UEFA recently announced that France would host the 2016 European football championship. The other contenders were Italy, who were eliminated on the first ballot, and Turkey who finished one vote behind France in the second ballot. I have been traveling in Europe the past month, and most of the coverage of this decision over here has stressed that France was happy to get the championship because many football stadiums in la France need to be renovated. First, didn’t France just host the 1996 World Cup and weren’t stadiums renovated then? And second, why does France need to host a championship to make this infrastructure investment? If the stadiums need refurbishing, then refurbish them.
Here’s a link to an interesting article from Discover magazine. The article summarizes recent research from neuroscience that concludes elite athletes are not only physiologically different from the general population, but their brains also function differently. According to the article, “Athletes may perform better than the rest of us because their brains can find better solutions than ours do.” It’s an interesting idea, and completely consistent with findings from economics – a large body of economic literature concludes that people with greater mental ability earn more than those with less mental ability.
About a year ago I attended a sports economics conference in Berlin. At the end of the conference, the participants attended a Bundesliga football match between Hertha and Bochum in Hertha’s home stadium, Olympic Stadium (shown at right). Hertha won the match, and with only a few weeks left in the season, was at that point tied for first place in the Bundesliga. After the match I had a few libations in a beer garden near the stadium that was full of celebrating fans, and later rode a packed U-bahn train downtown with a lot of other celebrating fans. Hertha did not finish the season well, and lost their remaining games to finish 4th in the Bundesliga; they qualified for the UEFA Cup competition.
Fast forward one year. Hertha had a dreadful season this year, and were in last place in the Bundesliga for almost every week of the season. Last week, Hertha were relegated to the second division of the Bundesliga. Their opponent in the match I saw last year, Bochum, were also relegated this season. Olympic Stadium seats 74,000 for football, and was extensively renovated in 2006 for the World Cup. Given the lower quality of teams in the second division, I expect Hertha will have difficulty selling tickets next season. Since many Bundesliga players have contracts that are valid only for the first division, many of Hertha’s players will not return next season, and they may have difficulty signing new high quality players. Both costs and revenues will decline as a result of this relegation. Hertha’s relegation demonstrates that having a large, newly renovated stadium does not ensure the success of the team playing in that stadium – a lesson that would benefit many in North America, where many people assert that new facilities are needed to upgrade the quality of teams. It will be interesting to see if Hertha can return to the first division next season, or if their stay in the second division persists.
So the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is banning feints ahead of a penalty kick for the World Cup! I.e. players who fein to shoot but don’t, in order to trick the goalkeeper into committing themselves, will be forced to retake penalties.
It’s fair to say this is one of the most pointless, unnecessary rules ever introduced into football (soccer). I could do a Google News/Reader search to try and find all those news articles and blogs calling for such a change in the rules, but I won’t – because I won’t find any such articles or blogs.
On what planet does the IFAB reside? In the last few seasons, the main talking point has been the use of goalline technology and other aids to help linesmen and referees make decisions, with numerous examples of goals wrongly ruled out and non-goals awarded.
But instead, IFAB bring in a pointless rule on feinting, and rule out ever using goalline technology.
Greetings from Germany. I have been on the road in Europe for the past few weeks, experiencing the wonders of May on the continent, including a snowstorm in Toulouse week before last and unending rain and cold weather in Germany. I am currently in Paderborn, spending some time at the university.
The news here in Germany is 100% Michael Ballack, 24×7. In case you missed it, Ballack, anticipated to be a key player for Germany in the World Cup next month, was injured in the final of the FA Cup while playing for his club team, Chelsea, and has been declared out. The picture to the right is not the tackle he was injured on, but photos and video of the play are airing continuously on German TV, and conspiracy theories are being concocted on a daily basis.
The loss of Ballack clearly hurts Germany’s chances in South Africa next month. It also points out the primary source of tension between clubs competing in financially lucrative domestic leagues (like the English Premier League) and tournaments (like the FA Cup) and popular but not financially lucrative international competitions like the World Cup and the EUEFA European Championship. Clubs competing in domestic leagues pay top international players like Ballack huge salaries, but they also play for national teams in international competitions that attract intense interest from fans. Players, clubs, national teams, and FIFA have to carefully balance the goals of domestic clubs and national teams. Chelsea would not have wanted Ballack to sit out the FA Cup final in order to make sure he was available for the World Cup; Ballack’s injury hurts the German national team, but not Chelsea. Both the FA and FIFA want the top players in the world to take part in the competitions they sponsor, because having the best players participate generates the most revenues. Since injuries often happen, and fatigue eventually sets in for even elite international athletes, trade-offs must occur.
