Sport in Australia


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Sport and Australian Popular Culture lecture, University of Qld 7 April 2009

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  • Source: David Malouf (2001) “Here We Are, Against the Plan and Against the Odds, Centenary of Federation Commemoration” The Australian 1 January pp.12-13
  • 52% of men, 37% of women over the age of 15 attended at least one sports event. Men outnumber women as spectators in all sports except tennis and netball. 50% of Northern Territory population attended at least one sports event, 42% of NSW population attended at least one sports event.
  • 65.9% or 10.5 million of Australians over the age of 15 participated in physical activities for recreation, exercise or sport in 2005-06. 1.6 million in 2006-07 were involved in sport as coaches or umpires or other supporting roles.
  • Self explanatory. This slide indicates the importance of the Olympics in Australian sporting life, and in Australian television. The most watched program of all time in Australia was the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, which drew over 5 million viewers. As this slide shows, Australians will watch many sports in very large numbers. I’ll come back to television and the Olympics later.
  • Innovation: sport has been an important component of television’s development, in Australia as around the world. Fernsehkanonen, Berlin Olympics 1936. Television arrived in Australia just in time for the Melbourne Olympics. In the 1970s, sport and particularly cricket was used to promote colour television. In the mid-1990s (and since) sport was at the heart of the emergence of pay television in Australia – Super League split in Rugby League, anti-siphoning list. Now with introduction of high definition, Channel Ten have created a 24x7 sports channel called ONE. Narrative: television represents sport as drama, as conflict, with characters battling to achieve objectives or goals, with good guys and bad guys… just like drama Liveness: Sports events are often broadcast live; television sport is a connection back to one of the early tenets of theories around the specificity of television, the idea that live broadcasting could “conquer time and distance, [and] have vast groups of people commune in a new experience” (Bourdon 2004 p.183). As live event television, sports have proven highly effective in massing audiences which is critical for advertising-dependent television. As television audiences fragment, the capacity of sports to draw large audiences to watch at the same time is enormously valuable to advertisers (particularly in trying to reach the young male demographic), and to commercial television operators. Live sport is also one of the few forms of programming that is permitted to disrupt the schedule. Schedule: There are currently 11 sports channels available on subscription television (Fox Sports 1,2,3 and Fox Sports News, ESPN, TVN, Sky Racing, FUEL TV, Setanta, Eurosports, National Geographic Adventure). ABC2 has started broadcasting WNBL matches live on Friday nights. ABC1 screens bowls, the WNBL and the W-League (Women’s football). On Sundays, various kinds of motor sport can be found on channels 7, 10 and SBS simultaneously. The Sunday afternoon schedule on SBS is dominated by motor sport and football (the round ball game). The most recent available statistics for Australia (AFC 2000) shows sports programming occupied just under 20% of the schedule between 5pm and midnight. It is likely this will have increased over the last eight or nine years. Sports programming provides a degree of regularity to television schedules around the world, and appears to be maintaining its popularity and advertising support as ratings for other forms of television slow and dwindle. Sports television is attractive to media companies because it offers constantly replenished content with multiple opportunities for segmentation and repurposing. Commercialism: I’ll come back to talk about the issue of sports rights in a moment, but it is fair to say that television has changed sport enormously particularly over the last twenty five years, and to an extent sport has changed television. Sponsorship and advertising related to sport has mushroomed, with impacts on sport including the use of ‘television timeouts’ in some American sports to break up play to allow advertising, the naming of teams after sponsors, the creation of new leagues (eg. Super 14 Rugby, Super League rugby league). Globalisation: spread of satellites and pay television have facilitated the globalisation of sports, with global channels (ESPN), the global reach of certain national competitions (the English Premier League soccer), Sports television: the broadcast of sports on television, the sports event on television Television sports: sports created for television or sports style shows eg. It’s a Knockout, Wipeout, Survivor SporTV: non-event sports programming, which I call SporTV: sports news; panel and debate shows; sports variety programs (the classic example being The Footy Show which screens in different versions in NSW/Qld and Vic/SA/WA/Tas, reflecting regional variation. Both editions of the show are very blokey, and have had their share of controversy over representation and treatment of women, race and violence.
  • ONE is the Ten Network’s HD channel. It is a 24x7 sports channel.
