Posted by: Martin Scherer | 29/05/2011

Soccer – commercialisation is killing the world’s game

The world’s biggest soccer club, Manchester United lost to Barcelona. This is the beginning of the end for the world’s top soccer club. Why? The answer lies in the numbers.

700 million watched the last World Cup. 160 million watched Saturday’s European Cup at London’s Wembley Stadium. With such audience figures, it’s not surprising soccer stars cost up-wards of £100 million, ($166m). Many argue that player costs are bankrupting the game. However this trend started in US sports over thirty years ago.

When Britain was the great Empire, it invented then exported its sports. The US adapted and commercialised some British sports: Rugby (American football), Netball (Basket ball), rounders (Base ball) and hockey (Ice hockey). Games were adapted to suite TV advertising. However the cost of US sports prohibited their import by other countries. More people and countries play the remaining British sports – rugby, football (Soccer) and cricket, than any American sport and the numbers are growing. Unlike British, then American, film and TV, it became obvious, American sports were never going to colonise the world. Eventually, American sports will wane in favour of international sports. American sports entrepreneurs started buying into British sports. The most lucrative is soccer.

The world’s top soccer league is the British Premier Division, where the world’s players and managers long to be. The top Spanish league is a pale comparison, dominated by a few major clubs: Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The majority of top club players are not Spanish or British. They come from around the world, often third world countries where kids grow up playing street soccer, barefoot and without a proper ball.

In comparison, British kids sit in compulsory education. A socialist education that during the 1960’s insisted on equality and became adverse to competitive sports. The result is the failure of England to win a World Cup since 1966.

The top soccer brand is Manchester United that has dominated British soccer for a decade or more. Manchester United has the world’s top football manager, Alex Ferguson. However, Manchester United is American owned and saddled with debt. The mighty Liverpool were in a similar position, American owned, saddled with debt and about to fall out of the British Premier League. American money ballooned the cost of players and not Americans are finding themselves priced out of the race.

Russian oligarchs or Arab sheiks own the other top British clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal. Only the super rich can afford to assemble the top teams. Unless Manchester United gain a new owner, there must be concern it is about to loose its crown as the world’s top soccer club.

Britain remains the home of soccer, but most of its players, managers, and clubs, are no longer British. Black and South American players have become common, but a Chinese (Asian) player is unusual in a British soccer team.

With the commercialisation of sport comes corruption and gutter press. The UK endured a major constitutional crises last week, in which a British politician used parliamentary privileged to flout a court ruling. With such fortunes sloshing about, it may not be surprising the case surrounded a British soccer star. The British press pay less attention to the law than they do to the kiss and tell sluts of soccer stars. Meanwhile the world’s soccer governing body, FIFA, is riddled in corruption.

This is yet another case where greed rules at the expense of fair play and professional ethics. Gordon Gecko lives on in many disguises.


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