PtG Article 18.06.1997

The Cultural Secrets of Sport - Globalization or National Identity

Globalization seems to be the most important and meaningful catchword of our decade. Sport seems to be in a very obvious way a global phenomenon and influenced by the tendencies of globalization.

Globalization not only indicates the increasing international competition, the openness and transparency of international markets, the permeability of political and cultural borders for capital, products and ideas.

Moreover: scientists are observing an increasing adaptation of lifestyles, patterns of consumption and leisure time, value orientation and interests, an adaptation of the conditions of work and welfare; cultural differences will gradually vanish and give way to a more global culture.

We receive unlimited information through the mass media, we can gain knowledge about different countries by travelling almost unrestrictedly, firms are influencing the different countries by their investments, founding of new firms and selling standardised products. Working conditions and prosperity will no longer differ much from one country to the other.

Our living conditions tend to assimilate until we all share the same so-called global village. Proofs of these forms of worldwide adaptations were given by an international comparative study by Ohmae (1985): He found out, that lifestyles, interests and desires, preferences, patterns of leisure time, values and ideologies between the younger generations in Europe, Japan and North-America are less grievous than the differences between the young and old generations in each of the countries.

The horizontal lack was due to his findings smaller than the vertical lack. Sport seems to be in a very obvious way a global phenomenon and influenced by these tendencies of globalization:

  • Sport is practised all over the world with the same rules; 
  • Sport itself has an important function in the processes of international social integration and penetration; 
  • Sport is unified by international sport associations; 
  • Sport is influenced by the general, already mentioned tendencies of globalization in modern societies

The world wide transmission of sport events by the mass media, the unlimited possibility to travel and to visit sport events and to practise sport in all part of the world, the production and distribution of uniform sport equipment's and sport facilities, at least the international labour market for professional sport - - all these might have as a result a standardisation of sport, the development of sport to a global phenomena; and if there might still exist cultural differences in sport in the different countries, they will diminish or even disappear in the near future.And if we look at the landscape of Europe with a bird's-eye view, we would doubtless yield the typical image of sport as a global phenomenon. Some of the features would show that: 

  • More and more parts of the population engage in some sort of sport 
  • Sport has become one favourite leisure time activity in most European countries. 
  • It is highly valued in society, which was not always the case. For a long time, engagement in sport was the pastime of young men from the middle-classes.

This has also changed completely. Adults, members of all social spheres, in particular more women, and increasingly society's marginal groups, are all part of this broad spectrum of sport's participants. Furthermore, during the last decade the dependence of sport on money and the market has rapidly increased.

In comparison, sports clubs and volunteer groups have lost their importance. High performance sport is confronted with growing difficulties to legitimate itself with regard to costs and the stress and pressure on the individual athlete; new forms and concepts of engagement in sport are becoming more and more popular. More and more people have sport-related professions and income.

The economic sector of sport provides income for about 2 - 3 % of all employed. Thus, sport is gaining in economic significance in the world of labour.If this is true, that is, if sport becomes a global reality, so that we are soon going to live in a global sport village; if indeed all cultural differences will be more diminished or even disappear in the near future, why should I and why can I speak about national sport cultures in Europe?

Do these ideas belong into a library together with all the investigations by ethnologists on preindustrial, archaic, but already dead or civilized societies? To answer these questions, we have to discuss in detail the following problems: - To what extent do we have various sport cultures in the different European countries? - To what extent are we confronted with the problem that this cultural variety will be destroyed by the European integration and the processes of globalization? - What will we loose, if cultural peculiarities are destroyed, what are the specific meanings and functions of national sport cultures and why should it be necessary to protect national sport cultures?To answer these questions I would like - to demonstrate the cultural variety of sport by pictures of sport in Europe; - to illustrate the differences of sport in Europe by some statistics on sport engagements, club membership and state subsides; - to explain the cultural differences by the different history and roots of sport in European countries; - to give an example on the national differences on sport clubs - to explain the functions and political meanings of the culture of sport.

Let me first demonstrate the variety of sport cultures in our continent: Football naturally have to be mentioned at the first place. Football will be practised in all forms, whenever there will be a chance, independent from good constructed football stadiums. In principle all are playing football with the same rules; but there are tremendous cultural differences in the interpretation of these rules. Some weeks ago the German journal Der Spiegel published an interview with G. Netzer. A famous football player in the 70ies and later manager of the Hamburger Sportverein. He pointed out that each country has his specific way of "celebrating" football.

