Oxygen-free professional sport has become boring

Spikhaza Roar Pro

By Spikhaza, Spikhaza is a Roar Pro

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    Sport has long been a place for community to come together and collectively show their identity to the world.

    From the music of the marching band, the barbeque, a few beers on the hill, getting raucus and banging on the signage, it used to be a top day out.

    The players were a reflection of their upbringing, and reflected that in their style of play and their press conferences. You’d get the average punter that just wanted to play hard footy in rugby league, or the very articulate son of a lawyer who played rugby – and boy did he let you know about it.

    There was the son of the Greek immigrant who played at the local football (soccer) club, and he was fascinating and had verve too.

    And then our culture changed. And so did professional sport.

    Gone were the hills – in were the all seater stadia.

    Gone were the beers (at least full strength and for a reasonable price) – for the government decided we’re too stupid to decide what we drink.

    Gone were the personalities, who now resemble politicians spitting out the same talking points and giving 110 percent.

    And finally, gone was the concept of a club itself, replaced instead by a team imagined by first year marketing interns at the central office, with logos to match.

    Sport is no longer a clash of community and identity, or something that brings us all together. More and more, it is becoming merely a dinner party afterthought – mild entertainment after work on a Friday night.

    It is now of course a crime to be passionate about sport in Australia – if you’re a rugby fan, you’re a rugby tragic. If you’re a league fan, a bogan idiot. Instead, it’s best to attend sport as a form of a kind of beige vanilla drone, silently observing the days play.

    This is the culture that sees our national teams shunned while 100,000 people turn up to watch foreign teams play in a match with no meaning.

    Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool FC

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    What has made sport so incredibly colourless, odourless, even dull? It is not the professionalism itself, but several key policy decisions made by governing bodies that are utterly incapable of original thought.

    Problem number 1: The centralisation of teams and the death of the concept of a club
    People often talk about the English Premier League as the standard bearer for sport, and they’re right. It has the most connected fans, some of the best TV ratings, noisiest stadiums, and most of all, people care about the teams.

    The teams still have an active connection to their community, and it’s because they aren’t run out of head office. In fact, of England’s professional clubs, not one is owned by the Football Association (and to my knowledge not a single amateur club is either).

    The teams thus have genuine, grass roots connection to their communities, with individual histories and narratives that make the game beautiful. The community influence is so strong that rogue owners of teams that make bad decisions are condemned, denounced even by their fans, to the point of them having to sell the team.

    The opposite is happening right here in Australia. The Big Bash, though well attended and popular, is eight teams run out of central headquarters, with literally no distinguishing features apart from the grounds in which they play.

    While entertaining, most Australians have no connection to the actual performance of their team, and don’t care if it wins or loses. The Big Bash, as aforementioned, has become one giant dinner party amusement tool.

    George Bailey

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Other sports too have ventured down the centralisation path – look no further than rugby union, which has systematically destroyed the amazing rugby culture that used to be in Australia. It firstly bulldozed clubs with huge followings and history, by not bothering to make them professional (think Randwick). These clubs still exist of course, but not to the extent they used to.

    Then, it created centralised, fictitious teams out of head office. Rugby made the mistake of not only creating bizarre centralised teams, it also made them play in locations that fans did not actually know existed, including strange localities in far off corners of the globe, further confusing fans.

    Centralisation and the destruction of clubs and the replacement of them with franchises has universally destroyed the community that followed a team, its individuality and its culture. And it’s making sport boring.

    Problem Number 2: The anti-match day experience
    Australia’s sporting infrastructure has lagged a little in recent years, and we all know from recent proposals that the plan to upgrade Sydney’s two stadiums has become politicised.

    Believe it or not, it’s not even the stadium that’s the problem. They could definitely use an upgrade, at some point, but you can start with fixing literally everything that happens on match day.

    There is no reason adults in Australia should be forbidden from purchasing heavy beer. And yet, through our government that knows better than us, we have been forbidden. When fans go to the games, they want to have a good time and have some drinks. Or they might not.

    The fact is, it’s not for someone else to decide whether I want to drink or not. That’s my right in Western Civilisation, not the right of some evangelising wowser. Unless someone is behaving illegally, there is no reason to stop them.

    That of course brings us to the second part of the beer – the price. Government-owned stadiums usually generate revenue for the cash strapped state governments that are fortunate enough to own the infrastructure. They sell football clubs/franchises the right to play, and make money.

    They also own the rights to sell any food or drink in the stadium, which is why you can’t bring any in. And, deliberately, they choose to only sell this right to one group. That’s to say they deliberately monopolise the sale of food and drink, so they make more money. Suncorp Stadium might sell the rights to O’Brien group, who then have a captured monopoly, and set prices accordingly.

    We are constantly told by the government that there’s nothing they can do about the outrageous prices at our stadia. There is. Stop the monopolisation of food and drink and the extra cost that comes as a result. Stop using stadiums as taxes in disguise.

    There’s other simple stuff as well – stop kicking people out of stadiums for behaviour that displays a passion for a team, for example. It’s now a crime to stand up and roar and support your team. It should be a crime to be seated.

    Melbourne Victory fans A-League

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    Problem number 3: Destruction of the personalities that used to make sport great
    Older Australian sports fans will remember some of the amazing personalities that used to be involved in sport.

