It has been said many times that sport will teach you all that you want to know about life. You will learn what it means to be a part of a team, to win and lose graciously. You will learn that sport like life is sometimes not fair. Some days you will win when you don’t deserve to, and on other days you don’t deserve to lose.
Sport is supposed to instil all the values that will make the world a better place, such as a sense of fair play, integrity, respect and courtesy.
Yet as much as we talk about such values, and many of sport’s governing bodies use such words, the actions of those entrusted with safeguarding our sports have sadly devalued the meaning of those words.
FIFA talks of “FairPlay” yet as we have seen the bidding for the World Cup hosting rights was far from fair, and certainly lacked integrity and honesty. We look at the current impasse in the Football Federation of Australia, who like to claim that all involved in the sport are part of a “family,” but they do the word a gross disservice. The ethos of being a part of a “family” is a sense of belonging, yet at this point in time across the nation this could not be further from the way many clubs, players and coaches feel about their connection with those guiding the game forward for the next generation.
We witness players earning obscene amounts of money at the highest level of many sports. Sums of money that do not equate with their talent in many cases. Amounts that must astound players from yesteryear, whom the modern crop are not fit to share the field with.
We witness those same players lacking that integrity that sport is meant to teach. A contract no longer is binding. A contract is no longer there to be honoured by both parties. When one party is allowed to break such an agreement, with no penalty, it is only natural that others will try. That is why rules and laws were created in various sports, to protect the overall game; the same with society.
The behaviour from the top filters down as we see players paid in tens of thousands switch clubs for an extra ten thousand, and those paid in hundreds do the same for an extra fifty a week. Where is the loyalty? Where are the players who play for the club and its fans and to be a part of a successful team? They are few and far between.
If players become mercenaries then the fans become disenchanted and disconnect. If the players do not respect the club, its history and what it means too those who keep it going, then they will soon stop going and paying to watch. Worse than such players are many of the modern day owners, who are only involved for personal gain, and have no affinity with the game, the club they own, or that fans.
Why is it clubs are not paying out coaches when they terminate their contract early? Why is it clubs are not paying players that they have agreed to pay a weekly wage to? Why is it that the administrators do nothing to ensure payment is made. For some their lives are put under immense stress due to the non-payment, and the powers that be step in after the damage has been done. Some coaches have had to wait two years for payments despite FIFA involvement.
Now we even have a sport’s governing body no longer handing over prize money to their competition winners, but instead giving them credit on their registration fees for the following season. This is a bizarre situation. What is even more baffling is that the clubs would accept such a situation. Surely that money is better sitting in their bank account earning interest, or paying bills than the administrators? You cannot pay bills with credit. This is, as many have found in the past a recipe for disaster and someone somewhere along the line will end up paying.
So what has gone wrong in the world of sport? Is money really the root of sport’s evils? Are the various sports paying money that they don’t really have to high-powered business people to administer the game? Are they complicating what is in truth a fairly straightforward task, and thus justifying those salaries?
Has the players’ increase in pay had a crippling effect on sport from top to bottom? Has the fact that now that junior coaches have to have coaching badges, which come at a cost, and that they now want paying changed the whole dynamic of clubs?
In a family, does everyone receive a wage for their role? Or do you do what you have to do for the good of those around you? Is that too much to expect at a club today?
There is no doubting that the world has changed. For those of us of a certain age, the changes are hard to accept, as we cannot fathom how they can ultimately be for the best.
It used to be that a successful club was the one that could turn out the same team week in week out. A club without imported stars, who twinkle every couple of weeks and then disappear. The club created its own stars, and these were people who delivered on the pitch but who were also special men and women when the game was over, who were part of the club and what it stood for. They certainly did not take holidays in the middle of a season, as they were committed to the club.
The successful club had stalwarts. A word that has faded into antiquity. These were people upon whom the club could depend, upon whom the fans could depend. These were people who were reliable and loyal. Players who had graced the first team once upon a time, but with the passing of time had gracefully and effortlessly slipped down the grades, and also from attack into defence. They were club people and would happily sit at the bar and regale you with tales of years gone by. Tales that helped you understand what you were a part of.
It is interesting to look around the sporting world today and these people do still exist, but there are far fewer of them. It is also interesting to look at the sports that the stalwarts are still involved in and one will, in most cases, note that they are sports where the financial rewards at the highest level are moderate by today’s standards.
So when all is said and done is sport still teaching us those values that made the world a better place? Or as the world evolves has sport now a new set of values that it teaches us, values to prepare us for a more selfish world? If so what are those values?