Posts in March

Saving Sport with Beer and Sauerkraut
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Saving Sport with Beer and Sauerkraut

There’s little doubt that the current travails of sporting teams in Australia and on the fabled strand of the Gold Coast in particular are complicated.  Just as the planets can line up for the forces of good so too can they align for the darkside. This seems to be the fate of sport in SE Queensland at the moment. The economy on the strip is in tatters with unemployment well above national averages, property prices have plunged leading to decreased equity and fidgety banks and the demographic make up of the region is unique and confounding. In sporting terms they speak of the holy trinity – match day revenue, sponsorship and of course broadcast income. With the factors above contributing, at least two of these are affected. That’s as maybe but the clubs, leagues and competitions must also shoulder some of the blame and admit to mismanagement.  Maybe it is time to look for different structural and management models for sport, our sport. Mention Germany and the stereotypical among us are quick to conjure images of rigidity, of discipline and of humourless efficiency. Whilst these traits may have some skerrick of truth we may soon have to add a further one – that they run sport well. In their football league -the Bundesliga – they have a shining example of a well managed, well governed and level as a billiard table competition that boasts engaged fans that watch, attend and have a stake in the clubs they support. One of the guiding principles of the league is the 50+1 rule whereby at least 51% ownership of each club must be in the hands of the members of that club. There are some exceptions with both Leverkusen and Wolfsburg majority owned by global companies based in the cities. This situation eventuated only because they had been involved in football for more than 20 years and thus proved their credentials.  Undoubtedly the core value is always the fan and not a big name investor who may not have their best interests at heart. Whilst Michael Searle is a died in the wool rugby league fanatic, if the Titans were operating under a Bundesliga esque structure then they would have been shielded from the humungous losses of a property arm that many players and fans would have been unaware and not in the financial black hole they are purported to be in. Perhaps it’s time to break out the sauerkraut and beer and seriously consider something different?

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on March 26th

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I’m all outta love…

The Melbourne grand prix took place yesterday – not that you’d really have noticed. It’s the first race of the season and is a highly anticipated event largely because the teams get to see whether the eye watering amounts they have invested in research and development in the off season all comes to nought! Granted – they may have been assailed at every turn down Mexico way (all that whiff of fuel in the air, whining of finely tuned engines and traffic congestion) but you can’t tell me you’ve been swamped by promotion nor even give a fig about it? Whilst there are apparently millions around the world salivating at the prospect of the green light fewer and fewer Australians seem to be among them sharing their consuming passion. We’ve fallen out of love. The reasons are perhaps as wide ranging as the nationalities of the drivers involved. Is it the fact that the money shelled out by the Victorian government (around 55 million this year) doesn’t match up with the 35 million of mooted economic benefit?  Is it that our egalitarian society baulks at lining the pockets of some tawdry European billionaires with hard earned public money and the lost opportunities this leads to? Maybe it is the fact that those self same billionaire entrepreneurs hold organisers to ransom at every turn?  It is likely a combination of all these. When Melbourne snuck in and pilfered the GP from Adelaide in 1996 it cost them a paltry 1.7 million – a hefty sum sure, but chump change to any self-respecting billionaire and palatable to the majority of ratepayers, especially in a voraciously sports mad city such as Melbourne. But now it costs nearly forty times that amount and some of the lustre has worn off with the continuing ramblings and rumblings of Ecclestone and his playboy mates do little to buff the image. The latest attempt is to turn the race into a twilight event largely to assuage the concerns of the broadcasting sugar daddy’s up north and fit better with their schedules. Inevitably this will cost taxpayers more in infrastructure on top of a likely race fee hike! Ecclestone’s reaction smacks of concern for his own back pocket and there are plenty of places eager to sell their souls for an F1GP!  I’d like to think that as a society we would take stock of the true value of the race, forget the bluff amnd bluster and make a decision based on rational thought rather than testosterone charged, ego driven bullying.

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on March 19th

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The Best Games Ever…

In an Olympic year there is a never ending supply of weird and wonderful stories and it seems that with London 2012 fast approaching this seems set to continue! Only last week the 550 or so athletes that will make up Team GB were warned not to shake hands if at all possible lest they be the unwitting recipients of an illness inducing virus.  With approximately 10 000 athletes expected from some 200 countries the opportunities for picking up a performance reducing germ or two will be legion – hence the advice. The Chief Medical Officer of the team Dr Ian McCurdie said “any sickness picked up in the ‘quite stressful environment’ of the Games could affect performance”. In dispensing this advice he realised that many would not take it – hence he also advocated regular washing with hand foam as an alternative. Apparently this is exactly what George W Bush used to do after shaking hands with foreign dignitaries!  Of course the pukka poms have been affronted by such a suggestion with suggested alternatives including a Japanesque formal bow and the pr people’s favourite air kiss! And it seems not all the action will be confined to the various gobsmacking stadia that have been specifically constructed for the Games. One of the other curious facts that has emerged is that condom manufacturer Durex has come aboard the Games as an official supplier. Organisers were quick to point out that they will not be allowed to display the Olympic logo on product as they are merely a supplier rather than a partner!  The company is yet to ascertain the exact number required but they should err on the side of caution if history is any guide. For Sydney 2000 some 70 000 were provided but that number proved inadequate and a further 20 000 were eventually brought in.  The winter games in Vancouver 2010 saw 90 000 supplied whilst Beijing in 2008 saw an average of 6 per athlete! It gives a whole new meaning to the ‘best games ever’ tag doesn’t it!!

 

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on March 12th

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