The argument that sport has too much money invested into it is a common one, and has its merits, but also fails to recognise that vast contribution it makes to the domestic economy every single year.
As an example, take the argument that plagues the UK’s pubs on a weekly basis – ‘Footballers are paid too much money’. Absolutely true, and compared to other professions on lower wages such as doctors, or civil servants, it’s almost scandalous. But also consider the wider repercussions of reducing the amount of money in football.
The Daily Telegraph estimated in 2015 that, in this country alone, the expense of football creates 62,000 jobs in turn, not to mention the knock-on employment at sports retailers, betting outlets, bars and the food/retail outlets local to each club on a weekend. Suddenly, for the sake of otherwise turning a couple of hundred thousand people back into an already congested employment market, I’m a lot easier about Cristiano Ronaldo earning millions of pounds a month.
Additionally, some sports need the money to survive – should they be dissolved simply for that? Formula 1, and motorsport in general, is often nicknamed ‘the rich man’s game’ for the sheer cost of it. Teams at the pinnacle of the game spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year to compete, and even at grassroots level in karting you can quite easily spend four-figure sums per annum on the adrenaline fix.
How then, do you go about fixing a system that is largely underpinned by individuals spending their own money at the bottom, and large companies sponsoring the activities at the top? It is, for all intents and purposes, a working economic model, and the UK is renowned as the ‘home’ of motorsport from an infrastructure perspective.
That same Telegraph article stated the sport sector pulls £20 billion into the UK’s economy every year – can we afford to trim that and re-discover new ways of raising those figures? Though the exponential sums might be spent in sport, their re-distribution can be felt elsewhere. With the sector truly assimilated into the economy, it seems a risky ploy to attempt to reduce it and not expect consequences elsewhere.
Many sporting clubs also make efforts to spend their wealth responsibly – our local Premier League outfit Southampton FC, for example, have their own charity, the Saints Foundation, benefiting the local community and forging ties between the locals and their team.
Is there a middle ground to be had, whereby costs are controlled and strict guidance on expenditure is introduced, for example a cap of transfer costs that would see the reported £85 million deal that took Paul Pogba to Manchester United two years ago scrapped? Possibly. However, does that then in turn restrict the appeal of sporting outfits to investors and brands looking for sponsorship and promotional opportunities, crippling the system nonetheless?
Many would disagree, but perhaps sport is best left to attract billions of £/$ of investment and then for that investment to be spent as sports clubs see fit. It might seem extortionate, but the knock-on benefits for all might be harder to replace, not least in the employment sector, if its wings were clipped.