The death of Arnold Palmer this week got me thinking about what makes a sport popular.

My ‘mother in law’ (of sorts) actually worked for Mark McCormack when he came to the UK and established IMG. She worked really closely with Arnold and always describes him as ‘polite and charming’. He still was when, nearly 50 years later, my other half approached him at The Open and asked whether he remembered his Mum, Jean. He did of course, but personally I think that even if he hadn’t, he would have humoured him.

Arnold was one of a handful of handsome and marketable players who changed the face of golf forever. They popularised the sport and paved the way for the likes of Seve and Tiger after that. Yes, they were all phenomenal players, but more importantly we really liked them and what they represented. We wanted them to shine.

Nowadays whilst we admire their playing prowess, golf seems to be all about money rather than personalities. I watched the culmination of the FedEx Cup and I couldn’t have given two hoots about who went home with the cash. Why should I be pleased that Rory (I didn’t start playing golf to grow the game) McIlroy has a considerably healthier bank balance today than he did a week ago? There is a disconnect between players and public that somehow needs addressing.

Football has gone through a similar slump. With the exception of Gareth Bale, I can’t think of a single player who I’d like to spend any time with. Their success is linked to their value and all we hear about is TV rights and transfer fees. They are commodities, not personalities. Cycling, on the other hand, has boomed with the popularity of people like Wiggins, Trott and Hoy. We know them, love them and want them to win. We enjoy their success.

This weekend we’ll all be tuned into the events at Hazletine as the Ryder Cup comes back to our screens. If the rise and fall of sport is intrinsically linked to the people playing it then I sincerely hope that the Ryder Cup does generate some memorable moments and brings us a little closer to the players.

Nicole Wheatley Director Medi8
Nicole Wheatley, Director Medi8

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