The Money or The Passion:
Is Money in Professional Sport Ruining the Ethos of the Game?
Supervisor: Mr. Werth
English Teacher: Mrs. Schroeder
Money is, undoubtedly, evident in every aspect of professional sport. Player sponsorships and contracts, team ownership, stadia, media - its everywhere. If sport was not about the game, then arguably, sport would be about the money. Each and every week, transfers of players are made, ticket offices receive income, and money is handed from one profiteering person to the next.
Where sport is widely thought to be about fair play, professional sport is, in fact, like war. There can only be one winner and what one team or individual gains, the other loses. Many sportsmen and women around the world are caught up with winning, not just because of the prowess of a title but, also because professionalism is now about money and winning is a means to an end - a financial end.
There are demands for higher standards of performance by coaches, managers, media, sponsors and fans. These demands can bring about negative consequences such as insanely high salaries and prize monies which can prove to be counterproductive in reinforcing sport's core values - sportsmanship, playing for pride, winning with grace and losing with dignity become compromised.
Undoubtedly sportsmen and women play for the love of the game, enjoy the pure exhilaration of running fast, perfecting a grooved golf swing or facing the unhittable curve ball from an elite pitcher. But professional sport inherently means that the game becomes a career and a livelihood. Those who win the game ultimately sit higher up on the "sporting corporate ladder". With sport, it is the result, not the poetry that counts. Nobody remembers how the sportsman won - only that he did. (Hobson, 2011) However, there is also a positive spinoff of professional sport and it's associated money. With the earnings from sport, comes positive exposure, philanthropy and an entire economy of associated businesses that profit.
So, with professionalism, comes good and bad. We will explore these areas to determine whether ultimately the ethos of sport suffers or is upheld.
In order to understand the ethos of sport, it's helpful to understand where it began and what its purpose was and has become. It is difficult to determine exactly how far back sport began but its earliest documenting dates back to around 3000 years ago with the Greek and Roman soldiers (Bellis, 2014). In their preparation and training for war, their play fighting, such as sword fighting, spear throwing and wrestling, became a form of leisure for them. They were rewarded for their acts of bravery by taking part in and spectating these displays of athleticism. Individual sports developed during this era and it was around this time that the ancient Greek festivals and the Olympics were introduced and healthy competition grew in popularity. This included horse racing, fencing, jousting, all the Olympic events (track and field), bull leaping, bull fighting, chariot racing and many more. Still, all of these sports were played for pure entertainment and leisure and without the influence of money. (Wikipedia, 2014)
It was not until the westernization of Europe that team sports such as representations of football, cricket, polo, martial arts, lacrosse etc, were introduced. The Industrial Revolution increased the time available for leisure, which in turn lead to increased interest for people to spectate and participate in sporting activities (Dolhenty, 2006). There was also greater accessibility to an ever-increasing variety of sports and with the advent of media and global communication, the exposure and popularity of sport continued to grow. The global spread of sport during the 1900's was indicative of nation's seeing sport as a crucial element for fueling patriotism (Keefe, 2009)
With this evolution and development of sport, came an increase in influence. Sport in recent history has definitely had an impact on modern day culture and the popularity and visibility of sporting personalities has created economies based on fan followings. The sports fashion (Nike - Tiger Woods, Adidas - Andre Agassi etc.), accessory (Tag Heuer - Fernando Alonso) and cosmetics (OPI - Serena Williams) industries owe some of their success and exposure to sporting role models and icons. To illustrate sport's financial impact , it's contribution to the English economy alone reached ÃÂ£20,3 billion in 2010 (Bond, 2014).
Ethos - "The characteristic spirit of a culture, era or community as manifested in its attitude and aspirations" (Keefe, 2009)
The essence or ethos of sport can most accurately be defined by good "sportsmanship". Good sportsmanship embodies virtues such as fairness, self-control, ethics, respect, integrity and discipline. These are the global messages that are taught and communicated to all who enter the world of sport, from the primary school children experiencing their first time on a sports field to the seasoned athletes who participate at the Olympic Games. How money affects this time-honoured "code" is what we will investigate.
4. Positive and Negative Influences of Money in Sport and an Evaluation of their Impact on its Ethos
The rise of all of these negative aspects in sport is most especially because of the drive for profits. Unlike in amateur sports, the results of matches/games matter materially. Money is definitely a motivator to throw matches, dope, cheat and compromise one's performance. If you perform well and win, you are more likely to be sought after by bigger leagues and endorsements. The prestige of holding a title is a big motivator to act unethically but, more often than not, there is a monetary reward too. By way of various examples, below is an evaluation of sporting aspects that I base my argument on and their impact on the ethos of sport.
