Money doesn’t ruin sport, people do

By Eoin Molloy

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Soccer players earn grotesque amounts of money. This cannot be countered, or remedied in any way. We must simply accept it at face value.

Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly earns £292,000 per week adjusted after tax. A number this high can never, ever be justified as a weekly salary for any profession, but Ronaldo certainly does his best to make up for his hefty price tag. The man is an animal, and he gets better every year. He has scored a staggering 17 goals in 11 appearances so far this season.

So why should Ronaldo earn enough to buy a country house each and every week? Because he can. The money is there to pay him. It really is as simple as that. It would be a totally different story if football clubs were operating at a loss to pay these ridiculous salaries, but they just aren’t.

Agents work hard to get good deals for their players, and that’s the way it should be. With the influx of sweet, sweet Middle-Eastern and Russian petrol money into the world of professional football, clubs have more money to throw about than players to spend it on. It’s a seller’s market, and players are capitalising on it.

If football players’ salaries were capped, then where would the money go? This would certainly be a good idea if they money was guaranteed to go to a charitable cause, or into developing the club’s infrastructure, but this would never be the case.

We live in the real world, and people take what they can get.

If salaries were capped, the excess money would be retained by the owners or by third parties. If the players didn’t get the money, then it would trickle down and end up in the pocket of someone less deserving.

Speaking of money being soaked up by undeserving people, the GAA have been shamelessly profiting from the unselfish efforts of players for a long time now. Arguments like ‘GAA players do it for the love of the game’ are all well and good, if you are playing at the lower levels.

Strangely enough, it’s often people who don’t play the game at the highest level who offer tired arguments such as this.

There is an outrageous amount of money in the GAA. It has in excess of one million members globally, assets in excess of €2.6 billion, and declared total revenues of €94.8 million with total gross profit of €78.5 million (2010).

The GAA has seemingly infinite streams of revenue: concerts, lucrative sponsorship deals, TV deals with international sports broadcasters and of course, gate receipts. It feels as though they are on the take from players.

The GAA involuntarily makes the strongest possible case for paying players by not paying them. Managers, referees, trainers, physiotherapists, county board officials and GAA administrative officials all get paid. As with everything else in Ireland, money is soaked up by middle-men and hangers on.

Don’t get me wrong, referees and managers deserve to be paid, just not half as much as the players themselves. Without the players, there is no spectacle, no money, no pompous Gaelic Athletic Association.

As with soccer, not paying players would be alright if there was no money available. But that just does not apply in this circumstance.

GAA players diet and train year-round, while having to hold down full time jobs as well. While it does help to keep players humble, having a full-time job inhibits progression. Would Ronaldo be scoring fifty-odd goals a year if he had a full-time job? Not likely.

Hurlers and footballers are under immense pressure. In no other sport do amateur players perform in front of 80,000 plus spectators in a packed stadium, for sheer enjoyment of the game. While this is certainly a positive attribute of the game, it is a dangerous one.

Players who under-perform on the biggest stage are subjected to ridicule in the media and by fans. For amateurs, this just is not okay. Media pundits often tear into players for bad performances, forgetting that these players are fuelled by intrinsic motivation and sheer love for the game only. It would be all well-and-good to criticise Wayne Rooney for a bad game, because the man is being paid a fortune to tog out, but the same cannot be said for GAA players.

Money does not ruin sports, people do. Money cannot decide what it is spent on, but people can. Money is not an active party in this debate, it is a bystander. Money will always be present in sport.

Players deserve to receive a decent slice of whatever money is available in any given sport. If sponsors, administrative officials, referees and managers all profit financially from a sport, why shouldn’t the players?

*Originally appeared in Sin*

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One thought on “Money doesn’t ruin sport, people do

  1. Reblogged this on Tommy Arigna and commented:
    I don’t think that I could agree with this article, really – after all, it’s not just the managers and stuff getting the money, the money is also pumped into the infrastructure of the clubs themselves, without which it would be very difficult for players to train or to play these games.

    I think there are programs in some county clubs where players get some perks, and I think that more of that type of thing might be a good way of compensating players at the highest level in the GAA. I would not be comfortable with the type of cheques doled out in soccer clubs going into the GAA, especially at the expense of the local clubs that are the life-blood of the organisation.

    If players can then transfer, that makes a whole mockery out of the regionalism that makes the games so enjoyable – after all, if the Galway football team only had a minority of Galwegians, would it still be identifiable to the people of Galway? Would it still be a County Galway team, or just a corporation appropriating the title of the county?

    And you can pretty much forget any semblance of competition in Gaelic Football, because as it is, Dublin ought to be partitioned, because it enjoys considerably more bargaining power for sponsors than any of the other county boards. If you gave them the ability to be able to buy the best players from the other counties, Gaelic Football at national level would become the equivalent of Ulster Hurling – with one county dominating to such a ridiculous extent as to make the whole thing a mockery of a competition.

    To say that professionalising the GAA would result in a complete upheaval of the organisation is an understatement. in all probability, it would end up destroying the Gaelic Game’s most valued asset – the local clubs and teams that feed into the upper echelons of the sport. Would we really want this to happen?

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