Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Shamateurism is an issue which sometimes arises at the elite level of competitive sports which require participants to be amateurs. In some cases it is possible for successful competitors to find people or organisations willing to give them financial rewards for their participation or achievements, making a "sham" of their amateur status.
Until the late 20th century the Olympics nominally only accepted amateur athletes. However, successful Olympians from Western countries often had endorsement contracts from sponsors. Complex rules involving the payment of the athlete's earnings into trust funds rather than directly to the athletes themeselves, were developed in an attempt to work around this issue, but the intellectual evasion involved was considered embarrassing to the Olympic movement and the key Olympic sports by some. In the same era, the nations of the Communist bloc entered teams of Olympians who were all nominally students or working in a profession, but many of whom were in reality paid by the state to train on a full time basis. The first Olympics to officially accept professional athletes was...erm, either 1988 or 1992.
The team sport which has had the greatest problems with shamateurism is probably rugby union. At one time rugby union had been popular with with both the middle and working classes in England yet working class players found it hard to play away games or to cope with injuries. 'Boot money' had long been paid to certain players to help them cope with expenses. The struggle between clubs that supported professionalism and those that supported amateurism came to a head in 1895 when clubs from the North of England broke away to form the Northern Rugby Union (later known as the Rugby Football League), whose rules eventually diverged from the RFU's, forming the sport now known as rugby league.
Rugby union was to officially remain an amateur sport for the next 100 years. This was occasionally strictly enforced as in the famous case of Jock Wemyss who in 1920 was told that he could not be given a Scotland shirt for his second cap since they had given him one six years earlier. In 1931 France was even expelled from the five nations championship following allegations that their domestic league was in fact professional, but without any noticeable changes they were allowed to rejoin just before World War 2. By the 1980s and 1990s there were mounting allegations that the top players were in fact making a living from the game. With the advent of the World Cup and the Tri nations rugby union had become a big TV ratings draw and there were rumours of a Rupert Murdoch-financed breakaway professional league much as had already happened in Australian rugby league. Finally in 1995 the International Rugby Board decided to open the sport to professionals following the World Cup.
English cricket maintained a division between amateur and professional cricketers until 1963, but ways were sometimes found to give the "amateurs" financial compensation, especially after 1945. Cricket even went so far as to have annual "Gentlemen versus Players" games between amateurs and professionals and there were requirements for "players" to refer to "gentlemen" as Mister or Sir whereas "gentlemen" would refer to "players" by their surnames.
The present day
By the early 21st Century the Olympics and all the major team sports accepted professional competitors, so shamateurism is unlikely to be a major issue in the future. However there are still some sports which maintain a distinction between amateur and professional status, with separate competitions for the latter, most prominently golf. Problems can arise in this situation, for example when sponsors offer to help with an amateur's playing expenses in the hope of striking lucrative endorsement deals with them if they turn professional at a later date, but this is perhaps better seen as corruption or simply cheating than as true "shamateurism".
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