Show Me The Money!

Introduction:

For this take in the #BATTLEROYALE , I want to talk about money in sport. The initial idea for this piece was an analysis of the record transfer fees in the football/soccer world especially the English Premier League which would be the one I would know the most about. As I was fleshing the idea out, it broadened to a couple of points, (1) How the fees continued to rise even against the backdrop of financial recession? (2) How the clubs behaved? (3) How the stars of sports, music and acting seemed to be insatiable, always wanting more even much more than they could possibly want in a lifetime (4) How there seems to be a problem with giving young people lots of money and fame - A lot of them end up behaving very badly as we saw with Ryan Lochte's frat boy behaviour in Rio and his lies catching up with him, losing him all his endorsements.

(1) Transfer Records :- The backdrop for this take is the progression of the transfer records in British football/soccer.

British Transfer Records -

1893 Willie Groves West Brom To Aston Villa £100
1905 Alf Common Sunderland To Middlesbrough £1,000
1922 Syd Puddefoot West Ham To Falkirk £5,000
1928 David Jack Bolton To Arsenal £10,890
1955 Eddie Firmani Charlton To Sampdoria £35,000
1957 John Charles Leeds United To Juventus £65,000
1961 Denis Law Manchester City To Torino £100k
1977 Kevin Keegan Liverpool To Hamburg £500k
1979 David Mills Middlesbrough To West Brom £516k
1979 Trevor Francis Birmingham City To Notts Forest £1.1 mill
1995 Stan Collymore Notts Forest To Liverpool £8.5 mill
1996 Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers To Newcastle £15 mill
1999 Nicolas Anelka Arsenal To Real Madrid £22.5 mill

2008 Robinho Real Madrid To Man City £32.5 mill
2009 C. Ronaldo Man United To Real Madrid £80 mill
2016 Paul Pogba Juventus To Man United £90 mill


The quite interesting thing I notice here is that the eras that I definitely know to be recessions in Britain were the 1950s, 1980s and the period 2008 to 2016 yet they all show huge increases in the transfer records at these times. Maybe some analogy can be drawn that sports or escapism becomes more important at this time.

(2) When Football Became A Business:

I would say it was the late 1980s when money became the most important thing in sport. The advent of Pay Per View television especially in sports led to a influx of cash and marketing into many sporting arenas. Real Madrid for instance started the policy of "Galaticos" signing a superstar every summer. To show the modern era in its clearest sense, each Real Madrid transfer was financed half by the football club and half by the marketing side of the club so how marketable a player was, is just as important as how good he was (David Beckham was a galatico, a good player but not world class, his unique selling point, he was the biggest brand in world football at the time)

A coach dreams of signing a world class player, a marketing man dreams of signing the first world class player from the US, China or India and would be really annoyed if he was Icelandic. In the 2000s we had the hobby owners Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and the Arabs at Man City who just threw money at the club to win things but that era has seem to have become more businesslike with the motto we will spend to remain successful but to also make money of that success.

(3) How Much Is Too Much? :- Paul Pogba, the world record signing for Man Utd during the summer is on a contract for wages of 400k Sterling a week ( 468k Euro, 528k Dollars). Okay he is 23, if he bought a nice house and lived till 90 with a reasonable weekly allowance, he would probably have enough for that after a year, what does he do with the rest. There has to be a stage when he has a telephone number bank balance and say I don't need anymore. On top of that, he probably has sponsorship deals and a clause in his contract that states if anyone comes in at a higher wage, he can renegotiate his wages. I wouldn't give it back to the club, they would just put it in the profit column. I just feel sometimes when I see expensive tickets for matches and expensive replica kits, it sticks in my throat a little bit.

(4) The Cost Of Fame Sometimes Is Too Much :-

Who was the best footballer ever - In my era the candidates would be Pele, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Pele was asked "Who was the best player he had ever seen?", he said "George Best" a player from Northern Ireland whose career faded in his mid twenties due to alcoholism brought on by a party lifestyle. The quality is not great in the video but soccer fans will enjoy it.


I used to cringe at the role model argument but as I got older I have begun to see that it had some sense. For every young person who makes it in sport, music or acting, there are thousands who end with crushed dreams so as well as being a role model they owe it to those who fell by the wayside. When George Best did TV Interviews in later life, he used to tell a drinking story about winning 10k (a lot at the time) in a casino and he was on a hotel bed with a Miss World with the 10k spread around them.

He ordered champagne, an Irish hotel porter in the London hotel came in with the champagne, looked around and said "Where did it all go wrong, George?". There was always a strained laugh in the audience and you could see in audience's eyes, most understood what the porter meant. I think George knew himself but he had played the drunk for so long, he kept it up.

George Best died aged 59, impoverished and a broken man. For the last few months of his life, his family would often make public appeals for people not to buy or give him drink. Maybe we should look up to another legend from Northern Ireland for a role model, champion jockey for 20 years in a row often with double the winners of the runner up. AP McCoy, able to be a champion without being an idiot or an arrogant jerk, his last race meeting, most of the jockeys, racing folk and crowd were in tears.

Conclusion:- I think this quote sums it up for me

I think we can become bewitched by shiny things like money but there is part of me that says isn't there more to it?

It should be a reminder to us that success can be measured in many ways, not just by your bank balance.