Late last week the Football Association (FA) in England submitted their bid to host the 2018 World Cup. England last hosted the World Cup in 1966, and had a bid to host the 2006 World Cup turned down in favour of the Germans, but after London’s successful 2012 Olympics bid, hopes were high that this time the World Cup might come “home”, as English football fans somewhat arrogantly assert.
That was, until Lord Triesman, the Chairman of the FA and head of the 2018 bid decided to step in, kamikaze fashion. It seems he was taken in by a blonde assistant and mentioned to her his conspiracy theories about the Spanish and the Russians, the two other 2018 bids seen as the main threats to England’s bid.
Apparently, the Spaniards are trying to bribe referees at the World Cup, and might pull their 2018 bid if the Russians help them fix a few World Cup matches. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Triesman has now resigned both from the FA and from the 2018 bid.
We shall now see what the recriminations are and implications for England’s World Cup bid. But I wonder whether anyone will seriously investigate the match-fixing allegations? They seem far fetched, but who really knows?
In the never ending saga that is the Phoenix Coyotes, the latest update is that Jerry Reinsdorf’s bid to purchase the Coyotes has fallen through. Reinsdorf attempted to renegotiate the lease with the city of Glendale in order to purchase the club from the National Hockey League.
With the deal between Reinsdorf and the city falling through, TSN reported this morning that the city of Glendale next move is to open up negotiations with Ice Edge Holdings, the group that the NHL initially awarded the franchise to. According to the report, “Ice Edge wants to make sure the NHL has assurances from Glendale that the city intends to fund losses for next season.”
According to a report on ESPN.com, if the city does not agree to the conditions set forth by the league, the NHL may sell the franchise to David Thomson who would move the franchise back to Winnipeg. Until next time…
Last night, the Glendale City Council approved the measure to pay the NHL up to 25 million dollars in exchange for keeping the franchise in Phoenix for the 2010-2011 season. The money may not be needed if the NHL can find owners for the franchise, but with new owners will come other concessions from the city. The NHL was quoted as saying that the 25 million guarantee is “nothing more than an insurance policy.” The full article can be found here.
While the UK elections are the top news coming from the UK, there are two rather interesting notes about the finances of two football clubs who have been in trouble this season. First, the Administrator for Portsmouth revealed the extent of the club’s debt, as well as the details of offers made to creditors, and accusations made by creditors that there was 30 million pounds of missing money. It was pointed out that while this accusation was most likely false, the club is officially 139 million pounds in debt, and that some creditors were offered a mere 20p in the pound to settle the debts. While charities, small businesses, and other football clubs who are owed money by Portsmouth will be repaid in full, it seems that many larger businesses as well as previous investors and owners of Portsmouth stand to lose millions of pounds from having been involved in the investing in the club.
In other news, West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has opened up to ESPN’s soccernet and claimed that West Ham was within days of going into administration earlier this year, and only an emergency influx of cash from Sullivan and another co-owner in the amount of 20 million pounds kept the club from going into administration. Sullivan further noted that the club will need to raise another four million pounds this summer when they will not be playing any matches to remain financially stable. Sullivan came out public with this information after several UK publications started questioning the financial situation of West Ham, partly as he felt the need to claim that some of the wages reported by the newspapers were not entirely true.
Most shocking of the wages: 83,000 pounds a week for Kieron Dyer, especially considering he has yet to play a full season since his transfer to West Ham. In comparison, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, widely regarded one of the best in the game is said to make 90,000 pounds a week.
On a final note, Sullivan claimed that the club would continue to “trim the excess” during the coming summer months, but he still predicted that a Premier League club is bound to disappear from existence.
The Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in the Triple Crown, was run today. The winning horse, Super Saver, went off at 8-1 and covered the sloppy 1 and 1/4 mile course in 2:02 2/5.
While all might be well at Churchill Downs, the financial picture is not so rosy in New York. According to a report on NPR, the $2 billion horse racing industry in New York is experiencing dire financial problems, and the Summer meet at Saratoga Springs could be canceled. Horse racing has been in decline for decades in North America. In many states, the introduction of slot machines and table games at race tracks has helped keep the “sport of kings” on its feet by using revenues generated by other forms of gambling to subsidize purses and the racing industry. New York has been unable to get legislation passed to allow slots and table games to be allowed at race tracks, and the industry has suffered. Worse, all the Off-Track-Betting shops in New York state went bankrupt due to mismanagement, further reducing the revenues available to race tracks and the horse racing industry. The lousy economic climate also contributes to the financial woes in the horse racing industry.
The New York legislature is considering a $17 million loan to help Saratoga Springs open in July. The next jewel in the Triple Crown, the Preakness, will take place in two weeks at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Like Saratoga Springs, Pimlico has had serious financial problems in the past few years.