User:Alex21/Sport's role in the public image of political leaders and businessmen - how their money is changing the game

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Influential leaders and businessmen - how their money leads the game…


Some of the most influential international businessmen are known for their involvement in sport as much as any business ventures that have boosted their individual wealth to place them among the richest men in the world.

Most people do not know that Roman Abramovich, one of the wealthiest men in the world, increased his fortune by more than $2 billion in the last year by increasing his stake in steel giant Evraz and mining firm Highland Gold (Forbes 2011).

Or that he made his initial billions with controversial oil deals in the 1990s.

To many he is just a wealthy man that owns the Chelsea Football Club, now an English and European football superpower largely thanks to the Russian’s wealth and investment in the organisation.

This begs the questions... just what do the wealthy men involved in sport do with their power? How do they use it for the good of their organisation and sporting interests?

In some cases, sport is even used as an attempt to clean up a poor public image.

Sport helps the business and personal interests of these men, by keeping them at the forefront of the public spotlight.

Whether they have a controlling interest in a sporting club or operate as its president, these men use their sport as a vehicle.

Their profiles bring knowledge, awareness and general publicity to their organisation's purposes and operations.

While the average sportsfan will not be able to explain how these men made their money, they will certainly be able to tell you what their affiliation with a sporting organisation is and how their money has influenced that organisation.

Their power and fame equals media power and widespread coverage.

Therefore, their actions are analysed by a series of articles written by journalists and media identities.

Their actions will answer the important question – what do they all have in common when throwing their money at sport?

It happens both at the top of European football and down under in Australian sport, too.

Cases in Question - Money: The common connection[edit]

Roman Abramovich[edit]

Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich

- Owner of the Chelsea Football Club in the English Premier League.

- Worth $13.4 billion (Forbes 2011)

- Self-made billionaire (from oil, steel, investments)

Abramovich’s Chelsea takeover (BBC, 2003) signalled a new era in European football. Since then, a number of English and European football clubs have been bought by new foreign owners. Abramovich is somewhat of an original in England with many foreign owners in the Premier League compared to him.

Silvio Berlusconi[edit]

- Owner of Italian Serie A superpower, AC Milan.

- Prime Minister of Italy.

- Allegedly corrupt.

- Owns most major media in Italy and worth an estimated $6.2 billion (BBC, 2011, Forbes 2011)

Since taking over AC Milan in 1986, his money has turned the club into a European force, winning 23 major trophies (including Serie A, the European Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup). His alleged sex offences and court appearances often overshadow his success with Milan.

The Australian Contingent[edit]

Andrew Demetriou[edit]

- CEO of the Australian Football League (AFL), the biggest sporting competition in Australia.

- By 2010 Demetriou's pay had risen to $2.1 million per annum (Hawthorne, 2011).

- Has taken the AFL through some major controversies and issues.

A former VFL footballer, Demetriou is in the most powerful position in domestic Australian sport and is the envy of every other football code for the success of his competition.

Eddie McGuire[edit]

- Media-dominating president of the Collingwood Football Club, the single biggest sporting entity in Australia.

- Has been the face of the Nine Television Network for over a decade and earned himself the nickname ‘Eddie Everywhere’ for his widespread appearances.

McGuire took over Collingwood at the end of 1998 and has led their transformation from struggling giant to all-conquering superpower in little over a decade.

Nathan Tinkler[edit]

- Australia’s richest man under 40, Tinkler was originally an electrician before a mine investment paid off big-time.

- A native in Newcastle, NSW, and now owns the Newcastle Jets (A-League) and Newcastle Knights (National Rugby League).

Tinkler has pooled his resources together to bring the Jets and Knights under one banner. He rid the Jets of their original gold playing strip to hand them the blue and red stripes of the Knights. Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group (HSG) owns the club. His generosity holds great significance in that he has kept it predominantly in his hometown.

What they do with their money and power?[edit]

They’re in charge of their organisation… on and off the field[edit]

The first point in common is that all are commanding, authoritative figures. Each of these men is in charge of his organisation and all other parties involved know it too.

For Abramovich and Berlusconi, they often override the coaches of their side.

Abramovich has in the past clashed with coaches and his direct involvement in wanting to make match-winning transfer decisions and tactical choices have often confused and belittled his coaches, as happened with Italian Carlo Ancelotti over the proposed signing of Everton's South African midfielder Steven Pienaar. Ancelotti was completely unaware of the transfer bid, which was actually sanctioned by the all-powerful Abramovich.

“Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, has effectively reduced Ancelotti in the eyes of his players. They could not help but lose some respect for the manager having seen the owner walk all over him, and what was once perceived to be calmness soon becomes weakness in adversity.” (Samuel, 2011)''

Berlusconi is not all that different. He likes to think he knows more about football than the specialist coaches he employs. In fact, before Ancelotti coached Chelsea, he was coach of Berlusconi's Milan and came under fire from the club owner at the end of season 2008/2009.

Berlusconi on Ancelotti: "We lost the title because of Ancelotti," Berlusconi told La Repubblica. "Many times we did not use the right tactics. We have so many good dribblers and should have based our football on this asset but we did the opposite." (Fifield 2009).

That level of authority is also seen on an Australian level.

Eddie McGuire was stuck in a tough position in mid-2009, when Collingwood’s assistant coach, Nathan Buckley, seemed set to depart the club for a senior coaching job.

Not wanting to lose his favourite Collingwood person, McGuire convinced Malthouse to step aside at the end of the 2011 season to allow Buckley to take over.

He controlled the situation to ensure both men were kept at the club to both contribute to its progression.

They would go on to win the 2010 premiership and dominate season 2011 before losing the grand final.

In the end Malthouse would walk away after the grand final loss, but until then McGuire kept everything calm and under-wrap, despite intense media speculation about what Malthouse would do, and led the club to another grand final.

Nathan Tinkler’s power was shown at the start of this season’s A-League campaign.

Fresh from pulling his weight to sign legendary NRL coach Wayne Bennett to the Knights, Tinkler made a rash decision to sack Jets coach Branko Culina just days before the 2011/2012 A-League season.

Culina had signed his son, Jason, from Gold Coast United as the club’s marquee player, despite knowing he would be injured for a lot of the season – therefore costing Tinkler a lot of wasted money.

"The HSG provided no detail explaining why Branko had been sacked but the Herald was told Tinkler was ‘‘livid’’ when discussing the Culina issue with an associate at Randwick races last Saturday, saying ‘‘heads will roll’’." (Gardiner and Keeble, 2011).

Restoring former Jets coach, Gary van Egmond, was a popular choice and has seen the Jets pass the 10,000-member mark early in the season.

Demetriou too is in complete control, with his reign as CEO seeing through issues such as the rape crisis and sex scandals at St Kilda and achieving greatly by signing a billion dollar TV-deal and bringing in two new teams to areas traditionally dominated by rugby codes (Cowie, 2011).

Demetriou has ticked all the boxes in what the Power Index considers a showing of power by expanding their sport.

“Expand a game into new territory (preferably that of their enemies), sign some new players (preferably from their enemies) and win over new fans (preferably those of their enemies).” (Cowie, 2011).

By overseeing the signings of NRL players and going to the Gold Coast and now Greater Western Sydney (who have a second home-base in Canberra), he is doing all of that.

He scares rival codes. "Especially over at the NRL, where Demetriou is a dirty word after the two new clubs, very much backed by the AFL, signed two of rugby league's biggest names – Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau – in a promotion blitz." (Cowie 2011).''

He has the power and he shows it.

That power of his sport even earned the GWS Giants a $23 million commitment from the ACT government, who want the capital to embrace the sport.

A decade ago, that would have seemed absurd, but even the rugby-code heartlands want to jump aboard the AFL gravy train. “Today is a monumental occasion for local AFL and local sport more broadly, as the nation’s capital finally secures a place in the nation’s premier domestic sporting competition.” (Barr, 2010)''

That achievement in securing government funding for his sport, despite the substantial revenue it already generates, is an accomplishment on its own.

Returning to Berlusconi, when you own your country’s media, a lot can be done.

Power in the media…[edit]

McGuire's Collingwood consistently fills the MCG

With their powerful figures keeping these men in the media spotlight, it is only natural for their clubs to be broadcast nationally and internationally to further produce exposure.Berlusconi’s case is the greatest. “His investment company also controls the country's three biggest private TV stations while the prime minister's appointees control the three RAI public channels too.” (BBC, 2011)

He also owns the daily newspaper ‘il giornale’ (directly translated to mean ‘the newspaper’). As if his own employees are not going to push the message of AC Milan? They have an excuse to with the club’s huge fan base and elite European status.

Back home, Eddie McGuire’s influence in turning Collingwood into a superpower sees them constantly across the media.

Collingwood featured in the Friday night timeslot, considered the AFL's weekly national stage, five times, and also played on the holy grail of AFL, the 100,000-capacity MCG, 16 times.