  • The Seven Network held the rights to AFL for over 30 years until it lost out to a combined bid from Nine, Ten, and the pay television channel Fox Sports, which established the Fox Footy channel exclusively to show AFL. Seven’s owner Kerry Stokes argued that a secret deal had been done between the other parties with the intention of forcing his own sports channel, C7 (which Foxtel refused to carry) out of business. Stokes sued the other parties, eventually losing the case in 2007. The Seven Network owned the right to make first and last bids for the 2007-2011 round. The deal was done just before Kerry Packer died; Packer was the longtime owner of the Nine Network (and pioneer of World Series Cricket). His network had held the rights for the previous five-year period, and he bid up the price for the 2007-11 round to ensure that Seven bid as much as possible with its last bid. There is talk that the cost of rights for the next round will top $1 billion.
  • Source:; Chris Gratton and Harry Arne Solberg The Economics of Sports Broadcasting London and New York: Routledge, 2007, p.9.
  • It was reported during the Beijing Olympics that each of Australia’s gold medals had cost taxpayers almost $17 million. Earlier this year the Australian Olympic Committee argued that they needed an extra $100 million to boost Australian Olympic teams and help Australia stay in the top five in the medal count at the next Olympics in London in 2012. There is a legitimate question though whether all that expenditure is really worth it, and whether it could be better directed, into grassroots sport for example.
  • It’s interesting that the argument for greater funding has come in the context of a renewed rivalry between Australia and Great Britain. Before the games the Australian and British sports ministers had a friendly wager over who would do best; Britain won that one, beating Australia on the medal table for the first time since 1988.
  • Rules initially devised in 1994, in preparation for the commencement of pay television in Australia in 1995 and in response to concerns that if pay television operators were able to buy exclusive sports rights, then many Australian viewers without access to pay television would miss out on being able to see major sports events. The issue has been one of the issues that most animates television operators Most households still do not have access to pay television, so the equity argument remains. Rationale for the list is to ensure that major sporting events are available to all Australian viewers for free. But Free to air networks (ABC, SBS and commercial networks) are not required to buy rights. Counter argument: list is anti-competitive, and represents intrusive policymaking. Pay TV lobbied the government to introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ clause, as many events were not being broadcast live (or at all) on FTA television. Sports events on the list include: the Melbourne Cup, AFL and NRL competitions, State of Origin, international rugby union involving Wallabies, the football world Cup, grand slam tennis tournaments, golf majors, motor racing grand prix, cricket matches involving Australia, Olympic Games, English FA Cup final. The broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, reports to the Minister every six months on the acquisition and use of broadcast rights to specified events.
  • In recent years Australians have been world champions in many other sports: motor-cycling, ten-pin bowling, rugby union, rugby league… but not Australian rules
  • Much of Australian sporting heritage arrived in the country with various waves of immigrants, with British sporting traditions playing a large role: cricket, rugby union, horse racing, but not (until recently) football (or ‘soccer’). American sports have also been adopted with gusto: basketball, baseball, surfing. Having said that Australian sporting culture is largely derivative, there is a counter-argument. Australians have developed their own sports, and made innovations and contributions to many other sports. Australian rules football is the most prominent locally invented sport: invented in Melbourne late 1850s during gold rush period when population and wealth of Victoria increased dramatically. For its first couple of decades, Aussie Rules was a sport that “belonged to the middle classes and the colonial elite” (Douglas Booth and Colin Tatz One Eyed: A View of Australian Sport , St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 2000, p.52) because most men had to work on Saturdays and so had no time to play. During the 1880s and 1890s, the spread of professionalism and the introduction of a half-day holiday on Saturdays encouraged all classes to play. The game also developed a reputation as ‘the people’s game’ because it was originally played in open parklands, with free attendance. It was only from the late 1870s that the game began to be restructured, and played on enclosed grounds with charges for admission. Another Australian sporting invention is surf-lifesaving, and there is a fascinating history of rivalry between surf-lifesaving and surfing which I won’t go in to now. There is a distinctive regional variation in sports – or at least there was until the spread of national football competitions. Football codes are the most obvious examples, with rugby league being most popular in N e w South Wales and Queensland, and Aussie Rules most popular in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Australians have also developed a reputation around the world as aggressive competitors, and poor losers (which perhaps is one of the reasons why they seem to win a lot). I’ll come back and talk about sledging and crowd behaviour a little later. You may have seen Bombora: The History of Australian Surfing over the last couple of weeks – it should be in the library, and I’d recommend it if you haven’t. In the mid1970s “Hawaiians laid siege to Australian surfers … refusing to supply boards, physically assaulting them, and threatening to burn down their accommodation” because they were perceived to be arrogant and overly aggressive in their style and manner (Booth and Tatz One Eyed , p. 216). Australians have also made major contributions to international sport, not only through successful individuals and teams, but also through innovations such as the ‘Australian crawl’ swimming stroke, board shapes and designs in surfing, The introduction of ‘scientific’ training methods in the 1950s and 1960s, many brought by European immigrants after the Second World War were credited with seeding Australia’s great sporting success at that time. The (self) image of Australian sport as egalitarian and meritocratic is also belied by history: participation in sport in Australia over the last two centuries has to a great extent been determined by class, gender and especially race issues.
  • Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities – the way the nation is created in the popular imagination, very much the case in sports. The media play an enormous role here, particularly television which I’ll come back to. The Olympic Games has also been a site of performance for domestic and international consumption.
  • Widely held view in late 19 th century that fondness for sport, and aptitude, were characteristics of Australian colonists.
  • Richard Cashman, sports historian, uses anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s notion of “deep play” to analyse centrality of sport in Australian culture. By ‘deep play’ Geertz meant that sport – in his case of cock-fighting in Bali – was a venue for the assertion and affirmation of core (masculine) values. Cashman argues that “sport encapsulates many broader myths that are widely entertained in Australia” (Richard Cashman, Sport in the National Imagination: Australian Sport in the Federation Decades , Sydney: Walla Walla Press, 2002, p.5). General John Monash commanded the 4 th Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force at Gallipoli, and was appointed in 1918 commander of the entire AIF. Here he draws on the popular myth of Australians’ “instinct” for sport, and the idea that sporting aptitude was a national characteristic. During the First World War, the failure of the two referenda on conscription led to appeals to sport and sportsmanship to encourage conscription.
  • Australian troops at Gallipoli famously played cricket on the beaches, as this photograph shows. In 2001 when the Australian cricket team were travelling to England for the Ashes tour, they stopped off at Gallipoli and re-enacted for the attending media the game of cricket played by the diggers in 1915.
  • Cricket plays an important part in Australian sporting life, in Australian political life, and in Australian television. Cricket has become an important site for the construction of the sporting nation myth. It encapsulates a number of themes: the idea of the ‘imaginary grandstand’ in one of your readings, that sports is being played for international consumption, or to impress an international audience is particularly the case in matches between England and Australia. The fiercest rivalry has always been with England; in the 19 th century the relationship with ‘the mother country’, the Imperial centre, was a key part of all walks of Australian life. During the 20 th century this relationship and rivalry has diminished somewhat, with in sports new rivalries with the US in the swimming pool, with New Zealand at rugby union, and with Japan in football (or ‘soccer’) coming to the fore. But the (not always friendly) rivalry with Britain is still there – witness the friendly wager between the Australian and British sports ministers before the Olympics over which country would win the most gold medals. In cricket, as we’ll see again this winter when the Australians tour England, the rivalry with England (representing Britain) remains all important. The first ‘Australian’ team toured to England in 1868, over thirty years before Australia became a country. This is a poster of the team, and as you may be able to see better from this next slide…
  • The 1868 team was an all-Aboriginal team. The two non-Aboriginal chaps in the photograph are the team manager and coach. Cricket was introduced to Aboriginal people by missionaries and others in the 1850s/60s with the idea that it would have a ‘civilising purpose’; that is, it would make Aboriginal people more like the colonists, and more acceptable to them. Aboriginal involvement in cricket petered out towards end of the 19 th Century, and relatively few Aboriginal people play cricket in contrast with the football codes where Aboriginal players are over-represented as a proportion of the population. The first Aboriginal sportsman is thought to have been a man named Shiney or Shinal who played cricket in Hobart in 1835. When he died not long afterwards, his head was cut off and sent to an Irish museum for ‘preservation’. His remains were finally returned in 1992. I’ll come back to the issue of race and sports later; it is a fascinating issue well worth exploring in detail. Unfortunately I have only limited time today to cover a vast amount of material.
