Professional athletes use popular sport as a fig leaf when it comes to advertising and income from gambling


No one is talking about getting rid of these rights deals, just reducing the volume of advertising of the sort that helps the networks by an undefined percentage fund these mega deals and meanwhile annoy everyone.

To say it would keep professional sports strapped in is ridiculous. To say that this would jeopardize the funding of grassroots sport is tantamount to trying to bail out the legislature and hold grassroots sport hostage.

It’s an emotional argument that sports administrators have no discretion over where to distribute their generosity and, in the event of a shortage of TV rights, have no choice but to chisel away at the base of the pyramid. It happens every time, and they get away with it every time.

It’s not just that. The idea that handouts from major professional sport are the lifeblood of community and youth sport is nonsense anyway, otherwise my hardworking little club, like hundreds of others, wouldn’t be standing in front of a Bunnings grilling sausages this Sunday with Hope for a few extra bucks. The blood actually flows the other way.

Ian Redpath.

Ian Redpath.Credit:Getty Images.

Late last year, the AFL made a big deal of enshrining in its bylaws that 10 percent of its “taxable income” — whatever that is — goes to the community. That’s 10 percent of football’s wealth for 480,000 registered footballers; the numbers are from the AFL. The Cricket model is more opaque, but its distribution can be estimated at a similar level.

Some junior programs are well-funded, and elite paths are strategically wasted. True grassroots take care of themselves.

No one advocates top-down per capita funding. Everyone understands the moral of a famous story about inductee Ian Redpath into the Cricket Hall of Fame.

It’s a time in 1975 when Australia’s Test cricketers were getting really badly paid and threatening to go on strike, and then board secretary Alan Barnes roared that there were 100,000 people in the crowd playing for free and the mild-mannered Redpath grabbed him by the collar and said, “Of course they would. But how good would they be?”


The stars are being paid fantastically well now and will continue to be paid fantastically well, even as the value of the media rights goes down, and most people don’t mind that. But they object to organizations like the COMPPS and Free TV Australia using grassroots sport as a pawn in a game.

They can’t let COMPPS ride the rickety bridge and bravely stand up to evil lawmakers brandishing just a betting slip while unfortunate innocents from the suburbs and regions beyond cower, clutching their legs in terror. COMPPS have worthy work to do, but they are not base heroes. Neither does Free TV Australia.

Tobacco advertising was finally banned in 1993 and the sport fought manfully with alcohol, car and airline advertising. If – if – they’re denied a bit of revenue that comes indirectly from a form of advertising that, in its relentlessness, arguably violates their social licenses and will certainly drive up followers, they’ll pull through.

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Ryan Sederquist

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