February 08, 2023

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | Hindi lang pang-sibuyas, pang-sports pa: How the economy affects sports

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | Hindi lang pang-sibuyas, pang-sports pa: How the economy affects sports

 

Many of us see sports as an escape — a way to be entertained and distracted from the day-to-day effects of inflation and the recession — but the reality is that sports doesn't take place in a vacuum. It's part of the economy, and is also affected by the state of our economy.

Some parts of the sports industry are said to be recession-proof. The contracts of world's top athletes still hit record amounts. Nike Inc. saw their global revenue jump 17% to $13.32 billion in 2022. Sporting events like the FIFA World Cup still brought in millions of dollars in sponsorships. 

But what about the day-to-day life of an athlete here in the Philippines? Here are 5 ways in which the economy affects Pinoy sports.

Familes' choice to enroll kids in sports camps

Having economic privileges translates to better access to sports, whether it's the ability to send kids to summer camps, hiring private lessons outside PE classes in school, or buying personal equipment. Even something as mundane as being able to pick kids up from varsity training after school becomes more challenging if the parents are working overtime to make ends meet. 

National athletes’ ability to stay in their sport

Olympic gold medalist Eumir Marcial as well as other national athletes have spoken publicly about the financial struggles of national athletes. Their allowances don’t match the amount of work they put in, especially when athletes are breadwinners of the family, or send money back to their parents at home — and depending on how each NSA is run, these allowances don't always arrive on time.

This is a challenge that compounds as athletes get older, get married, and start families. Many athletes choose to exit the national team and instead take on a "normal job" in corporate settings to support their families, which means we miss out on seeing their full potential.

Some athletes take on work alongside their duties to the national team, but this is often unsustainable and hurts their health and performance. For example, Eric Cray had the "worst race in [his] career" in the 2018 Asian Games, after he struggled to balance his full-time job working a department store in Texas. "I'm out there training on dead legs," he told reporter Bee Go at the time. With the financial pressures on Filipino families in this economy, imagine how many more athletes will have to make a choice between their sport and their livelihood.

Student athletes’ decision-making for college – and beyond

Sometimes, the best school for your athletic career isn’t the same as the best school for your college course. Most student-athletes will not get the chance to go pro after college, and when economic troubles mean there’s even more pressure to secure one’s future, student athletes may choose to prioritize playing for schools with a reputation for producing successful (or at least highly employable) graduates.

Once they graduate, student-athletes whose sport does not have viable pro leagues are more likely to go all-in with a traditional job; meanwhile, student-athletes who have access to more playing opportunities after college will find international playing opportunities more attractive than ever.

Government funding for national athletes and sports programs

Though government officials defended the 50-million-peso “kaldero” built for the 2019 SEA Games, our national athletes, grassroots efforts, and sports programs are widely considered to be underfunded. While Pinoy sports fans hope for bigger investments into sports, it may be harder to seek funding when the national budget has bigger problems to address.

For all the escapism that sports bring, it will always exist within the context of our society. In fact, the politicians know this — which is why athletes are tapped as endorsers during elections, local government units sponsor barangay leagues, and aspiring politicians like to make appearances at sporting events and brand themselves as sports fans in order to promote themselves. But as our country faces an uphill climb, the question is: Are the Philippines’ athletes truly benefiting from this relationship, or is it only one-way?