Self Help

Soccernomics - Kuper, Simon

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Matheus Puppe

· 72 min read

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  • The book uses data analysis and economics to challenge conventional wisdom about soccer.

  • It argues England underperforms because it overvalues soccer heritage and undervalues innovation.

  • It applies lessons from Moneyball to show limits of conventional soccer thinking.

  • It debunks myths about player transfers, club finances, coaching impact, and penalty kicks.

  • It examines why some countries like Germany and Brazil excel while others like England struggle.

  • It explores soccer’s business side and the clubs’ irrational economics.

  • It looks at the psychology and loyalty of fans, as well as factors impacting fan happiness.

  • It takes a thoughtful, analytical approach to soccer using statistics and economics. The book aims to overturn lazy assumptions and change how people view the sport.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Soccer clubs and experts have historically relied on intuition and tradition rather than data and empirical analysis. But this is starting to change.

  • Bill James used statistical analysis to debunk traditional wisdom and myths in baseball. His work launched the “Moneyball” revolution in baseball.

  • Soccer is now undergoing its data revolution. Clubs are hiring analysts and crunching match data to inform decisions. But suspicion of data persists in parts of the soccer world.

  • Fans are attracted to soccer statistics and numbers like league tables that impose order on the sport. Data analysis has the potential to bring new insights.

  • The authors see parallels between baseball’s transformation through sabermetrics and the changes in soccer due to data. They argue soccer can be explained and predicted better by studying data.

  • Soccer and numbers are intertwined, from match results to league tables to fantasy leagues. The authors want to introduce new statistics and ideas to reveal new truths about soccer.

  • More data is available on soccer than ever, from companies tracking players’ every move to academics studying the game. This “big data” era has reached soccer.

  • Smart analysts are gaining influence in soccer clubs and using statistics to understand better and improve player performance. This marks a shift towards data-driven decisions in soccer.

  • Other fields like politics also adopt data-driven techniques pioneered in sports like baseball, as evidenced by Nate Silver’s career.

  • AC Milan’s “Milan Lab” has used detailed player testing and data analysis to extend player careers and gain a competitive edge, showing the power of data in soccer.

  • The authors believe traditional soccer wisdom should be questioned and tested against statistics and data. More data can reveal new truths and improve decision-making in soccer.

  • Transfer fees paid by soccer clubs do not correlate strongly with team performance, but wage spending does. Over the long term, clubs that spend more on salaries tend to finish higher in the league table.

  • Many expensive transfer signings turn out to be mistakes or flops. The transfer market could be more efficient at valuing players.

  • Liverpool provides a case study of wasted spending on transfers. From 1998-2010, managers Gérard Houllier and Rafael Benítez spent heavily but achieved little, buying many poor players.

  • In comparison, Liverpool’s most valuable players in that period were low-cost homegrown talents or cheap imports.

  • Liverpool’s high spending didn’t lead to commensurate success. The league table is the best gauge of a team’s quality, not transfer fees spent. When you include other costs, Liverpool’s transfer approach did more harm than good.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Liverpool got left behind by Manchester United because United spent more money on player wages rather than transfers. As Jamie Carragher noted, having money does not guarantee success - it matters how you spend it.

  • Clubs can improve by spending less on transfers and more on wages, which evidence shows is more important. Liverpool could have paid less on transfers under Rafa Benitez and used the savings to increase wages.

  • The transfer market could be more efficient and valuable. Successful clubs/managers like Wenger’s Arsenal, Lyon, and Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s have taken advantage by finding undervalued players.

  • Common transfer mistakes include new managers wasting money to make their mark, overpaying for players based on short-term tournament performances, and big clubs like Real Madrid spending huge fees on stars for marketing even if they are not good value.

  • The key for clubs is to spend wisely on transfers, get the best value, and invest more in wages rather than chasing star names or quick fixes. This requires ignoring common errors like recency bias and availability heuristics.

  • Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were a successful managerial duo at Nottingham Forest. Their success was mainly due to their ability to make intelligent transfers.

  • They bought players cheaply who later proved to be excellent, like Roy Keane and Kenny Burns. They made large profits reselling players like Gary Birtles to bigger clubs.

  • Their success was because of their eye for undervalued talent rather than motivational or tactical skills. Clough himself attributed it to “having some pretty good players.”

  • They exploited market inefficiencies - buying unfashionable nationalities or out of favor players cheaply.

  • Clough may have taken illegal bungs or kickbacks on transfers. Taylor’s book gives some insight into their approach.

