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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Football can save the world....

How Football can save the World...... (A look into the Future Part II)
The thing I love about working in sports is feeling like you can (and even better that you are) making a difference.  It’s not working as a Doctor in deepest Africa, it’s not working as a Fireman (and many other un-named jobs) - but sport has an impact - and it’s great knowing you are part of that.
Be it educating your community on healthy lifestyle, education, drug and alcohol (using the Club’s players and staff as role models).  Be it seeing the passion and excitement generated when you make good decisions or (the team) make a good pass / win a great game.
Sport matters to people - it really matters - and as such - sport - and the people who work in it - have a real duty to treat that relationship with respect.  Culture is one of the key drivers to human evolution - and sport has a huge role to play in how our culture progresses.

Over the past 100 years sport has become a more and more important part of this culture.  Think about the truly global events - Olympic games / World Cups - these are hugely viewed / and hugely imapctful.  But they are merely the tip of an ever growing iceberg.
Sport is everywhere now.  Football is the world’s game.  And if you throw in American Football, Aussie Rules Football and Rugby League and Union Football - then there is a huge reach out there for those who contribute to these sports.
The past 30 years have seen sport’s impact accelerate.  The games have grown from ‘local’ attractions to huge global events.  Professionalism (on and off pitch) is prevalent - huge sums of money now dominate the game (all codes).  And - be honest - can you really see it slowing down.....??
IN that same 30 years - the culture of the planet has developed more than at any other similar 30 year period.  The recent riots in London are perhaps an overly simplistic view of our culture (There have been plenty of other riots through history).  But there is a difference now - in that celebrity culture has taken root.  The gap between the haves and the have nots grows at an incredible rate - and culture - it seems - is at a stage now where “it’s all about me”.  Because there is so much available to us humans - we want it all.
Technology has played a big part - with everything so much more accessible - but the #1 driver in culture will always be people - and it is here that I think that we are at a potentially crucial time in the next 100 years cultural development...
Using Football (Soccer) as the key example - it was not that long ago that players were hardly paid at all.  The great revolution in the 60’s has accelerated since the involvement of Pay TV - and now we hear that Samuel Eto is (possibly) moving to a little known team in Dagestan to become the world’s top salaried sportsman.  Madness...!!  How times have changed - from when any sports lover would have happily played the game for free.  There is no doubt that players should be paid and paid well of course - it is a profession like any other (I don’t buy into this “short career” thing myself - plenty of people have their careers ended after 1-10 years - it’s called the sack) - but for me, now is the time for the whole of sport to see the power it has, and to recognize where culture looks like it is going.....  And do something about it....
We are still in the generation where people can remember that football (and I am not leaving out our American / Australian cousins) was a sport played for peanuts.  We are the last generation however who will remember that.  Very quickly - those times will be forgotten - and the chance to ‘change the world’ will be lost.
What I would like to see is sportsfolk (and I don’t just mean the players - I mean everyone who works in sport) see that our culture needs a kick.  It is not acceptable that our lives become mad dashes of accumulation of wealth.  Life is not all about self-aspiration and self-grandishment.  Life should be about looking after each other, looking after the weak, the planet, the future.
How could this be done???
Players / Coaches - A self imposed ‘salary cap’.  $2m (random number plucked out of air) seems plenty to be a maximum annual salary.  With scaled earnings as you progress / decline.  With the ‘savings’ set aside to improve the world / the club / the impact your club has on its world.  Reinvestment in the local youth (all teams to be responsible for urban growth - the government is outta cash).
Owners - no profits.  You want to make a profit - own something else.  Run the business for the community.  The players are ‘giving up’ their sky rocketed salaries - but those savings are ring fenced for the community.  The players still have huge power - but they are negotiating for the community, for cultural improvement as well as their own wages.
Staff - the pawns in the game - work with the two super powers above and help distribute the cultural positivity.
Ticket prices - a recent report shows that #EPL ticket prices have risen by 1000%.  Has the game improved by 1000% - hell no.  SO what has happened to that increased revenue streams......  See above - inflated wages / inflated cultural importance of unlikely (and in some cases unworthy) individuals / escalating increase of cultural decay...
Supporters - no matter what happens - there will always be people to watch sports.  The ‘corportaization’ of current sports (“prawn sandwich effect”) is very much to the fore now - and this is pushing the ‘common man’ away from Football. Real sport, the sport that is important, is the one that drives local culture , mass culture.  If football does not want them - then something will eventually take the crown.  But what we want is the team to be impressed by the team, to recognize that it’s raison d’etre is to build the community (large or small - for sure some teams will still retain the ability to thrill the entire world).
Overall - let’s work together.  Let’s build, let’s define culture, let’s really deliver a positive impact....  
As a footnote - I noticed that Robbie Keane is off to LA Galaxy (for a ‘whatever’ amount).  It is rumored Tottenham needed him off their books as he was on a contract guaranteeing him the same salary as the highest earner in the club (meaning a pay rise if any new super stars were signed).  This just about sums it up.....  If the Club was looking to improve it’s playing stock, players (and sorry Robbie - not just picking on you - PS love the biography on you by Andrew Sleight!) were making it more difficult.
That example is at the opposite end of where I want to get to.
Yes - I can hear myself being committed right now.  This fantasy will never happen you will be saying to a well paid man/woman.  Well - you are probably right - but like I said - I love sports because it is possible to have an impact - and I will be doing my bit to make this happen.....
If I can get the gig as Joint CEO of the Cowboys / Man Utd / Barcelona and Essendon Football Club (for starters) - then I could even do it on my own..... (and I promise I will take an immediate 99% pay cut - I will need some cash for my bus fare).
If you enjoyed this look into the (unlikely) future - then check out my earlier crystal ball moment.....  here

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