Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What can be done to reform the soccer industry?

Two days ago I taught a condensed version of my course on the economics (in a very broad sense) of soccer with examples from FC Barcelona, to an audience of a group of American students that are spending a kind of Study Abroad term in Copenhagen, but were visiting Barcelona for a few days. At the end of the session I was asked two very interesting questions by students about the topic of reform of the soccer industry by fans. One of them asked me what I thought as a Barça fan of the fact that more and more the club depends on the financial support (in the form of sponsorship) from the Qatar ruling family. The other asked me what can be done to reduce the levels of corruption in soccer exemplified in the practices of FIFA, the global governing body. The answer to both questions must start by a recognition that they point to real problems. It is a joke that some clubs boast their democratic credentials and paradoxically are dependent on the resources of families that prevent their countries (not only their clubs) from becoming democratic. But the increasing global concentration of wealth facilitates the increasing influence of dark sources of power and influence. And yes, the global governing body is most probably corrupt (if you believe more the British press, as I do, than Mr. Blatter, the president of FIFA). I answered that FIFA is most probably corrupt because it is an unregulated monopoly. It is a monopoly probably for good reasons (the rules of the game and the organization of the global hierarchy of soccer requires coordination), but then monopolies should be regulated, otherwise they tend to exploit consumers. But being a global body, it could only be seriously regulated by a global institution, or by the coordination of the most important jurisdictions on earth. What can individual fans do: acknowledge the problem, mobilize and build a global federalism.

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