Page last updated at 10:33 Asia/Manila, Sunday, 30 June 2013 PH
It may take several decades but football can constitute a major industry in the Philippines if we develop it into a national sport following the example of Brazil, one of the leading emerging markets of this century. Brazil today has over 180 million people and a GDP per capita of US$ 12,789. As a middle-income country with a vast middle class, Brazil illustrates how markets created by football grow and multiply. This process is described in an article entitled "Foreign Policy and Football" by Vera Cintia Alvarez in a publication issued by the Ministry of External Relations of the Government of Brazil. From a sport of the elite imported from the UK, football has become a form of mass entertainment in Brazil, showing to countries like the Philippines that, given the appropriate policy from both government and the private sector, a whole industry can be built around this beautiful game.
Ms. Alvarez first presents the global perspective: "One can safely say that football is the market segment with greatest symbolic goods. These goods are of a volatile nature, but of unquestionable importance to the economy. They originate in the games between large clubs, are transformed into mass spectacles, and followed up by sales of broadcasting rights through media. This generates other dynamic and rich markets such as that of players, the market for equipment and even the omnipresent fashion tendencies inspired by the sport. Some experts say that we are witnessing the transformation of professional football into a global network of 'media-corporations-merchandising-markets.'"
Slowly but surely, foreign football clubs are getting to be known by the younger generation in the Philippines. T-shirts carrying the seals of Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich are appearing more frequently. The Philippines is no longer completely alien to the following global phenomenon: "Football clubs have become corporations, known as global clubs. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, Inter, Milan, etc. are examples of clubs with fans all over the world and players from different countries. They are present in different nations' media, and have income streams that originate in all continents." Already, the leading business daily, the Business World, regularly carries news about these global clubs playing for national, European and international leagues.
It is estimated that in the Brazilian formal economy, the sports industry (mainly football) generates over $18 billion annually and employs over 300,000 people. Brazilian players' salaries abroad have become a source of income for their families in Brazil. The upcoming sports mega-events in 2014 and 2016 are expected to generate a great deal of economic activity that can add percentage points to the GDP in the next two to three years. According to FIFA, the 2014 World Cup will be the highest income generating event in its more than 100 years. They expect the World Cup in Brazil to generate 100% more income than the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It must be pointed out, however, that the present development of football as an industry in Brazil was a result of several decades of an evolutionary process aided by favorable public policy.
Ms. Alvarez describes this process as follows: "Until the 1930s, football was an amateur sport limited to recreational purposes...Transformation of the sport and the beginning of its democratization--a process that includes acceptance of black and poor players in big teams--occurred alongside professionalization, in 1933. From then on, through the Vargas' era, football became permanently associated with our national traits. Gilberto Freyre associated Brazilian football, with its swing and exuberance to an ideal kind of Brazilian versatile, clever, "malandro", capable of humiliating European rationality with humor. ...Brazil is the only country to win five world championships, the only country to have participated in all World Cups, the country that has led the FIFA ranking for the longest period in the last decades and whose players have often been considered the best in the world. If football is an instrument in the construction of national identities, in Brazil's case it is also, fundamentally, the fingerprint of its international identity. There is a spontaneous identification with the 'sporting personality' of Brazil, which transforms Brazilian football into an international brand with great market value. As they say, 'if fashion is French, design is Italian and 'way of life' is American, then football is Brazilian."
It is highly unlikely that football will ever develop in the Philippines into as important an industry as it is in Brazil. We can, however, use Brazil as a role model as we put together all the stakeholders of football in formulating a roadmap for the Philippine football industry over the next decade or so. The sport can be a major channel for closer cooperation between our two countries in the coming years as the Philippines reaches out to Latin American countries that can make our country the most natural bridge to the ASEAN Economic Community. It is about time that we increase trade, investment, cultural and sports relations with the biggest economy in Latin America and the seventh in GDP (US$ 2.223 trillion) ranking in the world. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.