Sport has become one of the major codifiers of ‘soft power’ – the way in which states and organisations express their global influence outside of traditional military or economic might. Witness, for example, the Chinese efforts to engage with the world using table and lawn tennis, and finally the Olympic games. How we got from kickabouts on Victorian fields to this very 21st century state of affairs is the basis of eminent sports journalist Mihir Bose’s new book, which begins by noting the strange influence of Thomas Arnold’s 1857 novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays on promoting a kind of moral and religious code on the playing of games. Bose tracks how that zeal transformed into something more powerful and universal, taking in everything from the 1995 South African rugby world cup victory which seemed to unite an uncertain nation, to the strange tale of Coca-Cola, which went from ‘capitalist drink’ to global beverage by allying itself with the right sports. It’s a huge undertaking, and Bose, as you’d expect from the former BBC Sports Editor, knows his stuff. But at almost 600 pages its encyclopedic feel is daunting and somewhat dry – The Spirit Of The Game does a better job of tying myriad themes together than it does telling a new story.