COVID-19 has exposed the excesses of sport

Tim Gavel 7 April 2020 35
Raiders playing at Canberra Stadium

Behind every NRL, AFL, Super Rugby and A-League team there’s an army of support staff. Photo: Tim Gavel.

In the early days of the Raiders you could count staff members on two hands and the club was operating out of the Queanbeyan Leagues Club.

The gym was located in the squash courts and the coaches were positioned in offices through the club.

The players had jobs and trained at night at Seiffert Oval. As a journalist, if you wanted to interview a player, you did it at the player’s place of work.

Then along came professionalism and television money, and with more money in the game, the spending on resources went into overdrive.

Players no longer needed jobs because of the higher salaries. They trained through the day and had nights to themselves.

The real growth, though, emerged in football departments and support staff. It emulated an arms race. If one club had a specialist coach or analyst, you could be sure it was soon replicated at every other club.

This not only applied to the Raiders, it’s at every football club in every code, whether it be NRL, AFL, Super Rugby or the A-League.

Having said that, the Raiders are regarded as middle range when it comes to spending on their operations and it’s nothing when compared to the size of the football departments in the AFL.

Another aspect has been the ballooning payments to players. Every time more money comes into sport, players demand an increase in payment. The salary cap in the NRL was scheduled to be $9.9 million next season, of which $9.5 million would be spent on 30 players at each club.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent cutbacks have exposed the true nature of spending in professional sport in Australia.

Do you think we would be having this discussion had the pandemic not forced the shutdown of sport? I seriously doubt it. The focus instead would have been on the playing field.

The shutdown has caused this introspection, and it may be the wakeup call that some sports needed.

Among rugby league supporters, the real issue is the spending at NRL headquarters and the revelation if costs $493,000 a week to run the competition and State of Origin series.

That figure – practically a rounding error off half-a-million a week – doesn’t include payments to players, clubs and the development of the code.

In the NRL, a few targets for savings have emerged, including costs associated with ‘the bunker’, which is reported to cost $2 million a year.

When sport does resume, there will be a focus on keeping costs down. The COVID-19 shutdown, if nothing else, has provided impetus for all sport to take a look at their spending. The current model has proven to be unsustainable.


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35 Responses to COVID-19 has exposed the excesses of sport
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Peter Palmer Peter Palmer 8:04 am 13 Apr 20

Perhaps the tv could show something other than wall to wall football!

This the main reason the pressure is on to restart the season(s) too early.

Kym Hunter Kym Hunter 9:36 am 11 Apr 20

It's not only football with seriously screwed up values. What about all the offshore online gambling organisations taking gamblers money from football?

Andrew Blizard Andrew Blizard 6:17 pm 10 Apr 20

Shows how much they care about the sport

Andrew Blizard Andrew Blizard 6:17 pm 10 Apr 20

They did not like the pay cut even at the sake of the sport going under

Naomi Donnelly Naomi Donnelly 3:32 pm 10 Apr 20

NickGligoric a good read

Georgina Speirs Georgina Speirs 10:25 am 10 Apr 20

No wonder football want to continue their season so they don't need to repay season tickets. Everyone m just take a pay cut like everyone else. Their addiction are not fans problems

Cathy Ryan Cathy Ryan 9:41 am 10 Apr 20

Well said Tim Gavel.

Trish Casey Trish Casey 9:17 am 10 Apr 20

They are over paid and greedy

    Michael Dencio Michael Dencio 11:24 pm 11 Apr 20

    Trish Casey do you haha any idea the pay rates? Not all of them are on 100,000 a year

Trish Casey Trish Casey 9:14 am 10 Apr 20

People are betting more so now families have a shortage of money because a family member is betting their money away

    Michael Dencio Michael Dencio 11:23 pm 11 Apr 20

    Trish Casey betting on what ?? 😂 there is nothing to bet on

Barb Campbell Barb Campbell 8:42 am 10 Apr 20

A very true and timely comment. Ballerinas, singers and musicians practice for hours and hours through their lives. To date, no one thinks to pay them the ludicrous sums of money paid to a footballer. The Pandemic may will even out the appreciation for both sports and the arts in equal measure.

Clare O'Rance Clare O'Rance 8:30 am 10 Apr 20

Perhaps it is time for us to review the amount we pay to our sportspeople into the future.

David Soininen David Soininen 7:03 am 09 Apr 20

They should be working Monday to Friday like the old days .

John Hynes John Hynes 9:39 pm 08 Apr 20

What rubbish. Its a business having difficulties just like a lot of other businesses. They will go back to spending what they need to as soon as possible or they will be smashed by someone else who does.

    MB Miyagi MB Miyagi 11:00 pm 08 Apr 20

    John Hynes or spending more than they are allowed to like Carlton did 😃

    John Hynes John Hynes 11:02 pm 08 Apr 20

    MB Miyagi or throw matches for bookies like India has done

Nic Cortese Nic Cortese 8:33 pm 08 Apr 20

Wow. Look at all the battleaxes in the comments saying the players are paid too much 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

Kane Orr Kane Orr 7:48 pm 08 Apr 20

Totally agree...!

Jenny Helmore Jenny Helmore 7:24 pm 08 Apr 20

Now is a good time to reset player salaries across all professional sports.

Craig Midgelow Craig Midgelow 6:13 pm 08 Apr 20

Started with super league

Gail Sloper Gail Sloper 3:03 pm 08 Apr 20

Well said Tim Gabel. Too much much for players is just a start.

Lisa Bishop Lisa Bishop 11:28 am 08 Apr 20

The US should also be looking at the obscene amounts their sportspeople are paid. Save a couple of billion just there.

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 7:41 pm 08 Apr 20

    Lisa Bishop why ? If they can afford it

    Steve Frame Steve Frame 9:45 pm 08 Apr 20

    Lisa Bishop if they don't pass the money they make from selling the tv rights and selling out stadiums to the players, the wealth will be hoarded by the owners, which is far worse.

    Steve McLeish Steve McLeish 11:28 am 10 Apr 20

    Lisa Bishop so you’d rather the owners and the leagues become obscenely rich but the players who put on the show get paid a lot less?

Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 8:07 am 08 Apr 20

How the bunker costs $2m a year is indefensible

    Jason Duarte Jason Duarte 8:57 am 08 Apr 20

    How do they justify that???

    Louis Sotiropoulos Louis Sotiropoulos 9:33 am 08 Apr 20

    Daniel Oyston it's how ridiculous money in sport has become. But all that money and they have no reserves to cover a few months

    Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 1:21 pm 08 Apr 20

    Daniel Oyston That equates to how much for each botched decision?

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