Sports Through the Lens of Economic History

Sports Through the Lens of Economic History

New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series

Edited by Richard Pomfret and John K. Wilson

From professional team sports to international events such as the Olympics and Tour de France, the modern sports industry continues to attract a large number of spectators and participants. This book, edited by Richard Pomfret and John K. Wilson analyzes the economic evolution of sports over the last 150 years, from a pastime activity to a big business enterprise. It begins at a time when entrepreneurs and players first started making money from professional sports leagues, through to the impact of radio and TV in the twentieth century, and onto the present day.

Chapter 5: The relationship between crowd attendance and competitive balance – evidence from the SANFL, 1920–1983

John K. Wilson

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought, sports


In professional team sports, a variety of labour market and revenue sharing arrangements are imposed in order to maintain competitive balance. The efficacy of these measures is rarely challenged, though there is little doubt that they stifle innovation among teams, potentially deter clubs from investing in young talent, and reduce the surplus for players, both in wages received and non-pecuniary benefits such as where they live. While competitive balance may benefit teams who are more certain to maintain their market power, the stated goal is usually centred on maintaining fan interest and on getting people through the gates. This chapter uses data from the SANFL – an established and highly popular Australian football competition during the twentieth century – to assess the impact of competitive balance on crowd attendance for both minor round and major round games.

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