In 1928 the IAAF became the first international sporting federation to prohibit doping by athletes. The reasons behind the ban were not only for the associated health risks but is because it brought about an inequality between athletes and went against "the spirit of sport". Below are a few recent examples of doping infringements. (Joyner, 2013)
Lance Armstrong, a name that is familiar in most of the world's households, went from hero to zero. Once one of the most revered and respected athletes in sporting history, his name is now associated with one of the biggest doping scandals of all time. The cyclist claimed to have hidden his dirty secret in order to protect names around him and reputations in the larger cycling circle. Armstrong admitted to his use of testosterone boosters and EPO and claimed that if he had not doped as he had, that he would not have been able to win the seven Tour de France titles. (Joyner, 2013)
Alex Rodriguez, a major league baseball player, has a 200 game suspension for being found guilty of doping in 2013. (Tuohy, 2013)
Another example of suspicion of doping is that of Chris Froome following his convincing Tour de France win in 2013. (Tuohy, 2013)
2013 also saw the suspension of three top sprinters including Tyson Gay.
How can we explain the behaviour of professional athletes? If anti-doping agencies are catching the big names, why do athletes continue to dope? Doping is the dirtiest game in history but who is actually to blame? Great performances increase the fan interest. Fan interest leads to ticket sales, merchandising and media opportunities. Many interested parties benefit financially from high performance of team and individual. (Tuohy, 2013)
An accusation of turning a blind eye on doping in baseball was aimed at Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in the era of the Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds homerun derby after the 1994/5 baseball strike. (Joyner, 2013)
The same accusation has been made in the Lance Armstrong case. Journalists have argued that the cycling authorities knew about his doping and decided to not act upon it because they were happy to see the fan interest 'grow' in the U.S. If the authorities and sponsors did know he was doping, and they only dropped Armstrong when he got bust, then maybe doping and drugs is not the real enemy (Joyner, 2013)Is it about clean competition or really about protecting a brand and its earnings?
Rodriguez' decision to dope is directly connected to the unethical leadership of the baseball authorities. We can make the same case for other high money-raking sports. One would find it hard to believe that the egocentric billionaire baseball owners had no clue as to what was happening. Are they cracking down now because they finally woke up or because their cheque books are talking? (Joyner, 2013)
Today people like to believe that professional sport, in terms of match fixing, is impossible to get away with. We could also argue that sportsmen are getting paid ridiculous sums and hence wouldn't have any motive to throw a game or match and that systems are set up to pick up 'unnatural money' in fixing and would be spotted by authorities (Tuohy, 2013)Unfortunately, these beliefs are completely false. Lower-ranked teams and lower paid individuals may be vulnerable to the lure of a bribe. Betting during the Soccer World Cup -both legal and illegal -generates tens of billions of dollars in wagers. Due to the vast amount of money exchanging hands, the possibility of fixed matches becomes a more probable scenario (Tuohy, 2013)
Bloomberg reported that online gambling on professional sport wagered at around $80 - $380 billion in America alone. The number of online gambling sites are an estimated 2 500. To put the extent of the money into perspective, four major sports leagues in America - NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL - earned a total of $25 billion in 2012. So the amount of money gambled in sport is 3 times greater than that earned in the major leagues! (Tuohy, 2013). It's not hard to believe that with the amount of money involved, players and officials would be tempted to take a piece of the pie.
Match-fixing cases also occur in professional tennis, baseball, auto racing, soccer, cricket and even hockey. In 2003 - Belarus football goalie Valery Shantolosov was arrested on the suspicion of match fixing in the EURO cup qualifying stages. Although Shantolosov did not feature in any of these games, he was found guilty of dealing with Russian gamblers and attempting to influence the outcome of these matches. His team did not even win any games. (Tuohy, 2013)
Again in 2007 - Russian tennis champion Nikolay Davydenko - 4th seed - was accused of match fixing in the game against Martin Vassallo Arguello who was ranked 87th at the time due to him losing the match. The match had been declared "null and void" according to European sports because he had taken a dive that game. (Keefe, 2009)
Match fixing is alive and well and there are many more cases in recent times that have been prominent in the sporting world. The desire for money drives players to take bribes and act unethically.
Ethical behavior in sport, by both player and referee/umpire, is expected. However, "playing to the fans/media" and the incentives offered to win, so often lead to unethical behavior on the sports field.
Research shows that professional sport has very different ethical considerations to amateur sport. Firstly, because professional sportsmen seek to entertain spectators (TV and media channels place great importance on viewer ratings and the spectator value of sporting events) and secondly to maximize their earnings potential - sport is, after all, their career. What every athlete desires is to have status and reputation and to elevate his/her standings in the sporting arena, as well as to make themselves desirable for sponsorship and endorsement opportunities. Thus money plays a huge role in the personal decisions a sportsman, coach, manager makes both on and off the sports field.
