Foul Play: What's Wrong With Sport, by Joe Humphreys

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The Independent Culture

This is a deeply irritating book. The author sets out to prove that sport, contrary to received wisdom, exerts a malign influence on competitors, supporters and society as a whole. So far, so intriguing; the problem is that Mr Humphreys makes a total pig's ear of his self-imposed task. When he is not making wild generalisations – "There is little research in this area, but it's hard to see how regular sports-viewing wouldn't impair human intelligence" – he is often just plain wrong: for instance Dr Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, did many things, but he did not "invent" rugby union.

Just as annoying are his frequent parenthetical asides, which range from the smart-arse to the totally baffling: "In fact, no analyst today worth his salt (and it is still generally 'his' salt) will limit his comments to match tactics..." Eh? And we've only got through the first 50 pages. Struggle on to the end, and the final words are: "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" Amen to that.

Published by Icon Books in paperback, £8.99

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