MOSCOW STATE TEACHER`S TRAINING UNIVERSITY
SPORT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Written by Varlamova Anna
Checked by Makhmuryan K.
THE MAIN PART
The social importance of sport
Football ( Football pools
Animals in Sport
The list of literature
have I chosen such theme? Sport is supposed to be interesting
only for men, not for women. But I think it is a mistaken opinion. Sport
is one of the most amusing things in the world, because of fillings,
experiences, excitements connected with it. Particularly it is so when
we speak about the UK.
Think of your favorite sport. Whatever it is, there is good chance that
it was first played in Britain, and an even better chance that its
modern rules were first codified in this country.
Sport probably plays a more important part in people’s life in Britain
than it does in most other countries. For a very large number it is
their main form of entertainment. Millions take part in some kind of
sport at least once a week. Many millions more are regular spectators
and follow one or more sports. There are hours of televised sport each
week. Every newspaper, national or local, quality or popular, devotes
several pages entirely to sport.
The British are only rarely the best in the world at particular sports
in modern times. However, they are one of the best in the world in a
much larger number of different sports than any other country (British
individualism at work again). My course paper looks at the most
publicized sports with the largest followings. But it should be noted
that hundreds of other sports are played in Britain , each with its own
small but enthusiastic following. Some of these may not be seen as a
sport at all by many people. For most people with large gardens, for
example, croquet is just an agreeable social pastime for a sunny
afternoon. But to a few, it is a deadly serious competition. The same is
true of the game such as indoor bowling, darts or snooker. Even board
games, the kind you buy in a shop, have their national championships.
Think of any pastime, however trivial, which involves some element of
competition and, somewhere in Britain, there is probably a ‘national
association’ for it which organized contents.
The British are so fond of competition that they even introduced it into
gardening. Many people indulge in an informal rivalry with their
neighbors as to who can grow the better flowers or vegetables. But the
rivalry is sometimes formalized. Though the country, there are
competitions in which gardeners enter their cabbage, leeks, onions,
carrots or whatever in the hope that they will be judged ‘the best’.
There is a similar situation with animal. There hundreds of dog and cat
shows throughout the country at which owners hope that their pet will
win a prize. There are a lot of such specific kinds of sport in the
United Kingdom but I want to stop my thought on consideration of more
THE MAIN PART
British are great lovers of competitive sports; and when they are
neither playing nor watching games they like to talk about them, or when
they cannot do that, to think about them. Modern sport in Britain is
very different. ‘Winning isn’t everything’ and ‘it’s only a game’ are
still well-known sayings which reflect the amateur approach of the past.
But to modern professionals, sport is clearly not just a game. These
days, top players in any sport talk about having a ‘professional
attitude’ and doing their ‘job’ well, even if, officially, their sport
is still an amateur one. The middle-class origins of much British sport
means that it began as an amateur pastime – a leisure-time activity
which nobody was paid for taking part in. Even in football, which has
been played on a professional basis since 1885, one of the first teams
to win the FA (Football Association) Cup was a team of amateur players
(the Corinthians). In many other sports there has been resistance to
professionalism. People thought it would spoil the sporting spirit. May
be they are right.
The social importance of sport
The importance of participation in sport has legal recognition in
Britain. Every local authority has a duty to provide and maintain
playing fields and other facilities, which are usually very cheap to use
and sometimes even free. Spectator sport is also a matter of official
public concern. For example, there is a law which prevents the
television rights to the most famous annual sporting occasions, such as
the Cup Final and the Derby, being sold exclusively to satellite
channels, which most people cannot receive. In these cases it seems to
be the event, rather than the sport itself, which is important. Every
year the Boat Race and the Grand National are watched on television by
millions of people who have no great interest in rowing or horse-racing.
Over time, some events have developed a mystique which gives them a
higher status than the standard at which they are played deserves. In
modern times, for example, the standard of rugby at the annual Varsity
Match has been rather low – and yet it is always shown live on
Sometimes the traditions which accompany an event can seem as important
as the actual sporting contest. Wimbledon, for instance, is not just a
tennis tournament. It means summer fashions, strawberries and cream,
garden parties and long, warm English summer evenings. This reputation
created a problem for the event’s organizers in 1993, when it was felt
that security for players had to be tightened. Because Wimbledon is
essentially a middle-class event, British tennis fans would never allow
themselves to be treated like football fans. Wimbledon with security
fences, policemen on horses and other measures to keep fans off the
court? It just wouldn’t be Wimbledon!
The long history of such events has meant that many of them, and their
venues, have become world-famous. Therefore, it is not only the British
who tune in to watch. The Grand National, for example, attracts a
television audience of 300 million. This worldwide enthusiasm has little
to do with the standard of British sport. The cup finals of other
countries often have better quality and more entertaining football on
view – but more Europeans watch the English Cup Final than any other.
