*Money and Soccer*

The subtitle for this one suffices for a review:

A Soccernomics Guide: Why Chievo Verona, Unterhaching, and Scunthorpe United Will Never Win the Champions League, Why Manchester City, Roma, and Paris Saint-Germain can, and why Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United Cannot Be Stopped

I haven’t even read the full subtitle yet (I used Control C), much less the book.  But the author is the highly regarded Stefan Szymanski, and John Foot gave it a very positive review in the 24 July 2015 TLS.


It's called football.

- every European ever

You lost the war. We get top pick the names.

Pah, as soon as Bayer stars backing Untehraching again they'll be unstoppable.

Too bad that the Bayer AG never backed Unterhaching. But they used to back Uerdingen (today known as KFC Uerdingen). Yes, I am old enough to remember such days... .

Actually, the Italians call it Calcio, the Finns jalkapallo, the Poles piłka nożna and so on.

We Portuguese speaking people call it FUTEBOL and in Spanish speaking people call it FUTBOL, French speaking people call it FOOTBALL as well, the second "F" in FIFA actually mean FOOTBALL...

Jalka. Pallo.

My Finnish isn't good but that means foot and ball. And in the Scandinavian languages, it is also "foot + ball" (Fodbold, etc).

Having lived in Finland, I'm aware of that, but they still call it jalkopallo a word with Finnish roots, not some transliteration of "football" like many other European languages do.

Also, why is it that the US seem to get all the stick for calling it "soccer" whilst the Australians (who take it one step further with their cringeworthy "socceroos" nonsense) get away lightly?

Yes and the A stands for Association. The full translation of FIFA into English is International Federation of Association Football. The sport's full name is Association Football, and Soccer is an abbreviation derived from Association. The abbreviation was invented in England by English people to describe the sport.

Football has always been a family of related games, and all modern forms of football have as much right as any other to call themselves Football. It's just that soccer has a high number of ignorant people following it (among the even higher number of fans) and so we have to put up with complaints about people using clear and precise English.

How many times does it have to be said? "Soccer" is an English coinage (short for "association football", to distinguish it from "rugby football", a.k.a. "rugger").


Actually, according to Ngram, "soccer" was not significantly more common in US English than UK English as of the early 1970s.

You want to guess how many Americans had even heard the word 'soccer' in 1970? Probably less than the number that heard 'rugby,' since at least rugby has a relation to American football.

I would guess close to 100% of Americans knew the word "soccer" in 1970. No one took it very seriously, but plenty of immigrants played it, there was a thriving youth leage in Alexandria, VA where I grew up, and most sports fans had heard of Pele. Soccer was widely played, badly, in high school gym classes as well, along with other minor sports like field hockey or lacrosse.

Regional. I'd only vaguely heard of it when i lived in Kentucky, but moving to St. Louis in the 1960s I found a hotbed of soccer. Our high school had a soccer team, but no football team. St. Louis University won the NCAA mens soccer title several times.

Yes. "Football" is a generic term to cover a number of related games - Rugby, Gaelic, Australian, etc. "Soccer" is a better name because it is more precise.

Agreed. The real problem is calling regular football "football," for these exact reasons. "American football" is too limiting -- it should by all rights be the most popular sport in every country, in every age. "Gridiron" is probably the best alternative.

Also, The Riksbank’s Prize in Economic Sciences is not a Nobel prize.

- prior_approval

And a peanut isn't a nut. Crazy!

Greece is still European, right? It's not yet Middle East.

I'm a Greek and it's called: [stuff that cannot be printed in ASCII here] which translates to "foot sphere" Not ball, but sphere.

Given that 'foot sphere' is a bit wordy, and means nothing special by itself unless we know what the definition is, and is a distinctive combination to denote an activity, and given 'football' is already appropriated to describe US style football, then I deem "soccer" is acceptable as a term to describe soccer, in the same way 'foot sphere' in Greek describes European football. After all, the Greeks invented soccer (or was it the Mayans, in one of their death game matches?)

I have spoke.

"every European ever": utter balls. "Soccer" is an old British abbreviation which is why it is used in the US and, at least until recently, Oz. It's short for "Association Football", as distinct from the two codes of Rugby.

It's still called soccer in Australia by everyone except people who have a relationship with soccer's organising body the FFA. It's absurdly confusing to live in a place with 4 popular codes of football, three of which fans commonly refer to their game as football, and the fourth occasionally they do. It was a bit better when no one called soccer football.

I thought Szymanski's book "Why England Lose" was in large parts a waste of time.

Also, someone should really be calling a halt to these unnecessarily long subtitles. If The Bible didn't need one, your pishy output certainly doesn't.

But the Bible had monopoly powers backed by state coercion to require purchases of certain editions. And after protestantism, there was a religion that mandated the purchase - or at least reading - of a Bible. Those are unique market advantages that abrogates the need for a explanatory subtitle.

More likely that the Bible was named before Gutenberg and the monk scribes had no reason for subtitles - to write out by hand.

My bible has the subtitle "Authorized Version".

