Four billion people will watch the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games. Three billion people watch the Barclays Premiership annually. The Olympics' audience, as a population, would be greater than that of the biggest 10 countries in the world. So, what is the best way to manage such a global force? Nearly 40% of sport revenues come from sponsorship, which was valued in 2010 at $35bn by PWC. These are the facts of modern sport but not where it started.
'Don't let facts get in the way of good history,' I was once advised by the great historian VHH Green, and The Spirit of the Game doesn't allow that to happen. It is full of salient facts but also shows how sport has developed globally through a blend of design and accident. This makes it a sparkling and illuminating read - reassuringly so when accident wins out against design.
Isn't it well known that modern sport was born on the playing fields of Victorian public schools and inspired by Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School? Well no. In all the books, pamphlets and sermons written by Arnold between 1829 and 1842, not one makes a single reference to sport. It was fiction that dictated the adoption of British sport, through Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's School Days, which popularised it first in Britain and then in the Empire. As Bose suggests, 'the novel's success came from presenting an alluring vision of eternal boyhood'.