Soccernomics | Simon Kuper

Summary of: Soccernomics
By: Simon Kuper


Dive into the world of ‘Soccernomics’ by Simon Kuper, where you’ll discover the intricate relationship between soccer, business, and various societal factors. Through an engaging journey, you’ll learn why most soccer clubs are not run like traditional businesses and how poor financial management rarely leads to the club’s demise. You’ll also explore the role of managers and the inflated importance placed on them, as well as the increasingly significant role of data and analytics in soccer. Furthermore, you’ll delve into the importance of salaries in determining success, the connections between cities and soccer, and the intriguing link between soccer and suicide rates. Let Soccernomics inform and captivate you as it reveals the various dimensions of the world’s most popular sport.

The Business of Soccer

Although soccer is often criticized for becoming too commercialized, it is nothing compared to other industries. Soccer clubs are not run like businesses, and statistical analysis has shown that pursuing victory rather than profit is more beneficial for them. Most clubs are small, with revenues comparable to a single supermarket. However, poor financial management doesn’t matter too much in soccer because relegation to a lower division is an option. This is different from normal business practice, where the quality of products and services must remain excellent to keep consumers loyal. Therefore, while soccer may be bigger than ever before, it is still not a “big business” in the true sense of the word.

The Myth of Managerial Impact

The impact of managers in football is often exaggerated. While their appointments may improve performance in the short term, the reality is that most managers are mediocre and make little difference in the long run. The bounce in performance is merely a statistical regression to the mean, and the credit often given to managers for success may not be well-deserved. Transfers made by managers also do not necessarily determine a team’s success.

Making Smarter Choices in Soccer Transfers

Soccer clubs worldwide spent a record-breaking $4.71 billion on transfers in 2017, but much of this spending is a waste. The transfer market is filled with superstar players who are overvalued, leading to expensive transactions that offer little return on investment. According to experts, the key to getting transfers right is to rely on data instead of fashion and intuition. Clubs should focus on buying players in their early 20s, as these are high-value players who are 18% cheaper than players aged 25-28. While some exceptional teenagers may become world-class players, most do not, and investing in players in their late 20s may make them overpriced and overrated. By focusing on performance data, teams can make smarter choices that offer better value for their money and enhance their chances of success.

The Winning Formula

Money talks in football, and the correlation between wages and performance is a key factor in determining success. While studies show no strong link between transfer spending and performance, high wages attract high performers, making all the difference in the long run. Leicester’s surprising victory in the 2015-2016 English Premier League season is an exception as luck and poor seasons for other teams played a role, but high spending teams consistently dominate the top of the table. The wages market is efficient, and the better the player, the more they will earn.

The Power of Data in Soccer

Data is revolutionizing soccer as clubs collect vast amounts of information and use complex analysis to gain a competitive edge. The use of data to guide tactics and make better decisions has improved the success rate of set pieces and helped Bolton Wanderers to score 45-50% of their goals in this way. Chelsea and Arsenal have millions of data points covering thousands of matches, and all teams now have data analysts. The challenge is to apply this knowledge effectively to prevent players from making exciting but fruitless attempts on goal. As data becomes more rigorously applied, the game is likely to evolve and improve.

The Connection Between Cities, Politics, Industry, and Soccer

This book summary discusses why provincial and industrial cities tend to excel in soccer, rather than the great capitals like London, Paris, Rome, and Moscow. The author explains that totalitarian regimes invest resources in the capital city as the center of power, which is why clubs from the capitals tend to dominate leagues. However, after the power of fascist-backed teams from capitals began to wane, provincial and industrial cities began to excel. The reason for this lies in the industrial revolution, where migrants who moved to these cities found soccer to be an outlet for belonging. Therefore, clubs in these areas mattered more and grew bigger. Today, the rise of ultra-rich individuals investing in clubs and international superstar owners is causing capitals to once again rise in dominance. However, the best provincial teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich remain at or near the top of European soccer.

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