Overtime: Cash is King

In a sports world that has millions of fans watching, certain leagues are starting to focus on making a profit instead of respecting their identity.


PSG’s attack of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe is one of soccer’s most expensive trios. (Courtesy of Twitter)

As a lifelong sports fan, I’ve grown up watching every sport there is. Baseball, football, basketball– name it and I’ve probably seen it. As I’ve grown older, I decided to stick with soccer and Formula 1. Both of these sports are my favorites. 

On one hand, soccer is the best sport in the world. It is the most popular and so much can happen. For Formula 1, it is the fastest and most technologically advanced as cars are pushed to their limits. 

In recent years, one trend has started to appear that slightly worries me. In both sports, there have been decisions that give the impression that the leagues and teams are more focused on money rather than the sport itself. In soccer, you can look at the proposed Super League as an example, while for a club the same can be said about Paris Saint Germain and even Manchester City, to a lesser extent. 

In Formula 1, you can look at the number and location of races. It is an expensive sport. Each car costs millions of dollars. Each team alone has millions to play with as they try to make the fastest car possible to win the championship. For example, a couple of years ago, Mercedes’ budget was around 300–400 million dollars while Williams’, who had the slowest car, was less than half at around 130 million.

But that’s not why I said Formula 1 is focused on money. They actually proposed and introduced a budget cap that limits what the higher teams can spend and is meant to bridge the gap between the teams. Instead, my belief is based on where they race. 

Last year, Formula 1 was planning to race in Australia. This was back in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to rise. When the paddock arrived, there were questions about if the race should even be allowed to continue. When asked about this during the pre-race conference, aired in the “Drive to Survive” Netflix documentary, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton simply replied: “Cash is king.” 

Ultimately, the race was canceled and all races in 2020 were closed to spectators, but the point was made. In addition to that, Formula 1 is racing in countries with questionable histories. Bahrain, Hungary, Russia and now Qatar are examples. Qatar is a country where slave labor is used, specifically in the construction of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Hamilton himself has spoken out, specifically on Instagram, about human rights abuses in Bahrain stressing the need for F1 to not ignore the issues in the countries that they visit.

For soccer, the recent Super League was an example of that “Cash is king” mantra. The Super League had 12 founding members. The initial six clubs from England were Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. From Spain, it was Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. The three Italian teams were Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. It would have replaced the Champions League as the primary European competition, with the best teams playing there instead. Each club would have received around 400 million dollars per year. 

Within 48 hours of its inception, the league was killed due to immense backlash from fans, pundits, players and even coaches. This would have ruined soccer as we know it because the top clubs would only get richer and richer while the other clubs would suffer. They would ignore the other competitions such as their domestic leagues and cups. It would also remove an essential part of international soccer: relegation. The founding clubs could never be removed regardless of performance, which could deny better teams the chance to compete.

As for the clubs themselves, both PSG and City have had a massive financial injection due to their owners. In the past decade, both clubs have had a net spend of over 1.4 billion dollars in transfers. City broke the record for an English player in signing Jack Grealish for a whopping 129 million dollars. PSG paid Barcelona 244 million dollars for Neymar, while also spending 159 million dollars on Kylian Mbappe. None of this includes the free signing of Lionel Messi, who will be paid around 41 million dollars annually. That is around 400 million in transfer fees on two players alone. Do not get me wrong, they have talent, and transfer prices have been increasing in recent years, but my point still stands. 

Now, PSG received multiple offers for Mbappe from Real Madrid that eventually rose to around 230 million dollars. PSG declined them despite the fact that Mbappe’s contract ends next year and will be able to leave on a free transfer. Let that sink in: PSG turned down a 230 million dollar offer and will most likely lose him for free next year anyway. They simply do not care.

Despite all of that talent, these teams are not infallible. In any given match, anything can happen and any team can win. In this year’s Champions League, PSG drew to Club Brugge, a result no one expected. And in their domestic league, they lost 2–0 to Rennes. Also, in the Champions League, Sheriff won its first two games in its inaugural trip to the Champions League. A club that everyone expected to finish bottom of their group is now leading it with the maximum number of points against the 13 time Champion League winners and Inter Milan, defending Series A champions. Sports are for the fans, whose passion cannot be articulated. As long as we remember that, the sports that we love to watch will continue to prosper.