This week the Union heard Pat Nevin, ex-Chelsea winger and current football broadcaster, condemn the exponential increase of money in football for destroying its traditional values of honesty and competition, turning it into an industry marred by unscrupulous business models. He criticised the ludicrous salaries, the pressure to perform, and the top dogs of the corporate world who, for him, embody the corruption of the game. More emphatically, Nevin pointed to money as the cause of all these problems.
On one level, the man has a point. Some athletes have turned to performance enhancing drugs as a means to retain their salaries. Some men at the top of the corporate ladder have turned to match-fixing and illicit activity to build upon their wealth. Some players are receiving roughly £300,000 a week – that’s just under £30 every minute.
But why is this all such a problem? Yes, there are some cheats in sport – just like there are in all walks of life. Yes, there are some bad businessmen in sport – but don’t these men exist in every profession in the world? Yes, there are those who earn vastly more than everyone else and it seems ridiculous. And yet, the world still watches.
Football is a business, and sometimes clubs have to make harsh decisions simply for economic gain. But without that element, the game would not be as tantalising as it is. The money pumped into the market by fans, television rights and sponsorship deals does not only go to the upper echelons: even from grass roots level upwards players are exposed to greater funding and better facilities. The fans are able to enjoy safer stadiums and improved match experiences. Discounted ticket prices are being introduced for the likes of students and pensioners. The public can even enjoy top class coverage for free via programmes such as Match of the Day. Clubs and players are giving a lot back through their various foundations and charities. The list goes on.
Football represents the simple model of supply and demand: the public keep buying, so the money keeps flowing. Football also epitomises the stereotype that there are always going to be villains, no matter how many heroes. Most of all, football exemplifies the unique quality of sport: it is the universal language. Money may indeed be the root of all evil, but where is the evil in football?