The standard of British tennis is poor, and Wimbledon is only one of the
world’s major tournaments. But if you ask any top tennis player, you
find that Wimbledon is the one they really want to win. Every footballer
in the world dreams of playing at Wembley, every cricketer in the world
of playing at Lord’s. Wimbledon, Wembley and Lord’s are the ‘spiritual
homes’ of their respective sports. Sport is a British export!
There are a lot of sports in Britain today and of course, there is no
use in considering all of them. I try to make a short review of the most
famous in the world on the one hand and unusual sports on the other
hand. And the first one is the most popular game in the world:
Football is the most popular team game in Britain. The British invented
it and it has spread to every corner of the world. There is no British
team. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately
in European and World Cup matches. The English and Welsh clubs have
together formed a League with four divisions. The Scottish League has
three divisions. The champions of the English First Division, and the
Scottish Premier Division qualify to play in the European Cup
British football has traditionally drawn its main following from the
working class. In general, the intelligentsia ignored it. But in the
last two decades of the twentieth century, it has started to attract
wider interest. The appearance of fanzines is an indication of this.
Fanzines are magazines written in an informal but often highly
intelligent and witty style, published by the fans of some of the clubs.
One or two books of literary merit have been written which focus not
only on players, teams and tactics but also on the wider social aspects
of the game. Light-hearted football programmes have appeared on
television which similarly give attention to ‘off-the-field’ matters.
There has also been much academic interest. At the 1990 World Cup there
was a joke among English fans that it was impossible to find a hotel
room because they had all been taken by sociologists!
Many team sports in Britain, but especially football, tend to be
men-only, ‘tribal’ affairs. In the USA, the whole family goes to watch
the baseball. Similarly, the whole family goes along to cheer the Irish
national football team. But in Britain, only a handful of children or
women go to football matches. Perhaps this is why active support for
local teams has had a tendency to become violent. During the 1970s and
1980s football hooliganism was a major problem in England. In the 1990s,
however, it seemed to be on the decline. English fans visiting Europe
are now no worse in their behavior than the fans of many other
For the great mass of the British public the eight months of the
football season are more important than the four months of cricket.
There are plenty of amateur association football (or ‘soccer’) clubs,
and professional football is big business. The annual Cup Final match,
between the two teams which have defeated their opponents in each round
of a knock-out contest, dominates the scene; the regular ‘league’ games,
organised in four divisions, provide the main entertainment through the
season and the basis for the vast system of betting on the football
pools. Many of the graffiti on public walls are aggressive statements of
support for football teams, and the hooliganism of some British
supporters has become notorious outside as well as inside Britain.
Football has been called the most popular game in the world, and it
certainly has a great many fans in Britain. And now I want to mention
the English terminology for football.
Association football (or soccer) is the game that is played in nearly
all countries. A team is composed of a goalkeeper, two backs, three
half-backs and five forwards.
Association football remains one of the most popular games played in the
British Isles. Every Saturday from late August until the beginning of
May, large crowds of people support their sides in football grounds up
and down the country, while an almost equally large number of people
play the game in clubs teams of every imaginable variety and level of
skill. Over the last 20 years though, the attendance at football matches
has fallen away sharply. This is because of changing lifestyles and
football hooligans about I have already written but I want to add that
violence at and near the football grounds increased, there was an
ever-increasing tendency for people to stay away, leaving the grounds to
After serious disturbances involving English supporters at the European
Cup Finals in Brussels in 1985 which led to the deaths of 38 spectators,
English clubs were withdrawn from European competitions for the
1985-1986 season by the Football Association. The Cup Final at Wembley
remains, though, an event of national importance. Here is a drawing of a
football field, or “pitch”, as it is usually called.
The football pitch should be between 100 and 130 metres long and between
50 and 100 metres wide. It is divided into two halves by the halfway
line. The sides of the field are called the touch-lines and the ends are
called the goal-lines. In the middle of the field there is a centre
circle and there is a goal at each end. Each goal is 8 metres wide and
between 21/2 and 3 metres high. In front of each goal is the goal area
and the penalty area. There is a penalty spot inside the penalty area
and a penalty arc outside it. A game of football usually lasts for one
and a half hours. At half-time, the teams change ends. The referee
controls the game. The aim of each team is obviously to score as many
goals as possible. If both teams score the same number of goals, or if
neither team scores any goals at all, the result is a draw.
The final of the football competition takes place every May at the
famous Wembley stadium in London. Some of the best known clubs in
England are Manchester United, Liverpool and the Arsenal. In Scotland
either Rangers, Celtic or Aberdeen usually win the cup or the
Today, many people are only interested in football because of the pools
and the chance of winning a lot of money.
