Football business beyond clichés

“The World Cup in football starts tomorrow and we will be able to see millionaires running after a ball”, ironically Anne-Sophie Lapix, the presenter of “20 hours” of France 2, on the eve of the opening of the World Cup in Russia, on June 13. A controversial and revealing statement about the fantasies of a part of the statement about football and money.

To see more clearly, and especially to make the debates dispassionate, it is necessary to read “The Money of Football”, the work of Luc Arrondel, research director at the CNRS, and Richard Duhautois, researcher at the CNAM, published by Cepremap editions. In 228 pages and 46 graphics, the authors debunk the most common misconceptions.

Overpaid players?

The first of these naturally concerns the remuneration of the footballers. In a more trivial register than Anne-Sophie Lapix, Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared in 2010, before being converted to football by his choice in Marseille: “It has always shocked me to see RMIists applauding millionaires. »If this is true for Paris Saint-Germain superstars Neymar (3.067 million euros gross monthly, according to “L’Equipe”), Edinson Cavani (1.54 million) or Kylian Mbappé (1.5 million), life is not only rosy for others.

Luc Arrondel and Richard Duhautois explain that the job market for professional soccer players is divided into two segments. A primary segment, “to offer very high salaries and good careers to a small minority of players”, and a secondary “with much more modest salaries and short careers”. The International Players’ Union (FIFPro) revealed in 2017 that 45% of professionals earn less than €1,000 a month. Not even a minimum wage.

Should we then cap the wages of the few highest paid players, who are also the ones who fill the stadiums and sell paid subscriptions to the viewers, to reduce the pay gap? The risk, as the two economists explain, is that the distribution of the wealth generated by the club, which comes mainly from TV broadcasting rights, is in favor of the owners. Because “Football is one of the rare economic activities where the distribution of wealth is in favor of the employees”. At the end of the 2015–2016 season, the share of wages in Ligue 1 turnover was 69%, according to the National Management Control Department (DNCG).

Football, a small business

Another strong belief is that football is big business. For both authors, “of business, football has only the name”. The average revenue of a Ligue 1 club (excluding PSG) is €47 million, “about twice as much as an average Carrefour hypermarket making money”.

The same in Spain, one of the exhibition championships in “sports business”. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona generate 30 and 29 million net profits. “These clubs, which are good in terms of their track record and their history, do not weigh very heavily compared to big companies: Conforama achieves three times their turnover and generates seven times more profit! » In reality, the authors explain, football clubs are generally just breaking even. “They generate neither loss nor profit”they point out.

Why do football clubs attract such wealthy investors? Buyers’ motivations are often well thought out. “When Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani (Qatar) bought the Malaga club in 2010, in the grip of financial difficulties, his motivations were concurrently related to a large real estate project and the construction of the new port in the city. » The search for political legitimacy may also explain these acquisitions. “Silvio Berlusconi used his success with AC Milan for his political career. » Il Cavaliere was elected head of the Italian government three times.

A story about money?

Other opinions, although simplistic, believe that football is now about money. Again, this idea is not really fair. First, because of the impact of the organization of international events such as the World Cup or the Euro “is most often overestimated and that retrospectively it is difficult to identify a positive effect on growth or employment”.

So because the effect of such competition on “gross national happiness” is real. According to a study cited by the authors (“The hosts with the most”, 2016), happiness, measured on a scale of 0 to 10, increased from 6.5 to 7 in London during the 2012 Olympics, which were organized in the capital.

For football, Luc Arrondel and Richard Duhautois rely on their own survey (“Grande Enquête sur le Supportérisme”, 2016) to measure supporter happiness. “The level of emotion is very high, higher than happiness in general, as overall it reaches almost 8.5 out of 10 for the heart club and 8.5 also for the supporters of the French team. » Only millionaires running behind a ball, in shorts too, seem to be able to boost the morale of the French…

Leave a Comment