Living in Omaha, Nebraska, I have had a first-hand look over the past two weeks of two of the most prestigious amateur athletic organizations on the planet: the International Olympic Committee and the NCAA.
Both organizations tout themselves as parties who care about sports and the athletes who participate in them. They both paint themselves as doing all they can to support, in many cases financially, the sports they govern.
Sadly, this is not the case.
Archaic policies and good ol' boy business partnerships are standing in the way of maximizing those efforts.
Like most years, I attended the 2012 College World Series in Omaha. Like every year, I sat and watched the game sans beer. This is a result of the NCAA's policy to ban the sale and advertisement of alcohol at all 88 of its championship events.
Let's think about that. The NCAA is stepping in to separate college and alcohol.
Whether they like it or not, those two things will always be linked. For better or worse, alcohol is part of the college experience. It is also part of the sports experience.
Beer and liquor companies throw tons of money around to get their product served and advertised at sporting events. It is one of the reasons why the NFL is the most profitable athletic organization on the planet. It's free money, and you'd be crazy to turn it down.
The NCAA turns it down—millions of dollars every year—in the name of some illogical fear that it will somehow taint the purity of their games. What they are actually doing is shortchanging the people who they claim to be supporting.
This week, I have had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Olympic Swimming trials in Omaha. Everything about the event screams money. Merchandise and swag are everywhere you look. If you want a ticket to the event or a piece of merchandise, you'd better carry a Visa card or cash.
I remember as a kid, watching those great Visa ads about the Olympics, where they would end with the words "They don't take American Express." Little did I know, the Visa partnership with the Olympic games meant they don't take MasterCard, either.
If you do not own a Visa card, you cannot buy tickets to any Olympic event online at face value. You must go through a third party, be it a ticket broker or a street scalper. That is a fact.
If you want an official "London 2012" shirt, you'd better have a Visa card or find the nearest ATM.
So again, we have an organization limiting the money that could be raised to support the games and the athletes who participate in them. I'm sure Visa pays a pretty penny to be the exclusive credit card of the games, but you can't tell me it offsets the money they lose out on due to sheer inconvenience.
For example, a man walks up to a merchandise booth to buy a $60 sweatshirt he'd been eyeing. He stands in line for 15 minutes, gets to the front and asks for his shirt. The clerk then asks for his Visa card or $60 in cash. The man's bank only uses MasterCard. He goes looking for an ATM, only to see a line similar to what he just waited in. Discouraged, he decides the sweatshirt isn't worth waiting in line two more times for.
You just lost $60.
How many times does this happen at every I.O.C. sanctioned event? I'm going to guess 50 times at an average of $40 a pop. $2,000 a day lost at every event around the world because of an exclusive partnership with Visa.
Way to support the athletes.
The I.O.C. and the NCAA need to rethink their mission statements and the nature of what it is they are trying to do and be. Their current policies go against this in the name of illogical hard-headed thinking, and the sports involved are shortchanged in the process.
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