“Doing the pools” is a popular form of betting on football results each
week. It is possible to win more than half a million pounds for a few
The English have never been against a gamble though most of them know
where to draw the line and wisely refrain from betting too often. Since
the war the most popular form of gambling is no doubt that of staking a
small sum on the football pools. (The word “pool” is connected with the
picture of streams of money pouring into a common fund, or “pool” from
which the winners are paid after the firm has taken its expenses and
profit.) Those who do so receive every week from one of the pools firms
a printed form; on this are listed the week’s matches. Against each
match, or against a number of them, the optimist puts down a I, a 2 or
an x to show that he thinks the result of the match will be a home win
(stake on fun’s team), an away win (stake on a team of opponent) or a
draw. The form is then posted to the pools firm, with a postal order or
cheque for the sum staked (or, as the firms say, “invested”). At the end
of the week the results of the matches are announced on television and
published in the newspapers and the “investor” can take out his copy of
his coupon and check his forecast.
There is another game called rugby football, so called because it
originated at Rugby, a well-known English public school. In this game
the players may carry the ball. Rugby football (or ‘rugger’) is played
with an egg-shaped ball, which may be carried and thrown (but not
forward). The ball is passed from hand to hand rather than from foot to
foot. If a player is carrying the ball he may be ‘tackled’ and made to
fall down. Each team has fifteen players, who spend a lot of time lying
in the mud or on top of each other and become very dirty, but do not
need to wear such heavily protective clothing as players of American
There are two forms of rugby – Rugby Union, which is strictly amateur,
and Rugby League, played largely in the north, which is a professional
sport. Rugby Union has fifteen players, while Rugby League has thirteen,
but the two games are basically the same. They are so similar that
somebody who is good at one of them can quickly learn to become good at
the other. The real difference between them is a matter of social
history. Rugby union is the older of the two. In the nineteenth century
it was enthusiastically taken up by most of Britain’s public schools.
Rugby league split off from rugby union at the end of the century. There
are two versions of this fast and aggressive ball game: rugby union and
rugby league. Although it has now spread to many of the same places in
the world where rugby union is played (rugby union is played at top
level in the British Isles, France, Australia, South Africa and New
Zealand; also to a high level in North America, Argentina, Romania and
some Pacific islands). Rugby can be considered the ‘national sport’ of
Wales, New Zealand, Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga, and of South African
whites. Its traditional home is among the working class of the north of
England, where it was a way for miners and factory workers to make a
little bit of extra money from their sporting talents. Unlike rugby
union, it has always been a professional sport.
Because of these social origins, rugby league in Britain is seen as a
working class sport, while rugby union is mainly for the middle classes.
Except in south Wales. There, rugby union is a sport for all classes,
and more popular than football. In Wales, the phrase ‘international day’
means only one thing — that the national rugby team are playing. Since
1970, some of the best Welsh players have been persuaded to ‘change
codes’. They are ‘bought’ by one of the big rugby league clubs, where
they can make a lot of money. Whenever this happens it is seen as a
national disaster among the Welsh.
Rugby union has had some success in recent years in selling itself to a
wider audience. As a result, just as football has become less
exclusively working class in character, rugby union has become less
exclusively middle class. In 1995- it finally abandoned amateurism. In
fact, the amateur status of top rugby union players had already become
meaningless. They didn’t get paid a salary or fee for playing, but they
received large ‘expenses’ as well as various publicity contracts and
paid speaking engagements.
The game particularly associated with England is cricket. Judging by the
numbers of people who play it and watch it (( look at ‘Spectator
attendance at major sports’), cricket is definitely not the national
sport of Britain. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, interest in
it is largely confined to the middle classes. Only in England and a
small part of Wales is it played at top level. And even in England,
where its enthusiasts come from all classes, the majority of the
population do not understand its rules. Moreover, it is rare for the
English national team to be the best in the world.
Cricket is, therefore, the national English game in a symbolic sense.
However, to some people cricket is more than just a symbol. The
comparatively low attendance at top class matches does not give a true
picture of the level of interest in the country. One game of cricket
takes a terribly long time, which a lot of people simply don’t have to
spare. Eleven players in each team. Test matches between national teams
can last up to five days of six hours each. Top club teams play matches
lasting between two and four days. There are also one-day matches
lasting about seven hours. In fact there are millions of people in the
country who don’t just enjoy cricket but are passionate about it! These
people spend up to thirty days each summer tuned to the live radio
commentary of ‘Test’ (= international) Matches. When they get the
chance, they watch a bit of the live television coverage. Some people
even do both at the same time (they turn the sound down on the
television and listen to the radio). To these people, the commentators
become well-loved figures. When, in 1994, one famous commentator died,
the Prime Minister lamented that ‘summers will never: be the same
again’. And if cricket fans are too busy to listen to the radio
commentary, they can always phone a special number to be given the
Many other games which are English in origin have been adopted with
enthusiasm all over the world, but cricket has been seriously and
extensively adopted only in the former British empire, particularly in
Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and
South Africa. Do you know how to play cricket? If you don’t live in
these countries you won’t learn it at school. English people love
cricket. Summer isn’t summer without it. Even if you do not understand
the rules, it is attractive to watch the players, dressed in white
playing on the beautiful green cricket fields. Every Sunday morning from
May to the end of September many Englishmen get up very early, and take
a lot of sandwiches with them. It is necessary because the games are
very long. Games between two village teams last for only one afternoon.
