Back in the day, top athletes were either a) gentlemen with private incomes who would represent their county or country for a few years and then go off to be solicitors, psychiatrists, or run the family business, or b) artisans who were grateful to earn enough during their playing career to buy a small sports equipment shop to run during their retirement.
Now, any sportsperson of reasonable ability can have a comfortable life through wages and sponsorship, and the top players in the big sports live like ancien régime aristocrats in a world of huge wealth unimaginable to their fans.
But their lives are still insecure - if they fall from favour, lose form, or get seriously injured, much of their income will disappear. How much money is enough to be safe? They have to make more, and more.
The top players mix with other wealthy people from business and showbiz. They have agents, business advisors, security men, drivers, domestic staff for their multiple homes.
They are paid massive amounts to make advertisements glorifying products they probably don't use.
They attend corporate events for their sponsors, where they have to be charming, make funny speeches, give free coaching and generally jump through hoops for the company that is footing the bill.
So now, an athlete is a brand, a commercial entity, a product. They know their value, their marketability, their transfer fee.
They can be bought and sold.
When they're approached to play, perhaps, slightly badly for a large amount of money. What's the difference? Like the old joke says, it's already established they're a whore, it's just a question of the price. Isn't it?
Or is it? At what point does integrity cease to matter?
'We are where we are' and the clock can't be turned back. There is massive money in modern sport and players can't be denied their fair share. But let's face it, corruption is there right the way through like Blackpool through a stick of rock - some of it's legal and some of it's criminal, and the lines are blurred. Playing badly because a Mumbai bookie paid you to, or playing badly because your sponsor insisted you attend a dinner last night..? Getting a great transfer deal but turning a blind eye to the way your agent arranged it..?
Can anything be done? Or is professional sport now a dirty business on a par with, and intertwined with, gambling, and those with ideals will just have to play for love in an amateur league?