Canadian Sport And Class Inequality
Canadian sport is divided amongst its classes. Not all people engage in the same sports or do the same things to stay physically active. In following pages, I have critically examined explanations on how to tell there are differences within classes, and what these differences mean to sport and physical activity in Canada.
After examining some reasons why there is division within classes in Canadian sport, I will discuss what steps or measures would be necessary to take in order to achieve equality among the classes. I will suggest some things we can do to mesh all classes together in a unified plan. I will show how Canadian sport would be different if we lived in a utopia’ of equality among classes – essentially having no classes.
Class equality may not be what is best for sport in Canada. I will also weigh whether or not it would be best for Canada to be without classes in its sporting system.
I will conclude with my recommendations on what steps must be taken for the future of Canadian sport to ensure the most efficient and equal program is in place for everyone.
Class is very closely related to money and income. The more money you have or the more money your household brings in, the higher status you have. Power is also related to class and may not always belong to the coaches. In formally organized sports it may be who has the knowledge or resources desired to play the game that has the most significant amount of power.
“Formally organized sports could not be developed, scheduled or maintained without material resources.”4 This certainly implies that some people hold a significant amount of power over others and remain in a class above others in sports. It should also be noted that formally organized sports are not democratic.
The idea of class division is fully entertained when defining, “Rich and powerful people tend to be defined as worthy winners, while the poor and powerless tend to be defined as lazy losers.”
To say there is a division of classes within sport without clearly defining each specific class, we must take a class logic mindset. Class logic can be interpreted as “economic success (winning) becomes proof of individual ability, worth, and character.” I must also mention the class logic comes to emphasize achievement through individual competition and domination over others.3
As we enter a new millennium, it is easy to draw conclusions on some things that have happened in the last. Looking back we can see that the amount of money an athlete in a sporting event has, or how much money their family has, is directly correlated to how much money they can spend on their sporting event.
Even looking back to 1983 we can easily note that golf courses show and promote a division of classes. Golf course green fees ranged from 3 dollars to 27 dollars for public courses while green fees were as high as 65 dollars for private courses . Private courses that felt they were in competition with public courses raised their price even higher, which makes little sense economically, unless you entertain the concept of class division.
Golf course structure is also a marker showing division within classes. “Golf-course design reflects the society that pays for, builds and utilizes it.” The greater the golf course, the more prestige and higher class is associated with that golf course.
Resorts have lately been encompassing golf courses in their array of physical activities to offer and have taken golf’s class division along with it. “Resorts (and their golf courses) have become a showcase to attract (tourists)”
Following along with other examples already shown, when we look back to 1986 and see that 57% of resorts are private and only 14% are public (26% belong in resort chains) we can once again see a clear division of private and public. The same clarity can be seen in athletic clubs – 70% of racquetball and multipurpose clubs are reserved for the private sector.
It is also easy to see that “More than ever before, it now takes money to play certain sports and obtain the coaching necessary to develop sport skills.” Without subsequent funding or wealth, some sports can just not be participated in.
It does not take money to just play sports today; it takes money to even watch sports. Many stadiums and arenas have different divisions within it for people who can afford to pay more for seating. Most professional site rinks today have accommodated to large companies that wish to have season boxes held in private quarters to watch live sporting events. This segregation is continued even in home viewing of sporting events. Cable or satellite programs cost money and are a symbol of status or class.
In the Olympics, wealthy aristocrats’ who organize and sponsor modern Olympic games have shown that amateur athletics has now become such that the athletes with wealthy backgrounds have an advantage. They have also conversely excluded the less privileged and attempted to refine the athletic games to their own tastes and preferences.
So, we can easily determine after examining the numerous examples shown that there is a clear division within sports. People with more money and power are in a class of their own and have far more advantages than the unfortunate lower class people. Although there is no set guideline to put each person in society in a certain class, you can comparatively judge who within any group a people will have the greater opportunity to encounter sports based on money, power and class alone.
In order to eliminate classification within sport, huge barriers must be surpassed. “Because class relations are tied closely to economics and politics and because they often involve a combination of intergroup tension, conflict, exploitation and oppression” Things such as tension, conflict, exploitation and oppression’ are not simply overcome by a few people getting together and deciding a new way sports should be carried out. In order for these obstacles to be overcome, everyone must come to a general conclusion that things should be more equal. One side or class deciding things should be more equal is not enough.
The people in power can, however, make a huge difference in swaying the sporting worlds vision of the way things should be. People in the greatest power have the ability to shape sports and do so to fit their own values and morals. If these people’ were to look at sports as something that should be worked as an equal opportunity program, they in essence could change or shape sports to be less class biased. These same people’ decide “what should be important in people’s lives”14 and if they were to decide sports should be equal opportunity for all classes, then that is what would be important to people in the sporting world.
Canada and the United States have similar political set-ups in that the government gives funding to businesses. Although the numbers may be somewhat different, occurrences are still the same. “In the 1990’s about eight billion dollars of public money in the U.S. was used to build stadiums and arenas that were turned into private revenue generators for wealthy individuals and powerful corporations owning professional sport team franchises.” Politicians must help out in order to create class equality in sports. This example shows the rich and powerful becoming more rich and powerful and separating the classes even further.
