Violence and Aggression in Sporting Contests

Volume 4 of the series Sports Economics, Management and Policy pp 11-26


A Brief History of Violence and Aggression in Spectator Sports

  • R. Todd JewellAffiliated withUniversity of North Texas Email author 
  • , Afsheen MotiAffiliated withUniversity of North Texas
  • , Dennis CoatesAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Sporting contests have provided mass entertainment throughout history. Ancient Mesoamericans had their ball games, the Greeks had the Olympic Games, and the Romans had many spectator sports such as gladiatorial contests and chariot races. As pointed out by George Orwell in the mid-twentieth century quote above, present-day versions of these ancient sports provide entertainment for passionate spectators, and they tend to be heavily influenced by financial issues. However, it is unlikely that Orwell could have foreseen the economic impact that this “heavily-financed activity” would have in the twenty-first century. Plunkett Research (2010) reports that the US sports industry generated over $400 billion in gross revenues during 2010, with the big four US professional leagues generating almost $22 billion. As a point of comparison, the entire US movie industry generated less than $10 billion in revenues in 2010, making it only slightly larger in gross revenues than the National Football League (NFL).