As competitive, global and beautiful as the World Cup may turn out to be, the reality is that there is a mighty lot of cashing in going on as we speak.
As people receive their team kit in the post, advertising boards are erected and ticket sales make a seat at the big matches as rare as hen’s teeth, the corporate realities are obvious.
I woke this morning to a post on Facebook where a friend had received their new Socceroos kit with ‘ARZANI’ emblazoned across the shoulders.
Days earlier I had been reading the astonishing pre-order figures on the Nigerian equivalent. Nothing enunciates the financial ramifications of the world’s biggest sporting event more than three million people ordering a simple yet striking lime green shirt.
Averaged out at around $100 per shirt, the revenue is astonishing. Those not in the pre-sale will snap up the remaining stock, and when all 32 teams tally up their numbers one can only guess the final fashion figure.
In reality the passionate purchase of kit is the purest form of commercialism around the cup. Airlines, car manufacturers and credit card providers are on board once again and the amount of flesh that will be pressed in corporate boxes and swanky functions will be considerable.
Undoubtedly there will be some big gains, whether they be purely financial or reputational ones, as business craves added ‘trust’ in their brands.
Food and beverage providers will turn over copious amounts of product and I hope the deals struck with the organisers allow them to do so at a reasonable price to the consumer while also permitting them to make a quid or two in the process.
Despite analysts warning of little or no long-term positive impact on the Russian economy, let’s hope the local traders have a bumper couple of months.
Coffee shop and cafe owners must be rubbing their hands with glee. However, with the sense of adventure and passion already being displayed by some groups of travelling supporters, late-night fast food stores might be in for some wild times over the next month.
We will all be bombarded with advertising, both digital and print, with corporates desperate to build that aforementioned trust and etch their brand firmly in our subconscious minds.
Shameless cross-promotion will cause many to gnaw their own teeth, as amateur tipsters from reality television programs offer their thoughts on matches, all the while donned in national kit and misrepresenting their actual understanding of the game.
And football itself will benefit. Teams will walk away with enormous sums of prize money from the total pool of $US791 million ($A1.044 billion). For smaller nations such as ourselves even a first-round exit makes an important difference to the coffers, and FIFA’s sale of the broadcast rights should be able to pay for a few executive lunches over the next 12 months.
In the end, when money is involved, someone always wins. However, one nation will also win on the pitch and a team captain will hold the most sacred trophy aloft in Moscow.
With so much ‘cashing in’ and Australians being actively encouraged to dabble with infidelity and have a little ‘fling with football’, an age-old question arises: how does Australian football parlay our participation in and the excitement of the World Cup finals into further growth and engagement with the domestic product?
Certainly things appear better after every four-year cycle, and in conversations with more casual sports followers the interest is clearly apparent this time around.
Yet the chasm between 23 young Australian men on the other side of the globe and the traditionally cynical attitude of mainstream Australia is still vast – narrowing, but vast.
Once these men, particularly those with strong A-League ties, have completed their duties the FFA needs to ensure that they are back on Australian soil more often.
Of course the international footballing calendar is a complex and sometimes indecipherable beast and permission for our boys to return home is not guaranteed, yet the national team is key to growth.
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Heaven forbid we could even organise matches beyond Sydney and Melbourne or see the governing body promote the game with the same vigour as passionate football journalists and corporate entities such as Hyundai and Aldi.
We can talk about grassroots issues, state associations and national curriculums until the cows come home. and they’re all important – however, changing the mindset of the big event Socceroos supporter who tucks the scarf back in the closet only for it to re-emerge around Asian Cup time is our biggest challenge.
It’s certainly not doom and gloom, and the support for the Socceroos is stronger than ever, yet it would be advantageous to turn this fling into something a little more substantial.
Nothing would give it a bigger shot in the arm than a Socceroos performance for the ages in Russia.