society. Sports have become a cradle-to-grave affair. There are now sports preschools, sports boarding schools, and special schools geared toward athletics, as well as hospitals for sports medicine. Really, the only thing missing in this line-up is the athlete’s cemetery.

When a phenomenon affects our society so broadly and has such large numbers of people committed to it, it stands to reason that it is also a matter of money. Whenever we talk about sports nowadays, we talk about it in connection with finances, with the question of possible income opportunities, and the question of potential losses. The economy shapes sports the way we encounter it today. At the same time, the economy itself is subject to a sportization process. There is an interesting transposition taking place in this regard.

Even science with its expert knowledge has entered into this interesting and complex world of sports. More and more scientists and scientific branches participate in sports consulting. Yes, they profit from the differentiation of sports through the creation of their own science professions on behalf of sports. Technology in particular is a critical driver of sports development and technologists with their scientific expertise are particularly sought after in the sports world.

Sports are an important part of social life and anything that is important tends to also cause conflict. Distributional issues and the issue of ”top” and ”bottom” are also relevant in sports and therefore it is not surprising that in recent decades sports have undergone an extensive juridification process. Nowhere is this more apparent than in professional sports, but this development can also be seen in the issue of cheating and especially the problem of drugrelated cheating. We are about to see the professionalization of sports law at universities (professorships are already being designated for this field) and we can assume even now that there will be law firms in the future, analogous to the sports medicine specialist, who will market themselves as sports law firms.

Sports have also always been a matter of politics, due to self-interest as well as political mandates as a result of voting. If we take a closer look at the past 40 years, from a sports development point of view, we can also see an increase in political influence in sports. In many respects, one can infer the obvious consequence that, as is already the case in many other industrialized nations, a federal authority for sports politics will be designated.

Table 1: The sportification of our society—a process of functional differentiation

If one takes a closer look at the sportization process of our society, one can describe this development as a process of functional differentiation (see table 1). Sports increase their functionality; they are burdened by the increasing number of functions they are presented with and, in some ways, overburdened by.

The differentiation is apparent with the provider. If at first there were only a few sports providers (largely primarily clubs and organizations with a monopoly on the supply side), there are now many new providers particularly in the private and commercial sector. The same can be seen in the area of supply. In 1950, only 21 sports organizations participated in the founding of the German Sports Association. Today the German Sports Association includes 55 different sports organizations, some of which combine several competitive sports under one umbrella. With regard to city and land-use planning, today we differentiate between more than 240 athletic activities, sports, and movement patterns, all of which are testament to the overabundance of choices offered in our society.

With respect to people engaging in sports activities, there is also an ongoing and extensive differentiation process. As previously mentioned, in the past, mostly young men pursued sports activities in their leisure time. Today, sports include all people, and women in particular can be seen as the defining growth component in the modern sports system. But sports have now also adapted to all problem areas with the result that all problematic groups in our society have been integrated into sports. From drug addicts to alcoholics, from foreigners to delinquents, one could name practically every social problem in our society for which sports have been utilized in the past 40 years, in some cases very successfully, but often without success.

Next to the large number of sports facilities, there has also been differentiation in the amount of time spent engaging in sports. In the past, people engaged in sports two to three times a week after work and went to competitions on weekends; today, sports are offered at any time to anyone. In addition, sports funding has changed so that different funding methods are being used today; motives for engaging in sports have multiplied and, from an institutional point of view, today’s complex system of modern sports in our society is shaped by many different institutions and organizations.

The differentiation of the sports system has created a variety of choices for the consumer in which the sport has become a drop-down menu. The classic pyramid of old (see figure 1) as it was debated in particular in sports sociology during the ‘50s and ‘60s, has begun to teeter. The traditional pyramid model with its broad base and narrow tip has collapsed.

A complex sports landscape that is currently in transition took the place of the pyramid. There is one noticeable tendency. Sub systems are forming within the sports system. There are no closed systems at this time since no specific codes can be recognized, but the development of substructures is constantly in progress. My papers show five different sports models (see figure 2).

Figure 1: The pyramid model of sports

Figure 2: Column model as a result of functional differentiation

Particularly popular are ”sports without organized competition,” ”sports with tools,” as well as ”pro sports,” which receive particular attention in the media and fascinate the hordes of spectators. The development that is apparent here could be given a much more exaggerated formulation: in the sportization of our society, Father Jahn’s cheeky slogan ”bold, devout, cheerful, free” has given way to the four Ps: ”product, price, placement and promotion.” Add to that ”marketplace, media, fashion, and medicine,” since these represent the driving forces in the latest sports trends.

