Saturday, May 1, 2021

The failure of gated soccer as an example

Some of the richest soccer clubs in the world attempted a few days ago to create a gated soccer community (a closed "Super League"), and they failed. Soccer will remain unified for the time being, with all its imperfections, but unified. The gated community that the clubs led by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez wanted to create, is not really different from other gated communities where the wealthy want to isolate themselves as much as possible from the surrounding poorer communities in neighbourhoods, education or health.

It is because soccer is unified (the most unified sport), that there are compensating mechanisms at a global level. For example. As Branko Milanovic explained in an article some years ago, the rule that links soccer stars to only one national team is a compensating mechanism, by which the top players of any country, who go to play for the best European clubs, have to return typically to their home country for games between national teams. This is a compensating mechanism because, although they get much better as individual players working in the best European institutions, they have to give back some of their talent to their relatively poor home country and their fans, in international games and world cups.

Notice that the poor in soccer do not want only money. In such a popular sport, the separation theorem does not hold. In other sectors, we may be happy being compensated with money, and then each of us do anything we want with the money. But in popular sports, that does not work so easily, because we do not only want to be paid in money, we really want to be paid in kind. We want to see our teams playing, winning and performing with the best stars. In global unified soccer, there is some money compensation (true, many times tainted by corruption), but the most important compensation is seeing your top players in your national team, or having the hope that any modest team has a remote chance of being among the best because of the promotion and relegation mechanism.

The current unified system is imperfect because of corruption and lack of regulation and supervision by an non-existent global government, but untying unification is worse: there is no other option but improving globalization. This removes one of the exits of Rodrik’s trilemma. We are in this together, like it or not.

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