Dollars dominate sports

NASCAR chairman Brian France reports during the state-of-union address that negotiations for a new television contract that would go into effect in 2015 are “getting down to the last bit of it.” France said his hope is to renew with the incumbents. Fox has renewed from 2015-22 for a reported $300 million a year. ESPN and TNT are the other current partners. NBC also is a player for a major portion of the 36-race schedule.

The sport is growing to new heights through revenue generated by television, corporate sponsorships and faithful fans. The level of competition is diminishing due to the constraints placed on teams and drivers. Officials need to rethink how they are governing the sport.

Since the almighty dollar is strong for the foreseeable future and owners, teams and drivers can feel secure the sport will be around, can we start seeing a racing product that can be entertaining without endangering drivers and fans?

Officials have been calling more debris and competition cautions to lessen the congaline style of racing and increase the tighter pack style for television. These cautions are not how to better the races. Allow drivers to mix-it-up on the track and quit limiting the development of the new Generation 6 car. The car is producing high speeds, but officials are not penalizing teams with new ideas and equipment improvements to make the cars more stable and competitive.

  • Money drives the professional sporting world today. A first-time winner on the PGA Tour becomes an instant millionaire, Formula 1 drivers winning a grand prix race earn in the 10s of millions for the victory, but these sports are not capable of paying out the top prizes if it were not for corporate dollars.

The PGA Tour requires a corporate sponsor to put out at least $6 million to be placed on the regular tour schedule.

The LPGA and Champion Tours are not seeing a tenth of this type of revenue due to the lack of corporate commitments. The winner on these tours generally will receive a quarter of the amount a winner on the PGA Tour receives for a win. This is wrong by my standards and anyone who receives a paycheck each week.

  • A Formula 1 driver will receive his general race salary (Ferrari and McLaren drivers are paid $4.5-5 million per race) plus a share of the prize fund in the neighborhood of $4-5 million. These numbers are hard to comprehend in today’s market, but the officials of this series are billionaires in their own right.
  • The Professional Bowlers Tour has been hurting for sponsorship dollars for years, but remains a challenging sport. Tournament winners can win $5,000 and exemption on the tour for the next year.

Professional sports is entertaining, challenging and economically viable to participants, but sponsorship dollars drive how successful the end result.

Contact Eddie Thomas at