Is soccer becoming an elite sport?

Is soccer becoming an elite sport?

Historically, soccer has always been seen as the sport of the masses. From its earliest days, it attracted large crowds and was one of the few opportunities for low-income individuals to excel. Many soccer players came from humble backgrounds and saw the sport as a chance for social advancement. The large fan bases of teams like Flamengo, Corinthians, Atlético Mineiro and Bahia were made up of people with low purchasing power, reflecting this connection with the lower classes. Meanwhile, some clubs in São Paulo, Fluminense and Botafogo, for example, had a more elite profile, although this distinction has blurred over time. 

However, the current soccer landscape, both in Europe and South America, is changing radically. The Champions League is a clear example of this transformation, becoming an elite spectacle with expensive tickets and stadiums packed with a wealthier audience. This phenomenon is also reflected in South America, where tickets for important matches are unaffordable for most traditional fans. 

The globalization of soccer has meant that clubs like Real Madrid have more fans outside Spain than in their own country. This internationalization movement has alienated local fans, who in many cases are the ones who built the club's history. The increasing construction of clubs' own stadiums and the implementation of FIFA standards in their facilities also contribute to the elitization of the sport. These stadiums are exploited in an increasingly commercial way, alienating low-income fans. 

In the last Champions League final, we saw a clear contrast between the supporters of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. While the Borussia fans, attached to their roots and traditions, put on a vibrant show in London, the Real Madrid fans, despite their victory, were less enthusiastic. This example illustrates the change in the fans' profile: from a local and passionate audience to an international and less emotionally involved one. 

Not so long ago, going to the stadium was a program reserved for soccer fans and, in many cases, people on low incomes. The wealthier fans preferred to watch matches at home, with all the comforts of television broadcasts. Today, however, this reality has been reversed. Stadiums have become expensive and sophisticated spaces, inaccessible to many low-income fans, who now watch matches at home, often in less comfortable conditions than before. 

Supporter programs, which should facilitate access to matches, are unable to meet demand. Even members find it difficult to buy tickets, which end up being sold on the secondary market at exorbitant prices. This process further alienates traditional fans from stadiums. 

In addition to the elitization of the public, footballers themselves have undergone a significant transformation. In the past, they were humble figures focused only on playing the ball. Today, many players have become popstars, attracted by fame and luxury. The billion-dollar contracts have turned these players into celebrities, often more concerned with media commitments than with their sporting careers. 

This change is paradoxical because, although soccer demands more and more physically from its players, many players abandon their careers early to enjoy a life of luxury. Recently, a statement attributed to a member of Real Madrid or Manchester City illustrated this issue well: "What's the point of being a billionaire if you can't enjoy the money you make?" This phrase sums up the current dilemma: the overload of games and commitments contrasts with the desire to enjoy the fortunes accumulated in a short career. 

Soccer, which has always been the sport of the masses, is increasingly becoming a symbol of the elite. The globalization of clubs, the construction of sophisticated and expensive stadiums, and the transformation of players into popstars are clear signs of this change. The grassroots fan, the one who has always been there and helped build soccer's history, is gradually being pushed aside, replaced by a more affluent and less passionate audience. This phenomenon raises questions about the future of the sport and the need to find a balance that allows for the inclusion of all soccer fans, regardless of their economic status. 

About Author

Maurício Ferro

What do soccer, wine, law, politics, and economics have in common? Much more than you can imagine. And contrary to what the popular saying says, they can and should be debated and analyzed, yes. Welcome to Maurício Ferro's site, a channel to create and exchange thoughts and opinions. Maurício Ferro is a lawyer, graduated from PUC university in Rio de Janeiro, with a Master's degree and specializations from universities such as the London School and the University of London. He studied OPM at Harvard Business School. Author of published works in the commercial and capital markets areas, and acting in the Board of Directors of large companies, he based his legal and executive career with a focus on Business Law. But his passion goes beyond the corporate world. A passionate Flamenguista, Mauricio knows the ins and outs of the professional world of soccer and other sports. He is a partner in innovative companies such as 2Blive, a global startup focused on technological solutions to fill the education gap, especially in areas of great need such as Africa. He also invests in the Flow Kana company, based in California, and focused on the scientific production of cannabis for various purposes, such as medicinal, clothing production, or recreational use. To all these ingredients, add a deep knowledge of wine and the delicious ways of winemaking. That is the recipe for what you will find here.

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