Tuesday 10th December 2013
Money in sport
“N Niall Brehon Staff Writer
Nicholas Brehon dicusses the brand that is Barcelona F.C. and the recent scandals that have mired its reputation. ew car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I’ll buy me a football team” – Pink Floyd, “Money” As attested to by this Pink Floyd quote, money and sport are irrevocably linked. Money is power and power is Lukaku. Flippancy put aside, the point remains that for better or worse the back pages of the newspaper have a uniquely strong bond with the Business pages. Over the last summer Real Madrid, who are funded in part by an incredibly skewed television deal which saw them net ¤140m in contrast to bottom-placed Granada’s ¤12m in 2012, persuaded Gareth Bale and Tottenham to sign the dotted line for (depending on your sources) a fee in the region of ¤91m – ¤100m. There’s an excellent website devoted to telling you precisely how much Bale has earned so far. At the time of writing, he’s earned £4,271,821.02. Since September 2nd. It is telling how so many people speak of the disconnect that the earners of such extravagant wages must feel. Imagine the scenario, they tell us, of males in their teens and early twenties earning in a month what many people earn in a year; and that’s at the lower end of things. These people expound the dangers of such a disparate proportional-
ity between wage and maturity. Though their careers are short, such is the state of the world that those select individuals with the talent and dedication to rise to the elite levels of the game are capable of making far more money than they should reasonably expect from such a seemingly basic skill as being good at football, at an age where many struggle to find a job (seen particularly in Spain, where 56.1% of youths are unemployed yet Gareth Bale earns staggering amounts). And well done to them for making the most of their talents. But why is this? Why is the earning potential within football so grotesquely exaggerated, so at odds with the rest of the world? Simply put, football at the highest levels boils down to two important and interlinked elements: tribalism and winning. For every Luton Town fan, there are thousands (quite probably hundreds of thousands) of United fans. Beyond the romance of ’99 or the joy of watching Ronaldo, Cantona, Giggs and, er, Anderson lies a simple fact. Manchester United are successful and Luton Town (relatively speaking, as they currently lie second and on course for promotion in the Conference league) are not. Manchester United are Winners with
“Over the last summer Real Madrid, who are funded in part by an incredibly skewed television deal which saw them net ¤140m in contrast to bottom-placed Granada’s ¤12m in 2012,”
a capital W, and Luton Town are not. Apologies to any Hatters fans who may be reading this. It is a vicious circle. United are successful because they have so much money because they have so many fans because they are successful. It’s not near as simple as that, but the basic gist is that money is power and again power is Lukaku. Firstly, it is important to express football’s pre-eminence as the most popular sport on the planet, both played and (more imperative to the point at hand) viewed. Indeed, an accumulated figure of 30 billion people tuned in to witness the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the vast majority of football-watching youth flock to support the best teams and players in the game. The usual reasons for this are typically twofold: they follow their dad/brother’s team, or the team their friends support (or on occasion the rivals of the team either their dad/brother or friends support). Both of these function within the same prism of tribalism and belonging to a cohesive and aggressively defined subset of successful people, and success is the key word. Forgive the gross generalisation: people, by and large, like
winning. They like the feeling of success. They gravitate towards winners, and particularly winners who win with style, a la Barcelona, Real Madrid and the hipster’s choice Borussia Dortmund. They ally themselves with these groupings in order to achieve that element of success. When those subsets or groupings become large enough, as Real Madrid’s and Manchester United’s are (and Luton Town’s are not, God bless their little hearts), there is simply a staggering amount of potential income available to harness. Witness United’s recent, incredibly detailed sponsorship, which among other deals brands Mister Potato as its official “Savoury Snack Partner”. Mister Potato are literally paying a good deal of money to be associated with the positive feeling and successfulness of the United brand. It is thanks in no small part to deals like these that United are currently worth in the region of £2bn. To finish, here are some figures to put the levels of money in sport into perspective. Advertising and marketing are coterminous with sponsorship in sport. With such a vast global audience, advertising is inevitable. ITV made more than £10m on advertising revenue during the
2008 Champion’s League Final between Chelsea and Manchester United. That’s during just one match. The current television deal for Premier League rights from 2013-16 will net £3bn for English football over three years. With Sky’s dominance finding increased competition from BT Sports, this figure is quite probably set to rise when rights are re-negotiated in 2016. Straying briefly away from the football we know, the average price of a thirty second advertisement aired at the Superbowl XLVII in 2013 was $4m. Forbes place Tiger Woods as the highest earning athlete on the planet; over the last year Tiger earned $78.1m. Kobe Bryant, in third, recently re-negotiated a two-year contract extension worth $48.5m – a pay-cut on his previous annual salary of $27.85m. Kobe Bryant is currently not playing as he recovers from an Achilles injury. The average full-time worker in Luton earns £24,503 per annum. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale has earned £128,811.53 since I started writing this article (I admit I had quite a few games of FIFA 14 in the meantime) and over £100 in the time it took you to read this article. That’s a lot of Freddo bars.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité Louis Strange looks at the reasons behind a potential strike within the French Union of Football Clubs.
