Democratizing of Sport

Fergus Suter was a stone breaker living in Glasgow Scotland. He was also a star football player now known as soccer. Times were tough and work as a stone breaker was hard to come by. Fergus moved to England to find other work but quickly gave up his pursuit. He had another source of income.

Football was a game for the wealthy, and players were not paid since they had other wealth to rely upon. The Football Association (FA) was controlled by the privileged, who formed their own rules. Working class teams were formed, but had limited success against the teams of privilege. Fergus Suter was about to change that.

The real reason that Fergus was to move to England was to play for a team at Darwen. The Darwen team was a working-class team, but its sponsor was willing to pay Fergus and his colleague, Jimmy Love, to play for them. They became the first professional athletes in football and possibly any sport. The two paid players helped Darwen become the first working-class team to qualify for the championship competition.

Desperate to support his mother and sisters, Fergus moved to a rival club when its sponsor offered him more money. Obviously, this wasn’t well received.

A riot broke out between the fans of Fergus’ former club and his new one. The FA was aghast at the changing nature of the sport. While Fergus never won a championship, he was instrumental in changing the rules of the game. The game of football could no longer ban teams with paid professionals.

Football was transformed from a game for the privileged to a game where anyone with talent could participate and be paid for their participation. Football offered an opportunity for everyone to earn a living if they were good enough. Those of privilege who didn’t need income from football could no longer dominate the rules.

Sports of all types have followed football’s path. The stars in virtually every sport have come from humble beginnings. Fergus Suter also helped break down other aspects of society. Over time sports would lead the way in breaking down racial barriers and cracking the window of gender inequality. Fergus Suter became a hidden hero in breaking down a part of the class society in Britain and led the way for democratizing society.

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“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” – Pelé

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