Take for example the Soccer World Cup. Players get paid a paltry percentage to play for their country versus what they earn in the professional leagues (Surujlal, 2011). Players that compete in the World Cup may not play to their full potential for their country because there is more money awaiting them in their leagues and they'll not risk injury for the upcoming season . Cristiano Ronaldo recently said "...I would never put my career at risk even for a World Cup." (Surujlal, 2011). Players will push aside national pride to protect their real "bread and butter". The fact that many teams, including Manchester United and Arsenal, are now listed on the stock exchange, means that the line between ethical and unethical behavior on and off the sports field could be a blur to many - too much is at stake.
To win is an incentive for greater income or earnings and a "win at all costs" attitude can provoke players to bend the rules to gain unfair advantage. Often the player will attempt to hide or mask their indiscretions and only consider their actions wrong when caught by the umpire/referee. (Potgieter, 2013) Players into making decisions that bias the outcome of matches can influence match officials. For example, the common "dive" of soccer players (which often is an exaggeration of a foul by the opponent) is performed with the intent of gaining an advantage over the opposition. This action by footballers has become somewhat accepted and is part of the entertainment soccer provides. One has to question if not having a "third umpire" in soccer is collaboration by all the interested parties to keep soccer "interesting".
These two terms are well associated with professional sport. Sportsmanship is when a player plays fairly, respects the opponent and the judgment of officials and displays integrity. Gamesmanship, on the other hand, is when players use tactics or strategies that are dubious but are not blatantly illegal. Essentially like trying to gain an advantage without breaking the rules.
While sport is meant to be about fair play and good character, officials are equipped with technology to check if players are cheating. Aggressive shouts from the coach on the side of the rugby field and the tennis coach who urges his player to "kill," - corrupts not only the players but the spectators too. Spectators and fans lose sight of the "spirit" of the game and encourage unfair and often "illegal" play. In this way, sport does not build character, it betrays and corrupts the morality of the human (Hobson, 2011). For so many - coaches, players, fans - they have become so invested in the outcome of the sport, that the result is the only thing of importance.
The use of 'illegal tactics' and manipulation in addition to talent and skill in sport adds to the hype of the game - it is entertainment. While sport remains entertaining, sport is profitable. To cheat, there has to be motive, and as mentioned before, not only is the thrill of winning but also the monetary reward, the driving force. (Potgieter, 2013)
It is important to note that there are also well-known examples where great sportsmanship has been displayed. Paolo Di Canio was awarded the FIFA fairplay award when, during a match, the Italian, who could so easily have won for his team, picked up the ball instead of shooting due to the opposing Everton goalkeeper lying on the ground injured. Also, in the Cricket World Cup semi- final in 2003 between Sri Lanka and Australia, Adam Gilchrist 'walked' after he perceived the ball to have edged his glove and was caught behind, even when given "not out" by the umpire (Edwards, 2013). There are numerous examples where great sportsmanship has been demonstrated - the Di Canio and Gilchrist scenarios being just a couple. Many players and teams have put the best interests of sport above winning. A reason as to why they do this is because they are mentors and role models to the rest of the world, in particular to the youth and they are aware that with the media, their actions both on and off the field are recorded and scrutinized.
However, all the more regularly, athletes show signs of gamesmanship by wasting time, distracting the opponent in various forms, faking an injury or diving just to get that inch of an advantage upon which they can quickly act. "Sledging" in cricket is what players use to gain advantage over their opponents by way of verbal intimidation. Their objective is to distract and "rattle" the batsman in the hopes of him making an error. This is a dubious tactic and is a good example of gamesmanship (Edwards, 2013). Research shows that coaches and mangers greatly influence whether the players act unethically or ethically on the field. If coaches have a "win at all costs" attitude, it will prompt unethical behavior by the players.
The question arises, is gamesmanship now more prominent than sportsmanship? It might be understandable because of the pressure in modern sport to win and earn the greater reward. As mentioned, pressure from coaches, fans and interested parties may impact on a player's behavior and decision-making on the field.
In May 1992, the English Premier league was formed, the highest ranking economy in sport in modern society. The reason for this sudden forming was that that same year, Sky TV paid ÃÂ£191 million for five years of television naming rights. But the television deals were just the start; in 2001 Barclaycard paid ÃÂ£48 million for naming rights of the league, and this was renewed for an even greater amount in 2007. (Lue, 2014) So the forming of this league paid huge dividends! This not only opened a whole new economy but also gave job opportunities and employment opportunities to the media, television, stadium staff, construction businesses etc.
Football started to develop into a free market with capitalist principles when the maximum wage system was abolished in 1961. The transfer system with players became more flexible and still stands. As the economy f soccer transformed, it became evident that there was money to be made (Lue, 2014).
