Some sporting shares have been hammered recently. That is interesting. If sport were an equity index I would probably be bearish. I have talked previously about the fall in attendances at US sporting events and in viewer numbers. The Super Bowl for example, peaked in 2015 at 115 million television viewers, which was a 26 year high, to 111 million viewers last year. We could ask, or rather shareholders should be asking, how much the Italian accounting calamity that struck British Telecom was due to management looking at the green grass of the Premier Division rather than their core business and what that implies for levels of future television rights; the premise on which the whole shaky construct stands. That is, the shaky construct of football but also of BT. Who in their right mind would invest billions of pounds into a business whose biggest business risk is the binary outcome of a bidding war, getting the number in an envelope wrong and losing their audience and business model at a stroke. Television viewing figures for both SKY and BT were reported to be lower last year but the reasons why were complex. They varied from straight cost, quality of football, too much football, the formats, inflexible pricing, illegal streaming alternatives and value amongst others. The Leagues themselves can sell overseas rights as the Premier league did with China last November so have more of a cushion. Golf meanwhile seems to have peaked back in 2014 along with Tiger Wood’s game and cricket…… well, don’t get me started.
Closer to home the sudden panic about urban air pollution which has engulfed us, and which will invariably lead to equally sudden and poorly thought out legislation, may have an impact on domestic sporting goods sales. Having been encouraged for years to get out jogging and cycling citizens may now rethink their personal fitness goals if, having avoided being mown down by an Eastern European HGV they now learn that their lungs are dissolving into a pit of slimy diesel-flavoured mucus. It’s a bit galling to discover that they would have been better off sitting in a pub garden with a pint and 20 Benson’s for the last 20 years which pretty much has been my alternative plan to the jogging hysteria. Not mentioned yet, (of course it wouldn’t be), is the impact on air quality that newly imposed 20mph speed limits in the City and beyond have had, the addition of some 50,000 registered Uber drivers and of course, the ridiculous cycle lanes, the construction of which has clogged up the streets for the last couple of years and slowed down traffic commensurately.
I fear, we are in a death spiral of health related unintended consequences. All the health fascists have achieved has been to make the population more neurotic, (which is unsurprising given they are being diagnosed with and warned about increasingly creative ills), and it seems to me, have made us less stoic, more angry and a whole lot less comfortable within ourselves and whatever shaped bodies the good lord and the accidents of DNA presented us with.
Throwing it all together, have we, might we, just have reached Peak Sport?