Games between counties last for three days, with 6 hours play on each
day. When England plays with one or other cricketing countries such as
Australia and New Zealand it is called a test match and lasts for five
days. Cricket is played in schools, colleges and universities and in
most towns and villages by teams which play weekly games. Test matches
with other cricketing countries are held annually.
Cricket is also played by women and girls. The governing body is Women’s
Cricket Association, founded in 1926. Women’s cricket clubs have regular
weekend games. Test matches and other international matches take place.
The women’s World Cup is held every four years. But There is The
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Lord’s cricket ground in the United
Kingdom. The MCC was founded in 1787, and is still the most important
authority on cricket in the world. As a club it is exclusively male. No
woman is allowed to enter the club buildings. There are special stands
for members and their wives and quests.
Organised amateur cricket is played between club teams, mainly on
Saturday afternoons. Nearly every village, except in the far north, has
its cricket club, and there must be few places in which the popular
image of England, as sentimentalists like to think of it, is so clearly
seen as on a village cricket field. A first-class match between English
counties lasts for up to three days, with six hours play on each day.
The game is slow, and a spectator, sitting in the afternoon sun after a
lunch of sandwiches and beer, may be excused for having a little sleep
for half an hour.
When people refer to cricket as the English national game, they are not
thinking so much of its level of popularity or of the standard of
English players but more of the very English associations that it
carries with it. Cricket is much more than just a sport; it symbolizes a
way of life – a slow and peaceful rural way of life. Cricket is
associated with long sunny summer afternoons, the smell of new-mown
grass and the sound of leather (the ball) connecting with willow (the
wood from which cricket bats are made). Cricket is special because it
combines competition with the British dream of rural life. Cricket is
what the village green is for! As if to emphasize the rural connection,
‘first class’ cricket teams in England, unlike teams in other sports, do
not bear the names of towns but of counties (Essex and Yorkshire, for
ANIMALS IN SPORT
Traditionally, the favourite sports of the British upper class are
hunting, shooting and fishing. The most widespread form of hunting is
foxhunting — indeed, that is what the word ‘hunting’ usually means in
Britain. Foxhunting works like this. A group of people on horses,
dressed in eighteenth century riding clothes, ride around with a pack of
dogs. When the dogs pick up the scent of a fox, somebody blows a horn
and then dogs, horses and riders all chase the fox. Often the fox gets
away, but if not, the dogs get to it before the hunters and tear it to
pieces. As you might guess in a country of animal-lovers, where most
people have little experience of the harsher realities of nature,
foxhunting is strongly opposed by some people. The League Against Cruel
Sports wants it made illegal and the campaign has been steadily
intensifying. There are sometimes violent encounters between foxhunters
and protestors (whom the hunters call ‘saboteurs’).Foxhunting is a
popular pastime among some members of the higher social classes and a
few people from lower social classes, who often see their participation
as a mark of newly won status. The hunting of foxes is sport associated
through the centuries with ownership of land. The hounds chase the fox,
followed by people riding horses, wearing red or black coats and
conforming with various rules and customs. In a few hill areas stags are
hunted similarly. Both these types of hunting are enjoyed mainly by
people who can afford the cost of keeping horses and carrying them to
hunt meetings in ‘horse boxes’, or trailer vans. Both, particularly
stag-hunting, are opposed by people who condemn the cruelty involved in
chasing and killing frightened animals. There have been attempts to
persuade Parliament to pass laws to forbid hunting, but none has been
successful. There is no law about hunting foxes, but there is a
fox-hunting seasons – from November to March.
Killing birds with guns is known as ‘shooting’ in Britain. It is a
minority pastime confined largely to the higher social classes; there
are more than three times as many licensed guns for this purpose in
France as there are in Britain. The birds which people try to shoot
(such as grouse) may only be shot during certain specified times of the
year. The upper classes often organize ‘shooting parties’ during the
‘season’. The British do not shoot small animals or birds for sport,
though some farmers who shoot rabbits or pigeons may enjoy doing so. But
‘game birds’, mainly pheasant, grouse and partridge, have traditionally
provided sport for the landowning gentry. Until Labour’s election
victory of 1964 many of the prime ministers of the past two hundred
years, along with members of their cabinets, had gone to the grouse
moors of Scotland or the Pennines for the opening of the shooting season
on 12 August. Since 1964 all that has changed. Now there are not many
leading British politicians carrying guns in the shooting parties,
though there may be foreign millionaires, not all of them from America.
