Sunday, June 7, 2009

Holding Fast to My Disdain of the 6+5 Rule

So I got a very thoughtful reply to a year-old post I made on the 6+5 rule "FIFA Approves Blatter's Rule: Or When 6+5=0". You can read the post for yourself, but the gist of it is that I think 6-5 rule sucks and is an affront to free trade, capitalism and economics.

The letter-writer, Michael, disagrees. The full text of what he wrote follows, and it's in the comment section of the previous post. We'll agree to disagree on this one. Michael counters my post with the argument that "money clubs" have a monopoly on the best talent and championships. Well, I'll agree to a point, but honestly, if I'm a Russian oligarch and I drop a billion dollars or Euros on a top English or Spanish club, and I want to buy up the best talent, it should be within my purview to do so. I'm not constricted within traditional business of making maximum profit and success; why should I be so constricted within sport?

There are solid arguments for a wage/salary cap in football. I don't know where Michael is from, and he may well know that in the United States, the National Football League has a salary cap and the league is thriving. Parity exists and between six and 10 teams annually have a chance to win the Super Bowl. But it doesn't always work.

In Major League Baseball, the teams with the highest payrolls are subject to a "luxury tax" and some television money is pooled and shared among all the teams in the league. They're essentially penalized for the success, their marketing expertise and their talent evaluation. Why then don't some of those lower-tier clubs re-invest in their product once they get their welfare earnings from the big clubs? Why are some teams perennially terrible, play in shit-hole stadiums yet ownership continues to line its pockets? The 6-5 rule tries to legislate greed and profit-making, and tries to institute a balance in the table where the West Hams of the world have a chance to win. Well, you know what, despite our politically correct world, not every team deserves a trophy at the end of the season.

And the argument that it would foster player development is a farce. For clubs such as Sporting Lisbon, young player development is a revenue stream--and don't think for a second otherwise. Their academies are great at what they do; it's a cottage industry. Develop these young players, ingrain in them what it takes to play at the highest level, grow partnerships with the Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids of the world, and sell off their commodities. And then, convert that money, those profits, into the best Brazilians available and contend for a championship, or at worst, a Champions League spot in a middle-tier league such as Portugal's. It's a vicious cycle, and trust me, no one in charge at Sporting Lisbon is complaining.

We hear it constantly that football and sport is a business. Well, you can't have it both ways. If it's a business, then run it like a business. In the business world, the strongest survive. You can't romanticize business and run it like a fan, because if you do, pretty soon you're sitting with the fans.

Following is Michael's comment on my post in its entirety:

This article misses the point immensely and i do hope the author replies.

Capitalism (free trade) and team sport are at odds clearly. To create fair competition in sport you need to give everyone equal chance to succeed by allowing free trade those with the most money succeed especially when those with the most money get more money for doing better. Thus creates a virtual monopoly. It would be like in an individual sport if performance enhancing drugs were allowed and they were a more scarce commodity and winning the tournaments and making more money allowed you to spend more on these drugs so you can make yourself better. It's unfair!

Football for me is about the balance between scouting and youth development, and equal weight should be placed on both. That is 50/50 squad wise.

The fact of the matter is football isn't entirely free, in most EU leagues you can only have 3 non EU players within your squad, free trade yeah?

The essence of sport is to see who is the best within the rules of the specific competition. What free trade allows is for the strong to get stronger and the weak to get weaker, and it is evident that since the bosman rule allowed free transfers no small club has won a major european league, whereas previously small clubs challenged and won as they were under no pressure to sell their players. Big clubs (like sporting lisbon) in small countries without massive TV contracts are forced to sell whenever they develop good talent rather than be allowed to compete to win, as the risk of losing them for free is to a richer club is too larger.

Now i am not advocating going back to how it was as it was clearly unfair to players, but what it did do was create an effective wage cap, as there was no threat to clubs of playes walking away for free meaning that players couldn't demand higher wages.

This is why I personally would prefer a wage cap, that would effectively do what the 6+5 rule wants to, as why would you leave a top romanian club for a average English club if you can earn the same amount of money? However the big clubs don't want it because manchester united would then be at the same risk of relegation as wigan which although good for sporting competition is against the interests of what is now a business.

That is the problem the short term business interests of too many clubs is in conflict with what is best in the long term for football.

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