Sports violence refers to inappropriate and harmful behavior portrayed and acted by fans, players, coaches, and other stakeholders, which is related to the sporting incidences or events and that which violate the rules and regulation of sports and leading to physical injury of an individual.
The most distinguished character of violence is that it is initiated and/or propagated with a view to imparting harm on the opponent, another individual or property, which is a result of reactive aggression, which has some emotional characteristic.
Aggression, which lacks emotional component and which seeks to accomplish a particular task, is referred to as instrumental aggression (Leonard, 165). Increased spectatorship of sports continues to be experienced in major types of sports where aggression may expectedly or otherwise arise, leading to fatal or non-fatal injuries, deaths, or damage to property.
Many countries continue to rely on sports for income generations, which means that sports are here to stay. There have been traditional notions focused as concerns the causes of the violence. Violence in sports is not only dangerous to the participating team fans, team players, and other stakeholders but is also a show of lack of maturity in sporting and spectatorship.
There have been proposed recommendations pertaining to the reduction of aggression in sports in an effort to reduce sports violence. This paper discusses the issue of violence in sports by first looking at the history of sports as associated with violence, causes of sports violence, and violence as a whole.
The paper considers other issues of sports and violence, such as ways of reducing aggression, current and past research on the subject matter, and any other useful subtopics.
History of sports as relates to violence
Greeks are reportedly among the nations that first expressed ideal athletics sports with the videos (fair, dignified characteristics, modesty) characteristic, although general sports is said to have flourished during the Roman Empire and characteristic of expanding arenas and stadiums.
History indicates that the sports in Greek involved bribery and corruption, and the principle of sports violence was endorsed as a social norm and accepted during the Roman Empire.
The most appealing forms of entertainment in the past have been reported as fictional and non-fictional violence (Kerry). Letting off steam through a cathartic experience (in watching violent soccer for aggression reduction) has been refuted by Wann et al. (197-198) for lack of empirical evidence. This is a point that has been shared by other people on the subject matter.
Today, sports have been marred with violence with bloody scenes, court cases on the perpetration of violence, and other misconduct. Recently, there is increasing evidence of the presence of hatred towards violence among the stakeholders in sports thoughtfully because of the consequences involved, among other things.
Causes of violence range from the decision of the referees to increased negativity among the fans; there is a need, therefore, to engage in extensive research as concerns ways of reducing and controlling sports violence. There have been attempts to end violence in various sports in various statutes, rules, and regulations developed by various bodies concerned with the organization of sports in the whole world.
According to the world’s governing body International Football Federations (FIFA), winning is validated with honesty and fair play. The body has a developed a Play Code that constitutes ten rules to govern the play of football. According to the seventh code, negative interests may infect football due to its large popularity.
There must be a rejection of violence in football, the influence of drugs, racism, and gambling. Sports, football being one of them is regarded as peace, and teams/or players or both must be willing to show that they do not want violence from their fans.
Causes of violence in sports and attached theory
Failure of officials to take care of a situation where a player is violated has been found to be a major cause of violence in general sports according to a research study of 200 University intramural sports participants carried out in the United States.
Perception of sports violence both in general and intramural arenas was investigated in this research for the mentioned group. The following factors have been found to have a higher contribution to the likelihood of eruption of violence in sports. The major contributing factor to violence in sports according to Pooley (1987) is
- Pressure to win
- Differences as concerns who wins and who looses
- Weaker sanctions as pertaining violence-related incidences
- When the officials poorly perform their job
- Failure of coaches to control players or them encouraging players to break laws (Clark, 1981; cited in Larry, 2000)
The societal macho image associated to men that encourages retaliation with violence as a way of being perceived as courageous (Messner, 1992; Messner and Sabo, 1992; Coakley, 1998; cited in Larry, 2000)
Larry has stipulated the causes of violence amongst students as being the desire to win over the opponents, bad role modeling, retaliation and revenge, and peer pressure.
It may not be clear that some reasons so directly lead to sports violence, but this paper suggests that more than one factor may contribute at once to the eruption of sports violence in one game. For example, desire or pressure to win or frustration from failure to win as expected, coupled with poor decisions from officials or poor player temperament, may lead to the eruption of violence.
According to research carried out by Smith (1977), there is a link between the participation of players in violent events with the approval of their coaches. Further, his study (1979) found that hockey coaches were considered as approvers of violence by 52% of the players aged 18-21 years.
Violence among participating players of the opposite team may be initiated by the decision of the coach to differ from a referee’s decision or ruling, initiating resistance from the players. Coaches may also be regarded as supporting violent behavior when a time they protest on the violation of their players even on the pitch while the game is going on.
