Past relationships between the media and sport have founded today’s interpretation of different broadcasted sports. Luhmann, (2000, p1) stated “whatever we know about our society or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through mass media”. Mass media can be credited to reaching a mass audience through a different degree of formats. Formats, that have formed our interpretation of sport.
We can trace modern sport within the United Kingdom back to the 1700s with a significant organisation change occurring in the 1800s when factories and urbanisation used sport as a vehicle for discipline (Rowe, 2004). The sports may not be the same as the sports played today, with the likes of rat baiting being a popular spectator sport in the 1700s. However, crucially this period saw an increase in the visual and written communications of sporting events. In turn, creating knock-on effect and unintentionally becoming the backbone of mass sport media that we recognise today.
Print media, i.e. newspapers are arguably the most dated form of mass media that is still active today, with sport being reported on newspapers since the 19th century (Lever and Wheeler, 1993). Sport has been the pinnacle of newspapers and media and throughout its coverage and has been used as way of entertaining the reader. By reporting on popular sports such as cricket and tennis this helps to engage the reader’s attention. Schlesinger in 1993 declared that a study showed that in 1880 only 0.4% of space in the newspaper was dedicated to sports. By the 1920s, that proportion had risen to 20% (Jones, and Schumann, 2000).
Unbeknown to the reader having greater exposure of sport, this brought a sense of nationalism and a sense of what it meant to be a part of a certain class. Subconsciously the reported-on sports represent a certain class and an overall feel of what it meant to be British (Johnes, 2004). During the early 19th century, the primary demographic for newspapers were the social elite as newspapers were expensive and unfortunately out-priced the average man (Moritz, 2014). Additionally, as there were no alternatives to consuming sport media back then, the elite population become monopolised (Moritz, 2014). Monopolised in that the reader’s understanding of information was restricted. Whatever was written withing the newspaper was consumed by the reader. This led to an influx of adverts being strategically placed amongst the sport sections of media outlets. The dynamics of the sports being reported upon brought a similar suit of adverts (Slack, 2004). Adverts that were linked to the class system portrayed by the newspaper. Adverts such as cigarette, alcohol, and betting (Harrow, 2016). Together, this formed an underlining social culture to smoke, drink, and gamble (Huggins, 2020).
Furthermore, this forced the reader to subconsciously assume that to be a part of a certain class, one must smoke, drink, gamble and show an interest in certain sports to be deemed British (Boyle, 2009). Collectively, forming a stereotype of how typical British sports, such as cricket and tennis are only to be enjoyed by the higher classes and the social elite. A stereotype that is still relevant today as a result of the 18th century media (Lake,2014).