Not only would everyone be given a chance to participate if all were equal, but everyone would be given equal chances to have fun. “Fun must occur within a framework created and sustained by adults who use their resources to support the programs.” If a certain class has more resources, which they do by definition, there is inequality in availability to have fun. A consistent amount of resources must be allotted in order to maintain an optimum level of fun for everyone.
The rising of prices also makes retail and resource marketing a “commercial, profit-clearing function.” This concept must be diverted onto a larger goal of equal opportunities. Without some diversion, we will get further and further away from equality.
When debating the community development model versus privatization in leisure-services organizations, we see that rising fees in all spectrums of sports is keeping potential participants away. The lower class of society is thus excluded from growing in participants.
In one survey “The majority of sports-oriented teens’ (50% of the boys, 22% of the girls) had savings accounts and spent an average of fifteen hours a week participating in sports.” If were to project that were could create an equality within the classes with respect to sports opportunities, a utopia, each teen would have to have equal funding and equal resources to work with. If all teens had savings accounts, the number of sports oriented teens’ would likely change.
Some drastically revolutionary ideas presented in After Work show ways we as a society could inhibit greater overall levels of leisure. All of their ideas were brought from a group of respected thinkers’ who each had their own publications of ways to increase leisure in society.
One idea was to offer higher wages to workers and in effect lower working hours or days. “A shorter work wee can enable some employees to pursue a serious leisure activity.” If people received the same paycheque but worked twenty-five hours instead of forty, a significant amount of free time would be around for them to participate in sporting events or become more involved in the sporting community.
Another idea was to offer a government funded guaranteed minimum income. “People assured a minimum income would literally be paid so they could play, play’ being synonymous with leisure.” If people had a more secure and acceptable safety net than Canada currently provides, people could concern themselves only with leisure, play and sports. This undoubtedly would increase the amount of opportunities for people currently in society’s lower class.
The same book reveals, “Lower-level employees are more often overwhelmed by being out of work leisure becomes next to impossible.” The problem could easily be averted by implementing the guaranteed minimum income strategy. Being able to play and get paid would not only lift the spirits of the unemployed, but would help greatly in providing a greater sense of balance of class equality.
Class should really not be related in any way to participating in sports. Everyone should have a chance to compete or at the very least stay fit and physically active. Sports are important to a lot of people. If some upper class people were put into the situations that lower class people are in when trying to become or stay involved in sport, they would find it troublesome to say the least.
After saying how important it is to be equal and fair, and knowing that class is very much related to sport, making a decision on what is best for Canada is tough. Through the countless examples I have shown that there are great divisions within every aspect of the sporting world. Great divisions do not easily and quickly get to be mended. These great differences also have brought about tension and conflict as earlier stated. Strong feelings and emotions are not easily or quickly changed for long term benefits.
Even to say that we strive for all classes may not be what is best for Canada. We depend on the class system right now, and it would be tough to change completely. As a society, we “need the wealthy and powerful to give us opportunities to play sports.”22 If the wealthy and powerful were not around, the weak still would likely not survive in the sporting world. The weak and penniless would not go after all of the opportunities because of the risk. In order for there to be total equality within sport, there would have to be total equality within Canada. In Canada we all value our freedom to succeed or to fail far too much to give it up for equal opportunities in sport.
“Sports are used to promote the idea that inequality is good (i.e. functional), natural, and morally correct.” We as a democratic society are forced to uphold this statement. In a communist country, you could use the guaranteed minimum income’ strategy and everything would work out. In Canada, we cannot afford, nor could we rationalize giving someone money so they could play.
Canada has a market driven economy, and sport is a part of the market. There is far too much profit to be made or lost on sport to be thrown away, especially with the increasing cost and interest in sport. A very basic eight court racquetball centre on leased land with no improvements for parking in 1981 cost on the average $250,000. In just a few years later (1986) it would cost a minimum of $2,000,000 to put up a multi-purpose club to serve the same function. Figures like these make me, as a student in debt, unfathomable in that I may never see that much, while at the same time you be sure a large power figure in society could easily give out that size of money.
To say inequality is fair is wrong. To say inequality in the sporting field is fair, may be tough to swallow, but it is the best we can do. In a money-less, work-less world, of course it would be easy and everyone would have as much time and resources as they wanted, but we do not live in that world. In our world there are limits on how much money each person can have and how many resources there are to go around and how much time there is to play.
In the end, it all comes down to giving and taking. Right now, lower class athletes have the least resources. However, if want to give more resources the lower class, you have to take the resources from somewhere. The only real place we can take resources from would be the high level athletes and that hardly seems realistic. The better the athletes, the more money they should get. To deny top athletes to play at the level they are used to is equally as bad as limiting low level players.
Some resources are wasted, and we will never be able to get those back. Politicians and powerful people want to remain rich and powerful, so there will always be private sales for things like stadiums and arenas. The more we minimize how much is wasted, the more resources we will have for to add on to the lower class.
Overall, we as a society will have to learn how to make do with what we have. No great things will likely change in our lifetime. The sooner we can accept things as they are for now, the more time we all will have to participate in sport.
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