Observations on the Medialization of our Society— Using the Example of the Television

Since the evolution of sports in the course of the past 40 years was characterized as a sportization process in the first chapter, the following chapter will focus on the media side. Here we can refer to a medialization process that is particularly apparent in television. Also apparent here is a functional differentiation process with respect to the mass-media system that possesses a similar quality and structure as that of the sports system (see table 3). After WWII, the beginnings of modern mass media were characterized by a very slight differentiation on the provider’s end. Back then television viewers could only choose between two channels regulated by public law. The next step was to launch the third channels of the ARD, and since 1984, viewers have access to a television landscape that also offers private providers and Pay-tv channels in addition to the already available channels. Then the number of television channels seems to increase endlessly.

The same thing can be observed on the television viewer end. In past years, television programming began in the afternoon and as such was subject to the working world. This is now in the distant past, and with a change in living and working conditions, changes regarding television target audiences have also taken place. Television target audiences have also broadened quantitatively along with sports; it is an attempt to reach all people from the cradle to the grave. After the evolution of television into a mass medium, special interest television and special interest offers are now used for providing emphasis and for targeting specific audiences.

Table 2: Winners in the relationship between sports and television

Even with regard to the spaces where television programs are consumed, differentiations are apparent. If the living room used to be the place where the family gathered every night, today’s German households have a television in nearly every room. The amount of time the television set is on has also changed. While this was only done in the evening and on weekends a few years ago, the television today is an all-day medium that, as is the case in the United States, is frequently only used as background noise. Another significant change has occurred in the funding of providers. If in the past, radio and television license fees predominated advertising revenues, it is now predominantly the advertising revenues (with the exception of ARD and ZDF) that television stations use to pay their expenses. Add to that the fees for Pay-tv channels or pay-per-view offers. The final changes that must be mentioned are the motives for television consumption that have changed from ”information—education— entertainment” to ”entertainment—information—background information.” To further characterize this change in television, there is a recognizable increase in social significance that is signified by the fact that television is increasingly becoming a daily topic of communication. These days, shows like ”Big Brother” fulfill a similar purpose as the cracker barrel discussions about the weekend soccer game. Television VIPs, meaning the television hosts and news anchors, become celebrities and thus larger-than-life public figures.

When talking about the changes within the television medium, one must also take into consideration the changes in programming choices and their presentation forms. Here in particular one must mention entertainment, infotainment, and confrontainment, and the shrinking of information into sound bites is as prevalent as a special form of video clip esthetics. An overall trend on all channels toward sensationalizing, emotionalizing, and personalizing is apparent.

But the expansion of television programs and shows, as well as the manner of presentation does leave its mark on those who use mass mediums. Therefore, the question is, what are the effects of television on its consumers? The multitude of offers and providers suggests the danger of stimulation and information inundation, and a sense of disorientation in the program jungle is not only an issue for older people but has also become a fundamental problem for all viewers. The gap between the informed and the uninformed widens, and whatever is understood and not understood becomes the central problem. Some people already show withdrawal tendencies and orient themselves to local or regional reference frames.

Sports and Media Development from a Modernization Theory Perspective

When looking at the sportization process on the one hand and the mediatization process on the other hand, the changes listed here can be interpreted and classified from a modernization theory perspective. We appear to be making the transition from an industrialized society to an information and knowledge-based society in which seven trends seem to be particularly noteworthy (see figure 3).

The first one is individualization. There undoubtedly appears to be a gradual erosion of traditional, i.e., long-term, relationships passed on from generation to generation. This dimension of detachment is by no means just problematic because it in many ways represents a necessary opportunity and requirement for further modernization. There is also a challenge to traditional, actionguiding patterns and cultural norms, standards of knowledge and belief systems that could also be a hallmark of advancing secularization. In this context, Beck speaks of the dimension of disenchantment with tradition; some things lose their fascination and thus are no longer action guiding. Wherever such new free space for people is created, there is a need for reintegration mechanisms, and it is not surprising that individuals make use of new forms of integration in response to the dissolution trends. It is obvious that sports facilitate a connection that can be helpful in many ways, are self-evident, and it is not by chance that organized sports in particular with their offers and their organizational structures steadily draw people in. This process has not been impeded at any time during the past 40 years; on the contrary, it continues to grow.

The second characteristic is rationalization. Rationalization in the sense of modernization of society is primarily evident in the way people’s bases for action move away from value-rational decisions and turn to purposive-rational decisions. The ethics of conviction and values are gradually replaced by functionalist efficiency considerations. Input/output calculations take the place of adhering to one’s principles and values. This is apparent in sports, as well as in the media, education, and daily life.

Table 3: The televisionizing in our society—a process of functional differentiation

The third characteristic is economization. In the course of rationalization, there is an increased ascendance of economic rationality. Individualization and rationalization fuse into a utilitarian individualism that sets the maximization of personal use and advantage as a top priority. Here, cost-benefit calculations become the basis for guidance in nearly all areas of life. More and more aspects of daily life are completely capitalized and marketed. Increasingly impacted are people’s private sphere, as well as childhood and adolescence. The exploitation of privileges and thus the departure from the mutually supportive community becomes a common characteristic of everyday life.

