We have seen how several mainstream sports can be analysed in terms of shifts and continuities in the social context in which they have emerged, prospered or declined. Their fate has been determined essentially due to material social and economic factors, and the human cultural response to those influences (Horne, Tomlinson & Whannel, 1999). Sports participation is not a matter of personal choice, of individual preference. It depends upon the financial resources available to the potential participant, the social status of those prominent in that activity, and the cultural meaning of a sport and the individual's relationship to those meanings.
The recruitment and induction processes into, say, golf and tennis clubs bear testimony to this. Take the apparently open-minded and egalitarian basis of a newcomer presenting herself at a tennis club. In order to do this the aspirant must communicate competently with the gate-keepers of a club; read the social interactions and etiquette and conventions of a club; comply with the dress code; be equipped with relatively sophisticated technology (she would be unlikely to get far with a wooden Dunlop Maxply in 2001); and be able to play at a level of acceptable competence (Horne, Tomlinson & Whannel, 1999).
While it is evident that upper classes thrive on being members of exclusive clubs that for others were financially inaccessible such as the England Tennis Club at Wimbledon (Sleap, 1998). The middle classes established their own clubs, although they experienced less leisure time in which to enjoy the activities. However, they did receive subsidised sporting access via the old boy network. The working class endured the roughest deal. For them the term meritocracy never existed. They had no time or money to be involved in sports or leisure activities, and therefore tended only to enjoy sport at festivals and fetes.
The games they played were a complete contrast to the upper classes, they has no organisation or codification and were violent and aggressive. The complex relationship between class cultures, or habitus, and formal sports institutions has been further analysed, at a theoretically more sophisticated level by John Hargreaves (1986). He shows how the practises and technologies of schooling and sport have served as instruments of class domination, and have contributed to the cultural reproduction of class difference and social inequality.
The rigid distinctions erected between the amateur and the professional were in the end rooted in class domination. The formation of these institutions on the base of public school and university sport made them also an expression of the domination of social life by men. This does not mean that no women or working class people were involved in sport. But such involvement was always within the bounds of authority exercised by men of the bourgeoisie (Horne, Tomlinson & Whannel, 1999). The making of modern sports has been a predominantly masculine narrative, with women marginalised or disenfranchised at most stages of the narrative.
Women's involvement in cricket too, was marginalised early on, and Sandiford (1994) notes that cricket was seen as too much a 'manly sport' even for the tennis and hockey playing women students at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the late nineteenth century. It was not until 1926 that the British Women's Cricket Association was founded, by hockey and lacrosse players from Malvern College (Hargreaves, Jennifer. 1994). Colley et al (1987) supported that participation of 16-18 year old males an females suggested that sports are still strongly sex typed.
This enforces inequalities in society as people have images and expectations to live up to, or risk being ridiculed. Before the era of mass media, the recording of cultural imagery was firmly linked to the power of the church and the aristocracy. Painters were commissioned to celebrate the material wealth of owners. Sporting paintings portrayed the horses and dogs of the land -owners (Goldman, 1983). There were also paintings of scenes of carnivalesque celebration, such as the famous Derby Day painting, and of everyday low life showing cock-fighting or dog-fighting.
The sporting press began to emerge in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The 1870 Education Act had helped produce a new reading public. The first sports pages began to emerge in 1896 with the launch of the Daily Mail. This initiated the modern era of mass circulation of popular newspapers (Horne, Tomlinson & Whannel, 1999). Instead of having a positive effect on the portrayal of women in sport, the hegemonic group who have dominated sport for all time, are still dictating what images get published.
During the 2000 Olympic games, the Daily Star published no less than 70% of photographs of sporting males. However, outside the sports pages during the games 70% of the photographs were of the Olympic women. These shots did not show them in the same light as their male counterparts, who were obviously of the same world class standard. They sexualised the athletes, exposing flesh. Would this have been the case if the Olympic moto had been constructed as 'Balance, Flexibility and Ultra Endurance', instead of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' ? (Lines, 2001).
These issues are not restricted to prejudice in women's sport, but create disadvantages for 'races' who do not conform to the hegemonic group's system. For example, in the relationship between sport and national identity, cricket is invested with more significance than any other sport in India. Even although India dominated international hockey for decades (not losing a match in the olympics from 1928 to 1960) (McDonald, I. 1999). However, the low international prestige associated with success in hockey, has divested hockey in India of significant political importance.
The widespread popularity and therefore, the commercial nature of international test and one day cricket in India can be discerned from a comparison with the game in England. Whereas the sponsors of English cricket have traditionally been banks and insurance companies, Pespi and Coca-Cola vie for predominance amoungst the benefactors of Indian Cricket (McDonald, I 1999). This merely confirms the class and 'race' inequalities established in Britain. Class, gender and 'race' are all inter-linked, they overlap and share some similar issues.
It is clear from studies in inequality in society, that financial, 'racial' and sex-typing have influenced British sport for many years. It is because of this that often when it comes to international competition and World championships, Britain regularly falls short of other countries. Although the introduction of the national curriculum in 1991 saw one of the first major attempts to reduce inequality; no separation between class, gender or race, with everyone participating in the same activities with the same opportunities.
However, private schools are exempt from the national curriculum and thus are geared to more affluent games, reinforcing the polarisation of the classes. While Gruneau (1983) argues "mass participation in sport during the second half of the twentieth century has meant that class inequality in sport has apparently declined and there is now a leisure mass instead of a leisure class". Ruling class ideology is still evident today and although there have been attempts to reduce its effects, people are still influenced.
The prevention or reduction of inequality is a large and important issue. Attempts by the women's liberation groups and the government to establish schemes that allow access to equipment for all - 1997 'Sport for All' campaign. However, strong inequalities still exist in the form of oppression by the ruling classes, stereotyping of women and 'racial' discrimination. Until these are reduced and controlled Britain will remain to fall behind on the athletic stage.