Money threatening team sports traditions

Is there a future for sport without fans and supporters?

There is little doubt that money is threatening the traditions and existence of team sports as we have known it over the years. There is more than enough evidence that cricket, rugby and football are selling their souls and traditions for money, with no respect for fans and traditions.

Let us start with cricket. There are now three world cups that will take place over the next three years. The two ICC T20 World Cups scheduled for India in 2021 and Australia in 2022, and after that the traditional ICC World Cup, also scheduled for India in 2023. Three world cups in three years! The ICC cannot be serious about the integrity of the World Cup Cricket brand and its rich 46-year history. They are using the World Cup tag for financial gain only, with little respect for the game, its traditions or its fans.

In years gone by, the ICC used the Champions Trophy and World T20 to fulfil their contractual obligations with sponsors and broadcasters between World Cups. These tournaments worked well and there was no need to change. The last Champions Trophy in England was an outstanding success and the dream final between India and Pakistan drew over a billion television viewers for the first time in cricket’s history. Was it necessary to change?

Historically rugby in South Africa has been a very strong sport, with a strong national team supported by the Currie Cup, recognised as the best domestic competition in world rugby. What have the rugby administrators done but do away with traditional international tours that created history and memories, and replaced it with ad hoc international schedules and tournaments that have no or little context?

The Currie Cup has been destroyed, with South African domestic teams playing in competitions like the now defunct Super Rugby and a second attempt to play offshore domestic rugby with second-rate European teams in the Pro 16. All the good things in rugby have been destroyed because their business model no longer works.

There was an interesting development recently in English football when the top six teams planned a breakaway league with six top European clubs. There was a massive backlash from fans of these clubs and even the British government, resulting in this initiative being shelved. Once again it was based on money with little respect for the more than 100-year history and legacy of British football, or its fanatical, paying fans.

The invasion of the Old Trafford pitch by angry Manchester United supporters can easily be the first signs that supporters worldwide are tired of being taken for granted. After all, the stadium-attending fans and paid channel subscribers are the people who finance sport.

Sport without fans and supporters will have no future.

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