The Germans more systematic, technical oriented, the teams of southern European countries more individualistic, acrobatic, the northern countries more team oriented. The spectators of each country only like "their" way of football, they think other forms to be very boring. Also foreign players have to adapt to the specific way of playing if they want to be successful.All of us are watching sport competitions in television. But all researchers in the field of media studies have found, that each country has a specific selection and interpretation of the messages that the media transmit.

A Spanish college for example made an investigation about the transmission of the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in Barcelona in 23 different countries all over the world. He found, that though all these countries received the same signals all of them made their own selection and interpretation. There where not one but 23 different opening ceremonies.

The event in the stadium is only the raw material for the (re)-construction of reality. In the same way I could speak about the cultural differences of the ecological movements, of the meaning of body contact, of socialisation processes etc. to illustrate the cultural differences of sport.

The image becomes even more varied if we look at particular regions in Europe as if through our field-glasses, and consider its vast range of regional sports like pelota vasca in the Basque region (Northern Spain), bosseln in Friesland (Northwest Germany), tossing the caber in the Scottish Highlands, or boules in Southern France. The folk sport in Spain. A specific form of weight lifting and wood shopping activity in Basque country, bull fighting for example in Navara and the famous castellers in Catalonia.

Each European country has its own tradition and culture, which is still alive. But naturally you can also find national adaptations of modern sports. In Bordeaux for example every year a marathon takes place. But the participants have to drink every kilometre a glass of the wine of the region. The winner will get a quantity of wine equivalent to his body weight.

To sum things up in the main theses of my presentation: - Neither a coherent image of sport in Europe nor the image of sport as such exists. - Sport and its organisations in Europe are reflections of national and cultural variety. - This variety in forms of sport can only be explained, if we know the historical roots of sport, the social and cultural structure and political influences and interests of each country.These pictures might have given you a first impression of the variety and heterogeneity of sport. But, of course, this image of sport created by me depends on the pictures chosen and shown to you.

But if we look at some statistics on sport participation in various European countries, on the importance of sport clubs, on state subsidies, we might get a more concrete impression about the cultural particularities of sport and the - till now - low influence of globalization processes on sport: The statistician will give you a completely different view. He reduces the reality of sport down to bare figures.

They tell us on what scale which sports are organised in different individual countries, how this is achieved and how it is financed.I do not want to draw your attention to all the difficulties that arise during the collection and intercultural comparison of these figures. We know that they were gathered using different methods and definitions in each country. Yet it is not only for this reason that the value of this statistical information is limited.

Moreover, it does not give any information about the reality leading to these statistics. What is behind the figure showing that only twenty-five percent (26 %) of women in Spain but forty percent (40 %) of women in Germany engage in sport?

Such figures just give a highly abstract appraisal of the completely different status of women, the status of family, economic structures and gender relationships in these two countries.

The fact that Denmark subsidises sport to the tune of forty percent (39 %), whereas in England it is only sixteen percent (16 %), indicates quite different interrelations between state and sport. In the same way the Statistisches Jahrbuch (Annual Statistical Review) does not reveal much about the everyday live in a country, sport statistics reveal little about current forms and conditions of sports.

Nevertheless, figures indicate that the reality of sport differs very much from one country to another. Behind each statistic - if it is not chosen at random - we find an idea of the structures that determine and explain saliently the reality of sport, though it is doubtful that this premise is equally valid for all twenty countries.

How can we know if information about athletes who belong to a sports club can tell us anything specific, and whether such information is equally important for all countries?

I will later draw your attention to the fact that being a member of a sports club can mean something different depending on the country.The weaknesses in the aforementioned statistics might be altered by the cultural historical perspective. We have to describe sport as part of a continuous process. The development of sports modern forms is attached to historical and cultural preconditions which we have to consider carefully in order to understand sport. We have to look back upon the origins of sport in Europe.

Doing so we need to identify the centrifugal forces that have led to a standardised image of sport on one hand and on the other, we would need to consider centripetal influences which preserve or even reinforce the cultural differences. What results can be obtained with regard to this perspective? All books about the origins of modern sport point out that the word sport is an English concept due to the fact that this sport has its roots in England.

