Allen Guttmann’s seven-point characterization of modern sport in From Ritual to Record (1978) has arguably been the most useful working definition of sport. It was based on a Weberian “modernization” model of secular, rational, and bureaucratic regulation, which Guttmann defended in the afterword to the 2004 reissued edition of his book. In Les fondaments du système sportif (2014), the French anthropologist Sébastien Darbon reworked Guttmann’s definition to incorporate its stress on rules and organization but giving greater emphasis to the creation of specific sporting spaces and to the role of precise timing, as well as insisting on their interdependence and mutual reinforcement. An activity can only be genuine “sport” when it is part of such a “network.” In a series of historical studies of the origins of British sports, Darbon shows how this new “sports system” involves a complete break with the past in response to new historical conditions.

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