Sometimes, sports fans become so immersed in their fandom and their focus on some aspect of a sport or an event that they neglect the rest of the world around them. Given the fanaticism that attaches to the FIFA World Cup, there is the potential for such oblivious behavior to manifest itself come November in Qatar. And that could be most unpleasant.
Qatar is a nation dominated by Islam which does not approve of alcohol consumption; in fact, there are laws against it except under extremely specific circumstances and venues. Beer will be allowed in some limited manner for fans of these World Cup games, but there are restrictions on where and when the beer may be purchased and consumed. And recently, the authorities in Qatar warned fans planning to see the World Cup games in Qatar not to try to smuggle alcohol into the country in their luggage. According to an ESPN.com report:
“Fans travelling to the 2022 World Cup will not be able to take alcohol for personal consumption into Qatar, with the head of the country’s safety and security committee saying that ‘specific measures’ are in place to take action against anyone attempting to smuggle liquor in their luggage.
“Although alcohol is strictly restricted in Qatar — drinking in public can lead to fines of up to 3,000 riyal (£720) or prison sentences up to six months — it can be purchased inside hotels, and the supreme committee in charge of the tournament has agreed to make beer — provided by World Cup sponsor Budweiser — available at stadiums and in fan zones during the World Cup, which begins on Nov. 20.”
I think the statement by the “head of the country’s safety and security committee” related to “special measures” should be taken by fans visiting Qatar as a promise and not as a threat. Sadly, I suspect that there will be fans who ignore this warning and will thereby find themselves in an undesirable situation.
Moving along … The University of Nebraska obviously recognizes that payments to athletes is no longer verboten, and it seems as if the administrators there are busy finding ways to create new ways to funnel money to players. According to a report on KETV – the local ABC station in Lincoln, NE – athletes at the University of Nebraska can earn money by passing the courses they are enrolled in. Here is the essence of the report:
“Starting this fall, UNL scholarship athletes will be awarded money each semester for passing grades, maxing at $5,980 a year. It’s an effort to reward them for academic efforts in a trend that’s spreading throughout college athletics.
“UNL athletes have the potential to graduate with more than $25,000 in cash, now available legally thanks to a court ruling last year. The University’s compliance office calls it an “academic incentive.” UNL’s incentive program is among the most generous in the Big 10 Conference.
“UNL leaders said they recognize that being a student athlete is an “overtime” job and they should be rewarded for their achievements in the classroom.”
Frankly, this action will do more in terms of making the “student-athlete” a reality than any of the bloviating issued by the NCAA over the past 50-75 years.
Next up … Often, change is accompanied by unintended consequences and sometimes those unintended consequences are not particularly helpful. I think the whole issue of “name/image/likeness” payments to college athletes is an example here. Of course, an athlete should be able to benefit from someone else’s use of their name, image or likeness (NIL) for the profit of someone else; payments in that realm make perfect sense. However, opening that door has led to some – dare I say – perverted constructs whereby money is paid to people to play college sports at a specific institution.
How to fix those unintended consequences? Well, the Power 5 Commissioners seem to have come up with an idea that I believe is very dangerous. According to SI.com the commissioners sent a letter to two US Senators seeking Congressional legislation to help with regulation in that area. According to the commissioners, boosters for college programs are “inducing” recruits and athletes who have entered the transfer portal to come to the boosters’ schools with “payments inaccurately labeled as NIL”. The commissioners have put forth six “pillars” that are needed to create an orderly marketplace here. Those pillars are:
- “Having a national standard allowing all athletes to earn compensation from third parties.
- “Prohibiting pay-for-play as well as outlawing booster involvement in recruiting.
- “Providing protections for athletes, including assurances that agents ‘are subject to meaningful regulation’.
- “Banning third parties or agents from obtaining ‘long term rights’ of an athlete’s NIL.
- “Requiring deals commensurate with market rates for NIL activity.
- “Requiring athletes to disclose NIL deals to their university.”
That sounds so easy. What might the unintended consequences be if all that were codified into law and US Government regulation and oversight? Well, if I knew the answer there, the consequences would not be unintended… and just for the record, the US Congress is the undisputed champion of creating unintended consequences in the history of mankind.
Finally, here is an example of an unintended consequence that we should not hope ever comes to pass:
- If a member of a synchronized swim team drowns, do the other members drown too?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………