  • Cricket was the first team sport played in Australia. Earlier sports: cock-fighting, bare-knuckle boxing, wrestling, swimming. Playing cricket in early years of colony was sign of ‘normalcy’, perceived as sign of hardiness of British civilisation in any environment, and nostalgia for Britain. Cricket as indicator of ‘Australianness’ or ‘nativism’ as well as Empire loyalty. First club 1826 was established by colonial born (‘currency lads’) and supported emancipist cause. Matches between ‘currency’ and ‘sterling’ teams. Strong argument mounted by WF Mandle, Cashman and others that cricket more than any other sport “dramatised the relationship between the colonies and the motherland” First English touring team, all professionals. 1868 tour, Aboriginal team. First Australian team to tour abroad in any sport. Cricket used on missions 1850s/60s for ‘civilising purpose’. Aboriginal involvement in cricket petered out towards end 19 th Century. 1877, first ‘Test match’ between Australian XI and Lillywhite’s Professional XI. First club established 1826, women among crowds from this point onwards. Ladies Stands were built at all major cricket grounds during 19 th century. Women also played cricket, but often subjected to ridicule. 1882 – Australian team defeats England at The Oval, London. British newspaper The Sporting Times writes that “the body [of English cricket] will be cremated and taken to Australia”. In fact Ashes urn, reputed to hold ashes of a bail from 1882 Test, has only been displayed in Australia twice, in 1988 as part of Bicentennial celebrations, and during the last series in Australia in 2005-06. WF Mandle, sports historian, argued that the success of the Australian teams against the English from the late 1870s was a significant factor in generating popular enthusiasm for Federation. Mandle argued that the teams’ success helped overcome interstate rivalry, and focused national sentiment in the years before the Australian nation was established. (WF Mandle, “Cricket and Australian Nationalism” Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society vol. 59, no. 4 (1973), pp. 225-45). Later historians contest this view, arguing that regional parochialism remained a powerful force not least here in Queensland.
  • * Bradman was named greatest cricketer of the 20 th century by Wisden in 2000. He made his Test debut in 1928 and, during his 21-year career, became one of Australian’s most admired and respected sportspeople. He captained the Australian cricket team for almost a decade, averaged a century (100 runs) once in every three innings, had a career average of 99 runs per innings and from 1930 to 1959 held the world-record score in first-class cricket of 452 not out. After he retired in 1948, Bradman continued to play an active role as a cricket administrator. He has been widely acknowledged as the world’s best-ever batsman, one of the top international sportspeople of the 20th century and a great Australian icon. * The hit Australian song ‘Our Don Bradman’, featured in the clip, was composed in 1930 by a popular Australian songwriter of the first half of the 20th century, Jack O’Hagan. O’Hagan went on to write tributes to other famous figures and was well known for his song ‘Along the road to Gundagai’ (1922), which also became a classic. Bradman reference point for self-described “cricket tragic” former PM John Howard. “A commitment to conservative politics, Protestantism, the monarchy and business features in both men’s lives” (Brett Hutchins, Don Bradman: Challenging the Myth , Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p.111). In 2000, Howard changed the Corporations Act to prohibit the use of company names that suggested a connection with Bradman that did not exist after a row over a restaurant in Adelaide called ‘Bradmans’. Howard said of Bradman “he was a hero to me”, and described him as “the greatest living Australian”. He visited Bradman a week before Sir Don died in Feb 2001. Howard said: “He was more than a great cricketer and a great sportsman. He was a dominant personality in a way that I don’t think any person has been in the last 100 years”. Bradman was given a State Funeral. In 2006, a row blew up about the proposed Citizenship Test for potential migrants when it was suggested that Howard had recommended a question on Bradman’s batting average be included in the Test. The row blew up again in January 2008 when the new Labor Minister for Immigration proposed dropping the Bradman question; PM Rudd stepped in “We will not be giving the Don the axe”, although news services reported the question on Bradman had never actually been asked. Just before the 2007 federal election, government minister Joe Hockey described Howard as “the Don Bradman of Australian politics”, with much ridicule following. In fact, Howard had been described in this way before, by the American Jewish Committee when it awarded him its highest honour, the American Liberty Medallion in 2004. Howard was a master at using the popularity of sport, and the connection of sport with a sense of ‘Australianness’ to political ends. His enthusiasm for sport helped build his image as an ‘ordinary bloke’, with traditional values but at the same time in touch with the popular mood. In fact, as I’ll discuss in a moment, while funding for elite sports and organisations like the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Institute for Sport increased during Howard’s time in office, grassroots sports activity did not receive anything like as much attention or money. There is a suggestion that the image and iconic status – the myth, if you like – of Bradman for Australians may be changing, and this may have something to do with the departure from public life of Howard, his greatest contemporary champion. Since Bradman’s death, there has been something of a reassessment of Bradman the man, with criticisms of his treatment of Catholics in the Australian team, of his war service, and of his business dealings after the Second World War. While these things were known before his death, it is only since 2001 that they have become public, and revisionism has been possible. As sports writer John Harms noted in 2006, “Many qualities attributed to Bradman were exaggerated or manufactured”.
