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commercialism


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A system of social and economic organization in which financial profit is valued above any other criterion or consideration. In English, from the 16th century, the word ‘commerce’, initially from the French and the Latin, referred to trade, and also to the relationships and deal-making between those who traded. By the mid 19th century, ‘commercialism’ was the noun used for the economic dynamic at the core of the newly industrializing society. The principles of commercialism underpinned the development of professionalized forms of sport, and so came into conflict with those central to amateur conceptions of sport. Debates within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) even as late as the 1980s made reference to commercialism and the threat that it represented to the perceived values of Olympic sport. At the IOC's 86th session in New Delhi in 1983, Polish IOC member Włodzimierz Reczek could still argue that national Olympic committees and international federations should be urged to ‘respect the status of amateurism’ as ‘amateurism was the protection against commercialism’. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) president João Havelange responded that the word ‘amateur’ had been taken out of the Olympic Charter a decade earlier. And the following year the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games confirmed that commercialism could provide a new basis for the economic organization of the Olympic Games. This formal move away from non-profit-making amateur models confirmed the emerging dominance of commercialism in sport: confirmation of unprecedentedly high costs for television rights, and for sponsorship status for top events, consolidated this model. What has been seen as the ‘golden triangle’—of sport, media organizations, and corporate sponsorship—then came to dominate the economic organization of top-level competitive sports, from the Olympics through to the reconstituted European Cup in football, the UEFA Champions League. See also commercialization.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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