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How showing sports on TV is transforming lives

Megan, Homeschool, UK

Thousands of strangers, many linking arms. Most wear scarfs, t-shirts, face paint in the same colour. Chants of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

You know exactly where we are.

Everyday, sport unites and divides us. Watching a Saturday match is something ingrained into our culture. But have you ever stopped to consider how powerful a TV match can be?

After all, there are few things that could glue 30.95 million households to the screen (Euro 2020 Match, BBC figures), propel the composed to riots, and crack the toughest nut into floods of tears.

Just watching a football match can have a physical effect on your body. Yes, that’s right, without even moving from the sofa. A 2017 brazilin study, found that televised games increased heart rate similar to moderate exercise.

This year, a ground-breaking study conducted by researchers at Waseda University, Japan, discovered that individuals who watch sports more often had greater grey matter in brain reward circuits. This is suggesting that by watching sports regularly we can change brain structures and activate increased feelings of enjoyment and belonging.

This clearly tells us that watching sports matters to people. But is it good for us?

A common belief is that sports games lead to crime, but studies have been mixed around this. While football has led to antisocial behaviour, researchers in Chicago found a huge reduction in crime during match times, explained simply because people have ‘something to do’.

For televised football to be a deterrent to crime, shows that we could be undervaluing and underutilizing its power as a society. In the UK, sports has inspired change. Take youth teams set up to reduce knife crime, or charity competitions- countless revolutionary ideas have stemmed from a love of sport.

It is easy to measure how many people have been arrested at a football game, due to passionate fury. Or, to see athletes speaking out about pressures that have led to mental health issues. For an onlooker, it’s not outrageous to want matches should be reduced, or banned, and see sport as negative for society.

However, it is impossible to count how many people have been inspired by live sports to choose a better lifestyle. Or more crucially, a better life path. For example, over 180,000 people who have gone to ParkRun on a Saturday morning, a nationwide event with the ethos that ‘nobody comes last’. As a volunteer at my local run, I cannot compare anything to the joy when people cross that finish line. From competitive kids to older runners who may’ve never taken up sports in their life; there is an energy when people break limits they never thought possible. When you push yourself, there is a fire. It is unstoppable.

How many people have seen Paralympians and felt empowered to see somebody achieving gold, who looks like them? How many people have heard athletes speak out about mental health issues, and felt like they weren’t alone? How many people have bonded over a sports team, and felt part of a community?

In a world obsessed with what you look like, sports celebrate what you can do. All of the negative press can be explained by one thing – losing that sense of togetherness and fun.

I have no doubt that just televising games is changing Britain for the better.

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