Handbook on the Economics of Professional Football
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Handbook on the Economics of Professional Football

Edited by John Goddard and Peter Sloane

In this comprehensive Handbook, John Goddard and Peter Sloane present a collection of analytical contributions by internationally regarded scholars in the field, which extensively examine the many economic challenges facing the world's most popular team sport.
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Chapter 14: International migration of professional footballers

Raffaele Poli


Labour migration has been studied from a multitude of angles and perspectives. This holds true also for the specific case of professional footballers, which is dealt with in this chapter. The first part of the discussion in section 14.2 introduces the three main theoretical frameworks used to analyse the international migration of athletes: push–pull theory, world system theory and relationism. Section 14.3 focuses on the political constraints that have historically restricted the volume of international migration in football. It also presents original statistics on the evolution of the presence of expatriate players in Europe since the 1960s, as well as data on foreign signings worldwide in 2010. Section 14.4 deals with the spatial nature of migratory flows. It determines the most used migratory channels (Findlay and Li, 1998) and the main reasons behind the existence of migration patterns. This section also highlights new trends such as the increasing spatial fragmentation of career paths within the context of a transnationalisation process. The conclusion in section 14.5 comes back to migration theory and proposes new possible and appealing areas of investigation.

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