chapter  1
8 Pages

Sport and citizenship: introduction

ByMatthew Guschwan

What is citizenship? Wemight define citizenship as a status that allows a person to ‘participate with their fellow citizens in making the collective decisions that regulate social life’.1 This notion of citizenship is neither timeless nor universal. It requires democratic participation in government that distinguishes a citizen from a ‘royal subject’ who lacks formal political agency. Even if we accept the definition of citizenship mentioned above, problems start to emerge once we start questioning the grounds upon which a polity has the right to grant (and revoke) citizen status. More troubling still is the question of what it really means to participate. The roots of citizenship go back to the origins of Athenian democracy and the right of a citizen to participate directly in decisions of public concern. The significance of citizenship was quite clear – one could speak and be heard in public debate and thus be an active party in the distribution of communal resources and the construction of law. The ideal of Athenian participatory democracy remains with us even while we reject their exclusion of any person who was not a landholding Athenian male. The Romans expanded citizenship to the peoples they conquered, thus expanding their dominion over broad stretches of the known world. Their more expansive notion of citizenship served strategic, rather than ethical, imperatives. In exchange for taxes, citizens were considered equal under the law and were given military protection, but these citizens were not allowed to participate in political debates in Rome. The Greeks give us a participatory model of political citizenship, while the Roman model lasts as a more passive legal form of inclusion without political representation.