Sport has played a big part in the lives of people all around the world and it is often a common middle ground between people, providing a great ice breaker in conversations everywhere. However, the wholesome image of sport is being tarnished by the huge amount of money that is being pumped into it, which I think in some instances has made it feel more like business than pleasure.
From pumping money into kits, games and players – or simply the extortionate price of a coffee at the ground – the driving force behind sport is slowly changing to become more centred around money rather than simple enjoyment. On the 13th March 1976 the price of a Manchester United v Leeds United ticket totalled just 70p, but in today’s day and age we’re looking at over £40 for that sort of game. Yes, I understand that inflation plays a role, but the price rise is due at least in part to the money being pushed into the game.
Let’s look at some examples where I feel the reputation of sport has been dragged through the dirt, largely due to money… and how I feel it has impacted the sport from a PR angle:
Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr 2, Saudi Arabia
One example – which essentially encouraged me to write this piece – is Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr’s rematch, which is now due to take place in Saudi Arabia. The selected location for this event is absurd for a number of reasons.
Primarily, Andy Ruiz Jr should have the choice of where he fights because he is the champion, but once again money rules and, despite the Mexican-American champion wanting the bout to take place in either America or Mexico, it is being hosted in a country famous for its poor human rights. The choice to hold the biggest heavyweight boxing event in the world in Saudi Arabia has had a really negative effect on the image of boxing.
From a PR perspective, it is hard to see how the image of boxing can be restored, because they have given their brightest event of the year to the highest bidder instead of the location that would make it more of an occasion. Holding the fight in Saudi Arabia is controversial, not only because of the country’s poor record of human rights, but also because it makes it very difficult for loyal fans to make the match, something that Joshua had previously promised his followers would never happen. To shine some good PR on the boxing match, it would be advisable to put the fight in Andy Ruiz Jr’s desired location as he is the rightful champion, and if AJ wants his belts back he should be forced to follow Ruiz Jr’s lead.
Footballers fancying China
This is an interesting one; it has been widely reported that China are keen to be a major footballing nation and their way of achieving this is by splashing whatever money it takes to get good footballers to play in their native league. Footballers making the decision to move to China is a particularly interesting career move when you bear in mind there is hardly any footballing pedigree, nor any real domestic interest from fans – so why do players make the leap to go and play over there? It’s simple: Money. Players are offered a ridiculous amount of money to play in China, for example Gareth Bale almost completed a transfer from Real Madrid to China where he was set to earn £1million per week … before the transfer collapsed.
Footballers’ images are affected by big-money moves, and it often comes across as if they don’t share the same passion as the fans, which is hard to take for a lot of people who would rather see players playing football for the love of the game, rather than for a quick cash grab. From a PR perspective it can be seen as both good and bad for the player; moving to China the players will gain more interest from the Asian market, but they sacrifice tarnishing their image in the nations where there is a greater interest in football.
Bury and Bolton suffer
Bury and Bolton are on the brink of extinction, all whilst a huge number of clubs above them play with money like it is meaningless (for example Manchester United recently signed a player for £80m). The two clubs are in serious financial difficulty, and just a fraction of what the bigger clubs spend could help save the future of both Bolton and Bury, who have been blighted by poor ownership.
Fans are going to Bolton games not knowing how long they will have football to watch and some Bury fans don’t know if they will ever watch their team play again. This is shining a bad light on the English Football League Championship and those that run it, who are doing nothing to step in and help. These clubs need help because they are truly facing extinction, which will cause problems that aren’t exclusive to football; people will lose jobs and it will in turn hurt the local economy for both areas. Not forgetting that long-standing fans will lose their treasured clubs and teams and, most likely, some love for the game.
Money is not only tarnishing the reputation of the EFL but it’s also tarnishing the reputation of these amazing football clubs; their lack of money is hitting them hard and from a PR perspective it is a waiting game to see if the necessary funds become available or takeovers happen in order to save their football clubs.
A Bury fan for over 70 years will be seeing our football club potentially disappear on Friday, shame on you Day, Dale and @EFL for allowing both of these crooks to take over in the first place. @talkSPORT @talkSPORTDrive pic.twitter.com/oMCBUElxmx
— WHITE AND BLUE ARMY (@whitebluearmy) August 18, 2019
It is no secret that there is a lot of money in sport, particularly in football, and it has caused a lot of problems surrounding its reputation and that of its governing bodies, such as FIFA and UEFA. A number of fans feel as though money is ruining what sport should be about, and that many clubs across different sports are selling out. The continued monetisation of sports is likely to anger fans more and more, and those at the top levels must be careful with how much they are being ostracised because of it, as without fans sport is nothing. These were just three examples that instantly came to mind, but there is an abundance of examples where money has tarnished the reputation of sport and, in fear of this blog sounding like too much of a rant, I think I will leave it there.
I do want to add though… this insight blog wasn’t intended to come across as if money hasn’t done good things for sport, because for the large part it has been great. However, the greed for money has tarnished the reputation of many sports and in turn forced fans away from what they love, causing a huge PR headache across the board for those much higher up. The increase of money has allowed for many more marketing and PR opportunities, such as kits being available and being able to bring fans closer to the game, both of which can only be a good thing for spectators. However, it would be nice to see decisions being made for the benefit of the sport, the teams and the fans, rather than to line the boss' pockets.