Science and sport

Is the threat of being banned from top clubs and top players real? We connect game theory!

From the editor: hello! This is the blog of Alex Krumer, a professor at Molde University. He has a PhD in economics, but almost all of his studies are related to sports (football is a passion since 1986). Alex was born in Moldova and has worked in Israel, Norway and Switzerland. He recently gavegreat interview with Vadim Lukomsky...

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov said that if in the first act they hung a gun on the wall, then in the last act it should be fired. In the context of the earthquake in European football in the form of the announcement of the creation of the Super League, the pistol appeared many years ago, when back in 1998 the former president of Milan, Silvio Berlusconi, talked about the creation of the Super League. This threat was repeated from time to time, until last week there was a shot. The question is, was the shot a blank or a live one?

It is difficult to say, but it is important to understand the reasons for what happened. Football is consumed by billions of people all over the world. And it's not just cheap numbers tossed in the air. For example, 3.6 billion people watched the last World Cup. However, football is not considered a lucrative business. An excellent book by Stefan Zimansky and Simon Cooper, Soccernomics, provides an example that illustrates well how small football is as a business. For example, ten years ago, Real (Madrid) were the highest earning club in world football. But a company with similar earnings would only be ranked 120th in the Finnish economy. Since then, little has changed. For example, before the outbreak of the crown, Manchester United, with just over 700 million euros per year, would have ranked 90th in Finland.

So how can it be that an industry with billions of customers can't grow faster? This is exactly the question that owners of big teams (and probably not just owners of Super League teams) are asking themselves. They believe that the potential of football is much higher than what UEFA is able to realize. Simply put, team owners want more money. We may not like it, but it's a perfectly legitimate requirement outside of the football world, where there is less room for emotion (after all, we also want higher wages and for that we also change jobs from time to time).

UEFA understands that its power will suffer greatly, and therefore immediately moves to the stage of threats. The first threat is that Super League teams will be removed from local leagues. The second threat is that players from the Super League teams will not be able to participate in the World and European Championships. This raises the question of whether these threats are serious threats or unreliable threats.

Here we will use terminology from the field of game theory, which is a branch of mathematics, economics and psychology that analyzes situations of conflict or cooperation between decision makers. The definition of an unreliable threat refers to a threat posed by a rational person in a series of games that he could not best fulfill. Assuming that the people involved are reasonable people, I find it hard to believe that UEFA's threats are indeed real threats. There are several rational and one legal explanation for this.

First, it's hard for me to imagine how La Liga will voluntarily (and not voluntarily) exclude the three largest teams that bring it the highest rating and income. Will La Liga be able to make more money without Barcelona and Real Madrid than with them? If the answer is no, then the threat of their exclusion is unreliable. This is on condition that when the emotions have passed, people will return to practical thinking.

The second explanation is similar to the first one: is it possible that, for example, the Portuguese association will voluntarily (and not voluntarily) agree to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo from joining the national team at the upcoming European Championship? Will the sponsors of Euro 2020 (or 2021) agree to give the same amount of money, knowing that the big stars will not play in this tournament? If the answer is no, then the threat to keep these players out of Euro 2021 is an unreliable threat.

And the last explanation is generally related to speed skating competition. Yes, the lifebuoy can come from there. In short, the story is this: in 2014, a pair of professional skaters from the Netherlands (Olympic champion Mark Tuytert and Nils Kiertsholt) decided to hold several show competitions in Dubai not under the auspices of the International Skating Union (ISU). In response, the ISU disqualified them for life. But after a long and tedious trial, the European Court of Justice ruled that this disqualification was illegal. Thus, in addition to the rationality approach, the legal issue indicates that UEFA will find it difficult to implement its threats (although the UK is no longer an EU member, which may help UEFA in the case of English teams, although not likely).

Mark Tuytert

In conclusion, I cannot predict how the saga will end, but once you stop feeling upset and remembering how good it was in the past (was it really good?), You know that there will be changes, because football is too big a sport. to ignore changes in thinking and rely only on memories of a holy past.

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Photo: / Michael Regan, Streeter Lecka;

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