Okay, okay...so maybe the title is stretching it a bit but its my first article so I start as I mean to go on. The title could have also read "How economics can win England the World Cup" but quite frankly thats even more frivilous with the truth than the notion that Brad Pitt should be bossing drills at Burton-on-Trent......
Infact the REAL title should be "How Economics can show why england wont win the World cup".
I studied economics in University and I always had an interest in how Economics permeated every part of our lives, but for some reason I'd never thought of football & economics together.
The notion came to me as I sat on Etihad flight e223 from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne. I was watching the film Moneyball (starring Brad Pitt..duh) when it occured to me that no one has ever really tried to seriously apply Economics to English football. But wait! I hear you cry "shirt sales, stadium sponsors, transfers!" well true, those are all part of football's monetary system but they arent the key economic aim....The key aim of any football organisation is Wins.
The central idea behind "moneyball" is the notion that a club should be solely concerned on buying wins, nothing else should matter- any percieved mental or physical flaw should be disreguarded..its all about Wins. And to be fair a couple of managers have tried that with varying degrees of success (Big Sam springs to mind) but how do you translate that ideology to the National Football team? You can't BUY better players, you have to PRODUCE them.
And in terms of an economic production model to produce an international footballer is fairly easy:
- You acquire a 13/14 year old with basic attributes
- You coach him
- He gains match experience
- He reaches a level high enough to play at the top level
In production line terms England is no different to Germany, Spain or Italy- relatively the same amount of 13/14 yr olds, a good standard of coaching infrastructure & excellent technology. But why is England's top tiers saturated with foreign talent as opposed to German or Italy's where the top teams regularly field teams with 7 or 8 home-grown stars? I believe there is a fatal flaw in the English production line....theres too many producing. In economic terms it is known as Market Saturation.
Between the Conference & the Premier League there are 116 teams. The comparable system in Spain has 44 teams, Germany has 56.
If you take out the top 20 teams in england that leaves us with 96 teams, all of which are struggling financially with a declining customer base which is being drawn towards the EPL. And with the revenue pools drying up for the smaller clubs any opportunity for extra revenue is seized apon, including the sale of young raw talent to a bigger club.However the pressure on the smaller club (the seller) means that it has to maximise profits and in doing so often prices the commodity (the player) out of the market.
The Buyers (big clubs) are also governed by the laws of economics, in this case the need to maximise Utility vs Spending - So the Big clubs look to the continent to maximise the value it recieves when paying for a commodity. So the big clubs turn to the continent, where the smaller clubs are under less pressure to stay afloat, and purchases the next Rooney at a fraction of what it would have cost at home. Thus the international footballer production line becomes inneficient- less players being moved onto the next level due to market forces pricing them out of that move up to the next level.
Thus the obvious question is how do we start making the production line function efficiently again? And theres only two real answers. The either we add more water to the pond in the form of subsidies to reduce the fincial pressure on the small fish OR we cast out our nets and fish a few out thus increasing the room in the pond.
Its ironic to think that behind 1966 the size & depth of the league system has our 2nd greatest source of footballing pride & also the main reason we may not see another '1966' for a very long time.