George Churchill

Sociology

George Churchill

Sociology ssp231

Marc Lawton

The Influence of Commercialisation on the Profeesionalisation of Sport

Due Date: 9th May 2008

Word Count: 2175

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George Churchill

Sociology

The Influence of Commercialisation on the Professionalisation of Sport

Abstract More sports are turning professional with athletes being able to live off the money generated by sponsorship, endorsements, contracts and prize money. These are all provided by popularity within the sport industry due to a large global audience. Modern sport is now an industry where sportsmen are paid greater then film and entertainment celebrities and use corporate logos of commercial companies. The modern sport society has evolved with technology, government, management, media and different perceptions on gender in sport all shaping the face of professionalisation in modern sport. Commercialisation has changed the face of sport in every way possible to take advantage of the phenomenon that was once just known as leisure time.

Introduction The sports industry was worth $194 billion in 2001 ahead of electronics and food (Schaaf, 2004) and one of the main factors in this is commercialisation. In the last three decades sport has improved in huge amounts and moved on from being played and run by a bunch of amateurs to a huge money making industry run by professionals. In fact sport has now become more business runand adapted to becoming more market orientated with consumers, professionally hired management teams are now in place to set goals and targets using new and improved strategies to exploit the growing industry that is sport. Athletes are now paid to train while sports management such as directors are now instrumental in running sport. The dissemination of sport professionalism has heralded a new era of strategies that are now put in place to exploit the consumer and maximise profit. The modern athlete can now make more income from sponsorship then their basic wage and the enigma surrounding the individuals or sports personality will endeavour to sell products to you.

Over the last three decades sport has afforded athletes to turn professional due to the modern restructuring sport has endured. Sport is a big business and big businesses are heavily involved in sport. Athletes are marketing commodities, broadcast rights cost huge amounts, sponsors fight it out for exclusive rights to events and more sports find themselves with the capacity to turn from amateur to professional every year due to large businesses expanding their sporting influence. Professional sport only started to exist in the early 19thcentury with lack of organisations hampering its progress. Organisation in sport requires rapid transportation (trains, planes), mass production, technology and industrialisation. Sport was played locally but there was no
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organised commercial sports industry (Slack, 2005). The means to a professional sports club requires large numbers of people living in close proximity who have time to spectate and money to afford to do so and there must also be other clubs with the same means to compete against. To organise this event of two professional clubs takes organisation and communication and newspapers were the earliest form of commercialism. The internet, radio and television are the modern updates of commercialism and reach out to larger audiences. Only in the last three decades has the internet been available and it has provided an advanced way of communicating.

Government With sport now becoming a major industry the government has implemented commercialisation strategies on sport to capitalise on the growing potential the industry has. There are more investments on grassroots, coaching and managerial aspects of sport to encourage participation increase andexpand the professional sector. The British sports ministers announced in 2002 that £459 million was being invested in school sports to promote sport participation (www.culture.gov.uk). With this strategy in place it increases sales on sporting goods such as equipment, supplements and television broadcasts. The sporting sector also generates income through facilities, education and sports events such as the Olympics.

Governments have played with commercialism to exploit the going trend in sport, they have recognised the profit they can make using education programmes and courses. It is true that by keeping everyone healthy it puts less strain on the health service but it can also be recognised that the government can manipulate the public by publishing statistics from leading scientists and experts stating the benefits of sport and nutrition. Over 200 universities in North America offer degree programmes in sport management and it is one of the fastest growing areas of study in American universities (Chelladurai, 1997). By offering these highly recognised degrees the government starts a matrix of occurrences that creates revenue. Individuals pay for and gain degrees and go into professional areas of sport, these can range anywhere from physiotherapists to sports development officers and they help promote and influence more sports into turning professional.

Professionalisation of sports management is now a pivotal influence in modern sport. A trend in good management practice being the key to organisational survival is evident in the modern day culture, where performance is measured and management techniques and marketing plans are implemented to improve practice in all areas within sport. It can be argued there is more demand for management teams to be implemented within clubs to ensure survival, with the belief organisation within a club can be a key factor to success. In 2003 sports minister Richard Caborn stated “there are over 400 governing bodies and only 120 odd sports”, this was to reflect
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on the fact that there are too many voices and opinions in sport that can be more damaging then helpful.

