BBC Scotland can reveal that nine in 10 elite Scotland athletes are from ‘middle class’ backgrounds. Why on earth would you expect working-class kids to be attracted to athletics when they have the beautiful game?


Am I the only one to think that athletics is about as interesting as school sports? Apart from the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, how many of us watch athletics on TV? As for attending local, regional or even national athletics events in the UK, who goes along apart from relatives and close friends of the competitors or perhaps retired athletes?

BBC Scotland, desperate for bad news as always these days, has dug this information up and seems to be blaming Sport Scotland for neither knowing nor doing anything about this alleged problem. Back in 2014, the BBC seemed to have less enthusiasm for pushing children into elite sports:

‘How elite sport can be a lonely, isolating and vulnerable place.’

Most elite athletes in individual events spend almost all their waking hours, for years, in mindless repetition of the same few actions, either alone or with a coach mercilessly pushing them harder and harder and it’s not at all good for many of them. See this from Frontiers Research in 2016:

‘A growing research base suggests that the high performance environment has the potential to be a risky domain for many elite performers. This evidence has accumulated across disparate topics relating to elite sport including eating disorders among males, post-event depression, stigma towards accessing service provision in psychology and the emergence of organizational stress as a catalyst for mental health challenges in sport systems.’ 

Back to the one in ten not taking part in running, jumping, throwing and balancing, what are they doing instead? Well, the good news is that they, boys and increasingly girls too, are playing the beautiful game, football. I don’t know if top footballers are mostly working-class but judging by the accents and dialects in interviews a reasonable number are.

And, playing football and practising football Is great fun. I’ve done, I’ve seen it and thousands across the country are doing it as often as they can. Football builds teamwork, sharing, friendships, loyalty and even a good sense of humour. Even those who don’t play it, love it, watch it in huge numbers and build friendships around it. As Bill Shankly, former Liverpool Manager, may have said, ‘It’s socialism in action.’ Athletics, to me, is often ‘self-obsessed individualism in action.’ No wonder it can be bad for mental health.

How good is football for all of us? Here’s what the BBC Sport Website has to say:

Why get into football? Simple yet endlessly exciting and dramatic, it’s the most popular sport in the world for a very good reason!
Who is it for? Whatever your age, ability or fitness level, there is a type of football suitable for you.
Is there a cheap option? All you really need to play the beautiful game is a football. Kick around on your own or with friends.
What if I want a proper workout? Joining a weekly five or 11-a-side game increases your fitness and improves your game. Plus it’s a good way to see your mates.
Can I take it to another level? There are leagues galore and it’s very competitive, with professional clubs recruiting players as young as seven.
Is there a disability option? National Associations across Britain are increasingly pro-active in providing disability football options.
Is there a family option? Family Fun Days run throughout the year to encourage families to take part in football-related activities.

Come on the Bairns!


6 thoughts on “BBC Scotland can reveal that nine in 10 elite Scotland athletes are from ‘middle class’ backgrounds. Why on earth would you expect working-class kids to be attracted to athletics when they have the beautiful game?

  1. Clydebuilt January 2, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    Is English athletics getting the same attention from the State Broadcaster……

    Or probably more likely is it a case of Scotland comparing badly with England … the BBC’s eyes (and they want us to think just like them)

    Heard this programme announced during a news bulletin around 10am…..was treated as a news item…… Then not mentioned again for rest of day….


  2. johnrobertson834 January 2, 2017 / 8:54 pm

    Less than 5% of Scots or about 29 000 are fee-paying . In England it’s about 500 000 or, I’m estimating, 16%. Thus higher percentage of elite athletes than Scotland?


  3. Sam January 3, 2017 / 11:17 am

    Just heard a Greenock Morton spokesman on call Kay’s show. They have lots of schemes going, with 1000 kids playing football /sport every week. They even have a Greenock Morton Hockey team and won the Community Team of the year from the SFA, beating teams like Celtic and Aberdeen. What a great example from this club.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. johnrobertson834 January 3, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    Thanks Sam. Good to hear that. I think Hamilton Accies are well-integrated with the local community too. Do you get the appeal of an elite athlete who is utterly self-focused and only jumps or runs or something boring to watch unless its the 100m?


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