The actual title (at least per Amazon's image of the cover) actually says "...and why Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and *Arsenal* dominate"

I was a bit surprised to see "Manchester United cannot be stopped" given recent history.

edit: the covers images for the kindle version and paperback version are different. Looks like the author is trying to fit the cover to current events instead of real trends.

So European soccer is like the MLB, but moreso?

Yeah, but the games are mercifully short.

Yes, European soccer economics have far more disparity than the MLB. Top teams in MLB get to outspend the minnows of the league 4:1 Half the league has a budget that is more than half of what the Dodgers and Yankees get. Which is why at least you have a dozen teams with a chance in hell.

Compare instead with Spain's La Liga, Real Madrid outspends the poorest teams 40:1. there are only three teams in that they don't outspend 5:1 or more: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. So, from an economics perspective, the Marlins have a smaller handicap to winning the MLB than Atletico Madrid and Valencia. And guess what? No team outside of that list has won in the last 15 years, back when the economics of the league were a bit more even.

A team with half the salary expense can win semi regularly through better coaching, and the draft (which doesn't exist in European soccer BTW: good prospects go to the top teams as a matter of course, even in their teens). In MLB terms, most Spanish soccer teams would be competing with a nice 5 million dollar budget. Not enough to pay for any starting pitcher of a real team.

People don't need a Ph.D in economics from the university of Chicago to figure out how that might make the league a bit uneven.

In soccer, many teams can win with a lucky goal. It's a low scoring sport with a large degree of randomness in the outcome. The reason that large disparities in finances can exist is because they don't cause the same disparities in outcome as in other sports - it takes 40 times the expenditure to give a 10-20% chance of winning a title.

In sports where the outcome is more proportional to ability (i.e. almost all other sports), they always need to introduce salary caps, drafts, and knock-out finals structures to spread the opprtunities to win around.

Instead of drafts, salary caps, etc. other sports could just award the winner of the toss a bunch of points to make the outcome more random. But that would probably be seen as taking something away from the sport.

Yes, lucky goals happen in Soccer as they do in every sport. The 40x expenditure by Real Madrid isn't because they need to up their chances of beating Granada, its to compete against Barcelona in La Liga and against some of the other top teams in Europe in the Champions League.

As far as the rest of your point about skill vs. randomness in soccer outcomes, I think it is clear that money buys quality and quality wins titles. As Bob points out above, a few big-spending teams dominate the winners list for Spain's La Liga. Same goes for the English Premier League, which in its history has had exactly five winners. Four of these are the big spenders -- Man United, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea. The fifth is Blackburn, being unique in that they are the only 1-time winner of the league.

If we look at the results of the best teams from game to game we can see that the best teams lose far fewer games than the top teams in other sports. Examples: Chelsea won the Premier League last year with 3 losses in 38 games (8%); Barcelona won La Liga with 4 losses in 38 games (11%); Bayern Munich won Germany's Bundesliga with 5 losses in 34 games (15%). You get the point. Comparing to the popular American sports from the last full season, the winningest team in the NBA regular season lost 15/82 (18%); 5 winningest teams in the NFL lost 4/16 (25%); NHL 22/82 (27%); MLB 64/162 (40%!!)

I'd say soccer could do worse as a game of skill.

The economics of losing teams always fascinates me, it's like the old 'evening news with adverts'. You give the people just enough incentive to watch the evening news and put up with the ads. Too many ads will turn off the viewers. In the case of losing teams, just enough winning will excite the "Cleveland Browns" fans to think this is their year (or Boston Red Sox before they started winning), but you cannot not win at all, once in a while you must win enough to excite the fan base. The dynamics of a winning team is the opposite, but similar: they are expected to win, so anything sort of winning is death to their fan base, which is fickle. Each type of team is playing on the emotions of 'hope' vs 'experience'.

A great deal of money can be made from soccer. Bottle it and market soccer as the cure for insomnia.

Sorry, baseball has a lock on that market. Hold on a second, I see the batter has stepped out and is scratching his balls.

Imagine how much more money they could make if soccer had TV timeouts every 10 or 15 minutes, like they do in other sports. Soccer leaving too much money on the table. It's like an artist who only makes money off concerts and t-shirt sales, but not from sales of downloads, videos, or CDs.

Real Madrid can be stopped and they were. They won one single CL in 10 years which is a tragedy. They won one spanish title in seven years. They spend for this over 1 billion dollars.
The fact is football economics is full of assimetry and information black holes. The main market is the market for skills. Clubs buy and sell skills at discounted future prices without it guaranteeing succes in terms of throphies. There is also a very heterogenous market. Skills are not equal and sometimes are unique. You cannot benchmark Messi. You can benchmark other players against others, but not Messi or Ronaldo. Their prices, although not regulated by any authority can not be found from the demand-supply curves.

The thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in.

Did you see that ludicrous display last night?

A more interesting topic (to me, anyway) would be the development of sabermetrics in football/soccer. The whole obsession with sports statistics as a way of evaluating flowered with baseball, because it's a lot easier in baseball since plays are discrete and involve a lot of 1 on 1 (pitcher vs batter). I know there have been developments in football (inevitable given the money involved) but not familiar with them. Can anyone recommend a good introductory article?

Man, you botched it! There's also Arsenal.

Have a decko at http://statsbomb.com

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