The Socialist 8 - 14 June 2006,
World Cup:- Festival of football, carnival of cash
OUR TV screens, newspapers and advertising hoardings are full of the World Cup. One of the world's biggest sporting occasions is only days away. I can't wait. The opportunity to see some of the world's best players for a month is a mouth-watering prospect.
This tournament is being shown in 189 countries and is likely to attract an audience of five billion. Three million fans are expected to arrive in Germany.
Clearly with such a global audience major companies are lining up to make the most of the opportunities, spending $16 billion on advertising. No wonder companies are prepared to pay this when, for example, Adidas expect to sell $1.5 billion of footballing merchandise this year.
The impact of the World Cup on New York when USA hosted the event in 1994 was an extra $452 in revenue. But it's more than just the money to be made by those companies directly involved in the World Cup.
Electrical retailer Curry's is selling flat-screen TV's at the rate of one every 15 seconds and has seen sales of these increase by 92% year on year. With these companies set to make a fortune, Mastercard have got exclusive rights inside all the World Cup stadia.
What about the fans? About 100,000 England fans are expected to head to Germany yet only 8% of the stadia's capacities at the three group games are being made available to the fans (about 4,000 to 5,000 for each game).
Of the three million tickets available, a million have been given to the sponsors. Whilst officially the cheapest prices start at e35, tickets for the group games are already swapping hands at over $1,000. Tickets for the final are already being sold for around $3,000.
England's opening group game with Paraguay underlines the disparities in the world game. The press are full of stories of the £100,000 plus a week wages that players in the premiership get. In Paraguay, players in the top division get paid £105 a month or less. In the four English professional leagues there are big disparities in wages with players in league one and two being paid around the average wage in the UK.
The World Cup underlines how football is dominated by big business whether it's through the super-exploitation of workers who produce the boots and kits for companies like Adidas and Nike or the sponsorship deals agreed with Coca Cola.
The enormous amount of money in football should be used for the benefit of everyone who plays and watches football through affordable ticket prices for spectators, It should also be used to vastly improve the quality of facilities at every level.
For every one Ronaldhino, how many potential Ronaldinhos are there who never get the chance to develop their talents because of lack of facilities. Taking football out of the hands of big business, would see the World Cup develop as a real celebration of world football.
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