Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Money and Soccer," by Stefan Szymanski

The last book by Professor Szymanski, probably the best expert in the economics of soccer and professional sports, is presented as a guide to the more popular "Soccernomics," which he wrote with the Financial Times journalist Simon Kuper. The new book is more addressed to economists and other experts, and it offers in 10 chapters a very good state of the art of the research on soccer as an industry. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how he relates what happens on the pitch (such as match uncertainty or the distribution of talent), with what happens out of the pitch in terms of revenues, debt and competition between clubs. Szymanski explains very well the natural tendency of soccer towards dominance by a few teams, and at the same time towards financial stress. Being a British academic and soccer fan in a US university, he is very well placed to present a comparison between soccer and American profesional sports, which paradoxically are more regulated and have more "socialist" components than European soccer. I find specially interesting the chapters on ownership and regulation. In the chapter on ownership he has a reference to FC Barcelona and other member-owned clubs, which inspite of being legally democratic, also have a fair share of probably corrupt officials. On regulation, he addresses the policy of financial fair play in Europe, which tries to prevent soccer from being dominated by "sugar daddies", but which according to Szymanski can do more harm than good to the game. Being such a recent book, it is just bad luck that it did not have time to address the corruption at FIFA, perhaps precisely the result of being an unregulated global monopoly.

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