  • The now infamous Ashes series of 1932-33 is known by one word: Bodyline, the word used to describe the English team’s tactics which they called ‘fast leg theory’, bowling hard and fast at the bodies of the Australian batsmen. The tactic was designed in particular to unsettle Don Bradman. The series has been the subject of many books, and a television mini-series was made in 1984. Bradman ‘only’ averaged 56.6 during this series, which England won 4-1. As Brett Hutchins noted in his iconoclastic book Don Bradman: Challenging the Myth , “In accounts of the 1932-33 bodyline Test cricket matches, the Australian team is represented as making a defiant statement of independence on behalf of the nation to the English who were intent on maintaining cultural dominance. This statement was played out through Bradman, who ‘became Austraila’, with the series crucial to the construction of his popular heroism” (p.56). Bradman was positively contrasted with the patrician English captain, Douglas Jardine. As Hutchins notes, the series has taken on a mythic status. After complaints by the Australian Cricket Board, Bodyline was outlawed in 1934, but it is now regarded as a valid part of contemporary cricket. The Australian complaints of intimidation were somewhat ironic, given that Australian crowds were notorious for abusing opposing teams and supporters, often with a humourous edge, but English cricketers had complained about abusive crowds from the 1880s. In cricket in particular, Australian teams as well as crowds have earned a reputation as ‘sledgers’. In particular under captain Steve Waugh, the Australian team were masters of what was termed ‘mental disintegration’, or pressurising opposition by swearing or poking fun at them. Bay 13 is an area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground that is notorious for rowdy crowd behaviour, perhaps because it is one of the areas in which alcohol is permitted. English cricketer Derek Pringle recalled that when he played, “the denizens of Bay 13 lobbed anything that came to hand, none of them compliments. A rendezvous for bikers, the ammunition was mainly bolts and washers. Oh, and as one fielder found out when he picked the remnants out of his hair, meat pies.” (Derek Pringle, “Unique Rivalry of Blood, Fire and Bails” The Independent 2 July 2001. Meat pies – another Australian icon.
  • A couple of years ago the Australian Cricket Board ran a campaign to discourage fans from throwing things on to the field. They used former Australian cricketer Merv Hughes (now a national team selector) as the public face of the campaign. Show video. I think the role of the crowd, both at sporting events and as viewers interpellated by television (that is, in Althusser’s terms, how the viewer is addressed or ‘hailed’ into a subject position), is a really fascinating area and a productive one for future research.
  • The popularity of cricket both on television and at major cricket grounds was also one of the catalysts for one of the most divisive episodes in the history of Australian sport. In the 1970s, cricket drew huge television audiences to the ABC. Big crowds watched matches at grounds around Australia. Test matches in particular were well-attended. A number of players led by Dennis Lillee began to complain about their pay and conditions, particularly their accommodation and treatment on tour. The Australian Cricket Board, which included Sir Don Bradman, was indifferent to player discontent. Ian Chappell, former Australian captain and soon to be captain of the Australian World Series Cricket team blamed Bradman for the split. Kerry Packer, owner of the Nine Network, had been frustrated in his efforts to buy the rights to screen cricket on commercial television. Packer saw the potential for cricket to draw large television audiences, and thus revenue from advertisers keen to reach these audiences, during the summer which is traditionally the non-ratings period and a time of limited competition between networks. The ACB refused to sell Packer the rights in part because the Nine Network could not be received across the entire country. This was the logic that informs the anti-siphoning legislation that limits the sports that can now be screened on subscription television; I’ll return to this shortly. Packer decided to set up a rival competition, World Series Cricket, which offered significantly higher pay to players and thus attracted many of the game’s big names from all around the world. In 1977, just after the Centenary Test marking 100 years since the first test between Australia and England, Packer’s agents who included former England captain Tony Grieg and former Australian captain Richie Benaud, began recruiting players. Packer introduced a number of innovations: coloured clothing (which led to WSC being known as ‘the pyjama game’), day-night games under lights – which were