Football´s market failures

england-manager-sam-allardyce-press-conferencePoor Sam Allardyce. The Brexit manager who crashed landed on take-off. Poor both in terms of judgement (but at least he immediately quit, sparing us some nonsense about a game of two halves or moaning about the referee), and also his managerial record. Sam has form, 24% (with 4/17 honourable mentions) in the 2007 Stevens Report, somewhat less than his 39% career “winning” success rate during his managerial career, which -always on the decline – was achieved with seven clubs (Blackpool, Bolton, Notts County, West Ham, Blackburn, Newcastle and Sunderland), and included winning the old third division and two promotions during the past ten years. Not that there is anything wrong in being a steady journeyman professional, nor working with some fine English clubs. But the lack of any international experience should perhaps have shown up in the England manager selection criteria…

The Guardian´s Simon Jenkins makes the point about self-regulating autonomous global sporting associations´ poor governance fueled by TV money.

I cannot take seriously sports I used to love when I cannot trust what I see before my eyes. I was baffled at the reason for last-minute player substitutions in football matches, until I was told these were fee-sharing deals. Cricket’s dropped catches and no-balls turned out to be paid for. British cyclists who suddenly won gold medals had superior equipment to other competitors. How did Qatar get to hold a summer World Cup, or Russia a winter Olympic games? You can guess. Are we soon to learn that referees are bribed for the inexplicable penalties that decide most rugby matches?

Is the root of the game´s problems actually the clubs´ ownership of players? What other business owns and trades its employees? In professional European football restricting the free movement of players is justified in order to ensure fair competition, but in practice the increasing value of transfer fees is resulting in a monopoly in terms of sporting success by elite clubs (see The Economic and Legal Aspects of Transfers of Players). English football has a problem given its corruptible and corrupting nature. It has even given the English language its own word for bribes, a bung – payments by football agents to managers. The bribes also reflect the lack of transparency of the business model, shielded by owners´self-interest, and in turn the clubs´ banks, tax-advisers and accountancy firms plus their shareholders´ indifference. England´s interim manager, Gareth Southgate, puts it well. “There’s lots about the industry of football that I don’t like but it’s a sport I love“. It is about the fans, the majority of whom are working class supporters  who love the game.

Solutions: first, for professional football clubs, scrapping player ownership and replacing them with fixed contracts with transfer details registered (preferably online, including agents´fees, etc.); second, for the England job, let´s go radical. Let the fans pick the squad and the team. 500,000 football supporters selected their best England XI before the Euros and for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. There are 3.9m players of the Fantasy Football League alone. There can be crowd sourcing for the manager too, note that here the lamented Sam was the third choice…

Alternatively, the best-qualified person for the job could be appointed.

And that would be Hope Powell. She played in four FA Women’s Cup finals plus winning a League and Cup double in 1996. She  was capped 66 times as a player, including the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring 35 goals as a midfielder. She was the youngest coach of any English national football team, and led the national team at the 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 UEFA Women’s Championships, including the final in 2009 where they lost to Germany, as well as reaching the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup in 2007 and 2011, and the Great Britain women’s Olympic football team in 2012. Plus she was the first woman to obtain the UEFA pro licence in 2003. Commitment and success.

UPDATE – Oct 13 

The latest England selection (with both the previous captains dropped).

england-ix

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