How business is destroying sports

When I grew up we used to watch a lot of Vålerenga football games. The biggest game of the season was always the Oslo Derby between Vålerenga and Lyn. This rivalry created an intriguing story during the season, and would be one of the games that really created a special atmosphere in the stadium. Over one period it actually went 15 games without Vålerenga beating Lyn. Even if you normally didn’t go to games you went because of the rivalry and history between the teams. Unfortunately, Lyn got relegated as a result of financial problems. But when I saw that the two Parisian rugby teams Racing Metro 92 and Stade Francais was considering joining forces I was completely in disbelief. If it had been a situation of “join forces or file for bankruptcy” I could understand the reason, but only to be stronger than the competitors are a reason I don’t understand. They are destroying at least one club, while trampling on the history and values ​​of the other. It takes the whole principle of sports away; simply to compete. Compete to beat the opponent, by hard work, team building, and tactics. Not by removing one of the competitors and simply being financially superior than the competition. The battle should be fought on the field, not in the head offices. I know it sounds like I am having double standards as I am also a PSG fan, but in my opinion the PSG have a rich investor that invested in order to be on the same level as the rest of the top teams in Europe, not to simply remove competitors and be financially superior than them.

For me, it was something special about going to the TD Garden and watch the Celtics play because of all the history. Although some of the greatest moments didn’t happen in that Garden but the old one, it was still in the same city, with the same fans. Just like a luxury company creates a brand story in order to connect with its customers and create admiration for the brand, sports teams have to create a story that is exciting and rooted in the same fan base. Otherwise the fans won’t be intrigued by the story of the club, and thus feel less connected to the team. So that when the team doesn’t perform on a top level they wont go to the games, as it is now seen more like an entertaining option rather than a “religion” as we call it in Vålerenga.

Those of you who know me (and follow American football) probably know where I am going with these. The fact that the NFL has decided to relocate my team, the Oakland Raiders, to Las Vegas. This is destroying a brand that has been on the downhill the last couple of years, the NFL. I know that the number one excuse in Americas big four leagues is: “That’s the business part of this sport”. But what happens when the business side of the sport is destroying both the sport and the business. The concept of having a restricted number of teams, and make cities bid for the opportunity is a well known way of create demand and a high quality on the different stadiums, and I am sure it works very well for the owner of the Raiders, Mark Davis, that he gets a whole new stadium without having to pay that much, as Las Vegas are willing to use tax payers money in order to build the stadium. But when you look at the other thing that drives the business; the fans, you are taking their emotions out of consideration and simply destroying your own product. Having said that, I know that the Raiders have a lot of loyal fans that will still belong to the Raider Nation, but they will not have the opportunity to watch the team play home games at the stadium and over time they will be less connected to the team. Its not the first team in a while that the NFL has relocated, just last summer they moved both the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles.

By doing all of this, they enforce the current trend one can see in the NFL and the NBA: that fans start supporting players rather than teams. Because why would you start supporting a team, when they can be relocated if the owners feel like they can make more money and have a greater stadium somewhere else. You end up eliminating the true fans. The once that actually goes to the games, buy the team apparel and makes sure the team is financially steady.

It’s not as if the owners are losing money, they simply want to earn more and have “the nicest” arena. It is like a toy for them, where they don’t think about the thousands upon thousands of fans that are effected by their decisions.


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