Although it is fashionable to blame Europe for our current economic problems, Spain (and Catalonia) would be much worse without the discipline of European membership. It is the European Commission who stops (or tries to stop) the Spanish government from still committing more public funds to vested interests, or who tries to put pressure on the Spanish legislators to avoid reducing even more the independence of regulators. At the European level, the Spanish lobbies, especially the big corporate interests, have much less sway. This is an idea I would like to test also for soccer. My conjecture, based on my experience as fan (and my knowledge of the literature on soccer and incentive theory), is that referees make less mistakes (in favour of the home team, or in favour of the big teams) in the Champions League than in the Spanish competitions. Since in the last decade and more the same teams have faced each other both in the Champions League and in the national competitions (think of the Barça-R. Madrid games of 2011, but there are many more examples), one can compare the same teams, in front of the same crowds, but with referees under different incentive systems. Pepe was sent off in the Champions League, but could step on Messi and not even be booked in the Spanish League. The R. Madrid players could feel free to ambush the referee since minute 1 of the Spanish Cup final that they won in 2011, but were defeated by Barça with a neutral referee, with some days difference in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The UEFA Champions League is a better league, with better supervision and monitoring, with more regulatory stability and credibility, with less scope for corporate pressure and vested interests. We need more, not less, Europe.
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