    Do you remember when David Campese called England boring? Personally, though I wasn’t alive, I love it. David is giving his honest (and correct) opinion on an insipid English side utterly incapable of inspiring play.

    Of course, players these days don’t do that. They don’t say anything at all. They are monotonous, and they are boring.

    When was the last time a professional athlete said something worth listening to at a press conference. I count never. They stick to the same talking points spat out by commercial media, and it’s dull.

    They are, fundamentally, afraid of offending people, which is a shame.

    Now too, sporting organisations have bowed to social justice warriors, fearful of offending them. They do not support free speech in sport and actively seek to shut down dissenting, original thought.

    They do this through the contractual clause, which you have probably heard, called, ‘Bringing The Game Into Disrepute’. This clause essentially has the effect of a sporting organisation being able to fire, gag, or worse, send to ‘re-education’ any player who acts or says anything they don’t like.

    The result is that anyone who says anything critical of the administration, or other teams, or whatever, can potentially face legal action for expressing an opinion.

    It’s garbage. It destroys individuality. It destroys character, and has made professional players monotonous robots.

    Professional sport has a lot wrong with it, and some good aspects as well. Modern Australian sport however, at least in my opinion, has destroyed every resemblance of the beautiful community run beast it used to be. And we regret it.

    Now it’s time to fix it. Governing bodies should get out of the lives of clubs and let the blossom.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • February 9th 2018 @ 6:51am
      Steiner said | February 9th 2018 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      Enjoyed this article and found myself agreeing with a lot of it, thanks!

    • February 9th 2018 @ 1:28pm
      Malo said | February 9th 2018 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

      Great article, going to games is like entering a prison with the amount of intense security checking everything. There are less personalities as sportsman. They then up the prices dramatically for a less enjoyable experience. We are in a nanny security state that’s why we pay $8 for water beers. Wake up you corporate idiots and get down to the people. I’d rather a cheap day at the club speaking to mates rather dealing with uneducated security nobodies at Homebush no atmosphere stadia

    • Roar Guru

      February 10th 2018 @ 12:37am
      Harry Jones said | February 10th 2018 @ 12:37am | ! Report

      Once, my son and I went to two EPL matches in one weekend:

      Anfleld on a Saturday and Old Trafford on a Sunday.

      It’s not far from one to the other, but my word, the experiences were different. Night and day.

      In Liverpool, we walked from the river to the stadium, just for fun. Unfortunately, we strolled through Everton territory by mistake, wearing Pepe Reina shirts! Quality swearing from old ladies down those lanes. The area around Anfield looked like a hurricane had blown through recently, but we found a little pub to get lubricated and ready. The fans are kept out of the stadium until JUST before kickoff. You go into your cell block. Beer is plentiful outside, but inside, it’s 100% focus on the game, the chants, the songs for each player, and each contest (jeers, groans, bliss). Halftime–the stadium is cleared. Dogs sniffing, police searching. The Wigan visitors were protected as if they were the prime minister, each of them. Exit was similarly policed. Because Liverpool won, the mood was bright in the city.

      In Manchester, it was car to the gleaming stadium, and VIP clubs and special cards; everyone dressed up and sort of quiet. Not as many walkups. The songs were similarly funny, but there wasn’t that edge of rage.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 10:43am
      StuM said | February 10th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Fabulous article, couldn’t agree more. But comparing eras against each other is never going to end well.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 5:43pm
      Train Without A Station said | February 10th 2018 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

      Lack of full strength beer a problem?

      Yeah nah.

      Go to a football game in the UK. You can’t even buy a beer. No problems with the atmosphere.

      It’s not a crime to stand up and cheer for your team.

      This article shows a lack of understanding of society in general. If alcohol issues at sporting events create too many issues it either requires more resources (and $ from the public purse) to manage, or you need to set restrictions.

      If you can’t have a good time without full strength beer, I suggest the issue may be with you. Also you can get full strength in day time hours.

      Also bringing food and drink in is an RSA issue. The stadium is legally required to keep you safe. If you bring in your own alcohol and die as a result of your actions, they may be responsible.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 1:13pm
        Spik said | February 12th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Couple of points Traino, I accept that decent alcohol is not a necessary condition of a good atmosphere but its all about the fan getting ripped off.

        Clearly you’re a bit of a stalinist and believe the benevolent state can tell people how to live their lives – personally I’ve been to thousands of events with a lot of piss and thousands of events without and they can all be good, but in a free and democratic society we should be free to decide for ourselves, not let some pen pushing bureaucrat tell me when I can and cannot drink

        The reality is alcohol does increase problems for sure, but I challenge your history – it doesn’t cause the massive issues you’re insinuating. There’s very few instances of problems even in the Valley statistically, so Rugby fans at suncorp can’t be an issue. If it is, why isn’t there more violence in the members bar where you CAN get full strength beer. Garbage tier analysis.

        Alcohol won’t necessarily help the atmosphere, but when people want a full strength beer at a decent price, having bin tier beer at a high cost turns them away and makes the stadium empty. I’ve had great times both sober and hitting the drink, it’s about choice in WEstern Society – that’s the whole point of the article. LEave the decisions to the individual, not the state.

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