Lament of a sport fan

The nightmare becomes a reality. It was expected though.  Last week, FIFA officially expanded its marquee event, the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.  More the merrier!

While last year, the ICC (International Cricket Council) contracted its World Cup format. Thus, essentially making it difficult for the Associate Members’ teams to be part of the tournament.

FIFA expanding, ICC contracting. Neither warranted. But that would be for another article.

It is bad times to be a fan of sport. Irrespective of which sport or sports one follows.  It is all about money, sponsorships, broadcast rights, and all about those with vested interest and agendas.

Welcome to the world of Sport. Or rather the world of Sport Cash-cow. It is all about business, you moronic sport fan.

Who cares about a sport fan. They will whinge, crib, throw few curses on social media and then get on with what is presented…oops with life.

Take a look at the world of sport. Take a look at the sporting bodies. Any sport. Any sport organizing body.  They all seem to be following a similar pattern.  Especially those sporting bodies who generate a lot of revenue through broadcasting rights, those who are able to attract a lot of sponsors.

Couple of years back, Ed Cumming wrote this in the Daily Telegraph*:

“Fifa and the IOC will never be properly managed, because fans don’t really care. If England win the Qatar World Cup, nobody will give two hoots whether the tournament was built on slave labour and bungs. Even the possibility of winning will be enough to sweep ethical concerns aside as the tournament draws near, while anything short will be treated, as usual, as a national catastrophe.”

But, wait a minute, does a sport fan have any say where FIFA World Cup or Olympics are held? Do they have a vote in the say?  No, absolutely not. It could take place on Venus or Mars, for all we care, if enough money could be thrown around.  

A sport fan does not have a say, does not have a voice.  I know about cricket stadiums with substandard facilities that are deemed fine for those ordinary fans. They’ll flock the stadium, they’ll cheer their team full of superstars. Nobody would give a damn about these ordinary folks: the struggle to reach the venue and then put up with substandard facilities.

And when they are in the stadium, the match could be delayed even in perfect weather conditions and with perfect knowledge of rain in the forecast.  Remember Florida 2016?Don’t bother to inform those in the stadium about the delay. The match starts after a 40 minute delay, the rain arrives as predicted in the forecast, match abandoned, no result. Two match series decided on the result of one match.  

Ah, and the reason of the delay? Unavoidable and technical problems suffered by the broadcasters. Never mind those live souls sitting and waiting patiently in the stadium.  

Everything is decided by how it fits the broadcasters. A match between India and Pakistan women’s cricket teams in 2016 World Cup T20 was hastily wrapped up and result decided in Pakistan women’s team favor. The reason for the rush? Another big match was about to start – the India versus Pakistan, this time the men’s teams facing each other in the group stages of the 2016 T20 World Cup. (Side note: That India and Pakistan have been playing each other regularly in the last few World Tournaments is not accidental – the draws are allegedly “fixed” – all for the benefit of the fans (and of course, all the additional revenue generated by hyping this already over-hyped rivalry.)

Then there are these issues of doping, cheating, match-fixing etc.  For example, the ongoing Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics doping scandal. The results tested in the labs in Russia. All mess. The doping test results from 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics are shedding new light (or dark light should we say?). Some athletes, who, we as sport fans cheered on the podium with the glittering medals around their necks, it seems were not clean. It is just not fair. Not to their fellow athletes and not to the  fans, both in the stadium and those millions watching on TV. They cheated and now we feel cheated. They robbed us and our genuine appreciation of their efforts now feel wasted.

Allow doping, allow cheating. Allow widespread use of TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions)*. Lenient punishments. Allowing athletes to return to their respective sports. What is the deterrent then? The athletes says this to themselves, “We will carry on like this, and reap the rewards. If we are caught, will pay some fine, serve the suspension and then we will be back. Simple.   

(*Here is the link to more on it: https://www.wada-ama.org/en/what-we-do/science-medical/therapeutic-use-exemptions)

What policies are in place to deal with these issues? That we are still dealing with 2008 doping test results make me believe something is seriously wrong here. But, nah, as sport fans we do not have the right to question it.  It is all about winning, it all about sponsors and broadcasters and it all about that important, “face” of the sport.

In short, who cares about ordinary sport fans? Sport fans do not care enough for all those who lost their lives in constructing those stadiums working in extreme heat, dangerous conditions and living in deplorable residential quarters. But who awarded the event to take place in that location in the first place?

Sport fans were not consulted on that. Repeating what I wrote earlier. Sport fans do not have a voice on the choice of location. (Of course, the bidding cities would show the support of its citizens, if that is attributed as voice of the sport fans).

Sport fans do not have a say which countries/cities would have the facilities to test the results of doping.  They do not have a say how these labs functions.

Sport fans do not decide on the format of the tournament including the number of participating teams. They do not decide on group draws, which could also be manipulated.

But yet, all this is done in the name of sport fans. Larger tournament, shorter tournament, traditional rivalries, more development and growth of the game to make it truly global.

And we all know to read between the lines. Or the hidden message behind such rhetorics.

Adding to our woes, we also live in the world of fake news. Deal with media that claims to be impartial but is more often than not biased, and somehow always-have-an-agenda. So while we are presented ‘facts’, it is not necessary we would the know the whole story behind those facts.

RIP Sport Fans.  Long live the World of Sport Business!

*http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/10713932/Damned-if-they-do-and-damned-if-they-dont-no-wonder-sports-associations-are-so-badly-run.html

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