Francesco Principe, Jan van Ours, 22 August 2021

The mass media is the main source of information for fans of professional football, and racial bias in the way the media reports on sport activities would be a cause for concern. This column analyses data on over 400 players and shows that there is racial bias in the way Italian newspapers rate professional football players. Conditional on objective performance indicators, Black players receive a lower rating than non-Black players. The authors find no evidence of a racial bias in the wages Italian football clubs pay their players.

Mauro Caselli, Paolo Falco, Gianpiero Mattera, 22 July 2021

Racism in football returned to the headlines recently following racial abuse of England players on social media after the final of the UEFA European Championship. How does the harassment of supporters affect discriminated athletes? Using the COVID-19 lockdown as a natural experiment, this column compares the performance of individual football players in the Italian Serie A with and without fans at the stadium. The evidence shows that players of African origin, who are most frequently targeted by racist abuse, perform better in the absence of supporters.

Carl Singleton, Alex Bryson, Peter Dolton, James Reade, Dominik Schreyer, 31 January 2021

Professional sport has experienced severe shocks from Covid-19, creating natural experiments. These have provided partial answers to a number of questions, including how airborne viruses may spread in crowds; how crowds respond to the risks and news of infection; how the absence of crowds may affect social pressure and decisions; and how quickly betting markets respond to new information. This column reviews the evidence and advises how research in the economics of sport could continue to be most valuable to policymakers.

James Reade, Matthew Olczak, Matthew Yeo, 30 November 2020

The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus meant that by mid-March 2020, the UK government had stopped outdoor sports from being played in England. Since then, football has resumed behind closed doors, and whether fans should be allowed to attend matches is now the subject of much debate. This column examines whether football matches held in England across February and March helped to spread Covid-19. It finds that attendance at matches resulted in an increase in cases and deaths and concludes that extreme caution should be applied to reopening football to spectators and that there should be close monitoring of any gradual re-opening of stadiums.

James Reade, 14 October 2020

Tim Phillips talks to James Reade (University of Reading) about his research investigating the impact of regular mass outdoor meetings on the spread of a virus by considering football matches in England in February and March 2020 and the spread of Covid-19 into April 2020.  Although the evidence points to an increase of cases and deaths linked with mass outdoor events there are simple adjustments than can be made to lessen their risk.

Read the associated Covd Economics Paper here

Ariela Caglio, Sébastien Laffitte, Donato Masciandaro, Gianmarco Ottaviano, 19 December 2019

One of the most important challenges of globalisation is to adapt regulations to new conditions imposed by global competition. This column argues that the introduction by UEFA of its Financial Fair Play regulations, with their break-even requirements for European football clubs, represents an exemplary case of how a change of accounting measurement rules motivated by international competition in the sports entertainment industry can shape businesses’ decisions by redefining their preferences and incentives towards better economic performance.

Rabah Arezki, 19 August 2019

Algeria’s recent victory in the Africa Cup of Nations has united a country whose development model has frustrated its young and educated workforce. This column offers four lessons for economic development from the national football team’s success: on the role of competition and market forces, mobilising talent, the role of managers, and the importance of referees (i.e. regulation). 

Vsevolod Grabar, Konstantin Sonin, 20 October 2018

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, which aim to “introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances”, have attracted significant criticism, with claims that their effect on competitive balance is uncertain and that they will deprive new clubs of a chance to take off. This column provides a theoretical argument to show that regulations such as salary caps or Financial Fair Play improve investors' incentives to bring money to clubs other than those in the top financial tier, helping to level the playing field.

Stefan Szymanski, 08 October 2018

Stefan Szymanski of the University of Michigan discusses how Financial Fair Play regulation brings little or no benefit for football fans or the players - the big winners are the owners of football clubs. The interview was recorded at the RES conference in 2014.

Eran Yashiv, 08 October 2017

The €222 million transfer of Neymar to PSG calls into question whether football superstars are a good investment. Using the financial details of the transfer, this column argues that, at the price paid, Neymar has a negative net present value. While there are other explanations for PSG's willingness to pay, in purely economic terms his contract seems a bad investment. Policymakers might use this type of calculation to justify intervening in the transfer market through regulation and taxation.

