Anyone reading the sports pages over the last few months would have seen an increasing plethora of negative sports stories that mostly revolve around greed and corruption, occasionally simply cheating.
Today we learned that a salary of 3 million pounds and the ideal job is not enough for Sam Allardyce, who not only displayed simple greed in the search of another 400,000£ but also a curious mixture of arrogance and stupidity. He has of course left the FA tonight “by mutual consent”. Unfortunately one suspects that this is not even the tip of the iceberg. Money flows in football, well at least in the premiership and greed seems close behind. The Leicester owner left the ground via a helicopter on the pitch tonight. There is simply too much money there and clearly even more amounts of temptation. Maybe the most worrying thing is the arrogance to presume that he would get away with this. Rumours have been rife for many years about managers, agents and owners involved in various illegal money-making ventures. Little or nothing was proven by various investigations. Yet we know from this summer that corruption is also rife in UEFA and FIFA. Again the common denominator is the money. Match fixing has reared an ugly head in football and cricket increasingly and again money is the temptation. Cycling and athletics have had scandals of their own, also tangentially related to money but involving simple cheating and potentially “bending the rules”. Doping has been discovered for many years but increasingly so recently, leading to Russia essentially being banned from the Rio olympics. We know what we know but we also imagine there is much that we do not know. There has been probable abuse of TUEs where legal medications are prescribed for reasons that may be dubious and certainly some believe to be invented.
Sport is fun and exciting and fans go to football games in the dark and rain because they support their team and believe each team will try their utmost to win. If fans lose their faith in the simple matter of honesty then sport is dead. Fans also may imagine things when unexpected results are seen. A win by Bangladesh over another senior test playing nation may be regarded as suspicious as opposed to celebrated. Own goals will be looked at as potentially deliberate. The fun will have gone and when fans leave the sport then the money will go too. The rules in sport are there for a reason and not simply historical. They are there to provide fairness in competition and the rules agents and clubs must abide by are there equally to provide fairness.
It is not just the ridiculously huge sums of money paid to the players, especially in football, but the equally ridiculous sums paid by SKY and BT Sports. This leads also inadvertently to a betting culture where sport is played not simply to see who wins, but to see who can win the most money (by being in the Champions League for example), but where the same sport is flaunted at home to the “spectators” who are enticed to bet on any parameter that can be measured in a game. Half-time adverts on TV are predominantly related to betting usually showing happy smiling faces of those who win. I have yet to see an advert showing what happens when betting gets out of control and ruins a life or a family.
So the simple pleasure of competing and winning gets diluted by the financial returns that overlay the event. Excessive betting is another factor killing the morals of sport. Players are regularly convicted of betting on games, from which they are prohibited to do so. Joey Barton this week has been accused of that crime. This is very separate to match-fixing but again synonymous with the greed for money which is attainable.
Things must change. The effects of money on the various sports, football in particular, must be significantly reduced. The term Greed Creed can be applied almost at will. Sam Allardyce is a symptom of the problem which may be far more widespread than we realise. I have little doubt that anything will happen but this should be a turning point when sport looks at itself and realises that it is the sport that matters, not the money.