Some of the beaters, whose job is to disturb the grouse so that they fly
up to be shot, are students earning money to pay for trips abroad. But
there is still a race to send the first shot grouse to London
restaurants, where there are people happy to pay huge amounts of money
for the privilege of eating them.
The only kind of hunting which is associated with the working class is
hare-coursing, in which greyhound dogs chase hares. However, because the
vast majority of people in Britain are urban dwellers, this too is a
The one kind of ‘hunting’ which is popular among all social classes is
fishing. In fact, this is the most popular participatory sport of all in
Britain. Between four and five million people go fishing regularly. When
fishing is done competitively, it is called ‘angling’. The most popular
of all outdoor sports is fishing, from the banks of lakes or rivers or
in the sea, from jetties, rocks or beaches. Some British lakes and
rivers are famous for their trout or salmon, and attract enthusiasts
from all over the world.
Apart from being hunted, another way in which animals are used in sport
is when they race. Horse-racing is a long-established and popular sport
in Britain, both ‘flat racing’ and ‘national hunt’ racing (where there
are jumps for the horses), sometimes known as ‘steeplechase’. The former
became known as ‘the sport of kings’ in the seventeenth century, and
modern British royalty has close connections with sport involving
horses. Some members of the royal family own racehorses and attend
certain annual race meetings (Ascot, for example); some are also active
participants in the sports of polo and show-jumping (both of which
involve riding a horse). The steeplechase (crosscountry running) is very
popular in most European countries. The first known organized
crosscountry race in 1837 was the Crick Run at Rugby School. Originally,
crosscountry running took place over open country where the hazards were
the natural ones to be found in the country. These included hedges,
ditches, streams and the like. Schools and some clubs still run over
open country. Sometimes, however, the competitors run off the course as,
on one occasion, happened to all the runners in a race. Because of this,
the organization of these races has to be very strict. Nowadays,
crosscountry races (or steeplechases) are often run in an enclosed area
where the hazards are artificial. This makes organization easier.
The chief attraction of horse-racing for most people is the opportunity
it provides for gambling (see below). Greyhound racing, although
declining, is still popular for the same reason. In this sport, the dogs
chase a mechanical hare round a racetrack. It is easier to organize than
horse-racing and ‘the dogs’ has the reputation of being the ‘poor man’s
racing’. Greyhound racing has had a remarkable revival in the 1980s, and
by 1988 it accounted for about a quarter of all gambling. Its stadiums
are near town centres, small enough to be floodlit in the evenings.
Until recently the spectators were mostly male and poor, the
surroundings shabby. The 1980s have changed all this, with the growth of
commercial sponsorship for advertising. There are fewer stadiums and
fewer spectators than in 1970, but the old cloth cap image has become
much less appropriate. But one thing has not changed. The elite of
Britain’s dogs, and their trainers, mostly come from Ireland.
Famous (horse) race meetings
The Grand National: at Aintree, near Liverpool, in March or April It is
England’s main steeplechase (race over fences). The course is over seven
kilometres and includes thirty jumps, of which fourteen are jumped
twice. It is a dangerous race Jockeys have been hurt and horses have
The Derby: at Epsom, south of London, in May or June. It is England’s
leading flat race (not over fences).
Ascot: near Windsor in June. Very fashionable. The Queen always attends.
As I have mentioned horse-racing, I think it will be good to draw
attention to racing in hole.
There are all kinds of racing in England — horse-racing, motorcar
racing, boat-racing, dog-racing, and even races for donkeys. On sports
days at school boys and girls run races, and even train for them. There
is usually a mile race for older boys, and the one who wins it is
certainly a good runner.
Usually those who run a race go as fast as possible, but there are some
races in which everybody has to go very carefully in order to avoid
There is the “three-legged” race, for example, in which a pair of
runners have the right leg of one tied to the left leg of the other. If
they try to go too fast they are certain to fall. And there is the
egg-and-spoon race, in which each runner must carry an egg in a spoon
without letting it drop. If the egg does fall, it must be picked up with
the spoon, not the fingers.
Naturally animals don’t race unless they are made to run in some way,
though it often seems as if little lambs are running races with each
other in the fields in spring.
Horses are ridden, of course. Dogs won’t race unless they have something
to chase, and so they are given a hare to go after, either a real one or
an imitation one.
The most famous boat-race in England is between Oxford and Cambridge. It
is rowed over a course on the River Thames, and thousands of people go
to watch it. The eight rowers in each boat have great struggle, and at
the end there is usually only a short distance between the winners and
The University boat-race started in 1820 and has been rowed on the
Thames almost every spring since 1836. At the Henly Regatta in
Oxfordshire, founded in 1839, crews from all over the world compete each
July in various kinds of race over a straight course of 1 mile 550 yards
(about 2.1 km).