Thanks for reading.


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  • 3mo

    Well, in response to the "how much is too much?" question, the answer is simple: It's whatever the market will bear. They should be paid precisely what they're worth, not a penny less or more. Sadly, the reason they're worth such obscene sums of money is because the masses have been idolizing athletes for a very long time. Hence, what they earn is, for the most part, correct.

    If we don't like it, we can maybe stop glorifying the athlete to the point where they become gods.

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    • 3mo

      I think the phenomenon is here to stay unfortunately - We will have full stadiums and certain players (brands) at the forefront - That is why I was interested in the chart of transfers. It seemed to show that at times of recession the transfer market was at its most aggressive - That would be a good social study to examine any link to see if people saw it as escapism to watch their sports team.

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    • 3mo

      That is very true about the expensive season tickets

    • 3mo

      They can't. Every team wants to be the best and they have overwhelming amount of budget. The selling teams have huge demands too.

  • 3mo

    the economics of the sporting world are hard to translate to the economics of a society in general

    sports leagues and teams are making record money because of television contracts and corporate sponsorships. in a sense they are somewhat immune to economic recession the general population experiences because even in economic down times people still turn on the TV to watch sports. as long as we turn on the TV we will see ads and as long as people go out and buy products corporations will pay billions to leagues and teams to have their products advertised.

    the players i always excuse. do they make crazy amounts of money? absolutely. but when the nfl makes $8billion or more a year i don't find fault and only see it as fair for the athletes who are essentially the blue collar workers in that industry getting their fair share. If the LA Dodgers can sell for $5billion why shouldn't their star pitcher get $20 million per year?

    it's definitely a tough pill to swallow when you just see the numbers but when you think about how much money goes into the sport from corporations it really only makes sense that this money gets circulated from the top down

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    • 3mo

      Yeah it is a scary concept all those billions floating around - We are talking about teams with a turnover equivalent to some small countries

    • 3mo

      you so right. if you took the values and annual revenues of the top 5 sports franchises in the world it would probably dwarf the GDP of many small countries.

  • 3mo

    You forgot Gareth Bale £85.3 million Tottenham to Real Madrid 2013

    And yes, excellent take!

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  • 3mo

    I was listening to ESPN radio on Sirius xm and this dude, I forget who, wrote a book and was talking about the exact moment of who, when and how players became filthy rich. I think it was Arnold Palmer, but don't quote me. It was actually really interesting... Maybe I'll find and post it one day... Maybe tonight

    Anyways, I'll go a bit into the "too much" money thing, which is significantly more complex than you described. First, you should probably understand where the money initially comes from; TV deals. Think about it. I'm not European, but for my sake, I'll use American channels. You have fox, CBS, ABC and ESPN (owned by ABC) competing for these deals... And that's what they're doing, competing. Obviously, highest bidder gets the deal. It has to do based on revenue, time slots, ratings, etc. Now, it goes simply into demand. Everyone watches soccer. In our case, American football. As a result, companies see the potential and pay out to get ads and logos put I'm commercials, jerseys in the case of soccer, etc

    This is where the money comes in. Just like in any company, there are unions. Soccer tends to be at the top. Here, it's called a cba or collective bargaining agreement between the players/union and the owners. They come up with contract structures, wages, revenue sharing between players and owners and all that jazz

    The nature of the sport, revenue generated, roster size, player longevity, etc are taken into account as well. For example, the NFL doesn't have fully garunteed contacts and relatively low pay despite destroying other sports in ratings here. people get hurt, the average player lasts only 3.1 years, and the average is like 2 mil 53 people per roster. The NBA is a relatively low contact sport, only 12 per roster, last 5 years and, thus, due to the new TV deal, a marginal player can easily get 10 mil per year While still claiming less than 50% (majority) revenue over the owners... And around 75% fully garunteed

    So when you look at the totality, it's the tv deals and advert deals that are grossly inflating these contracts. Fortunately, or unfortunately, these are by companies who are investing their own money and still making huge profits off them

    As for the price of too much fame, I'll refer mostly to the NFL, but watch the 30 for 30 doc, called broke. It goes pretty in depth and explains pretty much all of how these dudes blow their money. Some by their own merits and some beyond their control. It gets pretty sad

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    • 3mo

      Your points are very true - The financial arrangements are vaguely similar, the top players get all the money, go down a bit and the money is not great considering longevity with possibility of injury - Your point about many stars ending up broke is hugely accurate - They are treated like royalty at the top and then thrown on the scrapheap once they are past it - Maybe they should be sent on courses to look after themselves, how to invest money etc - Though in fairness to soccer, it seems to be getting more mature, there seems to be less crash and burns as there was years ago.

    • 3mo

      Again, watch the documentary, broke. I was running out of characters. It's way more complex than what I scratched the surface on and what you said. Basically, these players don't know how to invest and save. Moreover, you have medical bills, sometimes no steady income post retirement with huge mortgages and leases, agent fees, lawyer fees, etc

      Then there's situations where family and friends take money. Like some dude had a friend that took out 500k out of the dudes account without even knowing it in 1 year alone. Some get bad financial advice

      A lot of athletes are getting better, though. Some sports have financial management classes, learning from others mistakes, learning how to manage assets, etc

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