Coaches form part of influential heroes that the young generation may want to imitate. This means that their approval may have further negative impacts propelling the acceptance of violence among sports fans. Social learning theory holds the aspects of role models in addition to expected behaviors associated with certain circumstances.
Even young players have reportedly been implicated in research as having imitated professionals’ techniques like extra-legal aggression and incorporating it into their systems. This study implicated 56% of junior hockey players in research carried out by Smith (1977).
Teammates have been found to have a higher probability of causing violence than the coaches. The teammates may encourage one another to participate in violence or support one another.
Social exchange in sports may be regarded as a pertaining examination of violence in sports. Once a player participates in an illegal deal, the penalty may not exceed the benefit of the act, and this means that there is still reason allowing participation in such an act.
For example, a minor booking may be placed on an act that has already resulted in a greatly rewarding behavior, for example, scoring out of a player’s extra-aggression in hockey, resulting in a penalty that lasts for only 2 minutes.
Participation of players in such incidences may receive a conscious judgment from the fans and players of the opposing team, which may result in violence if the punishment is considered unfair or inadequate.
The conscious judgment issued by the players of the team opposing the team of the player that participated in extra-aggressive incidents or other acts may differ from the referees booking resulting in controversy between the referee and the players.
In addition to this is the leniency of rules already in place to deal with players and other stakeholders to participate in violence or activate the same.
Players, coaches, and other people may participate in violence after considering that the law does not penalize them enough to stop them from achieving what they want to achieve through the acts sparking, initiating or encouraging violence.
A higher probability of people participating in violence in a repetitive manner, according to Larry, may result from positive reinforcement of extra-legal aggression when left punished in an inadequate or inconsistency manner by sports officials.
Aggression may result from a team or player being frustrated after failing to reach a certain target or level (Leonard, 170). This target may either be personal or group.
They may come from expectations of fans for a particular player or team, or coaches’ expectation for a certain player to do well. Other sources of frustrations include injuries and referees’ or officials’ decisions or rulings.
There is an indication that violence in sports may arise as a result of media activity, which includes emphasis they lay on the importance of matches and events, differences, among other things.
Media, in its part, cannot contribute to sports violence alone but may lead to increased excitement among the fans, based on how they present their information pertaining to competition, team, and other things.
Besides, the media may highlight negative issues pertaining to competition, winning of a certain match, the conduct, and moods of the officials, including that of the coaches, moods, and reactions of fans, and this may lead to heightened pressure to overreact.
Some media houses focus on publicizing the importance of matches to reap high turn out of viewers and fans, which, considering the diversity of team-support from fans, may lead to aggression and high anticipation.
In some countries, for example, it is populous amongst the young generation that one should have to support a certain team, and quickly this is becoming a tradition.
Since these fans and fanatics take pride in the victory of the teams they support and considering that negative publicity of certain teams or players may seem to empower them to critic their opponents, differences may arise, resulting in violence, more likely because sports are emotional evens.
Reviews and comments by particular sports houses and media which are carried before, after, or during a match may be accompanied by criticism, unfair comments, and single-sided opinions, which may aggravate the likelihood of trouble between opponent fans and players. Media may also condone violence.
Unfortunately, self-identity with particular teams results in hatred and view of other people who have identified with a different team as enemies. Implicated in this form of behavior include the social grouping, ethnic, and geographical locale of opponents, as indicated by Lee (45; cited in “violence in sports”).
This may partly be blamed on the emphasis of certain media on weaknesses of particular teams as opposed to others coupled with emotional aggression in football and associated effects. Media has also given more publicity to the aggressive players and coaches that may cause emulation of this type of behavior from fans and mostly children.
The provision of pictures of violent incidences and activities in sports may cause more excitement and fans wanting to credit the teams and players they support as courageous and may contribute to more emphasis on chaos in sports than good and responsible behavior.
Some advertisements which are rough in nature and not socially upright may be linked to some players and/or coaches by the media houses through advertising of certain commodities which may make the fans think that these players are violent and not responsible enough, and this may encourage emulation of bad behavior rather than encourage emulation of good behavior among sports fans and especially the young generation.
What may be surprising is the fact that rewards are reserved for the winners in sports. Aggression, even reactive one that leads to violence, is outwardly indicated as fine if one used it to earn the top reward.
The awards and publicity that goes to the award winner in sports may contribute to the players’ “bull” fight trend leading to increased injury and any efforts to deter performance by inflicting injury on a player may be expected to receive higher attention from the referee, and even harsh rules and regulations from the sports bodies because of the popularized notion that a team would suffer without certain players.
This may thus lead to the generation of rules and regulations seeking to adore individuals more than the sport itself, and participation is lesser rewarded than winning. The more attention focus is placed on winning; the more aggressive players would be the following season to make an extraordinary performance.