  • Though the details of their strategy are unclear, they proved very adept at gaming the transfer market to build successful teams on a budget.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Clough and Taylor, the successful managers of Nottingham Forest, had three rules for winning:
  1. Be eager to sell good players at the peak of their value, just as you would sell stocks.

  2. Older players are overrated - sell them before they decline.

  3. Buy players with personal problems cheaply, then help them overcome them.

  • Players often fail after transfers because of problems adjusting to their new club and location, dubbed the “Rice Krispies problem” after Luther Blissett’s trouble finding Rice Krispies in Italy.

  • Relocation support is standard in business but rare in soccer, despite soccer’s globalized nature. Clubs often need to do more to help players settle into new countries.

  • Successful clubs like AC Milan provide extensive relocation support, taking care of housing, cars, schools, language training, and more so players can focus on performing well.

  • Providing relocation support can help transferred players thrive at their new clubs.

  • In the past, soccer clubs did little to help players relocate when signed from other teams, often leaving them isolated and struggling to adjust. Players like George Best, Nicolas Anelka, and Didier Drogba had terrible experiences.

  • Clubs saw players as “merchandise” and didn’t provide support services. Many players lived alone in hotels for weeks or months.

  • Relocation consultants started entering soccer in the 2000s, but clubs initially resisted using them, believing player salaries should cover relocation needs.

  • Players who relocated badly often underperformed on the field. Clubs should have provided relocation help, especially for players from different cultures.

  • Manchester City’s experience with Brazilian player Robinho showed the risks of signing a player likely to struggle with relocation. The City switched to buying players already established in England.

  • Overall, many clubs should have realized that relocation support could improve on-field performance and help expensive signings succeed.

  • Lyon was an unremarkable provincial soccer club until Jean-Michel Aulas became president in 1987 and transformed it into the top club in France.

  • Aulas improved the club step-by-step through brilliant transfers and finances. He bought good players for less than they were worth, helping the team win more games and make more money to buy even better players.

  • Lyon had advantages over other French clubs: a wealthy local fanbase hungry for a good soccer club, fewer media scrutiny, and an attractive location that attracted players.

  • Aulas openly talked about money and rationality in soccer, arguing that over time more money leads to more wins which leads to more money. This irritated traditional French fans who disliked this businesslike approach.

  • Through shrewd management and transfers, Lyon went from France’s second division in 1987 to winning seven straight league titles from 2002-2008, becoming the most famous club in France.

  • Lyon’s rise to dominance in French soccer in the early 2000s was a new phenomenon. Previously, most French fans didn’t care much about Lyon.

  • As Lyon won titles year after year, they gained more fans and made more money, buying better players.

  • Lyon’s success was made possible by their strategic approach to the transfer market. Some of their rules:

  • Use the “wisdom of crowds” - have a diverse group debate and decide on transfers rather than just the manager.

  • Buy young players aged 20-22 considered the best prospects in their country. Avoid overpaying for big-name stars.

  • The best time to buy is when players are in their early 20s. There is enough information to judge their potential by then.

  • Avoid overpaying for center forwards, the most overpriced position. Underpay for goalkeepers is the most underpriced place.

  • Lyon focused on good players rather than big names, as they didn’t face pressure from fans or media to buy stars. This stability and strategy allowed them to dominate French soccer.

  • Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas had three secrets to mastering the transfer market: identify undervalued players, help them relocate and settle in, and sell any player if the price is right.

  • To find undervalued players, Lyon used wisdom of crowds by having multiple scouts. They avoided overvalued players coming off good World Cups or Europeans and focused on certain nationalities like Brazilians. They favored players in their early 20s over older stars.

  • Lyon helped players relocate by having a translator assist with practicalities and teach the club’s no-stars culture. They focused on Brazilians to offer tailored relocation help.

  • Lyon strategically built up players’ values but sold anyone if the offer exceeded their worth. They planned to have replacements ready before selling stars.

  • Some clubs like Barcelona have mastered transfers through abstinence, growing their young players rather than overspending on stars. This saves money and builds fan support.

  • The keys to transfer mastery are: avoid new manager signings, use the wisdom of crowds, don’t buy overvalued players, target certain nationalities and ages, help players relocate, sell at peak value, and plan replacements ahead of time.

  • Soccer clubs are not actually “big business” despite the perception. Even the largest clubs like Real Madrid have tiny revenues compared to major corporations.

  • Soccer clubs are also not profitable businesses. Most operate at a loss rather than making money. They spend big on trying to win trophies rather than focusing on profits.

  • Soccer does generate colossal interest and entertainment value globally. But clubs capture only a tiny fraction of that value through ticket sales and merchandising.

