What makes a racket sport aristocratic? This is question we find pressing given the puzzle as to whether tennis counts as a sport for the rich. The contributions to this puzzle comes threefold. One is the fact that tennis and squash used to be considered an aristocratic sports - its modern variants having originated in the elite preparatory schools of England and played initially by the landed wealthy. The second contribution is the fact that tennis and squash are now widely accessible and increasingly played by people of all classes. The commonly thrown about reason in Singapore that tennis is a rich man's sport because tennis can only be played in expensive country clubs or condominiums does not hold. The third reason is that people in compete these sports are usually from wealthy backgrounds. This raises the question of how exactly to define a sport as aristocratic: should the ability to afford proper training in the sport be a factor or should it be ignored for the sole concentration on simply the ability to play the sport as a factor? Lets read on to find out.
The affordability question
We believe that the biggest factor in determining how aristocratic a sport is is the affordability one. Does the price of playing the sport allow only 3% or less of a country or society's population play it. This, we must keep in mind is a very narrow scope because the word 'aristocratic' actually denotes a sense of poshness to a very exclusive degree, and having taken that in mind one can have a sense of how liberal the 3% definition is. Given the difference in average living standards for different countries, a sport considered aristocratic in one country can be considered un-aristocratic in another one. In Singapore for instance, according to our calculations at least 35% of the population can afford to play tennis once a week. Whereas in somewhere like East Timor, tennis is probably restricted to only 0.05% of the population. Tennis in Singapore is thus definitely not aristocratic!
The class question
We believe this to also be a very strong factor in determining how aristocratic a sport is, despite the superficiality of it. How aristocratic a thing is after all not determined by any hard factor(s) - for instance how much wealth someone has - but soft intangible qualities that cannot be empirically sourced out. What makes something aristocratic is its being associated with a quality (or qualities) of exclusivity which money can buy but does not necessarily lead to. Words which closely describe these qualities are 'luxury', 'elite' and 'class'. Tennis in this sense is highly aristocratic - just compare the brand names which occupy the stands surrounding a tennis court hosting a professional tennis match, with the brand names which can be found in camera-view of a professional badminton match. You have the likes of Rolex, or Mercedes-Benz for tennis and many unknown industrial supplier companies for the badminton matches. In this sense, the World Tour Finals received a downgrade when Barclays got replaced by Nitto as the event's main sponsor.
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