The Political Economy of Professional Sport

The Political Economy of Professional Sport

New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series

Jean-François Bourg and Jean-Jacques Gouguet

This timely book offers a critical interpretation of the traditional social and economic accounts of sport. It provides an incisive analysis of professional sport and defines alternative foundations to the present model. The authors demonstrate that professional sport is an extremely complex phenomenon encompassing many unique factors depending on its global reach, financing and organization.

Chapter 7: The False Justification of Sport as a Global Public Good

Jean-François Bourg and Jean-Jacques Gouguet

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, sports, politics and public policy, political economy


In the decades from 1896 to 1980, the current market dimension of competitive sport did not emerge because of the domination of a Courbertinian and Anglo-Saxon concept of sport, based on amateurism and voluntary work. In fact, according to the modernizer of the Olympic Games, sport should remain outside the market and follow a disinterested logic. In 1896, Pierre de Coubertin drew his inspiration from an aristocratic morality and a virtuous aestheticism: “I will make weak and restricted youth healthy again, his body and his character, through sport, its risks and its excesses. I will widen his vision and his understanding by contact with grand, sidereal, global and historical horizons”.1 A century later, in 1998, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then President of the IOC, again defined the Olympic spirit as “a lifestyle founded on the joy of effort, the educative value of good example and the respect of universal, fundamental, ethical principles”.2 At the same time, the Olympic sponsors explained in the media the reasons for their financial participation, in the following way: “The Olympic Games have a history, that of men and women who have worked to offer the world the occasion to find itself, around sporting feats which equal many strong sensations and unforgettable emotions. Today, international companies are united for a single plan: make the legend live”.3 Therefore, and following this the model of development of the Olympic spirit, the recent conversion of top-level sport as a spectacle to the globalized market economy (Andreff,...

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