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Guest: Rory Smith | Chief Soccer Correspondent | The New York Times
Category: 💬 Opinion | Business of Soccer
Original: 45 min | Time Saved: 43 min
Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[19:27] RS: "[Soccer] has been growing essentially exponentially for probably 20 years, particularly in England, but largely across Europe. [...] David Goldblatt, who's a historian of [soccer], has described it as the great cultural phenomenon of the 21st century. [...] We've seen massive rises in TV revenues [...] and it has seemed as though it's a bottomless pit effectively that the money will just keep rolling."
[20:11] "Earlier this year Roman Abramovich, the Russian tycoon with very close links to Vladimir Putin, was forced to sell Chelsea, which was the kind of trophy asset he'd owned for 20 years. And you had this feeding frenzy of investors [...], who were prepared to pay almost anything to get hold of one of the biggest names in the sport. Eventually [Chelsea] went to a group led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, who paid $2.5 billion down with promises to [...] commit another $1.7 billion [...], which was a record for any team, in any sport, anywhere."
[25:13] RS: "No one seems to have cracked the way to make money out of owning a soccer team, particularly not an elite [...] premium brand soccer team. The one exception is something that we're seeing a lot more of now, which is the idea of networks. So there are a couple of quite high profile network examples, the City Football Group based around Manchester City and Red Bull, who own teams in Austria, Germany, the States and in Brazil [...], that seem to have decided that the way to increase efficiency in the transfer market is to have a network of teams around the planet that you can trade between."
[28:18] RS: "Qatar has become enmeshed in Western policy, in Western [...] thoughts in a way that I think it's very hard for us to realize and the World Cup has been a [part] in that process."
[28:40] RS: "I think beyond [...] the major twin problems with this tournament, which are the treatment of the migrant workers in the run up $220 billion spent, building essentially a nation from scratch around a month long soccer tournament [...] and it's still not entirely clear how welcome gay fans will be. [...] But I think the thing that might become the theme of the next month is the inherent weirdness of what's about to happen."
[29:27] RS: "World Cups are always slightly potemkin. [...] The streets get swept a little bit more clean, the police are a little bit nicer. [...] That happens in every World Cup. It happened in Brazil, and in South Africa, [...] in Russia, and it'll happen in Qatar. There is a degree of pretense about a mega event where a country presents its best face. This is the only tournament, I can think of, where there are suggestions that fans have been paid to go to the tournament to create the right atmosphere and send the right message. And that from a journalistic point of view, [...] this might be the dominant theme of the next month. [...] There is a tension between what is being projected and what is actually real."
Book: "Expected Goals: The story of how data conquered football and changed the game forever" (Rory Smith, 2022)