Media The modern media have assisted in defining what sport is. The commercial power of the media has helped establish and organise sport the world over. Brookes (2002) stated that it was only after the press published league tables that the County Cricket Council was established and the Marylebone Cricket Club began organised competition in English cricket in 1894. Since the beginning of the 19th century media owners have used sports popularity to their advantage, because there is constant news and sport newsand this sells. The modern media have invested or owned athletes, teams and stadiums. The most gifted athletes are targeted by the media and through investment are able to participate full time, this can explain the dramatic increase in levels of performance for modern athletes, records are constantly being broken in major sports at the Olympics and attendance levels at sporting events are soaring to new heights.

The media tends to propagate sensational news about sport at the expense of fundamental principles and values of sport. Many people have argued character qualities have ruined gamesmanship thus taking away the working class hero and distancing the sportsmen from the public. Media also have used manipulation and bias in recent years that can be argued has promoted hooliganismand unrest amongst countries. Most recent examples include England versus Germany games when the media have pictured England players wearing military helmets to promote the game thus drawing comparisons to World War 2.

Sponsors The demand for more entertainment can now be met to cater people’s needs with sponsors, media and broadcasters all playing a hand in commercialising and paying athletes to dedicate themselves to sport. Baseball was the first sport to employ professionals in 1871 whereas in Britain football players are known to have been paid illicitly in the early 1880s before the football association made professionalism legitimate in 1885. In modern sport sponsorship can be a sportsmen’s main source of income, stars like Tiger Woods and David Beckham earn far more from deals with Nike and Adidas then they do from their own basic wage with their club or prize winnings from tournament wins.

Individuals can now become professional by the way they look and act and not just from talent, Anna Kournikova is the biggest tennis star in modern sport but she has never won a grand slam, she accrues more earnings through sponsorship alone then world number one ranked Justin Henin is likely to earn in a lifetime from grand slam wins. In 1939 Gillette paid $100,000 for
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exclusive coverage of the baseball world series and increased sales by 350% (Schaaf, 2004), this led to teams negotiating individual radio contracts and sponsorship deals that in turn lead to higher player wages. The players started lending themselves as endorsees to sell products and could afford to give up their jobs to play baseball full time.

Following professionalisation in 1995, rugby union saw their income go from £10 million up to £22 million in 1998, a rise of 120% (Sportscan Monthly, 2003). Sponsors need to associate themselves with an achievement, team or individual to gain maximum exposure. In the 1980s Michael Jordan represented Nike and even today Nike Air Jordan is probably the most brand aware product in sport. Modern examples include David Beckham with Adidas and Tiger Woods promoting Nike.

Commercialisation has also had drawbacks on professional sports, with so much money now generated from the huge success of sportathletes are now put under more pressure to perform. The public demand more and constantly want to see extraordinary performances such as records broken, trophies won and new heights reached. The pressures of success encourage athletes to use deviance in sport, taking drugs and cheating any way they can to feed public demand. The effect this can have on professionalism is very influential and can have a profound impact on youngsters. Some youngsters feel discouraged from a sport that is corrupt and choose other careers, others choose to follow suite and believe being deviant is natural and this can be negative to any professionalism with many abandoning a sport or individual who chooses to distance themselves from the true meanings of participating.

Gender The vast increase in professionalisation has also been evident due to vagaries of perception in the participation of women in sport. There isnow more representation within sports organisations by women. Until the 1990s no women had been appointed to direct any of the sports councils national sports centres (Creedon, 1994). Women were also under represented within the media and this can give many explanations of why there may have been less women participatingin sport and also in management roles. Sport was, and still is portrayed as masculine in the media and falsifies young girl’s perceptions of sport. However with women now taking higher roles in sports media and management these perceptions is slowly being changed. Sport is now commercialised as an appreciation of skill and a promotion of good health to involve everyone interested, this has led to participation in a wider range of sports.

The popularity of the women’s football World Cup along with the Olympics has helped promote women’s sport and provided role models, this was something that was lacking to inspire the
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younger generation of athletes, but now putting their success has reached new heights and there is now a pedestal for youngsters to step on. Between 1987 and 2002, figures released by Sport Scotland said women’s participation had rose from 50% to 60%, a bigger increase then men’s during the same period. Commercialisation has shaped an image of sport that in the modern world focuses on the sexual appeal of the body both in men and women athletes (Whannel, 1999). The recognition of ability has made physical activity more appealing to women in particular with running, football and cycling being their preferred choice.

