Maria Sharapova’s $30m mistake

Maria Sharpova's "mistake" has seen her dropped by sponsors Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer.


Maria Sharpova: her money-making skills have been amazing

How could Maria Sharapova be so stupid? That's "the $30m question", says The Daily Telegraph. For years, as the tennis star candidly admitted, she had been taking the prescription medicine called meldonium. So why didn't she notice when it was put on the banned list by the tennis authorities on 1 January and stop taking it? "Here she is running a $30m operation, knowing that it only exists if she remains eligible to compete," says Dick Pound, former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. "How stupid can you be? If you're taking medicine, surely someone around you checks if it's on the list. It's not that difficult for one of her team to look and say: This is a problem'."

Yet no one did. What's most extraordinary, perhaps, is that it wouldn't have made much difference to her if she had stopped taking the drug. It's not as if she's been wowing Wimbledon with a succession of victories. As Jim White says in The Daily Telegraph, not only has she not won a title at Wimbledon since 2004, but for 11 "injury-checked" years the time she has spent in the tournament has often barely lasted "much longer than one of the trademark shrieks she emits every time she hits the ball".

But if her tennis hasn't been great, her money-making skills have been amazing.If you've been to Wimbledon recently, you'll have found it hard to miss her face: there it was in commercials for Evian, or looking cool on posters endorsing Nike. Then there were the girls handing out samples of Sugarpova Silly, "a premium candy line that reflects the fun, fashionable, sweet side of international tennis sensation, Maria Sharapova". The likes of Serena Williams might have been outflanking her on the courts and scooping "the silverware", says Jim White, but Sharapova was the one who "hoovered up the cash". For a decade, she has been the highest-paid sportswoman in the world, making $30m a year.

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Her approach to the folding stuff is no surprise, given that she arrived fromRussia on the tennis scene as a penniless immigrant, to be driven on towards success by her obsessive father. Her attitude helped her cultivate just the right image for advertisers, though it didn't make her a popular figure on the circuit. On court "she was cold, ruthless, her shriek rising in volume when she was losing in a deliberate attempt to unsettle her opponent". Her aloofness may explain why she has attracted little support from fellow players.

So far Sharapova has been dropped by sponsors Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer (but not Head), with her fall from grace drawing attention to what the FT calls "a growing and lucrative market in disgrace insurance for prominent corporate sponsors". Brokers are reporting a rapid growth in this niche market, with businesses paying millions to insure against damage to sales and reputation in the wake of a number of high-profile celebrity scandals the "personal crises of golfer Tiger Woods, cyclist Lance Armstrong and supermodel Kate Moss have all damaged their commercial backers". It's easy to see why this kind of insurance has become popular: once a star loses his or her lustre, it's all but impossible to get it back.

Tabloid money... Labour snatched milk and shut mines too

"Primary school pupils are being taught to hate Margaret Thatcher," says Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. "So no surprises there." A lesson plan (first published by the Times Educational Supplement) "depicts the former Tory PM as a bloodthirsty sadist". Though not officially endorsed by the Department of Education, "it is described as a great tool' for learning. It features Mrs Thatcher's Spitting Image puppet and says she was an abrupt and mean' woman, who put profits before workers' and set out to destroy the miners One section for seven-year-olds says: While Margaret was the Minister of Education she had to make cuts and abolished free milk in schools, which children had enjoyed for many years'. Yes, Mrs Thatcher did withdraw freemilk from seven to 11-year-olds, but she was only continuing a policy introduced by Labour, which ended free milk for all secondary school pupils in 1968. And Labour closed far more coal mines than [she] ever did."

"Two of the country's wealthiest hedge-fund managers have become feuding neighbours at their multi-million-pound London homes," says Jane Moore in The Sun, "because one of them wants to build an iceberg' basement, which the other is objecting to. First world problems, eh?"

"When Nicola Sturgeon can't get something she wants, she [threatens to hold] another Scottish referendum," says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "Well maybe we should let her have one because figures released this week show that all [her] claims that Scotland would manage... on its own are tosh! Even with all the cash she gets from Westminster, she's still managed to run up a £15bn deficit, which, proportionately, is twice the size of the UK's. So next time she threatens us let's call her bluff."