Is professionalism destroying sport?

Since the inception of the professional era sport has lost it gloss and appeal to the sports fans.

The professionalism of sport the last twenty five years has led to many challenges with regard to financial stability, availability of players and the lack of passion from sports fans.

There is little doubt that since the inception of the professional era sport has lost it gloss and appeal to the sports fans. One just has to look at the empty stadiums to realize that the professional era has many problems. There are probably three major reasons for the decline in the interest and passion for sport.

Sports teams’ historical roots were in communities and the teams represented their communities, but in the professional era teams draw their players from other provinces, clubs and even overseas. The teams no longer represent a specific community but a professional brand and this has led to a decline in interest from the public.

The professional era’s cost structure is so much higher than in the amateur era because players, coaches and administrators need to be paid. Television is the only sustainable income and quantum that can produce the necessary finances. Sponsorships and gate takings can no longer sustain professional sport and only add to the income budget. This has resulted in far too much sport being televised because television stations need product and advertising opportunities to recoup the payment for these rights fees. The paying public has become exhausted; they no longer attend live matches and watch only selectively on television.

The major problem for professional sport is the movement of players because of money. The modern day player is happy to turn his back on representing his country, club or province because of money. This has resulted in the southern hemisphere having to field teams that are substandard, especially at the professional level. The turnover of players is also too big for fans to identify with heroes like in yesteryear.

The winner in the professional era is not the sport, the fans or the sporting institutions but the players and coaching staff. All sporting institutions are under massive financial strain or threat and in spite of the professional era are poorer than ever before. Professional sport has become an employment bureau not based on excellence but numbers. The pride of the jersey or blazer no longer exists.

Rupert Murdoch of Newscorp said in 2002 that it was hard to see sport surviving the professional era. There are certainly definite sign that he could be right.

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