Over the years, as the big clubs across Europe have grown in stature on the field, they have also grown politically also, and a good example of this is the relationship between club and country. Today, apparently, David Gill of Manchester United has fired a “warning” to FIFA about all these pesky international games that take place.
The sentiment is clear: We provide the players, and we’re tired of having to give them to national teams so much of the time – particularly if they get injured (hence the “insurance” issue Gill mentions).
Probably the most laughable thing though is where Gill claims that if an agreement is found that is amenable to United and the other massive global football clubs, it will be for the “betterment of the game”. Really? Apparently, because “the Champions League is one of the top competitions in world football” and hence all must bow before the Champions League, and the producers of the entertainment on show in that competition. World Cup?
What about the millions (no, billions) of fans of non-perennial-Champions League competitors? Will the solution, which will likely reduce the number of England (and international games moreover) games, and hence mean that that World Cup thing is just a collection of highly paid players who don’t really know who their compatriots are because they barely ever play for them, and hence a lot less interesting as a result.
A common discussion when thinking about the economics of sport is whether we should think about clubs or leagues as the units of interest (c.f. Neale (1964,QJE) and Sloane (1971, SJPE)), and it would seem clear here that Man United are acting in their own particular interest, and not that of the game, or of the English Premier League, or the English national team. And neither should they, it might be argued, since they are a business with their own shareholders. Yet if via their actions they continue to succeed in making the English Premiership a predictable bore-fest, they may find that such actions weren’t necessarily optimal…