Doug VanDerwerken, Jacek Rothert, Brice Nguelifack, 09 February 2017

Most football leagues suspend players who have accumulated a certain number of yellow cards. This column describes the effect of this rule on the number of fouls committed by players in the English Premier League. Players who are approaching the suspension limit commit 33% fewer fouls than at the start of the season, and even in the first game of the season, the deterrent effect of the suspension rule reduces the number of fouls by 15%.

Roman Sittl, Arne Jonas Warnke, 18 September 2016

In sports economics, competitive balance refers to how well opponents are matched in terms of their ability to win. A lack of competitive balance implies that match outcomes will be more predictable and less interesting for fans. This column uses two decades of Bundesliga data to investigate whether competitive balance is decreasing in German football. Good players are increasingly playing for better teams, denoting a reduction in competitive balance. Although this reduction doesn’t seem to have affected fans’ interest, the results emphasise how revenue and regulations can affect competitive dynamics.

Luca Fumarco, Giambattista Rossi, 23 April 2016

A vast cross-discipline literature provides evidence that — in both education and sports — the youngest children in their age group are usually at a disadvantage because of within-group-age maturity differences, known as the ‘relative age effect’. This column asks whether this effect could last into adulthood. Looking at Italian professional footballers’ wages, the evidence suggests that the relative age effect is inescapable.

Dmitry Dagaev, Alex Suzdaltsev, 13 September 2015

Designing a tournament to keep each game or round as exciting as possible for spectators is, as you might imagine, complex and nuanced. Yet, most sporting tournaments use a basic ‘knock-out’ model, and have done for years. This column argues that tournament organisers ought to be more creative, and illustrates a model and examples suggesting that tournament organisers should not confine themselves to tradition. Choosing the proper scheme is a hard but feasible goal for tournament designers.

Stefan Szymanski, 24 June 2015

Football leagues around the world tend to be dominated by a tiny number of teams. This column applies Sutton’s theory of endogenous sunk costs to show that it’s all down to success begetting success, and success attracting more fans. Like big companies who dominate markets and still spend billions on advertising to maintain their market position, dominant teams remain dominant because they consistently win.

Pierre Deschamps, José De Sousa, 13 February 2015

Racial wage discrimination can proliferate in labour markets with large frictions because workers facing discrimination find it difficult to relocate. This column presents evidence of the interaction between frictions and discrimination in the English Premier League, the top tier of English football, using the 1995 Bosman ruling as an exogenous shifter. Before the ruling, wage discrimination resulted in teams with more black players outperforming competitors with equivalent payrolls. The decrease in frictions associated with the ruling allows players to escape discrimination by relocating.

Alex Bryson, Arnaud Chevalier, 15 August 2014

Racial gaps in wages are often attributed to discrimination but data limitations make drawing strong conclusions difficult. Economists usually distinguish between taste-based and statistical discrimination. This column presents evidence from a new test of taste-based discrimination. Examining hiring decisions in the English Fantasy Premier League, the authors do not find that employers discriminate based on race. One explanation for this is that good productivity measures minimise the opportunities for statistical discrimination, which according to studies drives the racial difference in market outcomes.

Nauro Campos, 13 June 2014

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is upon us. This column argues that there will be plenty of partying, but also plenty of protests fuelled by the gross mismanagement and limited economic benefits from hosting the Cup. Stadia may be ready, but much planned infrastructure has already been abandoned. Indeed, rent-seeking may be one reason nations bid for the Cup. Since the returns to transportation infrastructure are higher in poor countries, the international community should work to stamp out corruption so that poor countries can continue to host mega-events like the World Cup.

Dmitry Dagaev, Konstantin Sonin, 10 March 2013

In sport tournaments, the rules are presumably structured in a way that any team cannot be better off (e.g., to advance to the next round of competition) by losing instead of winning a game. Starting with a real-world example, the authors demonstrate that the existing national rules of awarding places for the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League might produce a situation where a team will be strictly better off by losing a game.

Rob Simmons, 03 September 2012

As the new football season kicks off, Europe’s top clubs are preparing to abide by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative, designed to ensure financial discipline and make European football more competitive. But this column argues that the new rules could end up doing just the opposite.

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