This is an article about the concept of sports in the cultural context. The focus here is not on any specific sport or a sporting event, but on looking at sport in a holistic manner and integrating it into the larger socio-cultural dimension.
Sports are said to have a more potent influence than education on public taste and awareness. The education system may be likened to a dynamic process involving various parties, linked to diverse segments of society, exerting their respective influence.
The institution of education supervises and directs this process for the furtherance of development, stability and civilization.
Engaging the spectator
However, the focus of sports institutions until now has not been so engaging. They have concentrated more on the technical and infrastructure related aspects - such as the building of stadiums, raising teams and organizing competitions, etc. Adequate attention has not been given to building frameworks that stimulate public interaction and engagement with sports, in order to improve performances and their outcomes.
Herein lies the big problem. The sports media reaches out to the spectator but is not managed by it. Its interaction creates issues that affect public awareness and overlooks sports enthusiasm.
As for the sports in Saudi Arabia today, new organizations have started regulating sports performances to make them more professionalYahya Al-Amir
Sports institutions have been busy dealing with issues related to sports media without focusing on the spectator (the consumer), which is the most important element in the business of sports. It is the spectator whose involvement is needed in the awareness, building and development of sports.
As for the sports in Saudi Arabia today, new organizations have started regulating sports performances to make them more professional and sophisticated. I believe that the first important step in this regard was initiated by the Sports Authority, after being headed by Counselor Turki Al-Sheikh, related to the sports media.
It has not restricted nor confined its role, but has redirected it to a more effective one, by removing it from the realm of conflicts, which had started affecting the psyche of the public.
Audience no longer mere consumer
This is the first time for Saudi Arabia to witness a real public participation and accountability in sports, which will contribute to changing the attitude toward sports through the ‘Support your Club’ initiative.
The important change introduced by this initiative lies in the fact that the spectator has now become a partner, making his role more than just engaging in his own discussions about the importance and excellence of their club.
The spectator can now openly cheer his team in the league matches and so the display of support by fans has become different today. Although this initiative has not generated huge revenues for the clubs, it has made a serious shift in the sports’ culture.
While earlier Saudi sports media was only involved in covering daily matches, or in engaging in debates and exchanging views on the glories of the past etc., they had relegated the spectator to the status of a consumer.
Today, that reality is changing with the establishment of a more developed cultural and interactive medium. What we saw on Rotana Gulf channel on Monday in a football program provides an example of this transformation wherein its true values found elegant expression, involving the chief, the players and the media. The interview laid the foundation of a new idiom and new level of awareness.
Sport nowadays is no longer matches, goals and media discussions, it has become a crucial and essential part of development and awareness process. It reflects the public engagement and culture and is an important factor in effecting change.
Yahya al-Amir is a Saudi writer with Okaz newspaper and a media consultant.