The Bizarro Running World: Soccer Seeks to Limit Athlete Spending

     Even as track and road running prize purses continue to stagger along at start up, 20th century levels, officials of the “beautiful game” soccer are placing curbs on runaway athlete spending at SoccerEx in Manchester, England.

In an effort to halt what’s called “financial doping”, UEFA, the European soccer association, has instituted new regulations that limit wealthy owners from subsidizing team losses incurred while paying high athlete transfer fees and salaries.  A top club like Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City lost $191 million in the year ending May 31, 2010, having spent more on wages alone than it earned in revenue.

The new regs will require teams to only spend what they generate from soccer-related income, or risk losing playing privileges at UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League competitions.  To allow a weaning off the old system, owners will be allowed to cover losses of up to a maximum of $63 million over an initial three-year spell, starting in 2012. In the three years from 2015, just $42 million in losses can be covered.

EFA’s head of club licensing Andrea Traverso told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the organization is already anticipating club lawyers searching for loopholes to get around the new regulations.

“We will monitor how the clubs react and if necessary, if we notice there are measures that need to be taken to address particular problems then we will address those to the executive committee for consideration and then eventually (make) some modifications,” Traverso told AP on the sideline of the SoccerEx conference.

It was the new regulations that convinced the Boston Red Sox ownership group headed by John Henry to buy the Liverpool team in October 2010 for $476 million through their New England Sports Ventures.

Imagine the problem of overpaying runners, jumpers, and throwers?  So are running and track inherently low level, niche sports forever consigned to the agate page except for the Olympic Games and World Championships?  Or could there ever be a time when the road and track clubs like Mammoth TC, Team USA Minnesota, the Bay Area TC, etc. become owner-operated and scheduled along the lines of soccer in team vs. team competitions leading to a season ending championship? 

It is one potential model to commodify our sport.  At present with every event being a stand alone universe, and every athlete an independent contractor, it is impossible to create a viable calendar to showcase the efforts of the athletes.  What say you?

END

(Associated Press was a source for this post)

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4 thoughts on “The Bizarro Running World: Soccer Seeks to Limit Athlete Spending

  1. Good points, Toni.

    As you know, the Japanese corporate support system has been clicking along for years, generating multi-million dollar club budgets, national live broadcasts of meets and marathons, and the national club ekiden championships. Those national ekiden championships of the corporate-sponsored clubs generate solid ratings, and include such events as the men’s national championship on New Year’s Day, and the men’s collegiate Hakone Ekiden broadcast on January 2nd and 3rd. This is why club sponsors in Japan come from across the economic spectrum: insurance companies, cosmetic companies, auto manufacturers, and so on.

    You, Tim, Kathrine, and others do a great job commentating, but the technical coverage (splits, leader board information, distances from the leaders back to other prominent athletes off the front pack, etc.) is atrocious at all but a handful of events. It often seems virtually nothing has changed in the broadcast styles in the past three decades. Should we expect the general public, let alone true fans, to tune into broadcasts that can’t even provide basic, consistent information to viewers over 2+ hours? Poor TV = low ratings = low sponsorship appeal.

    The stand-alone model for each race tilling the earth for its own individual set of sponsors obviously does not work to increase the size of the pie. Golf and tennis figured this out back in the 1960’s and 1970s. I recommend Bud Collins “My Life With the Pros,” in which he provides great insight as to how tennis moved from the stand-alone events of the 1950s into the professional, global circuit it currently enjoys. Lots of parallels for our sport…

  2. Brendan – The fact that so many American marathon broadcasts are produced by news departments – and only once-a-year – means that no economies of scale are ever achieved, nor learning curves utilized. The local neighborhood, runner & charity stories are the easiest to cover and most familiar. Consequently, the professional sporting element, though not ignored, is generally subjugated because there is no story to follow outside those particular 26.2 miles. I wish people here could see how well Japanese TV covers marathons. You don’t even have to understand the language to know exactly what’s happening at all times. All the information is on the screen. Maybe one day.

  3. Brendan, as one halfway responsible for the atrociousness at LA, i’ll address a couple ways around that….my fault for a lot of that horrid split reporting
    Regardless of mile marks (we’re talking 12ft tall arches spanning the entire road…where did they go???) COMPLETELY MISSING, not being accurate (one split I took was 5:2x, followed by a 4:16 or so….yeah, sure!), or 5K/10K/etc chip mats NOT marked (I figured that out by the 10K mat), in the end, i figured out that I should have just put my Garmin on my wrist and that way Toni’s splits would have been perfect….at least if they could quickly get them to him from me- to the call taker- to the producer- who eventually puts them in front of toni. def not the most efficient way to transfer the info from the press truck to the booth.
    Perhaps a better way would have been for me to be logged in w/ an Andriod straight into the KTLA ticker and have each mile split set to go “Mile 21: 4: …” and just enter the last two digits as they happen, push “send”, and up it pops on your tv screen at home (and toni’s feed). better still, since they had fancy-dancy tracking available to tweet (i recall something like this for age groupers), why couldn’t they just integrate that into the live broadcast? sure makes toni’s job easier.
    on that note, surely someone could easily write a program that would take a certain gap (say, the 17:03 head start) and have the program continuously calculate exactly when/where the catch would be made. sure adds to the excitement if the graphic shows the catch being made AFTER the finish line.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but up until recently anyway, weren’t/aren’t the majority of Japanese marathons and certainly the Ekiden competitions, for elite athletes (a large part of the reason why so many “citizen” runners in Japan run Honolulu every year) Elite athletes that are recognizable, respected and revered by everyday Japanese citizens. Isn’t this is one of the reasons why marathon TV coverage is so unprofessional and dismal in the US: because running, unlike basketball, football, baseball, tennis or golf hasn’t created/developed/marketed heroes, recognizable faces that people know, care about and want to watch compete. Would you watch a televised golf tournament taking place at a local city course? Probably not, unless you happened to know someone who was playing. But, even if you’re not a golfer yourself, do you tune in to watch when Tiger’s playing? Of course. And did you watch even when Tiger wasn’t playing? Sure you did. Give me one good reason why the average coach potato, or even a walker/jogger/three times a week runner, should tune in to watch a marathon. Why should a network waste their time and resources on televising something that no one cares to watch anyway? Why should they spend the money to improve their technical capabilities? Until we can create enough excitement about the athletes and the sport to get not only the average TV sports junkie but dedicated runners to want to watch marathons and track competitions, TV coverage will never improve. Definitely a Catch-22 situation.

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