The Sociology of Sport


The field of sociology of sport is a significant arm of the larger field of sociology. The focus rests on understanding how sports influence social relations. Sociologists in the field try to understand the role that sports play in the society. Different perspectives exist regarding the significance of sports. As the various theoretical perspectives depict, sports could play useful roles as envisaged by the functionalist school of thought while it could also play a dysfunctional role as propounded by the conflict theory.

It is agreeable that the field of sports is diverse. There are different games such as rugby, net-ball, athletics, base-ball, badminton, football, etc. I selected football based on two main reasons. Firstly, football has a large following across the world. Secondly, I am an avid football fan. The observation event that I selected was a football match that featured Manchester United and Manchester City. The main reason I chose the event is based on my length admiration for the football game. Equally important, I had begun reviewing the history of football. Thus, observing the event was a progressive step in the development of the paper.

Description of Football

Football has its roots in England and dates back to 1863 (Green, 1953). It is the most sought after sport in the world, and it came into being after the disintegration of rugby football with the association of football into different entities. The English Football Association was formed as a result; and it became the first body in charge of the sport.

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Football requires a great deal of skill as players engage in fighting after the ball. The original layout of the game dates back to the third century in China, with scientific evidence in the military manual confirming the allegation. Tsu’ Chu was the dynasty forbearer of soccer and it constituted striking a ball, made of leather, which was often filled with hair or feathers. The substances were put into an opening that measured approximately 35 cm in width. The players could use their feet, back, chest, and shoulders in a bid to resist being ambushed by opponents. The use of hands was never allowed (Mandelbaum, 2004).

Football draws a fan base across the world as it is the most followed sport across the world. Men and women, the young and the old follow the game. The players also constitute men and women, but each gender can only play against the same team of the equivalent gender. The game has been ingrained into people’s culture all over the world.

The game is associated with the passion, emotion, excitement, and dedication .Both players and fans have been seen crying due to joy, and also as a result of losing a match. Players take each other on the pitch, and fans engage in fights arising from arguments relating to the sport.

Football is a professional sport where players and managers are employed on contractual basis to render their services to the particular club they sign for (Green, 1953). However, it is also an amateur sport in places where people play for fun without the aim of making an earning out of it.

Description of Observation Event

In this section, the focus is on a sporting event that I watched on television. The location is at Manchester, in the northern part of England. The sporting event is a football match pitying the two Manchester clubs: Manchester United vs Manchester City. The setting of the game is tense as reflected by the high level of passion that the two sets of fans demonstrate.

There are estimated seventy-five thousand people attending the match as fans from the two sides. The fans can be seen to fall into three sets. There is a category of fanatics which is enthusiastic about the game. Another one is moderately enthusiastic and cannot be classified as fanatical. The other set of fans is classified lukewarm or normal. The latter class does not appear to be agitated as much as the initial group. The group could easily fit into any social event as the members are calm and appear to be in control of their emotions.

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The elements of space are the primary attributes that influence social relations (Horne & Manzenreiter, 2006). Put differently, observing the social distance among or between persons is critical in establishing the nature of relationships. In the competition, there are mainly friendly associations going by the distance that the attendees depict. The distance between most fans is sizable. This implies that they are close friends (Houlihan, 2003). At another instance, some people are seen to be so close with virtually no distance between them since they are cuddling. In my assessment, this group of fans could be more than just friends. Most probably, these are those fans who hold intimate relations owing to their closer proximity. However, given that the environment in the northern part of England is cold and rainy, the close distance among some fans could not explain their social relations. The view is held in regards to the perception that they could be doing it as a measure to overcome the low temperatures.

The people in attendance come from various walks of life. Apart from some officials, the larger percentage of those in attendance is fans. The demographics of the fans are widespread. To begin with, the fans are from the age of six to seventy-five years. However, the majority of the fans fall between the ages of eighteen and forty. The economic status of the biggest percentage is middle class. This is apparent based on the kind of clothing that they adorn. Similarly, the cars they drive reflect this. A bigger percentage of the fans are of the male sex/gender. This is, perhaps, based on the notion that football is a male dominated game. It is difficult to tell the levels of education, although from their conduct it is hypothesized that most of them have at least college education. The ethnic origin of the attendees is predominantly white, although Blacks and Asian descendants are also present.

Analysis and personal experience

From conducting the field observation, I have learnt that this approach is a critical one to knowledge creation. It is due to I have been able to confirm what I read regarding theories. For instance, the integrating role propounded by the functional theory could be discerned through watching the game. Similarly, as the conflict theory posits, I was able to establish that sports play a role in increasing the commercialization of the society.

As a methodology, field observation is a useful approach where one operates as an observer. However, the approach has a shortcoming because certain behaviors have different meanings depending on circumstances or backgrounds. Hence, it is not possible to understand what behavior implies without prior knowledge. Nevertheless, the approach is useful in giving firsthand information regarding a phenomenon.

People participate in sports in very big numbers. They also depict a high level of fervor. The main reason for this is based on the integrating role that the sport plays. As already pointed, people from various backgrounds are integrated into one group which supports a certain team. Through social interaction, they develop an identity whereby each person looks at another fan supporting the same team as a friend, although for a short spell. So, the sports play a unifying role while at the same time, a divisional role as other people join opposing teams.

Reflection of Sports Experience

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My own experience about sports remains breathtaking. I grew up supporting a local football team. After I went to post high school, I got a new experience as I interacted with people from diverse regions. As such, I became an ardent fan of the English Premier League. In the league, I support Manchester United. The team has a rich history that pulled me. My experience watching the game is intriguing. As a supporter, I have encountered heartbreaks as my team has lost some games that I never expected. However, most of the times, I have been thrilled as the team wins in most instances. I have also managed to make some friends while participating in the games. Sometimes, I have also encountered frightening moments as fans from opposing teams attempted to engage in unbecoming behavior.


Sports play a great role in the society. Sports are a team-based engagement (Jarvie, 2006). Hence, it improves working together as a group. This is through the enhancement of team spirit. It is also notable that sports are based on rules and regulations. In this regard, sports contribute to rule-making or norm creation. Another aspect is based on the view that teams are supported by fans from different parts. Hence, sporting activities contribute towards integrating members of the society.

Sports also contribute towards the distortion of both fans’ and athletes’ life objectives. This happens when people begin believing that life is centered on winning and earning much money. Hence, sports are a diversion from real life issues. Often, people abandon their work to watch sport games. Another attribute that casts sports in an unhelpful light is that it has become too commercialized.  This is true, since big multinationals use sports for advertising purposes while sport teams use their brands to market products. Consequently, sports are seen as contributing towards the creation of a culture of materialistic dependence. Sports have also played a role in militarizing and nationalizing people. In the sporting events, national pride is dominant. Sports have also played a role in the enhancement of racism and sexism. It is due to sports aid the perpetuation of both sexual and racial stereotypes.

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