  • Historically, soccer clubs were naïve about business and let sportswear companies like Umbro profit from the popularity of soccer, rather than vice versa.

  • Over time, soccer clubs have improved at commercial activities, but most business innovation has come from outside the sport rather than from the clubs themselves.

  • Soccer clubs have often needed to be faster to embrace new business ideas and revenue streams, such as T.V. rights, stadium renovations, and the internet. Established industries were quicker to see the potential profits.

  • Clubs typically hire new managers quickly after firing the previous one, often within a few days. This rushed process contrasts with more thoughtful CEO recruitment in regular businesses.

  • Manager candidates are usually only cursorily interviewed and chosen based on narrow criteria: almost always white men with conservative appearances who were former players. There needs to be more evidence this profile produces better managers.

  • The argument that only former players can understand the mystical elements of management is essentially a job protection scheme. Studies show playing success does not predict managerial success.

  • Key examples highlight these points, including English clubs initially resisting lucrative T.V. deals, the thoughtful Arsene Wenger hire by Arsenal, and Kenny Dalglish’s weak “Who did you play for?” retort to media criticism. The section critiques soccer clubs’ conservative, rushed, and illogical hiring practices.

The summary highlights a few key points:

  • The author is skeptical of the man’s claim that he “knew about football” just from playing experience. The author argues that playing and coaching require different skillsets, citing examples like Mourinho.

  • The author argues that ex-players often make poor managers because they rely too much on instincts from playing rather than studying the game. Recent trends show clubs hiring fewer ex-players as managers.

  • The author argues soccer clubs historically hired incompetent staff, preferring looks over competence for office roles and ex-players over qualified executives. Club staff also turns over rapidly with new owners.

  • The author argues fans and media pressure clubs into hasty, foolish decisions rather than sensible long-term planning.

  • Soccer clubs operate very differently from regular businesses. They often make financially irrational decisions in response to media and fan pressure, rather than sticking to long-term plans.

  • It often backfires when businesspeople acquire soccer clubs and try to run them financially responsibly. The team loses matches and fans because it spends less than its rivals on star players. So neither the soccer nor the business succeeds.

  • There is little correlation between a club’s league position and its profits. The top clubs don’t necessarily make money. Man United is an exception in having both financial and on-field success.

  • Player salaries take a massive slice of soccer’s revenues. Clubs function primarily as vehicles to channel money to players. Agents ensure players maximize their bargaining power.

  • Running a profitable soccer club appears almost impossible. There are always free-spending owners who force other clubs to keep up. The business model relies on new investors continuing to pump in money.

  • Research shows clubs tend to prioritize on-field success over profits. They behave more like irrational fans than logical businesses. The emotional thrill of winning games overrides business logic.

  • Soccer clubs spend most or all of their revenues on player wages rather than trying to maximize profits. Their main goal is to win matches and titles rather than make money.

  • Stefan Szymanski and Pedro Garcia del Barrio found Spanish clubs spent way above what was needed to maximize profits and close to what was required to maximize wins. Clubs care more about success than profits.

  • As revenues rose 14-fold from 1994-2004 in Spain, the share spent on wages didn’t drop much. Clubs gave players most of the new money rather than saving it or investing in infrastructure.

  • Many clubs, especially in the second division, spent more than their annual revenues on players’ wages, going into debt. By 2010, La Liga clubs had €3.4 billion in debt.

  • This overspending is risky but makes sense as clubs fear being left behind if rivals outspend them on players. It’s an arms race.

  • Soccer clubs shouldn’t expect to maximize profits but need more financial responsibility. They are more like public trusts than businesses. Profits aren’t the goal but reckless overspending has consequences.

  • English soccer clubs have shown remarkable stability despite economic crises like the Great Depression and the 1980s recession under Margaret Thatcher. Clubs helped each other survive tough times.

  • Bristol City got into financial trouble in the 1970s after being promoted to the top league and overspending on player wages. Attendance and revenue collapsed in the 1980s recession.

  • In 1982, Bristol City was close to liquidation. A group of fans led by Deryn Coller formed a new company to buy the club’s assets and take its place in the league.

  • The new company refused to take on the old company’s debts and unaffordable player contracts. Eight players agreed to cancel contracts worth £290,000 to save the club.

  • This “phoenixing” allowed the club to rise from the ashes debt-free. Other clubs copied the model in the 1980s.

  • Phoenixing helped clubs survive but allowed directors to escape the consequences of bad decisions. Creditors were often left unpaid.

