From Gambol to Gamble and Back Again

I have been thinking about gambling and drinking recently.

Not as personal life choice but …

I have been wondering what I can do to support initiatives that mitigate the effects of both activities.

I believe profoundly in the cultural benefits of play and note that ‘to gambol’ is ‘to jump about in play’.

There has been considerable debate in Australia about the growing presence of betting messages on televised sporting events. This involves a different kind of ‘gamble’.

At a press conference on the 27 May held to report events at the COAG Select Council on Gambling, Stephen Conroy said:

… all of the Ministers have agreed that we should put forward proposals, ultimately possibly legislation, to reduce and control the promotion of in-game betting. There’s a very insidious culture starting to develop that is targeting the vulnerable and the young as they’re attending sporting events, as they’re watching on television sporting events, and all Ministers felt that this was a very necessary step for the Commonwealth to take.

There are a variety of issues that we will seek to have discussions with the industry about, to discuss the scope of this. And all Ministers also agreed the racing industry should be exempt from this process as the betting goes to the whole integrity of what the racing industry does, how it raises it funds, how it provides its money. So racing is exempt and all Ministers were very in agreement on that. So we’re going to give the broadcasting industry twelve months to resolve these issues, to introduce self-regulation. And if they are not able to or are unwilling to, we will be introducing legislation dated from today, the start date will be today, to reduce and control the promotion of live betting odds.

Three days later (30 May) DrinkWiseAustralia announced the establishment of a partnership with the Sport Australia Hall of Fame to develop the Under Your Influence campaign “that picks up on the crucial role parents and other influential adults play as role models”. The campaign has seven sporting ambassadors and more information about John Bertrand, Robert de Castella, Liz Ellis, Mike McKay, Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Andrew Rochford, and Sue Stanley’s participation can be found here.

I think both announcements are very important. Some sports receive significant income from gambling and alcohol sponsorship. Given the importance attached to sport as a character-building activity and its potential to embody moral education, I believe that any attempt to bring the gambol back into play is to be welcomed.

The alternative is to accept that some play has become display and spectacle and to accept a completely different rationale for sporting behaviour. If we do accept the display and spectacle argument and move to a different form of activity then, as Norbert Elias suggested in The Civilizing Process, societies must be vigilant about the thresholds to repugnance that characterise them.


This post was written on International Children’s Day. It is interesting to note that Wikipedia has the following entry for Australia: “Children’s Day is the second Sunday in July, but is not widely known or celebrated”.

Photo Credit

Boys playing basketball outside


Play and Display

Two items this week have prompted me to think again about Gregory P. Stone’s distinction between play and display (American Sports: Play and Dis-Play, in Eric Larrabee and Rolf Meyersohn (eds.), Mass Leisure. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1958. See too his discussion of wrestling, 1971).

The ABC reported that “Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade says he would not be surprised if AFL opponents were eavesdropping on his match-day coaching instructions.” The report notes that “While other clubs use more secure digital communications system that are encrypted, the Bulldogs have a cheaper analogue system, which Eade said needed upgrading.” Rodney Eade is quoted on the subject of technological vulnerability:

You know that it goes on, so I think as a club and organisation we’ve got to now work ways that it can’t be listened into. On grand final day, you’d hate to think it would cost you a game when a move was predicated and actually didn’t give you the advantage you hoped.

In a second report, the ABC noted that “New Zealand-born photographer Scott Barbour has been banned by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) from covering the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup build-up after he deliberately exposed the team’s game plan.” His image “of coach Graham Henry holding the team’s tactical move was reproduced in Australian media outlets.” The NZ Herald analysed the moves in detail.

The ABC report suggests that “All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen described Barbour’s actions as a “breach of trust”, saying he broke an “unwritten rule” by photographing the blueprint displaying moves from lineouts and scrums.” A TVNZ post quotes Steve Hanson: “With any breach of trust you take your time and talk about it. It’s not the end of the world. We will deal with that in our own way.”

Reading both these reports I wondered how these experiences help us clarify:

  • What constitutes fair play?
  • What role should (any) technology play in sport?
  • How skilful can we be in he art of off-field disclosure?
  • What role on-field deception should play?
  • Will the call for fairness off the field be reciprocated on the field of play?

Photo Credits

Listening to Podcasts on a Mobile Phone

Photographing the Photographer