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For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Sports have an important role in Commonwealth culture and society. However during the Puritan Age (1649-1659) sports and almost all leisure activities were restricted or look down as contrary to a virtuous religious life. The relaxing of restrictions under Lord Protector Henry Cromwell bought back the main sports of the countryside in increasing numbers, cricket and ball games.

In the days of leisure (second Tuesday of each month) it became common the practice of ball games and later team sports.

Sports of the British Isles

The British Isles have given birth to a range of major sports including: football, rugby, cricket, golf, netball, darts, croquet, fives (hand-tennis), bowls, modern rowing, hockey, boxing, water polo, snooker and curling. The origins of tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash and billiards are disputed with France were similar games developed. Modern Polo and badminton, originally from India, are also a played.

Sports were mostly encouraged by preachers as remedies to the ills of drinking, idleness and vagrancy. Gambling being under all means prohibited. although in cricket, the major sports of the late 18th century was considered "profane" if played on the Sabbath, especially if large crowds and/or gambling were involve. Parliament had to enact several laws restricting betting and capacity of cricket grounds.

Also class lines are a source of preference, for example hunting, cricket, horse riding, polo, golf, billiard, tennis and their variants are mostly played by the upper classes. Thought some forms of racket-ball became popular among the middle and working classes like table tennis, frontball or fives (also called wall-ball and hand-tennis)[1] and squash.

Cricket

Albert Chevallier Tayler - Kent Vs Lancashire 1906

Kent vs Lancashire at Canterbury. 1906 New County Championship. By Albert Chevallier Tayler

Cricket received official sanction by Lord Protector James Scott and started the division of teams between gentlemen (amateurs) and professionals (paid players). Fixtures between Gentlemen versus Players became more common. The professional matches or tests became an important gambling event along horse races and wrestling. The building of the Lord's Cricket Ground in 1782 under the patronage of Lord Protector FitzRoy, marked the beginning of the Old County Championships, the Professional Tests Series, and the national cricket tests. During the European Revolutionary Wars (1790-1810) and as a means to encourage patriotism it became common the assistance of Lord Protectors Leveson-Gower and Spencer to the first and last game at the Lord's Cricket Ground. Becoming a custom that the opening day of the finals of the Professional Tests Series and the national cricket tests have the public assistance of the Lord Protector/Lady Protectress.

Golf

Others like Lord Protector John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville promoted and played golf making it the sport of the ruling and mercantile elites by definition.

Harrison Fisher Fore 1909

Rosaline Spearing. Professional golfer. Three times winner of the English Ladies Open and Five times champion of the Professional Ladies Tournament Series.

Upper class women organized the first female sports governing bodies of the Commonwealth, the Ladies' Golf Union (LGU, 1883) and a year later the Scottish Ladies' Golf Association (SLGA, 1884). Both bodies, in England and Scotland, are in charge of the general promotion and administration of women's amateur and professional golf activities and registry.

The British Golf Unions became the federation of all women and men Home Nations organizations. The Society of St Andrews Golfers and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers the governing bodies.

Team Sports

However the main team sports and the ones that have professional leagues, major popularity and large fan base are: football, rugby and cricket. Of these three cricket is the oldest one becoming well-established among the English upper class in the 18th century. It became a national game in the 18th century. By the 19th century football and rugby were develop in their current forms and rules of game. These two become by large the most played team sports by the lower and working classes in the Commonwealth. There are regional differences in popularity and development for example rugby and frontball being mostly popular in Ireland and Wales. Some like shinty are played only in Scotland and northern England.

Boys playing handball at a handball court in Ireland in the 1930s (5774774659)

Welsh school boys playing frontball (aprox. 1900s)

Football and rugby were introduced and adopted in Europe and the rest of the world by Commonwealth expatriates, military personnel, railroad workers and overseas university students.

The physical culture movement that originated during the 19th century in France, Scandinavia and Western Germany exalted the virtues of athletics and gymnastics in the education of boys and girls. Following likewise school athletics and gymnastics were introduced in the national school program as part of physical education practices.

Prior to the mid 19th century sports activities for women were recreational rather than sport-specific in nature. The emerge of modern team sports (i.e. rugby and football) and changes in the national school programs that put physical education for both girls and boys, encouraged the participation of women in sports activities. Football, rugby and cycling became important sources of leisure in the leisure days and weekends for working class women. Middle class women and female clerical workers began practicing table tennis, frontball and swimming among the most important ones.