This concept of sport is adopted in most European languages, sometimes with local modification like deporte in Spanish. As an example of the rapid acceptance of English sport, we are referred to the quick spread of the concept of football in other European countries, and in parallel to this the spread of the discipline of football as such. According to this interpretation we see the colonisation of the Continent by English sport during the last century.

Although there were said to exist pockets of resistance against such colonisation, especially in Germany, which were finally destroyed as I read recently in an article by an English colleague.In my opinion this colonisation theory is wrong, and the explanatory force of history quite unconvincing. The fact that the word sport is in general use, and football is played everywhere does not imply that the culture of sport in Western Europe can be equated with English sport.

Just to illustrate this: A financial expert cannot gain much from the knowledge that the American word dollar was derived from the German word Thaler.

If we want to describe and explain adequately the development of sport and sports culture in the different Western European countries, we have to assume that European sport has three sources: - The first of these is indeed English sport. Its main features are comparison of achievement through competition and the striving for records. Two teams compete with each other, they are defined as equal at the beginning and unequal due to victory or defeat at the end. - The second source is Turnen (gymnastics) in Germany.

Turnen was developed at the same time an in deliberate isolation from English sport. `Turnen` is not characterised by the idea of comparison through competition as in English sport. As Jahn and Eisele postulate in their book Die deutsche Turnkunst, published in 1816, Turnen aims at physical health, shaping the bodily features, toughening, strengthening and improving dexterity, the spirit and courage in danger.

At the same time, and equally important, it encourages intellectual and moral growth. They state explicitly that this type of sport agrees with the German character. - The third source of sport is Swedish gymnastics.

It can best be compared to the model of a machine. Human movements were dissected into single components which were stereotypical repeated in order to exercise particular body parts and muscles. We will have to give equal consideration to the three sources of European cultures in sport and movement. The different European countries have drawn from these sources in different ways and created their own national concepts of sport.

As one can combine various substances from the same elements, the national adaptation of these sources has formed different traditions and cultures in each country.A comparative presentation of the history of sport in different countries is still to be given, but let me illustrate this with a few examples for some countries: 

- In the middle of the last century one could find in France, especially in the south, a movement which aimed at modernizing the sporting tradition on the basis of Swedish gymnastics. This served later as a starting point for the sport-for-all movement in France. After the lost war against Germany in 1871, though, German Turnen was encouraged. It was assumed that the Germans had won the war of 1870/71 due to being more physically courageous due to their gymnastics program.

The intention was better to equip soldiers for any future combat. Engaging in English sport was always stigmatised as Anglophile.- Spain had developed its own indigenous culture of athletics quite early. This included cultivation of all popular sports and discovering nature, especially through hikers' clubs; aristocratic sports like fencing and riding also played an important role.

The turning point came when the first Catalonian factory owners, mainly from the textile industry, sent their sons to England to be educated. These young men then introduced English sport and the idea of democratically and voluntarily led clubs to Spain. This type of sport was taken up by the members of the middle classes as a form of demonstrative consumption.

They wanted to distinguish themselves from both the old popular culture and the aristocracy, and to demonstrate a new class-consciousness. German Turnen and Swedish gymnastics were unimportant by comparison.

- Especially in Italy the development of sport played a role in political confrontations. Sport was and still serves as a political arena. English sport would be supported by those who had led Italy to its political unification in 1861. The mainly liberal middle classes supported the English way; praising the parliamentary system and searching for an Italian role in the colonial system favoured elite sports like riding, tennis, and the new sports such as football. Members of the aristocracy, fighting for a nationalistic, militaristic and authoritarian government, were the main supporters of the Prussian paradigm, inspired by the Turnen experience.

At the same time especially in Italy the church has taken a particular role regarding the development of sport.- In Belgium the struggle against modern British sport, was fought -and lost- by a strange entente non-cordiale of Flemish nationalists, socialists, Christian democrats and the advocates of the rival German turnen and Swedish gymnastics systems.

They each had their own reasons for rejecting this English illness, as modern sports was sometimes called. Flemish nationalists rejected British sports as non-indigenous; socialists considered them snobbish; Christian-democrats considered them non democratic; German Turners blamed them for not being educational and Swedish gymnasts for not being scientific.

