Saturday, 21st February 2015

by Joshua Gaskell

Amateurism is the approach to an activity that insists it must be undertaken for love rather than money (from the Latin amare, ‘to love’). The amateur code in sport excluded professionals, i.e. anyone who had accepted monetary benefit from his or her participation or had ever played with or against a professional. The arguments against professionalisation (in the case of football) were that

the nature of a voluntary leisure activity would be corrupted by turning it into a business; professionalism would undermine the survival of all but larger, wealthier clubs and so threaten local rivalries; professionalism would destroy amateurism because the latter would not be able to compete on equal terms; professionalism would produce an overemphasis on winning at any cost; the football professional was not really a ‘professor’ at all, having no teaching responsibilities. (A Dictionary of Sports Studies)

In football and other major sports the gentleman–amateur is now extinct; and the International Olympic Committee abolished verified amateurism as a system of eligibility in the 1970s. Ironically, given its origin in the nineteenth century, the one arena in which the amateur ideal lives on is a certain blush-making genre of worldwide website.

No gentlemen though.