This research process has shed light on many aspects of soccer that I had been unaware of beforehand. In particular, I realized that exhibition games have underlying motives that lie outside the realm of pure sport. An exhibition game, or a ‘friendly’, is played between two teams but removes the competitive outcome; the match is played in order to solidify tactics, mold the team, and encourage teams to get to know each other. For example, a few years ago, I happily attended a football match between AC Milan and the national team of Hungary, and although Hungary lost, it was amazing to see the interactions between my favorite players; I felt lucky to have seen such superstars in Budapest at all. There was absolutely no competitive implication to the match’s outcome, as a national team played a club team, but it was in Hungary’s best interest to play against such a world-renown club team in order to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers (needless to say, Hungary did not get through to qualify for the World Cup. Our team is not the most talented).
However, my research has concluded a new motivation behind these ‘harmless’ games, a financial incentive that boosts the team’s image, popularity, and monetary success. Consider my particular case study, Real Madrid. According to Forbes, Real Madrid makes 65% of its profit outside of Spain, earning $16 million in 2012 just from friendly games alone in Europe, the United States, Kuwait, and China. Real Madrid has also strategically set up exhibition games with several Canadian and American teams, which will not only popularize the team, but will gain immense revenue as well. Is this ushering a new era where money takes over priority? It is already evident that football players receive outrageous amounts of money just to transfer club teams (regard one of my previous posts for Cristiano Rondaldo’s record-breaking transfer fee). I hope not, because that would diminish the quality of the footballing world to a severe extent.