Saturday, October 10, 2015

FIFA: How to reform a global, de-regulated, olygarchic monopoly?

Andy Robinson, in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, mentioned in a recent article that Rogan Taylor, a professor from Liverpool University, had proposed a democratic voting system to reform FIFA, the global governing body of football (soccer). I contacted Mr. Taylor by e-mail to see if he had recently written something about it that I could share with my students of the course on soccer and economics that I teach in Barcelona, but he replies that “I know I've been discussing these kind of issues since I launched the Football Supporters Association in 1985!” but “There are no papers or material I can send you (none I can remember anyway!)”.The president of the International Olympic Committee is more modest in his reform ambitions, and justs asks for a credible external presidential candidate to replace Mr. Blatter. Would that be enough? Or would a world democratic election be feasible and effective? Actually, a lot of soccer is already very democratic (clubs like FC Barcelona or many German clubs), but that does not guarantee good governance. Meanwhile, FIFA is a monopoly for good reasons (only one set of rules is desirable in a global industry), and it operates like a guild or a standard-setting institution (about which there is an interesting economic academic literature). The problem is not that it is a monopoly, but that it is unregulated and that it is olygarchic and non-transparent. However, good standard-seting institutions are not democratic in the sense of being elected by the people, but in the sense of being accountable to democratic institutions, although themselves they are managed by carefully selected and trained experts. That should be the future of FIFA, to become an expert, technical, monopolistic governing body regulated by global democratic institutions. It will take time, I know.

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