A particular characteristic of the modern age is an increasing juridification of the hierarchy and power relationship between the members of society, resulting in a comprehensive expansion of the justice system. This juridification extends to all areas of life, especially the private, social, and cultural sectors of our society. Medialization can be qualified as another sub-process within the scope of modernization. This results in accelerated growth in the IT-industry, traditional mediums become symbiotic with new mediums, new transmission paths open up, the media reaches every living environment, and more than ever the mass media defines what is relevant in our society and what is not. Scientification is not only apparent where scientists act as consultants and arbitral authorities, e.g., in courts of law, but it is also present in politics, the media, and the economy. Science adjudicates on benefit and truth, and particularly with respect to political decisions there is an increased tendency to invoke science for the sake of legitimacy. In the process, science becomes increasingly amateur science and thereby extends into people’s daily lives. This is particularly apparent in the areas of medicine and psychology. But scientification frequently goes hand-in-hand with a trivialization process. New scientific insights continue to become less important.

Finally, globalization can be characterized as a consequential trend. Globalization originated in the industrial establishment. The term suggests changes and increases in transnational activity. If the initial focus was production, material procurement, marketing, and funding, today it is also the transfer of information, goods, services, and know-how. Foreign direct investment, cooperation between international firms, the changing structure of international trade, as well as the globalization of financial markets are all impressive evidence of the globalization process.

Figure 3: Scientific change at the beginning of the 21st century

Sports and the Media—a Lucrative Relationship

Against the background of this modernization, sportization as well as medialization are obvious, reasonable development processes. Based on this, the relationship between sports and media appears to be extremely lucrative for both sides. There are various reasons for this. Our modern society has its positive sides, but the people in this society also experience loss. And it appears that the loss people experience in this society is nearly ideally captured by the sports coverage on television (see table 4). Thus today’s society is confronted with the issue of routine, bureaucratization, and boredom in professional life. In their free time, people look for excitement and risk and this need in particular is satisfied risk-free with televised sports coverage. One does not have to take any chances when watching a Formula 1 race or a 400m race in a track and field event on television, but the need for excitement is satisfied in this way. There is also a noticeable increase in non-comprehension and intellectualization in our society. In view of this situation, more and more people seek out visual images. And what is more visual than sports, which with its rules can be relatively easily understood by anyone. There is also a noticeable de-transcendentalization in our society that is apparent in the vanishing of religion and the divine. Here, too, televised sports provide people with help because the worship of athletic heroes appears to have created a surrogate religion that nevertheless shows signs of impermanence. Another difficult societal problem is the increasing lack of emotion and body distancing that is apparent in the predominance of thinking and knowledge. In sports, on the other hand, emotion is permitted and welcome. This is particularly apparent in sports coverage where visual images and sound are used to place special emphasis on emotional moments in sports. In addition, modern society must bemoan the loss of community that, with respect to sports and televised sports, is accompanied by shared experience, proximity, and the potential for empathy. The differentiation and specialization created by the modernization process impacts society and communication between people. In contrast, sports offer a perfect topic for communication in daily life, be it at work or at school, or when getting together with friends. Finally, there are the biographic disparities that must be viewed as normal in modern societies. In contrast, sports offer biographic benchmarks for people’s lives through continuous practice and a lasting interest in sports.

There are now many winners in the lucrative relationship between sports and media: sports with their organizations and athletes, the television providers with their sportswriters, the sports law firms, the advertising industry, and not least the television viewers. table 2 gives an overview of the positive effects to all of the parties involved in this connection.

Table 4: Sport as an ideal partner for the medium of television—about the interdependence between people’s experiences of loss and their behaviour as spectators or viewers.

Sport as ideal partners for medium of television -

about the interdependence between people’s experiences of loss and their behaviour as spectators or viewers

Social problemsSolution offered by sports programs on TV• increasing routine, bureaucracy and boredom at work• need for excitement is satisfied without taking risksincreasing of non-understanding vs higher intellectual demands in societysports are clear, concrete and easy to comprehend• trend away from the transcendental in society (God is vanishing)• new adoration and idolatry of heroes in sports; sports as substitute religion• dampering of emotions and rejection of body• emotions are permitted, even desired in sports• loss of sense and spirit of community• sports support sense of community, nearness and opportunities of identification• differentiation and specialization limit social intercourse and communication• sports are an essential topic of communication in every-day life• biographical disparities• exercise of and interest in sports as biographical fixed points

For Sports

• Improved image

• Sports as a sphere important to society

• Multiplication and bandwagon effect

For Television Providers

• Appealing program offerings/increased program variety

• Rise in Nielsen rating and market shares

• Acquisition of or commitment from advertising industry

For the Athletes

• Increased popularity

• Increase in market value

For the Advertising Industry

• Improved image

• Target group-specificity

• More publicity

• Higher sales

For the Viewers

• Appealing program selection

• For the Journalists

• Creation of a new occupational field