 The establishment of a national sporting culture in one country was usually linked with the striving for a national identity. It was part of the building of a nation.

Furthermore, sport served the purpose of stimulating group identities, such as the workers or that of the newly risen middle classes. It is not due to chance that in many European countries the sports organisations have established a closeness to or firm relationships with certain political parties or ideologies. The adaptation of the three sources depended on the way nations were formed, on their previously existing national identity, on how social spheres interrelated, and which social tensions and conflicts emerged between them.

We can sum up that in the history of sport in Europe a continuous and consistent image of sport never existed. Only if we know all these very different origins and developments of sport are we able to judge its meaning in different countries - not only its purpose but also its organization, its political exploitation and ideological interpretation.

Nevertheless, in spite of this wide variety we must not lose the overall view. We have to seek the general underlying creative principle. My thesis is that the three sources of sport of which I have spoken contain equal constituent parts. English sport, Swedish gymnastics, and German Turnen are different phenomena based on the same principles. Just to name the most important: - Specific use of the body: The origin of sport in itself is the result of an evolution of the concept of the body. The body becomes an instrument, governed responsibly by our consciousness. It is considered a raw material which has to be shaped into an ideal by strength of will, through physical strain and exertion; a raw material which can be used with economy to increase efficiency. The body being obedient to mental stimulus is characteristic for national sporting cultures. I cannot enter into the details about sports as the work of individual responsibility. Only through this relation between body and consciousness can the necessary physical discipline in sport be achieved. This can be accomplished by means of an absolute command over the body as an instrument, and its submission to the individual will, and this is what is required to enhance performance.

- All actions are performed with regard to the future. Improvement of physical abilities, increase of efficiency, endeavour to establish new records and to surpass one another - all these exertions aiming at distant achievements tend to disregard the present. The present is the time in which sacrifices are demanded for a better future. Sport is not seen as pleasure, not meant to be a delightful, present-day experience, but is adjusted to a prospective present. - The simplicity of sport. - I would like to draw your attention to just one point: Sports facilities, grounds and kit were determined by simplicity, clear structures, plainness and strict functionalism. In my opinion these are some of the constituent parts prevailing in all three variations of sport. Looking at them closely, we can see them reflect the idea of lay asceticism, diagnosed by Max Weber as essential for Protestant ethics and as crucial stimulus for the development of modern industrial society and the spirit of capitalism as such. It is certainly not by chance that background, education and life-style of creators and promoters of English sport, German Turnen and Swedish gymnastics were all marked by Protestantism.

At least our French colleague Claude Hurtebize ascertained this fact in his recent publication Sports, Cultures et Religions. The same spiritual and ideological powers motivate the origin of modern sport in Europe as well as the rise of modern capitalism in general.

So far I have talked about important sources of European sport and its ideological foundations. There is still more to be said about the current state of sport. Let us look at the further development of these origins. A sports sociologist might be able to help us. Sports sociologists have always claimed that the concept of sport has become like quicksilver, vague, actually useless. According to them sport serves now as a synonym for everything connected with body culture and physical movement. It has lost its defined identity. The scope of sport continues to broaden and becomes diffuse: Seiki and Tai Chi, Beauty Shaping and Body Dancing, Stretching and Calethenics, All Style Kick Boxing, Somagogics, Freeclimbing, Trekking, Hapkido and Thai Boxing, Shihatsu, Meditation and Yoga - these are just some examples of the variety covered by the concept of sport.

New sports appear quickly and gain an often short popularity: Surfing, Squash, Aerobics, Paragliding, Beachball, Streetball, just to name a few. The Bundesinstitut fr Sportwissen-schaft (The Federal Institute for Sport Science) distinguishes between a hundred and fifty different sports activities which have to be considered in the planning of sport facilities. Sports clubs in Germany stated in a survey among other facts that they offered two hundred and forty different sports activities in total.

