More Than a Game: A History of How Sport Made Britain by David Horspool - review by Robert Colls

Robert Colls

The Umpire Strikes Back

More Than a Game: A History of How Sport Made Britain


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We kick off with Chloe Kelly’s goal for England against Germany in the final of the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro at Wembley. The crowd went wild, Kelly ran to the corner flag swinging her shirt above her head and all thoughts turned to 1966. We are told that this was ‘a cathartic moment with very long roots’.

David Horspool’s subject is sport as part of our national imagination and identity. Chapter one dips into medieval tournaments – not exactly international sport in the Kelly shirt-round-your-head style, but we get what he means. He sees the first son of Henry II, Henry the Young King, as a ‘medieval playboy’ and ‘perhaps the first English royal who can accurately be described as sports-mad’.

In chapter two, ‘Horse-Racing’, we move forward five hundred years. The horse and the horseman had been central to gentlemanly values since the early modern period and ‘racing’ (the only sort that mattered) remained the most popular sport in Britain into the 1930s, when football took over. Most

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