A money can’t buy experiemWith the signing of Neymar Jr to Paris St-Germain a few weeks back for a record transfer deal of 200 million pounds from Spanish giants Barcelona, an increase of almost 225% from the previous world record, only 12 months prior, for Paul Pogba paid by Manchester United to Juventus, are we closer to seeing a money cant buy experience absolutely becoming a paid for experience?
What do I mean exactly?
The gap between the rich clubs, and the well, not as rich clubs, I would hardly call them poor clubs, means teams are looking at ways to increase income outside the TV revenue which is generally evenly spread. They are looking to get one up on their opposition teams.
Let’s consider this scenario Lugo, a Spanish team in the second division, based up in the North West corner of Spain, just above Portugal, with a stadium capacity of 7840 (according to Wikipedia), have drawn Real Madrid in the quarter final of the ‘Copa del Rey’ the Spanish equivalent to England’s FA cup, a knock out format competition for the tops teams in each country. They have drawn them to play at the ‘Bernabeu’, the home of Real Madrid with a capacity of 81 044.
A Rich business man, let’s say he’s a Chinese property developer or an Arab oil Tycoon comes along and offers Lugo $50 million dollars if his son should take the field in the match. His son is no muppet, having made many regional representative teams in his youth and was even in the train on squad for the national under 23 team, yet was very much an outsider of making the squad let alone seeing the field. Maybe he was only there because of his fathers wealth and status.
After 70 minutes of play, Real Madrid scores another goal and Lugo is down 5-0, and absolutely no chance of even scoring let alone winning. The Real Madrid fans are intimidating, knowing that the loss is inevitable for Lugo and victory will see the European Champions proceed to the semi-final of the Copa del Rey, their confidence and chanting are high.
Is this the moment that the coach puts on his ‘new’ substitute? He’s now left facing a dilemma, this goes against his morals and what he stands for. There are other players in his squad who have dreamt for this opportunity, to play against the best club in the world in front of 80 000+ fans. A once in a lifetime opportunity for many. Yet $50 million is $50 million and a lot can be bought and done with that money.
The President has indicated in no uncertain terms that the club needs the money desperately in order to buy new marquee players and refurbish parts of the stadium. Their ultimate goal is to make it into the La Liga. He specifically raises the likely scenario that the team and the coach would find themselves in a position similar to this with 10-20 minutes left on the clock. The coach worries that should he not follow the wishes of the President he may find his contract not being renewed for next season. He also realises that a cash injection will allow him to buy some better players who have just been out of his budget, to help bring further success to the club.
It has always been the rich businessman’s sons dream to play for Real Madrid, and he absolutely adores his favourite player, Christiano Ronaldo. This isn’t playing for Real Madrid, but it’s the closest he’ll ever get, A full stadium in front of 80 000+ screaming Real fans playing against his favourite player. His daddy can buy him pretty much anything, always has, possibly even Real Madrid or another Spanish La Liga team, but he can’t buy him a position where he plays for Real Madrid, this is one of the rare money can’t buy experiences he can’t get his hands on.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play in some pretty big games, a home semi final for the Waratahs against the Sharks in 2008, a Super Rugby final the following week in Christchurch against the Crusaders, home final against the Crusaders in 2011 and playing against the Lions at a packed Suncorp in 2013. The feeling you get in playing in games like this, is really unimaginable, I don’t know how to describe it or put it in words. Someone described it as a ‘drug’ which I thought was a pretty good way to describe the sensations you go through leading up to, during and after the game. It’s like a ‘hit’ or a ‘high’, which is why so many ex professional athletes struggle at the end of their career, they can’t replicate or replace that feeling anywhere else in their life once they’ve finished up. Even when you lose, and you are sitting in the change room wondering what if, or how close, it’s still a feeling of pain, disappointment or misbelief, that you can’t replicate outside of being ‘in the arena’.
I’ve never played in a stadium like Twickenham, the Aviva (old Lansdowne) or Cardiff Stadium which I’d imagine would be another level, especially for a test match.
Having been to a few rugby tests when the Wallabies were at their peak, including watching Toutai Kefu’s match winning try in John Eales’ farewell, attending unbelievable State of Origin games, from up in the bleachers, in only a few rows back from the field, from the luxury of a corporate box with all the beer, food and wine you can consume, as a guest. Even sitting on the team bench in the corporate suit, nothing compares or even comes close as to being out there. Talking to a lot of coaches, they say the same thing, it’s just not the same as playing.
So as it stands, you can’t experience that sort of feeling, or even begin to comprehend it unless you’ve ‘earned’ it. But what if one day you will be able to ‘buy’ that experience. I mean it’s probably not that long that we’ll be sending people to the moon for a trip and experience. The moon!! Why would it be so out of the question to put someone on a football field?
Is this possibly the future reality of professional sports? Is it just plain stupid? Inevitable? Thought provoking….?
** This is simply a hypothetical scenario, there are probably many things to consider before this happens such as registration of player.
** This was written on Thursday 24th of August. Since then Ousmane Dembele has been bought by Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund for 97million pounds.