Money and Soccer | Stefan Szymanski

Summary of: Money and Soccer: A Soccernomics Guide: Why Chievo Verona, Unterhaching, and Scunthorpe United Will Never Win the Champions League, Why Manchester City, … and Manchester United Cannot Be Stopped
By: Stefan Szymanski


In ‘Money and Soccer: A Soccernomics Guide’, Stefan Szymanski examines the intriguing dynamics of the global soccer industry. The book delves into the financial aspects of soccer, addressing two fundamental truths: 1) the more money clubs generate, the greater their on-field success, and 2) few clubs turn a profit. Szymanski also discusses the phenomenon of dominance and financial distress within soccer leagues and the resilience of clubs during economic crises. The book highlights the role of fans, their loyalty, and their support of smaller clubs through the promotion and relegation system. You will get insights into the critical role of top players, the financial impact of stadiums, broadcasting rights, and sponsorship. Finally, the book critiques the Financial Fair Play regulations and explores alternative pathways to improving soccer.

Financial Resilience in Soccer

The book chapter highlights the effect of the 2008 global economic crisis on professional soccer. Although half of the European soccer teams faced financial issues, none disappeared, and most bounced back. The chapter identifies two financial truths in the soccer world: success on the field correlates with the amount of money generated, and few soccer clubs make a profit. Nonetheless, the sport remains attractive, and many young boys dream of becoming professional soccer players. Despite the unpredictability of game outcomes, small soccer clubs may struggle initially but rarely disappear. Overall, the chapter underscores the financial resilience of soccer clubs and the sport’s continued appeal.

Essential Factors for Professional Soccer Teams

Professional soccer teams globally face two crucial factors at all levels and divisions.

Soccer’s Dominance Hierarchy

A small number of teams dominate soccer leagues worldwide due to the sport’s competitive structure. Celtic, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and AFC Ajax are some of the dominant clubs in their respective countries. Celtic has won 24 Scottish championships since the league’s inception, while Bayern Munich dominates German soccer. The reason for dominance is not confined to large leagues alone, but also occurs in small leagues. The book summary highlights the similarities in soccer’s competitive structure globally.

Soccer Finances in Strife

Soccer clubs’ financial situations are a cause for concern with debts, insolvencies, and negative equity frequently experienced. While small clubs are most affected, major clubs with significant revenues like Real Madrid thrive. Despite their financial hardships, soccer clubs are communities that usually find a way to survive.

Soccer fans have come to embrace and support their local clubs, which often serve as reflections of their communities. However, the financial distress that plagues many soccer clubs is a cause for concern. With debts that reach billions of dollars and sanctions imposed for failing to meet obligations, many clubs are at risk of liquidation. Reports indicate that smaller clubs are more vulnerable to financial setbacks than their larger counterparts. Nevertheless, famous soccer clubs with significant revenues like Real Madrid usually don’t face insolvency issues.

While soccer clubs’ financial struggles are significant, they play a major role in their respective communities, making them more than just businesses. The Aldershot Town FC, for instance, chose to display a phoenix on their crest, highlighting their ability to overcome challenging situations. Thus, despite the odds, most clubs find a way to stay afloat, making soccer the game of the people.

The Power Play of Soccer Clubs

The promotion and relegation system in modern-day soccer is a crucial motivator for smaller clubs. Fans and politicians love it since any locale that wants to tackle a soccer club can compete in the same system as dominant clubs. However, the strategy helps the top soccer clubs maintain their dominance and win consistently. The soccer manager is seen as a Messiah who can turn straw into gold – as long as things go well. This has resulted in the acquisition of top talent by the most financially successful clubs, leading to more wins and continued dominance. Since the only goal of soccer clubs is to win, the implication is that the only way for most clubs to win is to have a sugar daddy who will fund the enterprise.

The Business of Soccer Stadiums

Soccer clubs earn hefty revenues from building large stadiums to accommodate ever-increasing fan numbers. Broadcast rights, ticket sales, merchandising, and sponsorships are significant sources of income for soccer leagues and clubs. Premier League clubs typically have a capacity of above 37,000, Championship League clubs average 26,000, and Football League Teams One and Two average 16,000 and 11,000, respectively. Despite differences in stadium capacity, every soccer club represents a community. Broadcasters paid a whopping £1.2 billion to televise Premier League games and £315 million for screening games of the English Football League.

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