M Louis Strange Staff Writer
athieu Kassovitz’s film La Haine (Hatred), a tragicomic portrait of marginalised young men from the Parisian ghettos, includes a scene in which one character asks: “You got any more bullshit sayings?” Another replies: “Liberté, égailité, fraternité.” The French national motto, proclaiming freedom, equality, and fraternity for all, has come to serve as a bad joke, a symbol of the state’s failure to lift up the disadvantaged and the marginalised. For a country with a proud history of trade-unionism, this tradition too may be about to suffer the same fate: sullied, this time, at the hands of sport. The Union of Professional Football Clubs (UCPF) has ditched plans to stage a day of strikes in protest against the introduction of a 75% tax on income, the controversial new measure which President François Hollande has made one of his fundamental battlegrounds during a rocky first term as chef d’état. The leading lights of French club football – although to call them ‘leading lights’ perhaps does an injustice to lights – have backed down over the strikes, initially planned for 30th November, in the face of a tide of criticism. Their argument: that football clubs would be disproportionately affected by this new measure because many of their employees earn in excess of the ¤1 million per annum which would see them qualify for it. In other words, French footballers are unhappy because they are
too rich. Needless to say, they received little sympathy. This comes at a time when the French public’s relationship with football is, at best, strained. It must be seen in the context of years of violent confrontations between fans of the country’s two biggest club sides, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille. In fact, when they didn’t have any Marseille fans to fight, PSG ultras would resort to fighting between themselves, à la Millwall, with rival factions squaring off against one another, sometimes with fatal consequences. Following the 2011 takeover of PSG by the Qataris (commonly known as ‘doing a Man City’), many hoped that French football would undergo something of a renaissance. And when the Parisians did eventually win the Ligue 1 title in May of this year, they celebrated in the traditional Parisian way: they rioted. Add to that the love/hate relationship with the national team – the ridiculous attempted coup led by Patrice Evra et al. during Les Bleus’ miserable campaign in South Africa in 2010 still lingers in French consciousness – and the French public was never going to embrace a strike with open arms. PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic earns a reported ¤14million per annum. Edinson Cavani, his strike-partner, ¤10million. In such a competitive market as that of European football, such sums are not uncommon – Cristiano Ronaldo earns ¤21million, Lionel Messi ¤16million – and are
“The Union of Professional Football Clubs (UCPF) has ditched plans to stage a day of strikes in protest against the introduction of a 75% tax on income, the controversial new measure which President François Hollande has made one of his fundamental battlegrounds during a rocky first term as chef d’état.”
viewed as necessary to attract top talent to the French capital. This has not stopped Ibrahimovic’s salary being branded ‘disgusting’ and ‘indecent’ by former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac (who, amusingly, later resigned after becoming himself the focus of a tax fraud scandal, having squirrelled away large sums in Swiss bank accounts). PSG’s arrival as the new kid on the hyper-rich block instantly made them an obvious political target, a ready-made scape-goat for the Hollande administration. Despite initial mutterings of a possible exception to the 75% tax for French football clubs – a rumour, it should be said, that seemed to originate mainly from the clubs themselves – this was eventually rubbished in an attempt to reinforce the government’s credibility. The 75% tax has become France’s ‘Obamacare’ and as invincible as PSG’s oligarch backers might feel within the confines of the football bubble, taking on France’s political elite would soon expose its limitations. The strike was originally conceived as a way for the socioeconomically disadvantaged to make their voices heard. For it to be used by millionaires as a way to protest against the redistribution of wealth makes a mockery of the very concept. Its bastardisation by French football is as laughable as the once-great principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité.