Super Stars sell tournaments. If it is Tiger Woods in golf, it is Kasparov in chess, Schumacher in Formula One and our very own little Sachin Tendulkar in cricket.
Imagine a golf major without Woods or a World Chess championships without Kasparov -- it has actually happened and the title became hugely devalued. Schumacher may have made Formula 1 races almost predictable, but a flag-off without him is inconceivable.
While the official world championships of any sport do not offer an appearance fee, many other events pay exorbitant amounts to get the big stars. Kasparov commands upwards of $80,000 and up to $120,000 per classical tournament, while Tendulkar ensures the coffers of the Indian cricket Board overflow, whenever India accepts to play events in Sharjah or Nairobi or wherever.
But the biggest of them all is Woods, who is rumoured to charge between $1.5-2 million for each event he plays outside the US PGA Tour. The next best in golf command about one fifth or one fourth of that.
In fact, in the future, Woods might even charge to play on the regular US PGA Tour. That's because TV deals are usually cut under the assumption that Tiger will have to play a certain minimum number of events each year on the US Tour.
So imagine the disappointment last week when Woods, after weeks of deliberation, announced he would not go to Dubai for the annual Desert Creek Golf Tournament, an European PGA event.
The event is in progress this weekend and Woods had signed up for it almost a year ago for a reported fee of US $2 million.
The reason for his pull out was the possibility of a war in the region if United States decided to attack Iraq.
If it had been any other player, organizers would have cried foul, made a hue and cry, but since it is Tiger, they will keep quiet in the hope he will come over the following year.
Which is precisely what he has promised -- he will come to Dubai in 2004.
In the past, wherever Woods has played such events, the prices of daily tickets have been hiked, prices of on-site hoardings shoot up, TV coverage rights of such events rocket. At the end of the day, even after forking out US $2 million for Woods, organizers make profits.
Each year, many respected publications around the world, including Forbes and Sports Illustrated, put out lists of richest sportspersons and most lists these days are topped either by Woods or Schumacher with a smattering of NBA players making up the top ten. There is an occasional tennis player or a boxer, too.
Recently another interesting list was compiled by Black Enterprise magazine. It released a list of leading African-Americans, not just in sports. The list was dominated by sports stars, with the top eight positions going to them.
Who else but Tiger Woods could be on top of the heap with his earnings estimated to be around $54 million in a year.
For those bored with Serena Williams pounding her elder sibling Venus Williams into submission in virtually every Grand Slam final, there is some respite. Venus is No. 1 among women and No. 2 overall, in terms of earnings from endorsements, while Serena is No. 2 among women and No. 7 overall.
They are the only two women in the top 10. Wonder how long it will take for Serena to dislodge Venus from this list too.
The top eight are: 1. Tiger Woods (golf); 2. Venus Williams (tennis); 3. Michael Jordan (basketball); 4. Shaquille O'Neal (basketball); 5. Allen Iverson (basketball); 6. Kobe Bryant (basketball); 7. Serena Williams (tennis); 8. George Foreman (boxing).
Oh yes, before I finish, I must not forget to mention how appealing Tiger Woods is to the ad world. His caddie Steve Williams -- who is white and a New Zealander -- has just been signed up to endorse an oil brand.
The brand is Valvoline, who obviously could not afford Tiger, so they did the next best thing and signed up the man closest to him when TV cameras are trained on him.The financial terms of the endorsement have not been disclosed, but one can safely assume it is not a pittance and if rumours are to be believed, it is close to one million dollars.