COVID-19 has exposed the excesses of sport

Tim Gavel 7 April 2020 34
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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34 Responses to COVID-19 has exposed the excesses of sport
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?

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?

Gail Sloper Gail Sloper 3:03 pm 08 Apr 20

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

Craig Midgelow Craig Midgelow 6:13 pm 08 Apr 20

Started with super league

Jenny Helmore Jenny Helmore 7:24 pm 08 Apr 20

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

Kane Orr Kane Orr 7:48 pm 08 Apr 20

Totally agree...!

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

David Soininen David Soininen 7:03 am 09 Apr 20

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

Nick Swain Nick Swain 10:19 pm 09 Apr 20

On top of all this the ACT government pays an AFL club millions of dollars to play games in Canberra. This is probably not uncommon – maybe Tasmania also pays heaps for AFL matches too? From what Tim writes, it appears that tax payers are subsidising these clubs so they can pay for excessive staffing levels and player wages. This ‘arms race’ is addictive. Time for a reset?

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.

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.

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

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

Cathy Ryan Cathy Ryan 9:41 am 10 Apr 20

Well said Tim Gavel.

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

jgsma jgsma 11:06 am 10 Apr 20

I am appalled that the NRL would even consider asking to start playing again. What a slap in the face for the rest of us who are not enjoying staying at home but understand why it’s happening. How could NSW and Victoria fine ordinary people and allow football to flout the ‘rules’.

Naomi Donnelly Naomi Donnelly 3:32 pm 10 Apr 20

NickGligoric a good read

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

Andrew Blizard Andrew Blizard 6:17 pm 10 Apr 20

Shows how much they care about the sport

geetee geetee 8:49 pm 10 Apr 20

The NRL has set yet another new low standard in mis-management. It ranks right up there with spitting in the faces of nurses or hoarding medical supplies to sell on e-bay.

What a joke to hold press conferences, media interviews claiming that ‘medical advice says we can do it’ when you haven’t even checked in with the government medical experts or ministers and everyone else is locked down for Easter.

Our Olympians had trained, mostly unheard of, for the past four years. They are all ‘yes, health comes first – we can wait, we can work around this’

But NRL…. Waaah! who cares about this stupid pandemic – what about us??’

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