Taki Taki

The unsavoury truth about American sport

American sport is a billionaires’ club: Taijuan Walker of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals [Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]

New York

What follows has been covered ad nauseam, but I wonder why people were surprised at the planned breakaway football Super League? Professional sport in Europe now follows the American way, which means that money comes before tradition, hometown loyalty and the fans — the shmucks who live and die for their teams. The bottom line is what sport in this country is all about, and European football has a lot to learn from the closed shop that has made zillions of dollars for US sport. I’ll keep it brief.

American football, baseball and basketball teams are privately owned, and no matter how badly they perform, they cannot be relegated to a minor league, as teams can in Europe. The spectre of promotion or relegation does not exist in America, and it is viewed as an unwelcome European perversion by the billionaires’ club that owns professional sport. These owners vote and decide on the rules, or any changes to those rules. They decide who can join the exclusive circle, and vote to ban, for whatever reason, any interloper trying to crash the exclusive club. Not a bad deal for a select few.

It was only a matter of time before a closed-shop deal of this kind would entice such pure and noble sportsmen as Stan Kroenke, John Henry and the Glazers. When I was a boy, professional players like my hero — and later on friend — Mickey Mantle were bought at a very young age by a major-league team such as the New York Yankees, and remained Yankee property for life. It was, in a way, indentured service. Then a player called Curt Flood sued baseball and a new deal was signed giving professional ball players the opportunity to become free agents after a certain period of time.

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