Agenda: How sport can awaken solidarity at work

WORK communities in the UK have a long and proud history of sport. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, millions of former rural workers migrated to the expanding cities in search of work in mills, factories and docks. At the end of the workday, men needed ways to stay fit, relaxed and connected. So sports, alongside music and comedy, emerged as an ideal way to achieve this.

Some teams, such as those formed by the workers of an ammunition factory in Woolwich, organized themselves afterwards. Today, this club is known as Arsenal FC, one of the most famous football institutions in the world.

While most teams were and remained community efforts, they became no less important than Arsenal to the fabric of local society. They provided a unique, egalitarian and self-determined group that – by definition – relied on mutual effort, teamwork and understanding to succeed.

Places like Twechar, Lochore and Easthouses had teams organized by local workers’ associations, giving communities a chance to bond through friendly competition.

Bill Shankly, Liverpool’s manager, came from the mining town of Glenbuck near Muirkirk in Ayrshire. Those who knew him best say Shankly’s ability to inspire his players and the entire city of Liverpool was forged into a community defined by its togetherness in work and sport.

Hundreds of towns across Scotland and the north of England were built on the backs of the coal, steel and manufacturing industries. As these are now consigned to history, it is important that the community solidarity that spawned Bill Shankly and his ilk is not lost either.

Our new campaign to get table tennis in the workplace continues a proud working class tradition. We will be offering businesses across Scotland the opportunity to order table tennis equipment at a reduced rate to encourage teamwork, togetherness and mental acuity.

Table tennis is a great way to stay sharp and maintain fitness and players can participate at their own pace as they come in and play. This game has proven its potential to improve hand-eye coordination; reduce joint pain; burn calories and improve your brain health.

In addition to these benefits, it’s a social sport designed for making new friends and having a good laugh. Just as their predecessors did in the past, we hope today’s workers can take time for each other to relax and bond.

In Scotland, 8% of the workforce works in manufacturing and 8% in construction. In 1985, these industries employed 32% of the male workforce. Today, health and social; retail and education have the largest workforces at over 23%.

The working classes of today are found in hospitals, schools, stores and offices. Many of them shout for entertainment; unifying and engaging hobbies at work.

Richard Yule, Chief Operating Officer of Table Tennis Scotland

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