Green Left Weekly stands for putting people before profit. That includes rejecting the idea that anything that people need or enjoy should be subordinate to the drive for profit, be it health care, public transport or indeed sport.
But unfortunately sport under capitalism is increasingly driven by the dollar, not people's enjoyment or community participation.
Let's look at the Melbourne Storm, the National Rugby League (NRL) club recently exposed for cheating the salary cap. Isn't the scandal just a result of greedy, overpaid players who deserve a pay-cut? And what about the Storm's owner — poor old News Ltd. Isn't it the victim here?
Firstly, on the players. Sure, some are on huge incomes. But Storm manager Frank Ponissi said on April 27: “We have a vast majority of players in our top 25 on the minimum wage ($55,000). They can’t take a pay cut”.
But also, aren't the players the ones actually generating the income? If ridiculous incomes are the problem, maybe we should investigate the CEOs. According to the April 27 Australian: “Two club officials at the centre of the Melbourne Storm salary-cap scandal were last year awarded hefty pay rises.
“The combined salaries of the club's former chief executive officer, Brian Waldron, and former chief operating officer, Matthew Hanson, jumped 60 per cent from $422,273 to nearly $700,000, the Storm's latest accounts show.”
The problem goes deeper than salaries. The problem is the corporate takeover of our sport — for example, the Storm's “relationship’ with News Ltd.
According to blogger Paul J from Theroar.com.au, the Storm is reported to lose $3.5 million a year after tax write-offs. Maybe Rupert Murdoch is okay with this because he just really cares about the fans in Melbourne and wants to give rugby youngsters a chance in Melbourne?
Oh, but wait. After the notorious “Super League war” in the mid-1990s when News Ltd tried to buy the entire competition (which led to the axing of South Sydney in 1999), News Ltd ended up owning half the NRL.
“News Ltd receives $9 million every year from the NRL”, wrote Paul J. “They use this money to pay any losses the Storm incur and then keep the change.”
But wait, there's more. TV rights to rugby league were undersold to Murdoch's Fox Sports. According to Paul J, Fox “underpaid for the privilege to show 5 NRL games a week”. Negotiations are really easy when you're sitting on both sides of the table!
Subordinating sport to the drive for corporate profit leads to scandals such as the salary cap breach. Wouldn't it be great if professional sporting clubs could be owned and operated by local communities? Where love for the game would drive the competition, not making a buck?
GLW wants to see sports for community need, not corporate greed. Hopefully one day we'll have the resources to have a sports column or backpage. But we need your help.
We can only dream of competing with profit-driven media outlets such as News Ltd.
You can help us by donating online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).