An inevitable consequence of applying the capitalist model to a league-style competitive sporting association is the polarization of the association into rich and poor clubs. This effect is clearly visible in many modern sports, such as formula one, soccer and Australian Rules football.

The fundamental problem that arises is that a successful team will naturally attract more supporters and consequently also attract more advertising revenue, television royalties and ticket sales. All of this produces more revenue for the club, allowing it to spend more money on new players and better facilities and increasing its political power within the association. This in turn makes the club more successful and the whole process loops back on itself. Meanwhile less well-off clubs can't afford the depth of talent or the first class facilities and must struggle to survive, let alone challenge the top clubs.

For example, Manchester United are clearly the most successful English Premier League soccer club in recent times. They have turned themselves into a marketing powerhouse that attracts millions of dollars worth of sponsorship and has kids across the world shelling out for the official club uniform. As a consequence they, along with the other established rich clubs Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal can afford to buy their way out of any trouble and consistently sit at the top of the league ladder while the mid-table clubs struggle to survive and the bottom of the league is a revolving door of promotion and relegation.

There are only two likely long term outcomes for such a structure: either the poor clubs go broke and the rich clubs keep on ringing up hollow victories or a fundamental change in the distribution of wealth occurs. The Australian Football League has attempted to counterract this phenomenon by giving draft preferences to the worse performing clubs. The English Premier League offers the limited safety net of the relegation system, although once relegated it can be very hard to get back into the top flight. Neither of these systems does much to attack the underlying problem - that a system based on pure capitalism naturally creates and increases a wealth divide between its members.

This phenomenon is most visible within leagues which are typically national. An interesting parallel exists in international sports, however. Countries like Australia and the United States consistently do disproportionately well in international sporting competitions. There is considerable grounds to link per-capita GDP to per-capita Olympic medals, for instance. A similar relationship to the one described above exists, where wealthy nations can afford to spend lots of money on frivolous things like sport while poor countries struggle just to pay their interest to the WMF. Those of us in the west are mighty proud of our Olympians, but how hard is it really to beat a bunch of third world athletes? It's like challenging a kid in a wheelchair to a boxing match, except its worse because we are partly responsible for the disability.

Perhaps we need a GDP adjusted Olympic scoring system.

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