Recently, we talked (well, I talked and you rolled your eyes) about the Americanisation of Australian sport. I said I didn’t think it was a good idea because it’s taking something so pure (for lack of a better word) and commercializing it. Sure, this happens all the time but in this case, not only is it sad to watch it’s also unsustainable.
For starters, Australia isn’t big enough. It’s big, , sure, but in comparison to the US it’s just not big enough. There are about 22 million people in Australia (give or take a baby or two). The US has about 315 million. That’s… heaps. There are a few implications for this but two big ones.
There just isn’t enough money. When you consider how much disposable income is floating around in the US compared to Australia, it’s easy to see why American athletes get paid so much and why new stadiums are popping up all over the place. It doesn’t necessarily mean Americans are richer, it just means there are more of them. Sports teams and leagues have more people to compete for. I mean, even if every person in the US was a sports fan and they were evenly divided amongst the big four leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL), each league would still have more fans than the entire population of Australia (almost times 5).
Of course, we know that’s not the way it works – some people hate sports altogether, some people like multiple sports and others like smaller sports like NASCAR, tennis or soccer. Even so, there are more people to compete for and, if you win, you get their disposable income (or at least a portion of it) which is what makes the leagues bigger and bigger.
Interesting fact: Australia and the US have (about) the same number of professional sports leagues. Do you see why this is an issue? If the US are sustaining it and the smaller leagues are dying out… how is it possible that Australia will be able to stimulate these leagues enough that they not only stay afloat, but also become so successful that they rival American leagues? Personally… I don’t think it’s possible.
And then we have the problem of market saturation. It’s already a problem in the US, particularly in markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Remember, now that these cities have populations of 8 million, 3 million and 4 million. (For comparison’s sake, Sydney’s population is about 4.5 million and Melbourne’s is about the same – dangerous ground when a quarter of your population is split between two cities)
When you look at the population of New York, for instance, against the population of Melbourne and the number of teams in each city, that’s when you start to see the issue – New York with 11 teams (from the big four leagues) and Melbourne with nearly 20 (that’s not exact – I’m only counting AFL, NRL, BB, NBL and ABL – you can see where Australian sport starts to face a few dramas. If it’s a problem in New York, with so many more people, you can see how it’s starting to be a problem for Melbourne.
In case you don’t know, market saturation is when there is too much of one thing in a particular area. In this case, sports teams. It means that teams – even those in the same league – are competing against each other for fans. And there are only so many fans. Eventually there will be no new fans which doesn’t help the market at all – it just stagnates.
That’s the issue with the population in Australia. There are only a few (relatively) big cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra and Hobart. Even when you include slightly smaller areas in the list such as Cairns, Townsville, Wollongong, Newcastle, Darwin, and Launceston, there still aren’t many large cities that would sustain a professional sports team, much less five to 10 sports teams. There simply aren’t enough people.
Whew. That was long winded. But I still have to talk about sponsorship! Next time? Okay. Fine.
But are you starting to see what I mean about Americanising sport? Yea… not a bg fan.