These examples and figures serve as a proof for many people that it is becoming more and more difficult to discern what sport actually is. Nevertheless, if I have interpreted the reports about the practice of sport in different European countries correctly, all these statements about the meaning of the preponderance of new sports and innovative body cultures seem to be a social statistical illusion, analogous to optical illusions. Sports sociologists in particular seem to perceive very sensitively changes and approaching tendencies in the development of sport, and then extrapolate them as the new image of sport. Looking more closely at the landscape of sport in different European countries (figure 3) we can state that:- Bearing in mind only those sports activities that actually count statistically - which means that five percent of sportsmen and women practice them regularly - we can reduce the wide range of sport to a maximum of ten to twelve activities. In most cases these are activities people have been engaged in for the last twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years. Of course, the order of these most popular sports varies in each country. Some of the most frequently offered sports in one country are hardly featured in another an vice versa.

For respectively Germany and Spain it is found that: - six sports activities are highly practised both in Germany and Spain. - four or five activities frequently offered in one country are hardly featured in the other. In general you can say: The stability of practised sports is thus fairly high, at the same time there is a dynamic change at the margins.Has nothing fundamentally changed then in sport over the past decades? To assume this would be wrong. The new features of sport have to be identified within the framework of the well-known and long established activities. In my opinion, fundamental changes throughout the past decades have manifested themselves as changes within the framework of old sports. Constituent elements that originally determined sports have partly vanished (neither consistently nor completely) and thus created change. Old sports activities were filled with new - let me say: interpretations and philosophies.Let me illustrate this with the example of skiing: We see a change from risky confrontation with nature towards a leisure time industry. About forty years ago, a student group e.g. would have to find lodgings without formal booking, maybe to rent a hut. Approaching it was often exhausting, the accommodation had to be provided with food and made habitable. The slope had to be prepared by ascending on skis. Practice led to feeling safe in unprepared snow and made the difficult approach to higher slopes or peaks possible. Skiing down the piste was either the climax or downfall of the whole enterprise, depending on snow conditions. Skiing today is a leisure industry which has developed from the rational combination of the following elements: - skis - bindings - clothing - accessories - ski-lifts - ski-runs - piste preparation services - skiing environment - hotel - holiday homes - restaurants - ski schools - trade - means of transport - traffic routes - infrastructure. The fusion of all these technological elements enables the consumer to experience the recreation that has turned skiing into a sport for the masses (Bkemann 1990). An entire consumer technology developed around the sport skiing including highly specialised industrial branches - skiing gear, construction of ski-lifts, equipment for piste services, snow cannons, hotel and restaurant trade, travel agencies, tourist associations and trade. This example shows that the constituent principles which were valid in the early days of sport - like simplicity, orientation towards the future, the use of the body as an instrument - now exert only a limited influence.

Modern sport is determined by new patterns. I would like to explain this a bit further: Simplicity calls, among other things, for the plainness, unpretentiousness and strict functionalism of sports equipment, grounds and sportswear. It became quite obvious, though, that engaging in a sport like skiing involves relying on high-technology products. Their development, production, use and maintenance increasingly require special know-how, professional competence and capital investment. Self-help organisations or personal contribution cannot produce equipment like skis, tennis rackets, trainers, fabric for sportswear, electronic appliances for sailing boats, supplementary maintenance equipment, special food etc.

Global production of these goods concentrates on a few enterprises which own the necessary technology, capital and innovative power.The same applies to the construction and maintenance of sports facilities like skiing arenas, swimming pools, marina, the floor covering of sports halls, maintenance equipment for golf courses and tennis courts.

They have to meet the demands of mass tourism. Innovations in the field of fabric development definitely result in better sportswear, new materials improve the competitive potential of equipment. Electronic appliances e.g. used in navigation reduce the risk of a breakdown.

There is a strong competition on the market between a large variety of items which serve the same purpose. The tennis racquet is as old as the game of tennis itself, the same applies to equipment for golf, sailing or skiing. However, equipment has not only been constantly improved, but is offered to the customer in a vast range of quality, competitive potential and usability. Each new advertisement for golf clubs promises an improvement of at least five points per score, a new tennis racquets will turn you into the next club champion, new skis will carry you down the most hopelessly bumpy run, and new nautical appliances will doubtlessly guide you home safe and sound. This whole range of equipment is intended to meet increasingly special demands. There are various possibilities of using equipment according to the sportsman's abilities: golf clubs, tennis racquet or skis for either beginners, the advanced athlete or the professional.