Traditionally, stadia in Europe were originally named after the city/place in which it was built. But as the commercial side of the Premier League economy grew, stadium naming rights helped clubs acquire even greater revenue. In addition to the naming rights, the stadia grew to become micro economies with facilities mushrooming around the stadia to support the swelling numbers of spectators. (Lue, 2014)
In addition, television advertising became a "big ticket" item and remains so today. For those companies that could afford it, their products received massive exposure in advertising slots aired during big games. This amount of revenue spans the globe across most sports. Some of the biggest advertising rates are charged for the NBC superbowl every year. In 2009, advertising rights were charged at a whopping three million dollars for every thirty seconds of advertising. (Lue, 2014) The greater the event, the greater the fan interest the higher the TV ratings and viewership. Keeping the games interesting, entertaining and competitive is in the interests of media moguls.
In 2009, a record breaking sum of ÃÂ£80 million was paid as a transfer fee for one of football's and specifically Real Madrid's, greatest players, Cristiano Ronaldo. It is interesting that a player is paid an extremely generous ÃÂ£80 million to literally pack his bags and go to another team for maybe a season, only to get another ÃÂ£80 million to pack his Versace bag for another buyer. (Lue, 2014) Many professional players have gained a reputable status in their years in professionalism and their talent is not the only thing they can offer the team. Take Lionel Messi, he is so admired for his talent and sportsman-like behaviour on the soccer pitch that he attracts people to the respective stadia to watch him play the game he loves. In 1975, the famous Pele joined the New York Cosmos in which is now a disbanded north American soccer league, the team had said: "The impact of Pele's signing was seismic. Before, they had given away tickets with Burger King vouchers and bumper stickers. Now, they had to lock the gates when the ground reached its 22,500 capacity." (Lue, 2014)
A similar scenario occurred when David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy team an estimated 30 years later. Beckham did for Galaxy what Pele did for the Cosmos, except that Beckham sold out the whole stadium. The crowd loved Beckham, as they did Pele, for his unbelievable skill, but now also for his good looks. Even off the pitch Beckham's celebrity is widespread, appearing on billboards for Armani underwear and his marriage to Victoria 'Posh' in a town full of paparazzi and tabloids proved the perfect fit. What Beckham had done was provide a stream of revenue for Galaxy, which was not only based on his soccer playing ability but also by his popularity off the field. Beckham's behavior on and off the pitch directly impacts how people see the "game" - he is indeed representative of his sport and the "spirit" of his sport. Beckham, and the likes, would not have this level of influence on sport were it not for the endorsements, the exposure, the money. This level of exposure has also lead to professional athletes becoming role models for the world's youth and future sportsmen. (Lue, 2014)
A positive spin-off from the vast sums of money evident in sport is that of philanthropy. Sports philanthropy programs have been created by teams and individuals to "give back".
Here are examples of some philanthropic programmes :
In 2007 Messi started the Leo Messi Foundation to promote education, health and sport for the most vulnerable children in his country of Argentina. (Parish, 2002)
The Tiger Woods Foundation (approximately $81 000 000) makes dozens of grants to promote the health and education of children.
Andre Agassi's Charity (approximately $23 000 000) focuses on recreation and educational activities for at-risk children from low-income families. (Parish, 2002)
Through creating relationships with the community and starting foundations, not only do teams and individuals aid the underprivileged and under-developed, but also create a good image for themselves. In turn, this public image directly translates into increased revenue - as the fan base grows, so do ticket and merchandising sales. Social responsibility programs have great strategic importance for sportsmen and teams - there are long-term financial benefits from these efforts (Parish, 2002). Eli Wolff, director of the Sport Development faculty at Brown University, says that from a business point of view, the impact of sports philanthropy programs actually can bring about more tangible business benefits and greater connections.
While, sports philanthropy clearly has a beneficial outcome for those in need, it does not have a purely altruistic purpose - there is payback to teams and individuals in the lining of their pockets.
The question I posed was, "Is money in professional sport ruining the ethos of the game?". It is evident that money does play a tremendous role in professional sport, both negatively and positively. Money succeeds in creating a better quality of life for players and indeed creates whole economies where vast numbers of non-playing citizens benefit from the game. For fans and spectators, money has effectively aided in the thrill of a football match or a basketball game or an IAAF meet - expansive stadia, television coverage, merchandisingÃ¢ÂÂ¦ it all contributes to the hype of the game, the team and the individual. But I believe that it does not support the ethos of sport. It is sadly the monetary incentives that act as a catalyst for players to act unethically and to have a 'win at all costs' attitude that is growing in the world of professional sport. Sport is a metaphor for life and as with anything, money is always going to promote opportunity and in instances unethical behaviour. Money undoubtedly is affecting the ethos of sport, though it remains a "necessary evil".