Sports Governing Bodies and Sports Leagues

Cricket

The Cricket Conference
Cricket pictogram
Headquarters London, Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
International Cricket Conference (ICC)

The Cricket Conference (CC) is composed of the representatives from the National Cricket Association (NCA, England and Wales), Scottish Cricket Union and Irish Cricket Union.

Women's cricket is under a different organization and ruling bodies.

Its international body is the International Cricket Conference (ICC) composed of the representatives from the National Cricket Association (NCA England and Wales), Scottish Cricket Union, Irish Cricket Union, West Indies Cricket Board and Australian Cricket Board. The ICC was established for the formulation of rules and regulations which govern the international matches between the member associations.

Football

Association Football Board (AFB)
Soccerball shade
Headquarters London, Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland

The Association Football Board (AFB) is composed of the British representatives from the Football Association (FA), Scottish Football Association (SFA), Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Irish Football Association (IFA). Is has as associate members the Channel Islands Football Association and Isle of Man Football Association.

  • British League Cup
  • The Football Association Challenge Cup
  • Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup
  • Welsh Football Association Cup
  • Irish Football Association Challenge Cup

The Women's Commonwealth Football Association (WCFA) is the governing body of women's football in the Commonwealth. It organizes an annual championship, the County Football Associations Challenge Trophy and the Scottish Women's Football Cup.

Level England Scotland Ireland Wales Commonwealth
1 Football League (First Division) Scottish Football League Welsh Football League Division One, League of Ireland First Division
2 Football League Second Division Scottish Football League Division Two Welsh Football League Division Two League of Ireland Second Division
3 County Football Leagues Highland and Lowlands Football Leagues Welsh Football League Division Three 4 provincial Football Leagues
4

British Home Championship
Region Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
Number of teams 5
Current champions English National Home Team
Most successful team English National Home Team (54 titles)

The British Home Championship is a semiannual football competition contested between the Commonwealth's five home national teams: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Home Islands Combination (joint team of the Isle of Man and Channel Islands). It is the oldest international football tournament.


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Commonwealth (British) National Team
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English National Home Team
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Scottish National Home Team
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Irish National Home Team
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Welsh National Home Team
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Home Islands Combination Team

Rugby

International Rugby Football Board (IRFB)
Ru ball marron
Headquarters London, Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland

The International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) is composed of the British representatives from the (English) Rugby Football Union (RFU), Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). Is has as associate member the Channel Islands Rugby Association. The Manx Rugby Football Union is affiliated to the Rugby Football Union and its rugby league. The clubs of the Channel Islands take part in the English rugby leagues.

The British Women's' Rugby Union (BWRU) is the governing body for women's rugby union in the Commonwealth.

Level England Scotland Ireland Wales Commonwealth
1 National First Division Scottish National League Division One All-Ireland League Welsh Championship
2 National Second Divisions (North and South) Scottish National League Division Two Irish Provincial Leagues

Inter-provincial Championship

North and South Division
3 County Divisions Scottish Regional League Divisions (Lowlands and Highlands) Irish County Leagues County Divisions
4

Home Nations Championships
Region Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
Number of teams 5
Current champions English National Home Team

The Home Nations Championships is a semiannual rugby competition contested between the Commonwealth's five home national teams: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Channel Islands. It is the oldest international rugby tournament.


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British National Rugby Team
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English National Rugby Team
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Scottish National Rugby Team
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Irish National Rugby Team
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Welsh National Rugby Team
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Channel Islands Rugby Team

Athletics and Gymnastics

National Physical Recreation Society
Abbreviation NPRS
Motto civium vires civatis vis
Type sports governing body
Purpose/focus Promotion and organization of athletics and gymnastics
Location London (Commonwealth)
Official languages English
Main organ Council

The National Physical Recreation Society was founded with the purpose of promoting and organizing athletics and gymnastics in the Commonwealth.

British Olympic or multi-sports events tradition can be traced back to the annual Cotswold Olimpick Games that began around 1612, suspended in 1642 during the British Civil Wars and revived in 1664. Making them older than the French Olympiads (L'Olympiade de la République) that had its first edition in 1797.

Before the NPRS the Commonwealth lacked a governing body for the athletic and gymnastic disciplines and sports. The establishment of the NPRS was done having as models and examples the French Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques (USFSA) and the German West Deutscher Ausschuß für Leibesübungen (WDAfL).


For a more general treatment and outside the Commonwealth ::See also Sports


  1. The modern variation of fives that is played like Basque pelota. It is played by two players using a gloved or bare hand, a rubber ball and against a wall (frontis or fronton).
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