This paper argues that Stefan Szymanski’s theory that formal associativity in terms of British clubs and societies during the eighteenth century was the key factor in the spread of sport has been overstated. It was wagering, most especially the high-stakes “wagers” between wealthy individuals on sporting contests, stemming from notions of politeness, civility, and honor that generated media coverage, wider spectator interest, a larger betting market, and growing numbers of events, increasingly on a commercial basis. Wagering encouraged the development of sporting regulations to create “fair play” in gambling terms and to avoid subsequent disputes. Formal clubs and societies followed from this, but few were created before the 1760s. Later clubs were largely exclusive in membership terms, placed restrictions on play, and enjoyed dining (and drinking) as much as sport. The informal associativity around gambling was much more important.


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pp. 1-17
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