enormously popular, white ball, multiple cameras around the ground. The emphasis was squarely on the viewing experience, rather than the live experience of the spectator at the ground. The ACB fought the WSC through the courts, but eventually in 1979 was forced to settle, and Packer was given exclusive television and marketing rights. Nine’s hold on cricket continues to this day; the ABC is in no position now to compete for television broadcasting rights. Many of the key figures in the WSC split remained with Nine for many years – Richie Benaud (recently retired), Ian Chappell, Tony Grieg and Bill Lawrie all remained as commentators for almost thirty years after the split. The other thing that WSC brought was this… See also: ABC Radio National The Sports Factor ‘20 Years of World Series Cricket’ 23 May 1997
  • More than 200,000 talking David Boon figurines were given away in a promotion for VB beer in summer 2005-06. The figurine references the popular image of former Australian batsman David Boon as a legendary drinker; supposedly he holds the record of most cans of beer drunk on the flight from Australia to England – 52. VB is also the “official beer” of the Australian cricket team, which raises the issue of sponsorship and sports, commercialisation of sports. It also highlights the ambiguous place of alcohol in sports. You may have seen the ABC’s Australian Story episode last week about swimmer Nick D’Arcy who was dumped from the Australian Olympic team last year after he hit a fellow swimmer in a bar while extremely drunk. While D’Arcy only hit Simon Cowley once, Cowley had to have five metal plates inserted in his face. D’Arcy was subsequently given a suspended sentence for the assault. His case has become the public face of the current moral panic around teenage binge drinking. But then, you might know more about that than me… As a number of other high profile incidents recently involving professional AFL and rugby league players have shown, many players are “extreme drinkers”. You might take the view as Shane Webcke, former Brisbane Bronco, does, that players are under extraordinary and unfair scrutiny, and are simply doing what many other Australians do without the same level of media coverage. But alcohol is an integral part of sporting culture in Australia. Teams and players are sponsored by alcohol companies, and subsidised alcohol is available to players and supporters at grounds. Many sports clubs rely on income from bar sales. To quote from a recent report in The Age by Adele Horin: “A 2006 Queensland survey found 40 per cent of fans who patronised AFL, rugby and surf lifesaving clubs drank five or more drinks each visit, 22 per cent drank seven or more, and 5 per cent drank 13 or more - way over the recommended limit (now two drinks a day). Players drink huge amounts on "Mad Mondays", at the season's launch, at its end, and in the off-season, and clubs and pubs are only too willing to aid and abet, Fitzgerald found. Half the AFL players in Victoria have been getting free drink cards from venues that wanted to exploit their celebrity to attract women customers, who in turn brought in more men. The nadir in the relationship between booze and sport came with the launch of the XXXX Gold international beach cricket campaign in 2006 when, as Professor Sandra Jones, of Wollongong University, has pointed out, the game itself was contrived entirely as a promotion for the beer.” (Adele Horin, “Grog on, Aussie, Grog on: It’s Time to Turn Off the Tap” The Age 14 March 2009).
  • The Boonie figurine plays on another aspect of sports and popular culture that I’d like to touch on: icons and mascots. Top left: The Baggy Green – cap presented to cricketers when they make their debut for Australia. Much coveted. First worn in late 1920s. Former captain Steve Waugh venerated the symbol, and required all Australian players to wear their baggy greens in the first session of each test match. Top right: Matilda the winking kangaroo, mascot of the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. The kangaroo has long been an icon for Australian sports; national rugby league team has been known as the Kangaroos since 1908, just after the split with rugby union. Bottom left: Syd, Milly and Olly, the official mascots of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Australian comedians Roy and HG who hosted a daily show during the Games called The Dream rechristened the three ‘Syd, Milly and Dickhead’. They also introduced their own mascot, Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat, who was adopted by some of the athletes and appeared in various medal ceremonies. His fame was such that eventually a statue was erected to him at Sydney Olympic Park. We could see this as an example of Australian irreverence, humour, but also perhaps of the resistance to commercial branding which is so prevalent at the Olympics.
