Mikhail V. Sinyutin1, Alexander V. Tavrovsky1 & Aleksandr S. Gonashvili2
1Saint Petersburg State University; Sociological Institute of the RAS, Saint Petersburg, Russia
2Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia, and
Uzbek State University of Physical Culture and Sport, Chrchik, Uzbekistan
For modern society, large-scale sports tournaments at the highest level of skill, called sports mega-events, has become an important phenomenon with strong impact om society. In addition to their high professional value, such tournaments affect the public sphere, form public opinion, and become powerful factors of sports socialization. Guided by the experience of studying the transformation of the public sphere in the modern world (Dewey 2002), as well as studies of the mediation and commercialization of the sports public (Rowe 2004), the authors identify the attitude of the sports public to sports mega-events, i.e. to global sports events.
Interest in the presentation of sports in the public sphere through global tournaments has increased in recent decades, as evidenced by studies of almost every significant event from the world of sports in its various social manifestations (Flemming et al. 2017). There is similar interest in Russia (Davydova et al. 2018). However, the public sphere in Russia has specific features that can be demonstrated by the example of the city of St. Petersburg (Sinyutin 2019).
Publicity, which is an integral feature of sports culture, is now strongly influenced by two factors, the media and the market, which significantly change the form of communication, consensus, and conflict around sports events. Therefore, public opinion in one form or another reflects the views of people about the main social agents of the sport.
The purpose of this sociological research study is to identify attitudes of St. Petersburg residents towards sports mega-events and to determine the social structure of their interests as a sports audience.
Research methods and organization
In the course of the empirical study, the authors analyzed the results of a telephone survey of St. Petersburg residents conducted in September–October 2018 by the method of a personal standardized interview on a computer system for conducting telephone surveys, “CATI”. The number of respondents was 1,051 in the quota-stratification sample, and the general population of St. Petersburg is 4.45 million people (Petrostat 2018). The representativeness of the sample is provided by the random selection of telephone numbers from the full zoned array of phones of St. Petersburg residents. The study included 30 questions to respondents, including benchmarks for gender, age, level of education, occupation, income level, the area of residence and the degree of involvement in sports.
Results and discussion
Sociological research has confirmed high interest (about 90%) of Russians in sports tournaments art international level (see figure 1). Moreover, sports mega-events are definitely more popular with women (55.7%) than men (47.6%). Certainty increases with age and is also very high for retirees, housewives, military personnel and those professionally engaged in sports.
Figure 1. Do you think that international sport competitions are popular in Russia? Percentage share.
It turned out that about 60% of respondents do not attend sports competitions and 18.4% do it rarely. The share of regular audience at sports arenas was only 5.4%. This figure is higher for men (5.9%) than for women (5.1%). With age, attendance decreases. Of the occupational categories most frequently encountered in sports, state-owned enterprises (7.3%), temporarily unemployed or unemployed (6.5%), military personnel (28.6%) and public administration workers (28.6%) are singled out. In addition, it was found that among the spectators of sports arenas, the proportion of those who belong to the group with the highest income (15%) and to the group of professionally engaged in sports (31.4%) deviated from the general population.
Almost a third of respondents (32.2%) regularly watches sports on television, 19.3% rarely watches, and 12.7% does not watch. It is noteworthy that while among the regular viewers, men (38%) are more frequent than women (27.6%), in the category of non-regular viewers women (42.1%) are significantly more frequent than men (27.4%). Most people start watching sports TV regularly after 60 years of age (43.5%). In the structure of professional affiliation, military personnel (71.4%) are singled out as the most active viewers, and skilled workers (24.5%) as the least active. As in the situation with visiting sports arenas, the highest proportion of viewers is found among respondents with maximum income (55%) and involvement in professional sports (68.6%).
64.3% of respondents consider themselves sports fans. This percentage share is higher among men (69.8%) than among women (60.2%). As expected, identification with sports fans is strongly related to involvement in sports. Thus, 94.3% of respondents who are professionally engaged in sports, and 86.3% regularly engaged in sports classified themselves in this category. But the highest rate of 100% is found among the military.
The majority of respondents (80%) see international sports tournaments as the competition between nations. Sporting success of the country is most strongly associated with the quality of sports training (52%), the level of state support (45.1%), and sports traditions (41%). Respondents overwhelmingly consider victories of Russian athletes important; very important for 50,1%, rather important for 33,9%, rather unimportant for 6,9%, and absolutely unimportant for 8,1%. Curiously, there is a gender difference in the estimates; for 55.7% of the women, the victory of the Russians is essential, and for 4,9% it is absolutely unimportant, while men showed more indifference (43% and 12.2%, respectively). There is a clearly expressed trend that the importance of Russian victories decreases for respondents with increasing income, and the absolute importance increases with age.
82.9% of respondents support the holding of sports mega-events in Russia; among women (85.6%) this share is higher than among men (79.3%). The level of absolute support increases with age (from 40% for young people to 50% in the elderly) and with the degree of involvement in sports (from 43.2% for non-sports to 65.7% for professional athletes).
In 2018, Petersburgers are satisfied with the performances of Russian athletes in the following sport mega events: FIFA World Cup (81.3%), the Winter Olympic games (74%), the Ice Hockey World Championships (59.2%) (see table 1).
Table 1. Are you satisfied with the quality of the world Cup in Russia? Percentage share.
Respondents’ assessment of the quality of the media coverage of sports mega-events is very high (see figure 2). 80.5% is satisfied with the coverage of the tournaments, while 12.6% is dissatisfied. In the social structure of the surveyed citizens of St. Petersburg, the highest level of satisfaction was noted among employees of state and municipal authorities (71.4%).
Figure 2. Are you satisfied with the quality of media coverage of sports mega-events? Percentage share.
Public opinion in St. Petersburg demonstrates the belief in the dependence of sports mega-events on politics. 73.8% of respondents believe that international tournaments are not free from political influence, while only 21.8% of respondents hold the opposite opinion. A trend has been found that the belief in the political dependence of sport increases with increasing income (from 66.3% to 95%) and with involvement in sport (from 68.9% to 85.7%).
This sociological research study revealed the main trends in the public opinion of St. Petersburg citizens to sport mega events. The interest of respondents in such events was high. A little more than five percent regularly visits stadiums, and about a third of the respondents regularly watches sports broadcasts. However, about sixty-five percent of the townspeople consider themselves to be fans of sports. More than eighty percent of St. Petersburg residents are satisfied with the media coverage of sport mega events. And many (73.8%) are sure that these tournaments are not free from political inflence. The share of those (84%) who perceive the victories of Russian athletes as something important is also high.
In general, the study suggests that the attitude of St. Petersburg residents to sports mega-events is influenced by both socio-structural factors – gender, age, income level, and involvement in sports practices.