Is There An Alternative To Fields of Schemes?
When did big business take over the management of our community sports and culture investments? When did corporate interests trump the well-being of our cities and the future of their economies? When did playing off one city against another in the scramble for teams and players become the ethical standard for nationalized sports? When did public-private partnerships turn into the private management of the public interests for the good of the sports industry and a few wealthy individuals? We can’t say. It was probably like boiling frogs. At some point, without the frogs even realizing it, they had become someone’s supper.
What can be done about it? Kept the way things are, probably little. The money is too big, the politics too addicted to their wealthy contributors and matters too complex for any ordinary citizen to effectively organize against such well backed scheming.
Is that the way it has to be? Yes, if we keep making industrialized sports the sole way public interest in sports activities are to be served and managed. But there is a perfectly good option: CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMEN.
There is no reason on earth that American cities, themselves, cannot create sports-leagues and franchises which they own and operate in the interest of their cities and their citizens. Does that mean some kind of “minor leagues” or second-rate teams and fans as compared to those in the existing structures of corporate franchises such as the NBA, NFL, NHL and the like? Not at all. All that really changes are the organizational rules,, interests and governance, That part does an about face on making huge profits and sports palaces and corporate revenues the name of the game, Personal Seat Licenses, games too expensive for average families to attend more than once or twice a year, and the wealth that only flows to a few private stakeholders, their banks and investment conglomerates no longer call the shots. Secret non-disclosure negotiations, gambling with public assets, high-pressure schedules and “normal business” practices designed to advantage narrowly defined “stakeholders” step aside for the public interest and reasonable returns for a regions support of its sports investments. ‘Sports Co-ops’ and other local structures better suited to the way a community wishes to do business replace the practice of high stakes competitions and bidding wars for a very limited number of team slots.
What changes might need to be made?
That will take some thought and planning by experts, but here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Competing cities are no longer required to squeeze through the private corporate funnel neck to field a team. Any mid-sized city or region with say a half-million to 10 million residents can enter the league. They just need to build or utilitze an appropriate facility, create their local organization and apply to some national organization, one that is collectively organized by cities and regions into a league, Call it, ‘The American Cities Basketball (Football, Hockey…) League’, and such.. Cities will not compete with one another to join such a league. All are automatically allowed to participate if they comply with some basic requirements, established by the national organization, a parent body of participating cities and regions. .
- The facility does not need to be some obscenely costly and lavish sports palace built to satisfy the images of corporate luxury and opulence and marketing hype. The American Cities League will set certain standards, of course. But those can be quite modest in comparison to what corporate sports ambitions dictate to our communities. The main object of such facilities will be to accommodate ordinary spectators and ordinary city budgets in facilities that will not entail the kind of overbuilt luxury envisioned by people who curry corporate luxuries over reasonable community investments. It goes without saying that such facilities should be attractive sources of pride and enthusiasm for the cities that build them and the citizens that use them. They will need to be of sufficient capacity and design to serve their purposes. But they needn’t be mammoth reflections of some private ambition to curry favor from corporate sponsorship.
- Players are not pawns to be manipulated with fabulous salaries or interchangeable objects to be grabbed from someone else’s roster. Players play for the love of the game and a good salary, with good benefits. But there are none of those obscene celebrity salaries and competitions that suit the corporate sports industry. Maybe top players get $2 – 300,000 tops. You don’t want to play for that, we can pretty well guess you haven’t much ‘love of the game’ left in you.
- More important, you only get to play for your “home” team. A pool of half-million people (minimum city/region size) should be more than enough to find first-rate, professional strength ballplayers in any sport. But there would be no more national competitions where players, cities and treasuries are held hostage to the ambitions of a national organization, or the differences of wealth in competing regions that turn culture and recreation into some lavish self-interest spectacle. Perhaps players would be required to reside in the city/region where they play for some number of years prior to being on a team. In any case, players play for their home team and their love of the game. The era of bidding wars comes to an end.
- Cities and regions in a league have direct control over how the revenues generated by their participation in the league benefit themselves; what they need to clear, where it goes, who and what it’s for. A soundly managed league may even exclude certain high risk practices and investment schemes that would leave a city over exposed to failure or misfortune. League participation would be accountable to its own citizens, not to some conglomerate telling cities what they must do, or where the franchise will go if they don’t. The national league, itself, is a representative body of participating cities and not some boardroom beyond the pale of public accountability.. The league operates in the public interest because the people who run it are ultimately responsible to the communities the league serves.
- Can private investors still participate? Sure they can, and ways can be found to make it attractive for them to do so. What they can no longer do is hold entire cities hostage to their manipulations, their schedules, their corporate interests and, ultimately, their being able to walk away when they’ve gotten what they want. Investors couldt be welcomed, and better facilities and happier fans might be the result. They simply would be permitted to control everything as they now do in the role of “owners” and private licensing corporations. Larger numbers of small investors might replace the dependency on large wealthy patrons. Returns might become more modest and dependable. a modest rather than being tethered to the unpredictable financial wizardry of a few wealthy owners and investors.
There’s is much more to this, of course. Much to think about. But if the idea makes sense, intrigues you – your played city, or non-playing city or region – then you need to talk it over with others. Ask how it can happen, ask what it will take. And then, go get organized and make it so. (you can go to ‘American Cities League – Sports‘ on facebook to join the conversation.)
Red Slider, steward
(see also, “Breton/SacBee Insult Citizens“)