Colm Cavanagh: Players are entitled to make most of their time in the limelight

Michael Jordan’s shoe contract with Nike has yielded the former Chicago Bulls star an estimated $1.3bn thus far with that number continuing to soar
Michael Jordan’s shoe contract with Nike has yielded the former Chicago Bulls star an estimated $1.3bn thus far with that number continuing to soar Michael Jordan’s shoe contract with Nike has yielded the former Chicago Bulls star an estimated $1.3bn thus far with that number continuing to soar

After spending the afternoon enjoying the sunshine I watched Air on Monday evening. 

It is a documentary-style film based on the story of how Nike signed a sponsorship deal with Michael Jordan in 1984. 

I thought it would be an interesting insight into how basketball agents operate and how sponsorship deals are made, but it was actually much more interesting than that. 

The film focusses on the business element of these sponsorship deals and how the whole deal was based on Michael Jordan’s mother’s steadfast belief in his talent and ability.

The story shows how a talent scout is so determined in his pursuit of Jordan that he pushes the budget so far the offer to Jordan was three times more than any other deal in the NBA at the time. 

Nike created a basketball shoe line specifically for Jordan, bearing his name and then his mother steps in to ensure he receives a percentage of sales of all ‘Air Jordan’ shoes going forward. 

A deal that Nike had initially expected to turn over US$3m in the first three years has far exceeded everyone's expectations. Michael Jordan has currently made over $1.3 billion from the contract and at the current rate of income from sales he is expected to break through the $2bn total in the next two years. 

Those are absolutely mind-blowing numbers, all based on his mother knowing that he had the skill and potential to be the best basketball player in history. 

She was determined he would get a deal to prove his worth and, in the process, she changed the future of professional sports sponsorship. It is a fascinating watch.

I remember being told when I was playing for Tyrone minors to enjoy my football but always remember that it doesn’t pay the bills. When we think of all the hours of training, injuries, surgeries, physio, recovery, miles travelled and sacrifices made to have the honour of wearing the jersey, all whilst in education or alongside work, it is no wonder it’s hard to explain the drive and commitment to anyone not within the GAA bubble.

As an amateur association there is no payment for players and the expense of playing a sport for anyone who is not a household name (and even for many that are) won’t dawn on most people. 

I understand supporters are spending a lot of money to follow a team and the cost of travelling to matches, paying for tickets, a day out and jerseys all adds up very quickly. 

Many players, meanwhile, are buying their own boots, personal preference of socks, gloves, supplements, and meals, so giving it your all soon adds up financially as well as physically.

Of course there are some who are provided with boots and meals in exchange for social media exposure and I fully support them in taking anything and everything offered. Why wouldn’t you? 

In the past there have always been stories going around about some of the top players being handed jobs simply because of who they are and not having to actually work. 

There will have been talk of phone contracts being paid for, cars being gifted to allow them to get to training, clothing sponsors, the list is endless. 

That is all well and good when times are good, the team is winning titles and businesses have the money to ‘advertise’ by using a player’s profile. What happens if that player gets injured and is no longer in the limelight, they leave the sport, or the team stops winning and they fall out of the media spotlight? Interest can get lost a lot quicker than it takes to earn it.

The Moy hosted the Ulster LGFA junior final over the past weekend and for the ladies funding is a fundamental issue. It was great to see great crowds out to enjoy the game, including lots of young children whose interest is growing,

but I would severely doubt any of the players in action have their boot or meals provided by sponsors.

Things are improving in terms of bringing some parity between the LGFA and their male counterparts but there is still a very long way to go.

We aren’t in the Premier League, the Six Nations or the NBA, so it is more important than ever that we have a trade, a job, a career which will pay our way rather than hoping for a ‘good deal’ from someone willing to use our name during Championship season and move on to the next big thing next year.

Speaking of next big things, we are getting closer to the business end of the Championship. 

There are still many minutes of football to be played and many things which could change but I have to say I am enjoying the format so far and the opportunity to see some teams redeem themselves after a previous below-par performance, proving that they should be in the mix for the big days out at Croke Park. 

It will be interesting to see if we finish the season with the expected four or five teams battling it out, or will one of the other counties step up and show the same belief as Michael Jordan’s mother and prove themselves worthy.