The Link Between Money and Sporting Life

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The link between money and sporting life :

Professional sport, and the link between money and sporting life is not really a recent development. Sport has always been closely related to wealth in all its forms. First sport was actually only accessible to the few who had both spare-time and money : the aristocracy (hunting, stag hunting, horseriding then golfing, badbington) To ‘sport’ used to mean to have fun, and those who had the most money usually had the most fun !

The middle classes came to sport late, somewhere between the 1860s and the 1890s and invented 'modern sport', more or less, in a generation. Those called 'amateurs' or 'lovers' of sport did not play for money because they were gentlemen (so they already had money in the first place) and most people played for the love of sport. By the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20 th century sport developed drasticly and the public opinion was strongly divided between advocators of amateurism on the one side (like pierre de Coubertin who founded the modern olympics) and advocators of professionalism on the other. Only where the gentlemanly ethic was strongest in rugby (13vs15) or in rowing for instance there was a gap between amateurs and professionals.

These days, at the top level, amateurism has completely lost its battle with money. Sport in addition with its initial social and cultural aspect now has a huge economic and political impact. Since the second half of the 20th century money really start to ‘invade’ sport, Professional sport now generates huge mass of money and represents a giant business with its investments, its turnovers and its dividends. The turning point was in the seventies with the rise of sport media-coverage by TV channels.

The World soccer market, for instance currently represents 250 billion euros, that is to say 1% of developed countries GDP. We witnessed a huge inflow of capital in the world of sport : broadcasting rights, Athletes incomes , transfer fees, sponsoring all skyrocketed. As an example in 1979, peter shilton (from UK), a great soccer player and the most well paid one at the time used to get about 16 000 euros per month. IN 1998 the average wage of a french soccer player was 15 245 euros per month, today it is more than 40 000 euros and a tallented player in the national league often gets more than 100 000 only in wage ! Moreover the world best players get more than 1 million euro per month. Consequently sportclubs are always in need of money : for instance, the olypique lyonnais was thinking about going on the stock exchange ☺ or the PSG tries to attract investment funds !

This trend is not exclusive to soccer but is witnessed in every popular sports. In golfing for example, tiger woods is the world’s most well paid athlete with more than 90 millions dollars of total income per year. However the incomes of those elite athletes mask some huge disparities between themselves and with other sports (rugby, handball, basketball…). By way of illustation, in 2000 in rugby’s top 14, the sport the more similar to soccer’s first league in terms of popularity, 40 % of the players had a wage below 1500 euros.

All this is funded and made possible by the over media-coverage of sports events and its tremendous popularity, for instance half of humanity watched the last World Cup final !!! In almost every sport, the direct audience ( the spectators) has decreased in favour of the indirect audience ( the tv viewer). It means that today it is the tv viewer who pays the ticket through sponsoring and advertising. A relevant example is the european soccer which is now half funded by the television !The total amount of broadcasting rights spent in France for soccer only now reachs 600 millions euros.

To communicate companies use sponsoring which is a substancial source of income for sport associations but those remunerations are very different between the sport they invest in. In France, formula 1 is by far the...
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