It is very simple - McGuire’s Collingwood at the MCG, particularly for a Friday night match, is very lucrative for all involved. So they get what they want.

With more than 70,000 members they dominate the AFL media. Thank Eddie.

McGuire’s deep understanding of the media and how to use it effectively has transformed Collingwood incredibly.

It's hard to overstate the enormity of the Collingwood Football Club. It has got 71,000 paid members, nearly double the ALP, and probably another million more who support it. And at the centre of it all is McGuire, who rose to the president's job 13 years ago. Since McGuire took charge, the club has been turned around on the field and off it. It won a much-awaited premiership and its finances are the envy of the industry, with a recent profit announcement of $5.4 million and annual turnover of $75.5 million. According to a recent study by trademark expert Wayne Covell, from legal practice Worthy of the Name, the Magpies are valued at a tidy $344 million -- nearly $100 million more than their nearest rival. People such as AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou have publicly put Collingwood's transformation down to McGuire. (Power Index, 2011)

That is an incredible feat when considering the sport is not played at a high professional level outside of this country and, as a result, Collingwood's estimated net worth is rising steadily. Today they have been valued at $344 million. In 2010, Wayne Covell valued the Magpies $81 million less at $263 million (Covell 2010).

Eddie’s power at Collingwood is essentially Demetriou’s within the AFL.

Collingwood being successful makes the AFL a lot of money… it is as simple as that.

These men are all walking headlines as well as being media mainstays, although that representation is not always positive.

Overseas it is Berlusconi’s not-so-private womanising and closer to home it is Nathan Tinkler’s outspoken media tirades.

Not only did he publicly announce “heads would roll,” before sacking Culina, Tinkler has also attacked journalists wanting a story…

"You're a f---ing deadbeat, people like me don't bother with f---ing you," he said. "You climb out of your bed every morning for your pathetic hundred grand a year, good luck." (Reilly 2010)''

Although he should be careful about upsetting the people who can help shape a national opinion about him, even in this ‘negative’ Tinkler is still at the public forefront, which will do his cause some good.

Networking… Friends in high places[edit]

Friends in high places: Silvio Berlusconi (right) talks with Vladmir Putin

They all have friends with as much money and power as they have. Eddie McGuire’s involvement with channel nine has made him a close associate with James Packer.

Andrew Demetriou is another direct contact of McGuire. It is no coincidence they remain in touch. Demetriou and his organisation benefit greatly from Collingwood and vice-versa.

Silvio Berlusconi is in power – he is the government and owns his country’s media. He has contacts wherever he goes. Away from Italy, Forbes lists Berlusconi's key contacts as fellow billionaires David Thompson, Jim Kennedy and Anne Cox Chambers. Other high-profile friends also include Russian Prime Minister, Vladmir Putin, with whom Berlusconi has holidayed.

Abramovich is the same. His main contacts are noted as three other billionaires, Lakshmi Mittal, Alexei Mordashov and Rinat Akhmetov.

During his day-to-day running of Chelsea - which is quite often with the hands-on owner he is - Abramovich has his own power structure.

He is the best example of how networking and having friends in high places can help. In his case it helps him make the decisions he wants to when running the club. While he may be irrational at times, there is no doubt he is influenced by those around him.

According to the power structure, Abramovich's close group of Chelsea-related contacts and friends initially bought him to the club, have convinced him to fire previous coaches and have actually fired managers on behalf of the Russian.

Some even use Abramovich's position to help their own businesses.

German Tkachenko - part of that power structure - is a Ukrainian businessman who made his money on the aluminium markets and is now the president of ProSports Management, a company that represents a number of footballers (Telegraph 2010).


Even if on a smaller scale, much of what the world’s major sport-involved businessmen do is relevant in Australia.

McGuire is both loved and loathed across different parts of Australia, as Berlusconi is in Italy. And, today, Collingwood proves that Australian sport has the capacity to compete on a global scale.

These men have had significant success with their clubs in terms of boosting their own personal profiles, and also by leading their clubs to win trophies.

They fill the media with themselves and, whether portraying a positive or negative image, that puts their sporting organisations imposes upon and gets ahead of major rivals.

Their networks are global and offer opportunities for great business diversity - that leads to diverse markets in which to promote their organisations.

Most of the fans of sporting organisations they own will not care what they are up to, so long as the money, results and trophies keep coming in.

Tinkler can be as crude to a journalist as he likes, the fact Newcastle now has more than 10,000 A-League club members is proof of that.

The sport result is more important to those fans, not what made the club boss his first billion.


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