Horse racing is big business, along with the betting which sustains it.
Every day of the year, except Sundays, there is a race meeting at least
one of Britain’s several dozen racecourses. Nine-tenths of the betting
is done by people all over the country, by post or at local betting
shops, and it is estimated that a tenth of all British men bet regularly
on horse races, many of them never going to a race course.
Horse racing accounts for about half of all gambling, dog racing for a
quarter (after increasing by 27 per cent in 1987-88). The total gambling
expenditure is estimated at over three billion pounds a year, or nearly
1 per cent of the gross domestic product – though those who bet get
about three-quarters of their stake back in winnings. There is no
national lottery, though premium bonds are a form of national savings,
with monthly prizes instead of interest. About half of all households
bet regularly on the football pools, although half of the money staked
is divided between the state, through taxes, and the operators. People
are attracted by the hope of winning huge prizes, but some winners
become miserable with their sudden unaccustomed wealth. Bingo sessions,
often in old cinemas, are attractive mainly to women, and have a good
social element. More popular are the slot machines in establishments
described as ‘amusement arcades’. There has been some worry about the
addiction of young people to this form of gambling, which can lead to
Even if they are not taking part or watching, British people like to be
involved in sport. They can do this by placing bets on future results.
Gambling is widespread throughout all social classes. It is so basic to
sport that the word ‘sportsman’ used to be a synonym for ‘gambler’.
When, in 1993, the starting procedure for the Grand National did not
work properly, so that the race could not take place, it was widely
regarded as a national disaster. The F70 million which had been gambled
on the result (that’s more than a pound for each man, woman and child in
the country!) all had to be given back.
Every year, billions of pounds are bet on horse races. So well-known is
this activity that everybody in the country, even those with no interest
in horse-racing, would understand the meaning of a question such as ‘who
won the 2.30 at Chester?’ (Which horse won the race that was scheduled
to take place at half past two today at the Chester racecourse? The
questioner probably wants to know because he or she has gambled some
money on the result.) The central role of horse-racing in gambling is
also shown by one of the names used to denote companies and individuals
whose business it is to take bets. Although these are generally known as
‘bookmakers’, they sometimes call themselves ‘turf accountants’ (‘turf
is a word for ground where grass grows);
Apart from the horses and the dogs, the most popular form of gambling
connected with sports is the football pools. Every week, more than ten
million people stake a small sum on the results of Saturday’s
professional matches. Another popular type of gambling, stereotypically
for middle-aged working class women, is bingo.
Nonconformist religious groups traditionally frown upon gambling and
their disapproval has had some influence. Perhaps this is why Britain
did not have a national lottery until 1994. But if people want to
gamble, then they will. For instance, before the national lottery
started, the British gambled F250,000 on which company would be given
the licence to run it! The country’s big bookmakers are willing to offer
odds on almost anything at all if asked. Who will be the next Labour
party leader? Will it rain during the Wimbledon tennis tournament? Will
it snow on Christmas Day? All of these offer opportunities for ‘a
Apropos of the Wimbledon tennis tournament: Wimbledon is a place to
which every tennis-player aspire. And I want to write some words about
People all over the world know Wimbledon as the centre of lawn tennis.
But most people do not know that it was famous for another game before
tennis was invented. Wimbledon is now a part of Greater London. In 1874
it was a country village, but it had a railway station and it was the
home of the All-England Croquet Club. The Club had been there since
1864. A lot of people played croquet in England at that time and enjoyed
it, but the national championships did not attract many spectators. So
the Club had very little money, and the members were looking for ways of
getting some. “This new game of lawn tennis seems to have plenty of
action, and people like watching it,” they thought. “Shall we allow
people to play lawn tennis on some of our beautiful croquet lawns?”
In 1875 they changed the name of the Club to the “All-England Lawn
Tennis and Croquet Club”, and that is the name that you will still find
in the telephone book. Two years later, in 1877, Wimbledon held the
first world lawn tennis championship (men’s singles).3 The winner was S.
W. Gore, a Londoner. There were 22 players, and 200 spectators, each
paid one shilling. Those who watched were dressed in the very latest
fashion — the men in hard top hats and long coats, and the ladies in
dresses that reached to the ground! The Club gained F 10. It was saved.
Wimbledon grew. There was some surprise and doubt, of course, when the
Club allowed women to play in the first women’s singles championship in
1884. But the ladies played well—even in long skirts that hid their legs
The Wimbledon championships begin on the Monday nearest to June 22, at a
time when England often has its finest weather. It is not only because
of the tennis that people like to go there. When the weather is good, it
is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The grass is fresh and
green, the players wear beautiful white clothes, the spectators are
dressed in the latest fashion, there may be members of the Royal Family
among them, and there are cool drinks in the open-air cafes next to the
tennis courts. Millions of people watch the championships on television.
