Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mark Schwarzer of Australia is beaten by a shot from Herculez Gomez of the USA during the International Friendly between the Australian Socceroos and the USA. (Getty Images/Getty)

Simon Kuper, co-author  with Stefan Szymanski of the book Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the US, Japan, Australia, Turkey-and Even Iraq-Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport, talks about the economics of soccer--as the English Premier League and Champions League gear up for the finals--and the Euro Cup and Olympics this summer--and why the U.S. can't seem to compete.


Simon Kuper

Comments [13]

Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, Brian, Somebody said that football soccer is something of great cultural significance. You feel it, plain and simple. Personally, I think that Lionel Messi will be a great player for years to come. He's small,he's short, but he can play more than very well.He likes to play, he does it with passion. Eugenia Renskoff

May. 02 2012 06:29 PM
Busby from NYC

Americans... on the whole, I respect you very much but I feel like most of you-as-a-nation just don't "get" football. It's not, and never has been just a game or a franchise or a business opportunity. If it is for you then great, but for most of the established football playing world it is something of deep cultural significance and the way that you reduce it to business talk (as you do with many of "your" sports - at the most extreme, the superbowl is really a joke... how is that acceptable in any way to an american football fan? How did you let someone violate such an event like that?) really stinks of your ignorance towards a side of a game that is not just a matter of economics. You might win a world cup one day but when I talk to you and you speak of "Man U" [sic] and the other big rich clubs you've seen on the TV, I will still glaze over. So often it sounds pre-recorded. One day, you-as-a-nation might understand (courtesy of your latin brothers and sisters perhaps?)... and that will be great.

My two cents is that, just like you did as a country, you should start on a clean slate and with big ambitions... screw franchise football and big business... make all your clubs co-operatively owned by the fans and concentrate on making the sport accessible. Don't model your games upon this stadium experience nonsense where admission excludes the less well off and where beers cost 20 dollars... write a constitution for the games democratic ownership and stewardship and start it pure and keep it pure. Then you'll get everyone's attention.

Here's a good (and successful) model constitution:

May. 02 2012 12:23 PM
Peter Scheffler from NJ

The problem soccer has in the US is that the viewers do not appreciate the skill displayed independent of the scoring. When the Cosmos were popular, my understanding is that the rules were adjusted to increase the scoring to accommodate the US market. The Cosmos fans had a strong ethnic identity; primarily spanish speaking and Italians.

Eventually, when all thsse kids grow up and have an appreciation for an 80 yard pass received by a sprinting player vecause they have tried to do this themselves, a 1 nill game will be as marketable as a 1 nothing baseball pitching duel.

May. 02 2012 12:02 PM
Victor from morningside heights

Could Simon speak about the lack of diversity in the US men's and women's national team and how the US policy of pay to play in the nation's elite youth teams and how that differs from the rest of the world.

May. 02 2012 11:57 AM
mesirules from nyc

not true caller the are plenty of way to advertise in a game, its called banners and things you cn put around the screen, you don't need a stop in the game to run an ad, and in fact that IS what they do on other countries.

May. 02 2012 11:55 AM

Good Lord, the tedium, the tedium!

This is even worse than actually having to watch a soccer game.

Great for kids to play, but all those rivals should get down on their knees and thank their lucky stars anyone else in the world even gives a--

May. 02 2012 11:54 AM
Francisco from LA

Why not footballanomics?
Did Man. U. go public on the Shanghai stock market? Is this the future of big clubs? Why?

LA Galaxy!

May. 02 2012 11:52 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

This business of blonde bias in soccer reflects the kind of unconscious bias that next-level race discourse must address.

May. 02 2012 11:52 AM
ABELINO from elizabeth, NJ

It seems that soccer in the United States is growing year after year..would soccer be considered a good investment??

May. 02 2012 11:51 AM

Soccer has a bright future in america, and always will!

May. 02 2012 11:49 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Brian - are you or your guest aware that NBA owners are considering putting sponsors on team jerseys, as they do on Soccer or the economics behind it?

May. 02 2012 11:48 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

This book makes some interesting points but part of the author's reasoning for why certain countries win the World Cup is rather laughable.

The US is more than capable of winning the World Cup in 20 years.

May. 02 2012 11:09 AM
mesirules from nyc

To say we can't compete is REALLY just not truthful at all. We have been ranked as high as 4 in the world, and recently as high as 14th in the world, and we are currently ranked 29th in the world. That is hardly non-competitive.
Having said that, first we MUST get out of the concacaf set-up and play teams from South America, we will not improve or learn anything by beating up on St. Lucia. No disrespect to that tiny island, but if you want to be the best, then you must beat the best.
Last year, the U.S. skipping the COPA Sudamerica and going to the lower tier gold cup tourney instead is an embarrassment, and who ever made that decision should lose their job, its like skipping the NCAA basketball tournament and saying hey we REALLY want to play in the NIT!!! Idiots.
Second, we need to not only focus on player development, but also coaching development. Third, the sports media in the U.S. has NO idea how to deal with Futbol, they don't know it's history, they don't understand its an international sport with a world wide audience, they don't know how to market it, they don't know the lingo, they also realize that if the sport in this country grows,some of them will be out of a job. They constantly talk the game down as a result.
You have 90,000 fans at an L.A. Galaxy match, good luck trying to find coverage of it. Again they don't want to change because then long time entrenched sports media people will be out of work because they don't know diddly about the game and are inept.
When I watch a match if its on ESPN and also Univision, I will watch it in Univision, even if its not in HD and even though my Spanish is pretty limited, because at least they understand the game, and I don't have to listen to a bozo like Alxi Lawless and his inane drivel, and not for nothing, but that is one reason why Univision is taking market share from the traditional networks hand over fist.
Forth, alot of people will tell you that our best athletes don't play Futbol, and that they never will because they can't make the same kind of money, bolderdash.
The reason we have, in the past, lagged in this area is that because for a really really long time we had no professional league. Then we had a league that could not cover its own bills, was not really properly managed and was not viable and then folded, and make no mistake it had some good players like Rudy Glenn.
After that league folded, once again for a long time we had no professional league. You got through high school and for the most part there was no where else to play, except maybe the park in a pick up game.
Those day are over, we have players that get paid pretty well compared to average Americans, or even compared to what high end lawyers make, and are now playing stateside in the MLS. Its a good paying viable job now for players.
It just takes time to get enough top level players who will play as a team, but make no mistake, they ARE coming, and we WILL win a World Cup in the not too distant future.

May. 02 2012 10:55 AM

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