  • In his book Sport in the National Imagination , Richard Cashman discusses the ways in which flags have been used in Australian sport, and by Australian supporters. It is now commonplace to see supporters at sporting contests involving Australians or Australian teams with their faces painted. At some venues, organisers or sponsors provide free face painting, or give out washable tattoos to boost the visual appeal of the event. The Boxing Kangaroo was designed for the 1983 Americas Cup yacht races, in which Australia II defeated the United States thus ending the longest winning streak in sports history – 132 years. The Americas Cup is also the oldest trophy in world sports competition. The Australian victory in 1983 was bankrolled by the billionaire Alan Bond, later jailed for fraud. The Australian Prime Minister of the time, Bob Hawke famously declared that any boss who sacked a worker for taking a day off to celebrate the victory was “a bum”. The bottom picture features Australian Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman who, after winning the 400m at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flags on her lap of honour. The team manager, Arthur Tunstall, rebuked her in public which sparked a broader public discussion of racism in Australian sport, something which the larrikin, egalitarian images of Australian sports people have often effaced. Public opinion and sympathy were with Freeman, and she was given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame at the start of the 2000 Olympics. When she won the 400m at the Sydney Olympics, she became the first Aboriginal person to win a gold medal for athletics. She again took the two flags on her victory lap.
  • Nicky Winmar, St Kilda footballer, raising his shirt in response to racist barracking from the crowd in a match against Collingwood in 1993. This has been described as the most significant day in AFL history by sports historian Colin Tatz, author of Obstacle Race: Aborigines in Sport (Kensington, NSW: UNSW Press, 1995). Winmar's defiant act exposed latent racism in the game; one of his club’s administrators was reported to have said that Indigenous players would be respected “as long as they conducted themselves like white people”. Two years later after another Indigenous player, former Essendon star Michael Long, took a stand against the racial abuse he received from another player (also from Collingwood), there was a move to establish a racial and religious vilification policy which was subsequently adopted by the AFL. There are any number of examples of racism in Australian sport. In 1908 when African American Jack Johnson fought Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, [T]he fight was portrayed in the media as a battle between good and evil, civilisation versus animalism, the brainy Spartan versus the brutish braggart” (Cashman Paradise of Sport: The Rise of Organised Sport in Australia Melbourne: Oxford UP, 1995, p.140). Johnson won. In 1930 when the first West Indian cricket team toured Australia, the seven white members of the team were booked into one hotel, while the 11 black players were booked into another. In 2003, Australian cricketer Darren Lehmann was found guilty of racially abusing the Sri Lankan team. This is just one of many incidents involving leading sports people. Here in Queensland there has been a very public debate about the fate of a stand at a sports ground in Toowoomba, named after an Aboriginal player whose nickname was ‘Nigger’.
  • Sport in Australia

    1. 1. Sport and Australian Popular Culture “…sport [is] the place where we are most aware of ourselves as a people; and when we consider thealternatives there can be few healthier or more benign,more civilised ways in which a nation might discover a sense of itself than at play, at competitive play with friends and neighbours” (David Malouf, 2001)
    2. 2. Sport in Australia Sport is central to Australian popular culture, often referred to as an obsession. ‘Sport occupies the cultural space in Australia that is taken by the monarchy in Britain and by Hollywood in America…It is a highly revered institution (if not a sacred cow) which is felt to characterise the nation’. (David Rowe, cited in McKay et al, Sport and Australian Society) An important site for the construction of national identity.
    3. 3. Sports Attendance (2005-06) 44% (7.1 million) attended at least one sports event 16% attended Aussie Rules 13% attended horse racing 9% attended rugby league 9% attended motor sports Source: ABS 4174.0 Sports Attendance, Australia, 2005-06
    4. 4. Sports Participation 2006Source: ABS 4156.0 Sports and Physical Recreation: A Statistical Overview 2008
    5. 5. Sport and Television Ratings (2008)• Beijing Olympics was the most watched event intelevision history with 17.2 million Australians watchingall or part of the Games• Olympics Opening Ceremony: 3.5 million• NRL State of Origin: over 3 million for each of the threematches• AFL Grand Final: 3.1 million• Twenty/20 Cricket Australia vs India: 2.8 million• Melbourne Cup: 3.1 million
    6. 6. Sport and Television Innovation Narrative Liveness Schedule Commercialism Globalisation Sports Television Television Sports SporTV
    7. 7. ONE sports deals American Football (NFL) Major League Baseball American Basketball (NBA) Australian Rules Football Swimming Australia Netball Australia Nascar Formula 1 Motor Racing Commonwealth Games Indian Premier League cricket
    8. 8. Sports Rights Australian Rules Football Television RightsPeriod Total Fee (Au$) Annual Fee (Au$)1976-1981 (Seven) 3 million 0.5 million1987-1992 (Seven) 30 million 6 million1993-1995 (Seven) 47 million 15.7 million1996-1998 (Seven) 90 million 30 million1999-2001 (Seven) 120-150 million 40-50 million2002-2006 (Nine, Ten, 490 million 98 millionFox Sports)2007-2011 (Seven, 780 million 156 millionTen, Fox Sports)2012-2016 1 billion ?