Equipment might be designed for use in specific areas: rigging for different regions, trainers for different sports, floor covering, an ambience fitting the athlete's budget, etc. Practical qualities undergo constant improvement and specialisation, and each innovative idea appears in many mutations.Dynamic technology in its turn exerts its influence on sport. Technological development is no longer a consequence of sports development. It becomes an independent power which is able to change the face of sport. User-friendly products encourage new social groups to take an interest in sport by diminishing risks and the feeling of insecurity connected with some sports.

New fabrics give better protection against cold and wetness, new technology makes smaller demands on the users competence. Navigation, for example, has become much easier because of electronic equipment. Sport attracts people who used to consider it as too dangerous, too exhausting, or even a male preserve. On the other hand, former elementary experiences and ideals of sport vanish. The commercialisation of sport, as an example for its loss of simplicity, originates in this change. The increasing use of technology means that sport will depend more and more on capital and the market; the value of personal contribution will be diminished by comparison. Orientation towards the future will play a less important role in sport than it used to. Many empirical surveys show that performance and competition count little as motivation for sport. Fun, pleasure, adventure, social communication, excitement are much more important. I should like to discuss the thesis that people often engage in sport without considering its traditional values.

They mainly look for immediate experiences through sport. They want to distance themselves from everyday life, concern about the future and any purpose of sport while enjoying their present pleasure.The effects of recent technological development in sports activities are taken for granted on the primary level of usefulness.

 Experiencing oneself in sport rises from the position of a side effect to that of a main target. People engage in sporting exercise just depending on how they feel. Finally, the idea of the body being an instrument or a raw material shaped in order to serve a purpose is changed and supplemented. Athletes develop a new attitude towards their bodies as well as new ways of perceiving themselves.

To rediscover one's own body, its sensations and needs are the aims of many new sports activities which do not centre on performance and competition in a traditional sense. Sport enables people to experience and shape their bodies, thus providing a sphere where they can express their body's enhanced status through dancing, therapies, sports, youth culture and alternative culture.

People hope to find naturalness, space for personality development and authenticity, all of which have been lost in our industrial society. These tendencies are not only typical for sports in Western Europe. We can perceive them all over the world. They have only grown extremely well in many Western European countries, since the development of sport depends strongly on a country\'s wealth, the amount of leisure time, the available income and the degree of industrial and technological development.

I have tried to demonstrate the cultural variety of sport in the different European countries from different perspectives, but the picture still remains incomplete. Since sport is usually practised within the framework of organisations, we have to turn to an organisations sociologist and ask him to create an image from his point of view.

It would be easy to illustrate the variety of sports by measuring it against the variety of sports organisations, as each country has developed its own structure. Each country has developed it's own organisational structure of sport. You hardly can find any similarities. All non-commercial sport in Germany e.g. is united under a non-governmental umbrella organisation, regardless of the athletes' professions, denominations, ethnic backgrounds or political attitudes.

In Italy, CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee is responsible for the entire range of traditional sports activities, exerting strong governmental influence on them. The UISP, tightly linked with left-wing parties, has taken over responsibility concerning leisure time sports for everybody.

In Denmark, three different sports associations pursue their respective programs. The Flemish and the Walloon regions in Belgium have both established an umbrella organisation etc. etc. However, we can find more significant differences beneath the seemingly similar formal structure of organisations.

The organisation of sport in clubs, for example, is a characteristic feature of all Western European countries, although the meaning of sports clubs and membership is different in each of them.

I doubt that we can simply translate the meaning of the German word Verein into the English club or into the Spanish asociacion. We would lose the various semantic features of these concepts they carry in the respective countries. I would like to illustrate this problem by comparing the situations of German and Spanish sports clubs.The survey I have mentioned earlier on shows us their years of foundation. We can see that German clubs are usually older than those in Spain.

About forty percent of the Spanish clubs were founded during the past fifteen years, whereas in Germany this amounts to only sixteen percent, and a fifth of German clubs already existed before the First World War. The dates of foundation hint at the quite different causes and conditions of the clubs' development. In Germany, the second half of the last century saw the numerous founding of clubs in general. They were intended to reduce the impact of the industrialisation and modernisation on the individual, to work against the disruptive consequences of the urbanisation, and to ease the adaptation to industrial working conditions. Clubs offered an alternative temporary refuge, they offered shelter against isolation, the loss of identity, the deorganising power of industrialisation; they gave support against the threat of social hardship. Club names like Harmonia, Eintracht (harmony), Concordia (concord), Bruderschaft (brotherhood) etc. reveal this intention.

