It has become abundantly clear that the R21.5 billion that frenziedly changed hands during the English Premier League transfer window would be enough to cancel the foreign debt of many minor African nations – though in the case of Zimbabwe this might be problematic.
Suffice it to say that the sheer weight of numbers involved graphically underline the inescapable fact that soccer in the rainy kingdom up north has transcended sport and entered the realm of global business.
No club would invest the world-record R1.452 billion Manchester United laid on the table when they re-signed French international midfielder Paul Pogba – who left the club in acrimonious circumstances for nothing like that money in 2012 – if there wasn’t some return in the deal.
The money pouring into modern soccer probably justifies the inflated investment in playing personnel. A case in point is the R201 billion-plus which will pour into the league coffers from the latest television deal for live and overseas broadcasts.
Then, at least for the top clubs, there is a chance to latch on to some of the R11.81 billion which was dished out by Uefa in last season’s Champions League.
The money stakes have climbed exponentially since the Russian oligarchs – Roman Abramovich, his $8.3 billion fortune according to Forbes Magazine, making him only the 12th richest man in Russia, took control of Chelsea in 2003 – and the petroleum wealth from the gulf states started flooding in like an uncapped geyser. The amounts are staggering, but the returns are obviously there.
And if the figures keep escalating as they have over the past decade, they are unlikely to tap off in the immediate future, Brexit or not. For even when times are tough for the couch potato or the man on the terraces, soccer will continue to be the sporting drug of the masses.