    9. 9. Summer Olympics rights US$million Australia Europe USA Total (inc. rest of world)1980 1.4 7.2 72.3 100.01984 10.6 22.0 225.0 287.01988 7.4 30.2 300.0 403.01992 34.0 95.0 401.0 636.01996 30.0 248.0 456.0 898.22000 45.0 350.0 705.0 1331.52004 51.0 394.0 793.0 1498.02008 64.0 443.0 894.0 1715.0
    10. 10. Australia’s medal tally 1972-2008 Gold Silver Bronze Total1972 8 7 2 171976 0 1 4 51980 2 2 5 91984 4 8 12 241988 3 6 5 141992 7 9 11 241996 9 9 23 412000 16 25 17 582004 17 16 16 492008 14 15 17 46
    11. 11. The cost of the Olympics Estimated that Australia’s 25 gold medals between 1980 and 1996 cost taxpayers $37 million each. 2007 - $193 million allocated to Australian Sports Commission - $40 million to AIS Should Australia invest so heavily in elite sport??
    12. 12. Olympic Ranking by Gold Medals Year Australia Great Britain 2008 6th 4th 2004 4th 10th 2000 4th 10th 1996 7th 36th 1992 10th 13th 1988 15th 12th 1984 14th 11th 1980 15th 9th
    13. 13. Anti-Siphoning List Broadcasting Services (Events) Notice (No.1) 2004 Free-to-air vs. pay television Rationale Current list 6 monthly report
    14. 14. Questions & issues  What are the main features of Australian sport?  In what ways and why does sport play an important role in Australian culture?  Is Australia a sports-obsessed nation?  What place do the Olympics have in Australian sporting culture and in Australian culture more generally?
    15. 15. Australian sporting myths Naturally good at sport A sports obsessed nation Egalitarian sporting culture
    16. 16. Current Australian WorldChampionsSwimming – 9 and 8 short Water Polo (Women’s) course Basketball (Women’s)Track and Field – 2 outdoors, Lacrosse (Women’s) 1 indoors NetballCricket (one day) Rugby Union SevensReal Tennis (Women’s)Rowing - 4 Surfing (Women’s)Sailing - 2ShootingSquashTouch Football – 2 (Men’s and Women’s)
    17. 17. Characteristics of Australian sport Derivative Distinctive regional variation Barracking/Sledging/aggressive competitors, poor losers Major contribution to international sport Participation influenced by class, gender and race
    18. 18. Sport and nation Sport as a site of identity construction- the role of the media- sporting triumphs become national triumphs & sporting failures become national failures- the ‘imaginary grandstand’ The significance of the Olympic Games
    19. 19. ‘The Coming Australian’ An inordinate love of field sports A very decided disinclination to recognise the authority of parents and supervisors A grievous dislike to mental effort James F Hogan, 1880
    20. 20. The Distinctiveness of the DiggerGeneral Monash, 1920“The democratic institutions under which he was reared, the advanced system of education by which he was trained – teaching him how to think for himself and to apply what he had learnt to practical ends – the instinct of sport and adventure which is his national heritage, his pride in his young country, and the opportunity which came to him of creating a great national tradition”
    21. 21. Cricket and GallipoliTP Bennett, 1915. 2001Source: State Library of Victoria Source: Getty Images and Cricket Australia
    22. 22. Cricket and Australian Popular Culture (1) First team sport – 1803 Sydney Relationship with Britain 1861-2 first tour by English team 1868 first tour to England 1877 first “Test match” Ladies Stand 1882 Ashes Cricket and Federation
    23. 23. Cricket and Australian Popular Culture (2) ‘Our Don Bradman’
    24. 24. Cricket and Australian Popular Culture (3) Bodyline 1932/3 Sledging Bay 13
    25. 25. World Series Cricket 1977-79
    26. 26. Cricket and Australian Popular Culture (4)
    27. 27. Icons and Mascots
    28. 28. Flags
    29. 29. Race and Sport