Even today, most of the clubs in Germany are seen by their members as a solidarity groups and self-help organisation. There is another peculiarity of German sport: Turnen and later on sport developed at the same time as the clubs developed; sport and Turnen was part of the club culture. I

n consequence, clubs had the power of definition; they could define, what sport is, under which rules sport should be practised and in which organisational framework competitions and championships could take place. In contrast to Germany, the wave of foundation of sports clubs in Spain began only after the death of Franco in 1975. In this situation Clubs had to fight for their position between government dominated sport on one side, and commercialised sport on the other.

Today, they could be described as more or less state-sponsored service industries. In the north of Spain, a large number of small clubs was founded by immigrants from the south, mainly from Andalusia. These clubs have now the same function as clubs in Germany a hundred years ago: they offer a temporary home. - and due to this different history - indicated by the dates of foundation - you can explain tremendous differences between German and Spanish sport clubs.

This illustrates the fact that behind apparently similar formal structures of sports clubs we can find quite different club cultures - And I\'m quite sure, that similar investigations in other European countries would point out corresponding differences.

So far I have tried to develop an image of sport in Western Europe from different perspectives. I wanted to show you that each country has an indigenous history of sport and tradition, an own cultural identity, system of values and ideologies. They have developed different organisational structures concerning the position of sports clubs and honorary work, the relations between state and organised sport, the training schemes and methods of qualification, the degree of commercialisation and financing, the influence of the market etc. We cannot classify these differences by using categories like "better" or "worse" , "more efficient" or "less efficient". We have to consider them with regard to a country's tradition, its system of values and self-assessment, its history and culture.

To sum up: I do not think so. I am not at all convinced of the globalization thesis - not only because of all the facts I have presented, but also because I think that we should support the preservation of variety in our sports as a part of our cultures, our traditional and national characters in Western Europe. Since this statement leads away from the field of social science, I should like to give the politician a chance to speak. What would he say about sport with regard to the continuous European integration? Several members of the European Parliament have recently suggested sending a European team to the Olympic Games. The idea was soon rejected due to strong national sentiments and the need for national identification. The lack of identification with Europe made it impossible to draw up a European team.

As far as I know, there is only one exception: A European and an American golf team are competing for the Ryder Cup. However, European politics exert their influence on the development of sport in different countries, establishing obligatory rules for the labor market and for competitions, safety regulations for sports equipment and facilities, and effect ecological measures. Several of the national sports organisations have already reacted by setting up a lobbyist in Brussels in order to represent their interests, knowing that sport politics will increasingly come from the seat of the European Commission.

This Commission tries to coordinate different forms of national law including those for sport. Sometimes, though, bureaucratic coordination does not consider adequately national and cultural differences. The question arises to which extent countries and regions should keep up their indigenous sports culture and traditions which form an important part of individual identity and sense of belonging. It is only seemingly paradox that European integration is met by strong nationalistic and separatist movements which want to prevent the threatening loss of cultural, social and economic autonomy. Sport can play an important role in this conflict. The reason why I have put so much emphasis on the cultural variety of sport in my lecture is that this variety has also a political function.

 At least it can help to reduce the disorganising consequences of European integration. Therefore I did not only intend to describe images of sport. Most of all I wanted to clarify that each of these images contains a political challenge.

From the book "Society's Watchdog - or Showbiz' Pet?" Inspiration to Better Sports Journalism, Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations 1998, more information at

Author's CV

Klaus Heinemann

B. 1937

Professor, Ph.D., Dr. rer. Pol. Inst. fr Soziologie, University of Hamburg.

Habilitation in Sociology at the Technische Hochschule Karlsruhe.

1970-1981: Professor for Sociology at the Universitt Trier and since 1981 at the Universitt Hamburg.

Research emphasis: Sociology of economy and organization, sociology and economy of sport. Many publications related to these subjects.

1978-1990: Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Sports Federation.

Editor of the International Review for the Sociology of Sport and co-editor of the Scientific Book Series of the German Sports Federation.