Intercollegiate Athletes In North America college sport is huge and Sack and Staurowsky 1998 suggest the commercialisation of college sport has helped college athletes gain professional contracts. Intercollegiate athletes should be motivated by education and be protected from being exploited by commercial enterprises (NCAA Manual, 1999). It may seem that they are protected but if we take a closer look at how intercollegiate is run then we start seeing how legal loopholes have caused a more professional twist to influence these so called scholars. The term “scholar athlete” made up in 1953 (Slack, 2003)is used for gifted athletes who are in education but also represent their college on track or field. These athletes are given significant financial aid to maintain performance in their sport and promote their college through their success, but “scholar athlete” can be argued as a legal term invention that denies any employer-employee relationship and instead replaces it with a financial aid scheme. A professional athlete is defined as an individual who receives payment for participating in a sporting capacity, and this can be argued scholars are in that same bracket because they receive financial aid purely to participate in sport and not because of their academic skills.

The NCAA is the largest collegiate athletic organisation in the world, and because of the great popularity of college sports among spectators in the United States, it is far more prominent than most national college sports bodies in other countries. Huge networks such as ABC and ESPN have coverage rights to college sport.Student-athletes at universities with major athletic programs often have low graduation rates. Student pass rates for University of Arizona 2000-01 for overall was 57% but the athletes pass rate was 10% less at 47% and for the same year in Portland the overall pass rate for students was 70% compared to the athletes pass rate of 53% (NCAA Graduation Reports, 2002. Wikipedia).

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Conclusion Commercialisation has had an exuberant influence within professionalisation in sport. Money from sponsors, media and the government has improved the organisation of sport and made it more entertaining. Sponsorship revenue in Britain alone rose from £2.5 million in 1971 to £200 million by 1988 (Polley, 1998). There are also obstacles that need overcoming in professional sport. Events that took place in February 2005, when the National Ice Hockey (NHL) players stalled over wage negotiations have shown impediments caused by commercialisation. This led to the first sport in history to lose a whole season due to employee disputes. Commercialisation has given professionals more supremacy over their rights and enabled them to persevere when negotiating, use of agents and managers have also influenced this. The effect of this can be detrimental to the popularity of a sport with fans becoming detached from athletes losing touch with gamesmanship and loyalty. Sponsors look elsewhere to maximise their profit and reach their short term goals with the strategies they’ve implemented.
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Appendix (A) The city of Montreal, Canada held host to the Olympics in 1976 and to this present day are still paying off debt generated by holding the games. Since those games in 1976 governments have now put strategies in place, by using commercialisation to their benefit the Olympics have been transformed. More professional sports have been included in the Olympics and now sponsorship rights have more protection to maximise revenue. The government now ban advertiserswho don’t have official deals with the Olympics from using certain words in commercials and adverts. Words such as summer, medal, gold and athlete are all prohibited from use by anyone other than official Olympic sponsors to avoid over commercialisation that could lead to huge losses in revenue for organisers.

The government have now implemented a more organised, strategic Olympics that have used the modern commercialisation of sport to promote a flailing sports event. The Olympics are the biggest sports event that athletes train years for, thus participation is increasing every games due to the introduction of new events at each games. Broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals are generating huge amounts of revenue that is now invested in youth fundamental sports programs. This has led to an increase in professional sports athletes along with higher quality of performance.

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References Brookes, C. (1978) English Cricket. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson. Chelladurai, P. (2006) Human Resource Management in Olympic Sport Organisations. Human Kinetics Europe Creedon, P. (1994) Women, Media and Sport: Challenging Gender Values. Sage Publications Horne, J. (2005) Sport in Consumer Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, pp 137 and 140-144 Ipsos-RSL (2003) Sportscan Monthly News and Comment Report. London: Ipsos-RSL Ltd Polley, M. (1998) Moving the Goalposts: a History of Sport and Society since 1945. Routledge, pp. 98 Sack, A.L. and Staurowsky, E.J. (1998) College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA’S Amateur Myth. Westport Schaaf, P. (2004) Sports Inc.: 100 Years of Sports Business. Prometheus Books, pp. 325-326 Slack, R. (2005) The Commercialisation of Sport (Sport in the Global Society). Frank Cass Publishers Ltd, pp. 147-152 Whannel, G. (1999) Sport Stars, Narrativization and Masculinities, Leisure Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.249-253 Websites http://www.culture.gov.uk

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