Back To The Notion Of Diffusion


If the question of the definition of sport obviously remains problematic, that of broadcasting has not aroused the same opposition. On the other hand, a consensus has been established to redefine its uses.

In his contribution, Tony Collins stresses that the term diffusion immediately refers to a “natural” or “organic” process which does not do justice to the complexity of the dimensions at work, and in particular to the importance of conscious actions taken by the promoters of a given practice. Using the example of the diffusion of rugby beyond its initial home (the small circle of British males brought up within a private education system reserved for social elite).

He shows that the positions ideologies of those responsible for the game had a considerable influence, whether it was the period of “emulation” (in the wake of the principles of muscular Christianity, so well represented in the action of T.Tom Brown’s Schooldays ), from that of “evangelization” among the working classes (which aimed to instill in the masses rules of conduct – team spirit, fair play , attitudes worthy of a gentleman  – in order to better overcome social divisions ), or that of its development as a mass sport from the end of the 19th century . In this last stage, he emphasizes the fact that the leaders of rugby, worried about the “excesses” of the game (mainly linked to professionalization and commercialization, soccer representing in this case a foil), have contrived to revalorize the moral dimension.

 In this perspective, two types of strategies were implemented:

On the one hand the reaffirmation of the intangible principles of amateurism – which led to the rupture of 1895 between the Northern Rugby Union and the Rugby Football Union, then to the exclusion from the international concert, a few decades later, of a French rugby considered to be not very respectful of these principles -, on the other hand the enactment of rules of the game (and in particular those governing penalties) establishing a moral framework of discipline and punishments well suited to discourage the working classes. In other words, ideological rigor was here preferred to dissemination.

More generally, it is the question of “intentionality” (individual or emanating from groups or institutions) that emerged from certain contributions depicting dissemination processes. Here again, the accent was placed on the diversity of the situations encountered. Some highlight collective or individual desires to broadcast a sport (or not to broadcast it, as in the case analyzed by Tony Collins), others provide the example of 무료스포츠중계 carried out (or missed) without the slightest intentionality – thus referring rather to the “natural/organic” process denounced above. But most often it is a complex mixture of these trends, which it is essential to analyze “in context”.

The example of the India is enlightening from this point of view. In the early days of colonization, the dominant trend was that of exclusivism and interpersonality: the British were particularly reluctant to favor a specifically Indian practice of cricket insofar as it constituted concentrate values ​​of Victorian culture and society.

Another cleavage to take into account, which makes the analysis more

 Some colonial administrators – like Lord Curzon, Viceroy from 1899 to 1905, or Lord Harris, Governor of Bombay from 1890 to 1895 – did a lot of work, sometimes vigorously, to facilitate the practice of cricket among the Indians. But, on the one hand, they have above all contributed to structuring it on community bases (the Pent angular Tournament, opposing Europeans to Parsis, Hindus, Muslims and the category called The Rest which included Anglo-Indians, Christianized Indians and Jews, constituting the most obvious illustration); and, on the other hand, the beginnings of cricket in India owe a great deal to the tenacious involvement of the Parsis who were mainly grouped in the Bombay region. Thereafter – and especially between the two wars – the attitude of the British will change: in the concern to ensure the support of the princes and to associate them with the colonial policy, by giving them the impression that they have access at decision-making centres, cricket will be deliberately used as an integration tool.

We can only mention here the exemplary case of Sri If we add to the table the rejection of rugby by the Indians, because of incompatibility between certain constraints linked to the caste system and the requirements of a sport which gives a prominent place to bodily promiscuity, the Indian case, which is far from being isolated, illustrates well all the complexity and the limits of intentionality in terms of dissemination. Other essential influences have been mobilized in certain contributions, such as for example the formal properties of each sport considered – but we will come back to this theme at greater length later.


The question of the identification of “what is diffused” joins that, often evoked in echo of Gavin Kitching’s questions, of the pitfall of “nominalism”. In his rich and subtle analysis of the practice of “football” in the North East of England in the mid-Victorian period, Gavin Kitching observes that the games to which young people devoted them passionately under the name “association football” or “rugby football” hardly corresponded to those they practiced some twenty years later under the same name. In other words, a game can have the “same name” in two different periods without being the “same game”.

For the historian, the matter becomes more complicated if one of the periods used for comparison is the current period: the risk is then that, misled by the similarity of denomination, he projects into the past (in this case the years 1870-1890) what he knows of contemporary practice. This remark is all the more relevant when it comes to practices in the transformation phase, at the crossroads between “athletic games” and “sports”, the first codifications being far from covering all aspects of the game and still leaving much room for interpretation.


An essential dimension of the diffusion process has been highlighted in an exemplary way by the contribution of Frédéric Saumade, relative to the confrontation, on American soil, of Hispanic and British imperialism: that of the permanent “system of transformations” in which bullfighting practices and sporting practices have come to be included, of which the rodeo is a remarkable illustration. In this particular context at least, we are not in the presence of an evolutionary model (whether of the Eliasian type or not), marked by the linear application of a “normative and fixed grid”, but on the contrary of a set of reciprocal cultural interactions and influences, in a “composite structure where bodily performance is closely combined.

By Master James

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