Public Policy and Professional Sports

Public Policy and Professional Sports

International and Australian Experiences

New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series

John K. Wilson and Richard Pomfret

Public Policy and Professional Sports​is a comprehensive analysis of public policy aspects of the economics of professional sports, supported by in-depth international case studies. It covers regulation and competition in the sports industry and its labour markets, public spending on stadiums and mega-events, and governance issues including unethical behaviour (corruption, doping, etc). The innovative feature of the work is the combination of economic analysis and well-known international examples with detailed case studies​ of public policy as it relates to sport in Australia. Australia​is an excellent case study due to the high profile of sport in the national psyche and the range of popular professional sports.

Chapter 4: Stadium funding

John K. Wilson and Richard Pomfret

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, sports, politics and public policy, political economy


The major expenses of sporting teams are the players and the stadium in which events are hosted. In the previous chapter, we discussed the manner in which the market for the former is influenced by salary caps, player drafts and other regulations which generally restrict player freedom, ostensibly in return for greater competitive balance. Governments do not have direct involvement in the labour markets, but provide a host of regulatory exemptions, such as the setting aside of competition laws and regulations protecting workers’ rights. By contrast, government involvement in sporting stadiums is direct. Government subsidies are a key and sometimes sole funding component of the costs associated with acquiring land, construction and renovation of stadiums. These subsidies are the focus of this chapter, while Chapter 5 deals with the related issue of subsidizing sporting mega-events. A useful starting point is to consider why the private sector might under-provide stadiums. One obvious candidate is difficulties raising capital in financial markets, perhaps because sports teams have no useful collateral to offer. Under-provision by the private sector may also be generated from market failures other than in the financial sector. Given that crowds will generally pay an entrance fee up to their marginal valuation, the case for government involvement most likely turns on the existence of positive externalities or public good characteristics.

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