Sport in the U.K.
needs a radical overhaul. The Premiership may be awash with millionaires
but it was not built on any National success unless they are French,
Italian, German, Brazilian or Danish. The players of today are merely
the fortuitous fillings in the sandwich, nicely placed between the global
television stations and digital TV wannabes. It is they who are trying
to present Europe with a "genetically modified" European league. They
have cultivated the ground, they are buying and sowing the seed, to
be enjoyed from the confines of your living room, so they can reap the
product. The marketing men have decided that Europeans will pay a premium
for a European football League. Consequentially they are investing huge
amounts of money, trying to secure the rights to a European league that
will ultimately bring them even larger profits. The players and their
agents aware that at present they hold the power are making hay whilst
the sunshine's. I dare say once a winner in the Broadcasting World materializes
a wage cap will appear and the harvest will not be so plentiful for
it, but for a much shorter time, just after the World Cup of 1995 in
South Africa. Reality has now struck home, squads have been cut and
the new contracts are not as rewarding as the old.
What this country
needs is wholesale success, not a few extremely wealthy sportsmen plying
their trade, offering little in return to the Nation as a whole. Harsh
maybe, but like many, I am whole heatedly sick of these so-called stars
complaining about the stresses they face. If they think it so stressful
to kick a ball about, of what ever shape and be well paid for doing
it with such mediocrity on a global stage, then that is exactly the
type of stress I am looking for.
There needs to be
a root and branch reform in this country. Yes, Sport is in the entertainment
business, but it also transcends business, it permeates every echelon
of society and has the capacity to both inspire and demoralize individuals
If this country
is truly interested in sport then the government must look at, as a
matter of urgency, the NCAA system that operates in the United States.
We need to invest in sport at university level. We need to establish
and promote student sport across the board. If it can be done for Oxford
and Cambridge, it can be done for all. Certainly there are already structures
in place in certain sports but this needs to be further enhanced and
promoted. All the very best athletes should as a matter of course have
to attend University. We often cast our eyes across the Atlantic to
see how they continually achieve success. I find it strange therefore
that we always seem to pass over what is their foundation of success,
namely a strong and thriving (both competitively and financially) college
Sport in this country
outside of football requires government intervention or should I say
whole sale financial support to succeed or indeed survive. Not in the
form of a national stadium or other facilities that the nation will
only need in one off competitions that we may or may not get. No the
investment needs to go into grass roots funding. In very simplistic
terms, if we produce the best athletes / Rugby players / swimmers /
cricket players etc, in the world, we will ensure their survival and
maybe even our National identity. Having the best facilities in the
world won't compel the likes of the Americans or Australians etc. to
compete against us, but having the best competitors will.
Having the best
Stadiums in Europe will not bring in the crowds having the best teams
will. If we are going to build the best facilities in the World, lets
have make sure that we have competitors worthy of them.
Our national teams'
successes cannot rely on being delivered by being run like a traditional
business. This is because running a successful business is vastly different
from producing world-beating teams.
a successful team should in theory become a profitable one, if the off
field activities are handled correctly, but that is merely a happy spin
off. Most shareholders invest in a product because they believe it is
going to offer them a better rate of return than sticking their money
somewhere else. In sporting terms and in the short term, gains can achieved
quickly by investing in talented players who will help the side win
things irrespective of where they come from, hence the influx of foreign
"stars", Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U being classic cases.
By doing this you
can quickly produce winnings team and reap the rewards. This though
merely results in a few clubs becoming richer and richer and importing
more and more foreign stars in order to maintain their status. Quickly
we reach a situation whereby at the beginning of a season you can almost
name the top 5 clubs; it's just a matter of which order they eventually
end up in. English players get squeezed out because they are not up
to speed, due in part to second team football having been cut and the
lack of investment in our own youth, in order to meet the huge wage
bills, itıs a bubble waiting to burst. It will either implode or explode
into a European league but either way domestic football will soon lose
This system will
produce a few highly profitable clubs and allow teams like Manchester
to conqueror but as we all saw England only just scraped into Europe.
This is almost acceptable in Football because most Manchester, Arsenal
or Chelsea fans would probably rather see their club win the European
cup than England the win the World Cup. However the story is entirely
different across the rest of the sporting spectrum. I dare say and the
clubs probably wouldn't care to admit it but had England won the recent
Rugby World Cup they would have seen more people pass through their
gates than via any marketing plan they chose to come up with.
They sporting public
needs to be energized, nothing breeds success like success. If Tony
Blair and his spin-doctors want to make the next century a Labour century
then the Government should plough a billion pounds over the next 10
years into British Sport.
Just imagine living
in a country that boosted the World Cup winning teams at Football in
2006, Rugby in 2007, Cricket 2003 and an Olympic team that returned
with 25 Gold medals from the 2008 Olympic games and a British player
winning Wimbledon. The feel good factor alone would drive the economy
along for the next 20 years, investment would come pouring in, the public
would be flocking to watch our stars. Then truly our sports may become
self-sustaining and actually a source of job creation!
A dream maybe, but
with the proper investment and direction now and a measure of good fortune
not an impossibility. Success would also force the World to bring the
major games to our shores and we wouldn't have to build white elephants
in the hope that we may one day lure them here.
© DAVID RUTHERFORD 2000