AMATEUR (Lat. amator, lover), a person who takes part in any art, craft, game or sport for the sake of the pleasure afforded
by the occupation itself and not for pecuniary gain. Being thus a person for whom the pursuit in question is a recreation and not a business, and who therefore presumably devotes to it a portion only of his leisure and not his working hours, the average amateur possesses less skill than the average professional, whose livelihood and reputation depend on his proficiency, and who therefore concentrates all his energies on the task of attaining the greatest possible mastery in his chosen career. In the arts, such as music, painting and the drama, the best amateurs are outdistanced as executants not merely by the best professionals but by professionals far below the highest rank; and although the inferiority of the amateur is not perhaps so pronounced or so universal in the case of games and outdoor sports, the records of such pastimes as horse-racing, boxing, rowing, billiards, tennis and golf prove that here also the same contrast is generally to be found. Hence it has come about that the term "amateur," and more especially the adjectival derivative "amateurish," has acquired a secondary meaning, usually employed somewhat contemptuously, signifying inefficiency, unskilfulness, superficial knowledge or training.
The immense increase in popularity of athletic contests and games of all kinds in modern times, and especially the keen competition for "records" and championships, often of an international character, have made it a matter of importance to arrive at a clear and formal definition of the amateur as distinguished from the professional. The simple, straightforward definition of the amateur given above has been proved to be easily evaded. Many leading cricketers, for example, preserve their amateur status who, although they are not paid wages for each match they play like their professional colleagues, are provided with an annual income by their county or club under the guise of salary for performing the duties of "secretary" or some other office, leaving them free to play the game six days a week. Similarly, "gentlemen riders" are often presented with a cash payment described as a bet, or under some other pretext. Nor is the dividing-line between "out-of-pocket expenses" allowed to the amateur and the remuneration payable to the professional always strictly drawn. The various associations controlling the different branches of sport have therefore devised working regulations to be observed so far as their jurisdiction extends. Thus the Amateur Athletic Association of Great Britain defines an amateur as "one who has never competed for a money prize or staked bet, or with or against a professional for any prize, or who has never taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of athletic exercises as a means of obtaining a livelihood." The rules of the Amateur Rowing Association are stricter, denying amateur status to anyone who has ever steered or rowed in a race with a professional for any prize, or who is or has been by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan or labourer, or engaged in any menial duty, besides insisting upon the usual restrictions in regard to taking money and competing with professionals. In association football the rules are much more lax, for although amateurs are clearly distinguished from professionals, an amateur may even become a regular member, though unsalaried, of a professional team without losing his amateur status. The Rugby game was, up to 1895, entirely controlled by the Rugby Football Union, which, by the strictness of its laws, effectually prevented the growth of professionalism, but there had been much dissatisfaction in the provinces with the Union's decision against reimbursing day- working players for "broken time," i.e. for that part of their wages which they lost by playing on working days, and this resulted in the formation (1895) of the Northern Union, which permits remuneration for "broken time," but allows no person who works for his living to play football unless regularly employed at his particular trade.
In America the amateur question is less complicated than in Great Britain; but the intensely business-like character of American ideas of sport has encouraged the modern spirit of professionalism. All important sports in America, except baseball, football, cricket, golf and rowing, are, however, under the control of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, the rules of which, so far as they relate to professionalism, are as follows. No person shall be eligible to compete in any athletic meeting, game or entertainment, given or sanctioned by this Union, who has (1) received or competed for compensation or reward in any form for the display, exercise or example of his skill or knowledge of any athletic exercise, or for rendering personal service of any kind to any athletic organization, or for becoming or continuing a member of any athletic organization; or (2) has entered any competition under a name other than his own, or from a club of which he was not at that time a member in good standing; or (3) has knowingly entered any competition open to any professional or professionals, or has knowingly competed with any professional for any prize or token; or (4) has issued or allowed to be issued in his behalf any challenge to compete against any professional or for money; or (5) has pawned, bartered or sold any prize won in athletic competition. It will be seen that by rule 3 the American Union enacts a standard for all athletes not much different from that of the British Amateur Rowing Association. The rules for the sports not within the Union's jurisdiction are practically the same, except that in baseball, cricket and golf amateurs may compete with professionals, though not for cash prizes. In the case of open golf competitions professional prize-winners receive cash, while amateurs are given plate to the value of their prizes as in Great Britain. There are practically no professional football players in America.
On both sides of the Atlantic the question of the employment of professional coaches has occasioned much discussion. In America it has been accepted as legal. In England the same is almost universally true, but there are certain exceptions, such as the decision of the Henley Regatta Committee, that no crew entering may be coached by a professional within two months of the race-day. Whether such a regulation be wise or the reverse is a question that depends upon the spirit in which games are regarded. Nobody wants to disparage proficiency; but if a game is conducted on business methods, the "game" element tends to be minimized, and if its object is pecuniary it ceases to be "sport" in the old sense, and the old idea of the "amateur" who indulges in it for love of the mere enjoyment tends to disappear.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)