The Political Economy of Professional Sport

The Political Economy of Professional Sport

New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series

Jean-François Bourg and Jean-Jacques Gouguet

This timely book offers a critical interpretation of the traditional social and economic accounts of sport. It provides an incisive analysis of professional sport and defines alternative foundations to the present model. The authors demonstrate that professional sport is an extremely complex phenomenon encompassing many unique factors depending on its global reach, financing and organization.

Chapter 6: Models of Organization of Professional Sport and Competitive Balance

Jean-François Bourg and Jean-Jacques Gouguet

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


The competitive balance of professional sports competitions has always been at the heart of sports economists’ thinking (Zimbalist, 2002a; Fort, 2003b; Fort and Maxcy, 2003; Kahane, 2003; Sanderson and Siegfried, 2003). Indeed, in professional championships of team sports, the spectacle is produced by two teams in competition and its quality depends on the balance of forces present. That means that the more the competition is balanced, the higher the supporters’ interest and the greater the championship receipts. That is why improving competitive balance appears a legitimate objective for most analysts. Nevertheless, this objective is not easy to achieve within the framework of an unregulated market. Competitive balance can actually be considered as a public good that benefits all the actors; this means that clubs can obtain a maximum of wins and a better classification, whilst not unbalancing the championship too much. That means, as for all public goods, that there is a great risk of free riders, that is, clubs that do want to profit from the financial advantages procured by improving the competitive balance, but without paying the price for it. That is why a regulatory system for some markets was envisaged, so that the excesses induced by this desire of clubs to maximize their wins could be avoided. As well as the theoretical responses that have been given to this question through Rottenberg’s (1956) invariance proposition, we take the concrete example of the European football championships. We would like to show that competitive balance is a very difficult...

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