Futbol, Football And $$$…

Time is counting down to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  Here in the US, the promos for the upcoming telecasts of the games have been on the air sporadically for a couple of weeks, and it seemed to me that there were more of them last weekend during the national college football game telecasts and the NFL telecasts than there had been the week before.  This should not surprise anyone because sports on TV is only about money and the FIFA World Cup is as big a global sports brand as there is.  And to give you some perspective on how big that brand is, consider this latest information:

  • The 2022 games will be held in Qatar starting on Sunday, 20 November.
  • The population of Qatar in 2020 was 2.8 million people; that is the population of the entire country, not just its capital city – – Doha.
  • As of last week, FIFA officials said that 2.9 million tickets to the 53 games that will make up this version of the World Cup Tournament had already been sold.  Think about that; the games have sold more tickets in total than there are citizens of the host country.
  • Oh, and all the tickets are not yet sold.  You can still buy into some of the games because between 200,000 and 225,000 tickets are still up for grabs.

When I read that headline, my first thought was that – at least for once – it appears as if the World Cup will be “profitable” for the host nation and that the people who live there could possibly see some material benefits from having hosted the games.  That thought was tempered just a bit as I read on and ran across these sentences:

“The demand for accommodations has caused a huge spike in prices, and landlords are pushing renters out to cash in on the surge.

“One foreign resident said that she was given a week to leave her apartment, moved to a hotel, and then to a temporary apartment.  Similar apartments might typically rent for $2,500 per month but are going for $1,700 per night with a minimum 14-night stay.”

In case the batteries in your calculator are low, that’s a lodging bill of about $24K for two weeks in Qatar to watch soccer games.  Soccer – – or futbol – – likes to present itself as a sport of the people because it does not take great wealth to be able to play the game.  That is most certainly true, but the economics that surround attendance of soccer – – or futbol – – games at the highest level of the sport do not portray it as a sport of the people.

Moving on from futbol to NFL Football here in the US.  There was an announcement earlier this week that the NFL and Amazon Prime Video were going to stage a Friday game in 2023 on Black Friday.  Of course, you see the linkage – – Black Friday and Amazon Prime.  I can imagine all the suits in both executive suites covering themselves in drool over the consummation of that deal.  So, why was I surprised to read about that proposition? Well, the answer is that I am an old fart and I remember something from the dim recesses of my memory that explains why there are no normal Friday Night Football Games involving NFL teams.

Listen up children while the resident fogey around here tries to reassemble some details from long ago when the NFL only had 12 teams and was third in popularity among US sports fans behind major league baseball and horseracing.  At some point in the 1950s, the NFL negotiated a deal with CBS to televise NFL games as a “package”.  Some folks did not like that and filed suit and won that suit.  The basis of the suit was that the deal between the league as a whole and a broadcast network was a violation of the extant anti-trust laws.  Trust me, I cannot pretend to explain the merits or faults with the arguments made in that lawsuit and I will not even try to do so here.  But that was the situation at hand in the late 1950s/early 60s.

Not to worry, sports fans; the US Congress came riding to the rescue with a bill that in legislative niceties said:

  • Notwithstanding what a previous Congress said the Nation’s anti-trust laws and how the court has interpreted that previous Congressional intent, the current Congress calls BULLSH*T on all that and specifically wants to allow the NFL and CBS to enter into this broadcast rights deal.

Now, in order to get enough Congressthings on board, there had to be some “assurances” and ”carve-outs” here and there.  It is not written directly into the new law that Congress was about to pass – – because that would make the backroom dealing far too evident and no one wanted that to happen – – but the NFL “agreed” that this package and future broadcast packages would not put the NFL in direct competition with college football games on Saturdays nor high school football games on Friday nights.  The NFL could try to be a big bully against major league baseball in September and October on weekends, but it was not going to pick on those feisty high school footballers on Friday nights or the plucky “student-athletes” who played on Saturdays.

  • Please note that the NFL only plays regularly scheduled Saturday games after the college football season is over in December and January.
  • Please note that when the NFL sought to expand its regular season footprint beyond Sunday, it chose to create Monday Night Football because that did not interfere with high school or college football scheduling at the time.
  • Please note that when the NFL sought to expand its regular season footprint beyond Sunday and Monday, it established Thursday Night Football.

So, yes, the Amazon/Black Friday football deal is a marketing bonanza for all concerned – – but it is still a bit out of the ordinary.  Black Friday probably misses most high school football regular season schedules, but it still could be seen as the camel’s nose under the tent flap.  And I suspect that the execs who concocted and finalized this deal realized that this could ruffle some feathers so this new game will be presented:

  • … as a one-off.  Black Friday happens only once a year; this is not an attempt by the NFL and Amazon to beat up on local high school football teams.
  • … as no threat to any schools who may have a final regular season game scheduled for Black Friday because kickoff for the NFL’s  “Black Friday Game” will be at 3:00 PM ET.  The game will not be a “Friday Night Football Game” anywhere in the US.

Finally, both topics today have dealt with lots of money flowing to sports enterprises that already have plenty of money.  So, let me close with this line form Irish comedian, Brendan O’Carroll, about the harder side of family economics:

“One Christmas, things were so bad in our house that I asked Santa for a yo-yo and all I got was a piece of string.  My father told me it was a yo.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Futbol, Football And $$$…”

  1. Did Pele first learn soccer using a sock stuffed with newspaper? In 1956, Pele went to Santos, Brasil to train. I saw the second-story apartment where Pele stayed while training. I promise you: there was nothing in Santos that would go for $27,000 for a day, week, month, or year.

    To go from Qatar rent-gouging to NFL anti-trust was a subtle and seamless transition,

    1. TenaciousP:

      They always say to “follow the money” – – and sometimes the money leads you into some sordid situations…

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