Almost every sport which exists is played in Britain. As well as the
sports already mentioned, hockey (mostly on a field but also on ice) is
quite popular, and both basketball (for men) and netball (for women) are
growing in popularity. So too is the ancient game of rounders.
This sport is rather similar to American baseball and ancient Russian
lapta, but it certainly does not have the same image. It has a long
history in England as something that people (young and old, male and
female) can play together at village fetes. It is often seen as not
being a proper ‘sport’.
However, despite this image, it has recently become the second most
popular sport for state schools in Britain. More traditional sports such
as cricket and rugby are being abandoned in favour of rounders, which is
much easier to organize. Rounders requires less special equipment, less
money and boys and girls can play it together. It also takes up less
time. It is especially attractive for state schools with little money
and time to spare. More than a quarter of all state-school sports fields
are now used for rounders. Only football, which is played on nearly half
of all state-school fields, is more popular.
The British have a preference for team games. Individual sports such as
athletics, cycling, gymnastics and swimming have comparatively small
followings. Large numbers of people become interested in them only when
British competitors do well in international events. The more popular
individual sports are those in which socializing is an important aspect
(such as tennis, golf, sailing and snooker). It is notable in this
context that, apart from international competitions, the only athletics
event which generates a lot of enthusiasm is the annual London Marathon.
Most of the tens of thousands of participants in this race are ‘fun
runners’ who are merely trying to complete it, sometimes in outrageous
costumes, and so collect money for charity. The biggest new development
in sport has been with long-distance running. ‘Jogging’, for healthy
outdoor exercise, needing no skill or equipment, became popular in the
1970s, and soon more and more people took it seriously. Now the annual
London Marathon is like a carnival, with a million people watching as
the world’s star runners are followed by 25,000 ordinary people trying
to complete the course. Most of them succeed and then collect money from
supporters for charitable causes. Many thousands of people take part in
local marathons all over Britain.
The Highland Games
Scottish Highland Games, at which sports (including tossing the caber,
putting the weight and throwing the hammer), dancing and piping
competitions take place, attract large numbers of spectators from all
over the world.
These meetings are held every year in different places in the Scottish
Highlands. They include the clans led by their pipers, dressed in their
kilts, tartan plaids, and plumed bonnets, who march round the arena.
The features common to Highland Games are bagpipe and Highland dancing
competitions and the performance of heavy athletic events — some of
which, such as tossing the caber, are Highland in origin. All
competitors wear Highland dress, as do most of the judges. The games
take place in a large roped-off arena. Several events take place at the
same time: pipers and dancers perform on a platform; athletes toss the
caber, put the weight, throw the hammer, and wrestle. There is also a
competition for the best-dressed Highlander.
Highland dancing is performed to bagpipe music, by men and women, such
as the Sword Dance and the Reel.
No one knows exactly when the men of the Highlands first gathered to
wrestle, toss cabers, throw hammers, put weights, dance and play music.
The Games reflected the tough life of the early Scots. Muscle-power was
their means of livelihood — handling timber, lifting rocks to build
houses, hunting. From such activities have developed the contests of
tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer. Tossing
the caber originated among woodmen who wanted to cast their logs into
the deepest part of a river. Tossing the caber is not a question of who
can throw it farthest. For a perfect throw the caber must land in the
12-o’clock position after being thrown in a vertical semicircle. The
caber is a very heavy and long log..
Conker Contest and British Marbles Championship
Every year, usually on the Wednesday nearest to 20th October, about a
hundred competitors gather to take part in the annual conker competition
in a chosen place. The conkers are collected by children from an avenue
of chestnut trees. The conkers are carefully examined and numbered on
their flat sides, then bored and threaded on nylon cord. Each competitor
is allowed an agreed number of “strikes”, and a referee is present to
see fair play. There are prizes for winners and runners-up. The contest
usually starts at about 7 p. m.
It is said that in Elizabethan times two suitors for a village beauty
settled the matter by means of a marbles contest. What is now the Marble
Championship is believed to be a survival of that contest. The game of
marbles dates back to Roman times. Teams of six compete on a circular,
sanded rink. Forty-nine marbles are placed in the centre of the rink,
and the players try to knock out4 as many as possible with their marble.
The marble is rested on the index finger and flicked5 with the thumb.
The two highest individual scores battle for the championship with only
thirteen marbles on the rink. Similar contests are now held in some
other English-speaking countries.
The well-known sporting events
The Boat Race: (between Oxford and Cambridge universities), on the River
in London at Easter. The course is over seven kilometres. Oxford have
times, Cambridge 69 times.
The Wimbledon Tennis Tournament: in July, at Wimbledon, south London,
by many tennis players as the most important championship to win. There
public interest in the tournament. Many tennis fans queue all night
grounds in order to get tickets for the finals.
