The Promotion of Well-being through Sporting Activities
New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series
Edited by Plácido Rodríguez, Stefan Késenne and Brad R. Humphreys
Chapter 9: Subjective Well-being and Engagement in Sport: Evidence from England
David Forrest and Ian G. McHale 1. INTRODUCTION One bishop in the nineteenth-century Anglican Church, whenever asked to say Grace before a public dinner, was wont to pronounce: ‘For this food, for our friendship and for all the happiness cricket brings to the World, Thank God.’ Implicitly, the Bishop was hypothesizing that subjective well-being is a function of engagement in sport, and it is this possibility that we address in this chapter. The issue perhaps has more relevance to public policy now than it did back then in the nineteenth century. In Britain, as in many European countries, the contemporary state takes a major part of the responsibility for providing sports facilities: even where it is private clubs, rather than municipalities, that own and operate the centres and complexes, they are often in receipt of grants from lottery funds or quasi-governmental organizations. This steady stream of revenue underpins access to sport in many areas. But, undoubtedly, it is threatened by the current crisis of government debt. Where public expenditure has to be scaled down, sports budgets represent a ‘soft’ target, partly because it is hard to measure what benefits flow from the subsidies. It therefore appears to us timely to investigate the question of whether people’s lives are enhanced by participating in sport and whether it is possible to quantify the benefit. We take a direct approach. It is argued, for example by Layard (2005), that increasing happiness should be the overriding role of government and, moreover, that this principle...
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