The more players will seem to lose to achieve this target; the more violent they may be expected to be since not as much recognition will be awarded to them if they participate and not win. Furthermore, rewards mostly are focused on three best performers only. High competition among the teams may lead to high aggression and anxiety among the fans and players.
Wann et al. (115; cited in Kerry, 131) goes ahead to blame the media for the possibility of increasing hostility among spectators as a result of heightened antagonism between opponent teams which may occur as a result of the media focus and activity before the sporting events and matches occur. This is despite the fact that media do condemn violence so quickly.
Costs of violence in sports
Violence in sports is costly. The cost incurred in sports violence range from the cost of consequences imposed on the participating teams and/or players to financial implications related to organizing forums to discuss effects and penalties associated with violence, usually by the bodies that are charged with responsibilities to plan and organize sports.
Furthermore, if a player, a spectator, or a coach is injured, they may in an individual setting encounter financial loses associated with treatment. The burden for treatment charges may be passed to the taxpayers of the participating countries.
Violence may lead to damage of property like sporting arenas and fields, which means they will incur an additional cost if they have to be reconstructed. Besides, violence may lead to delayed events, which means a waste of time. Teams may be penalized in addition to risking losing titles where the law stipulates so. In the developed societies’ eye, violence, in general, represents an archaic form of conflict resolution.
Curbing sports violence
Although sports violence has been popularized and largely accepted in today’s society, there is a possibility to reduce, prevent, and eliminate it from the sporting arena.
However, strong measures that go beyond mere statements of policies and rules and regulations that go beyond mere presence in paper needs to be adopted and implemented and observed among all the stakeholders. These sets of recommendations and implementations should not be a concern for the world bodies responsible for various types of sports but should include all the stakeholders.
There is a need for psychologists to rethink common perceptions on violence and aggression by considering in a “hard” way the literature on sports and the common wisdom, according to Kerry (149). Soccer fans must be weaned away from relying on the “negativistic state” by introducing other means of rewarding activities. According to Kerry, experiences that are self-satisfying (114) are necessary to rehabilitating hooliganism in soccer sports.
Campaigns that lead to reduced aggression and involve stakeholders’ participation should be promoted by the media; Kerry proposes a set of recommendations, one of which is synonymous with that of Tenenbaum et al. (5; cited in Kerry, 142) of imposing higher penalties in sports to reduce aggression.
Another recommendation involves increasing knowledge of aggression-related issues like controlling it, its causes, and its costs amongst stakeholders like coaches, managers, and others (142).
The current trend in sporting, which encourages publicity on winning and lesser on participation and improvement, should be reinforced with an emphasis on rewarding improvement, participation, and personal skill in equal focus with winning.
There is a danger that is presented by a system, which seeks to encourage winning, by all means, allowable: the possibility of corruption, unfair judgment, and participation, especially if there are no tight sport rules and regulations against these and other irregularities. Furthermore, all attempts to equate any performance in sports with personal worth should be discouraged and abolished (Coakley, 106; cited in “Violence in sports”).
Instrumental aggression should be emphasized by coaches and referees amongst all teams participating. This focuses on constructive aggression that is not filled with emotional practices that only propagates or encourages violence. Strict rules must be put in place such that the desire to commit violence is eliminated by punishment to be achieved after the incidence without any benefits accruing from the social exchange.
There is, therefore, a need to look at the current practice, cite and analyze its weaknesses and make necessary changes to eliminate the possibility of players getting some advantage from activities that would result in violence.
There is a need to foster non-violence attitudes towards all sports among their fans as early as they are young, so as they grow, there are reduced incidences of trouble. Young children in primary and elementary levels of education must be taught to participate in sports with ideals of nurturing participation and not winning by every strategy and be instilled values of non-negativity attitudes towards opponents who win or lose.
As already established, being established or potential spectators of sports, children must be equipped with necessary literature and practical experience as concerns conflict resolution in an effort to ensuring that they handle situations of violence with caution and care when they grow up.
There is a need for sports professionals to provide good modeling to the young generations since it has been found that social learning may influence violence in sports.
The world bodies concerned with running specific sports should cultivate this among the professionals by ensuring that a set of rules and regulations are in place to discourage bad behavior and populous excessive aggression that may end-up with violations for purposes of winning.
In conclusion, violence in sports is any form of violation of a set of rules governing sports and participation, displayed or acted by players, spectators among another stakeholder, which is related to sporting incidents and may cause physical injury.
Sports violence has been historically endorsed, is costly, and possible to control, reduce, and eliminate. Putting more emphasis on rewarding participation rather than an excessive emphasis on rewarding winning presents one of the strategies that could help control, reduce, and eliminate sports violence, which has been declared a social problem.
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