The Open Golf Championship: golf was invented by the Scots, and its
is at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews, Scotland.
Henley (Rowing) Regatta: at Henley on the Thames (between London and
An international summer event. It is a fashionable occasion.
Cowes Week: a yachting regatta. Cowes is a small town on the Isle of
opposite Southampton, and a world-famous yachting centre.
At the end of my course paper I want to make a short review of what I
have already written and write what I haven’t written.
Many kinds of sport originated from England. The English have a proverb,
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” They do not think that
play is more important than work; they think that Jack will do his work
better if he plays as well, so he is encouraged to do both. Association
football, or soccer is one of the most popular games in the British
Isles played from late August until the beginning of May. In summer the
English national sport is cricket. When the English say: ‘that’s not
cricket’ it means ‘that’s not fair’, ‘to play the game’ means ‘to be
Golf is Scotland’s chief contribution to British sport. It is worth
noting here an interesting feature of sporting life in Britain, namely,
its frequently close connection with social class of the players or
spectators except where a game may be said to be a “national” sport.
This is the case with cricket in England which is played and watched by
all classes. This is true of golf, which is everywhere in the British
Isles a middle-class activity. Rugby Union, the amateur variety of Rugby
football, is the Welsh national sport played by all sections of society
whereas, elsewhere, it too is a game for the middle classes. Association
football is a working-class sport as are boxing, wrestling, snooker,
darts and dog-racing. As far as fishing is concerned it is, apart from
being the most popular British sport from the angle of the number of
active participants, a sport where what is caught determines the class
of a fisherman. If it is a salmon or trout it is upper-class, but if it
is the sort offish found in canals, ponds or the sea, then the angler is
almost sure to be working-class.
Walking and swimming are the two most popular sporting activities, being
almost equally undertaken by men and women. Snooker (billiards), pool
and darts are the next most popular sports among men. Aerobics (keep-fit
exercises) and yoga, squash and cycling are among the sports where
participation has been increasing in recent years.
There are several places in Britain associated with a particular kind of
sport. One of them is Wimbledon — a suburb to the south of London where
the All-England Lawn Tennis Championships are held in July (since 1877).
The finals of the tournament are played on the Centre Court. The other
one is Wembley — a stadium in north London where international football
matches, the Cup Finals and other events have taken place since 1923. It
can hold over 100,000 spectators. The third one is Derby, the most
famous flat race in the English racing calendar, it is run at Epsom near
London since 1780.
Having written my course paper I think that I have proved sport’s
deserving attention. Especially sport is a very interesting theme
concerning the United Kingdom. Of course, I couldn’t illustrate all
Britain sports, but which I still do reflect Britain’s life with all
contradictory combinations. Both life is calm and exciting, and sport is
calm with golf’s followers and exciting with football’s fans.
Which is the English summer national sport?
Which kinds of sport can you name in English?
Which game can be called the most popular game in the world?
How many players are there in a football team?
What has given British football a bad name recently?
What is a football pool?
Football is played chiefly with the feet. What about rugby?
How do Rugby Union and Rugby League differ from each other?
What is called a test match in cricket?
Which place in Britain is associated with lawn tennis championships?
Which place in Britain is associated with a yachting regatta?
Which famous horse-race meetings does the Queen call on?
What kinds of racing do you know?
What events take place at Scottish Highland Games?
Where is the Royal and Ancient Golf Club located?
What was about half of all money bet on in 1993?
What is a ‘conker’?
What is ‘jogging’?
What is more important in sports: the ability to win a victory or the
ability to lose without anger; absolute fairness or physical
Приложение к газете «1 сентября» «English»// «Football, made in
Britain, loved by the world», 2001, №13, p.2
Britain in Brief, Просвещение, 1993
Peter Bromhead «Life in Modern Britain», Longman, 1997
James O’Driscoll «Britain. The country and its people», Oxford
University Press, 1997
David McDowall «Britain in close-up», Longman, 2000
Satinova V.F. «Read and speak about Britain and the British», Minsk,
Material from the site: www.scotland.com
THE LIST OF LITERATURE
Levashova V.A. «Britain today»
David McDowall «Britain in close-up», Longman, 2000
Oshepkova V.V., Shustilova I. I. «Britain in brief»
A nation of gamblers
In 1993 a total of F12.7 billion was wagered by the British – that’s
F289 for every adult in the country. F9.5 billion was won. The
government took just over F1 billion in taxes. The rest was kept by the
bookmakers. About half of all the money bet in 1993 was on horses or
greyhounds. 74% of all adults gambled at least once during the year.
At least once every two weeks:
•39% did the football pools;
•20% played on gaming and fruit machines;
•18% played bingo;
•14% put money on the horses.
In Britain in 1993, there was one betting shop for every 3,000 adults.
There were also:
120,000 fruit machines;
1,000 bingo clubs;
37 greyhound stadiums.
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