The article describes how British soccer clubs have become immortal, surviving financial crises and insolvency through various means. In the 1980s, a recession hit many clubs hard, but new laws allowed insolvent clubs to restructure debts and carry on. This encouraged clubs to take on more debt, as insolvency was not a real threat. Smaller clubs went bust frequently, but were often revived in similar form by fans. The insolvency of top club Portsmouth in 2010 was novel, but showed that big clubs can survive too.

Across Europe, chiefly tiny, lower-league clubs have disappeared in the economic crisis since 2008. Big clubs like Real Madrid have huge debts but stay strong. Platini’s focus on club debts is misplaced - match-fixing is a more significant issue. Clubs are so resilient partly because they can rebuild at a lower level after insolvency. This ‘Do a Leeds’ option is not available to regular companies. The immortality of clubs allows them to take on more debt than sustainable businesses could. The clubs aim to win trophies, and they need more solid finances. So immortal clubs can take risks that pay off on the field but not on the balance sheet.

  • Soccer clubs are unlike regular businesses - they rarely go bankrupt or close down, even when losing money. This is due to fans’ loyalty and creditors’ unwillingness to shut them down, and clubs can always survive by dropping down to lower leagues.

  • Billionaire “sugar daddies” like Roman Abramovich have bought soccer clubs in recent years, investing vast sums of money without concern for making a profit. This has helped drive player wages sky-high.

  • UEFA has introduced “Financial Fair Play” rules to curb spending and make clubs operate more like regular businesses. The regulations limit spending to match revenues.

  • The author argues FFP is terrible for soccer - sugar daddies have been good for the game by increasing player wages and competition. Clubs shouldn’t have to make profits.

  • FFP may still need to be fully implemented but if it is, it could reduce investment and competition in soccer. The author believes the rules are misguided and echo failed “austerity” policies in Europe.

In summary, the author argues billionaire investors have benefited soccer and clubs should not be forced to follow standard business practices and make profits. He believes Financial Fair Play rules to control spending will likely damage the game.

  • UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules aim to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn. This targets “sugar daddy” owners who inject personal wealth into clubs.

  • FFP has two main elements: 1) A solvency rule that prevents clubs from racking up debt, impacting smaller clubs most. 2) A breakeven rule is capping spending at club income levels, impacting big clubs the most.

  • The breakeven rule allows losses of up to €5 million over three years. This means only about 77 of Europe’s top clubs would be impacted.

  • FFP cements inequality by capping club spending at its income levels rather than a fixed cap like in American sports. This protects established “aristocratic” clubs.

  • FFP puts downward pressure on player wages, by 15% potentially, and makes leagues less competitive as clubs can’t spend to challenge rivals.

  • Critics say FFP may transfer money saved to billionaire owners rather than back into soccer.

  • Big clubs are finding loopholes, like inflated sponsorship deals. UEFA unlikely to ban top teams from Champions League over FFP.

  • If enforced strictly, FFP would end era of “sugar daddies” like Abramovich transforming clubs. But this reduces competition.

  • In 1991, Ron Noades, chairman of Crystal Palace, said there were few black managers because black players lacked the necessary discipline and intellect. This reflected a standard view that black people lacked leadership abilities.

  • But there have been very few black managers in English soccer. As of 2021, only one black manager was in the 92 professional clubs.

  • Research suggests discrimination plays a role. In studies, club officials were more likely to speak positively about a manager candidate when told he was white compared to when said the same candidate was black.

  • Black ex-players face barriers getting coaching licenses and opportunities at lower level clubs to gain experience.

  • Racist attitudes likely contribute, but institutional factors like networking play a role too. Whites tend to recommend other whites.

  • To address this, the F.A. has created coaching initiatives targeting minorities. But progress remains slow. More forceful action like quotas may be needed to increase black representation in management.

  • There are parallels in English soccer’s lack of Asian players and managers, highlighting a broader lack of diversity and inclusion.

  • In the 1980s, overt racism against black players was daily in English soccer, with fans throwing bananas and using racial slurs. Managers and pundits also expressed prejudiced views.

  • However, it’s unclear whether this prejudice translated into actual discrimination in hiring and opportunities for black players, as soccer is a meritocracy where good players succeed regardless of race.

  • Statistical analysis shows that discrimination did exist - clubs spent less on black players’ salaries than white players, even controlling for performance. This racial wage gap closed over time.

  • The influx of black players began in the 1970s-80s as the children of Commonwealth immigrants reached adulthood. They persisted despite the abuse, suggesting discrimination was not severe enough to drive them from the game.

  • By the 1990s racism among fans had declined, though some incidents still occurred. Soccer became more inclusive of women and minorities as hooliganism was reduced.

  • So, while English soccer was once rife with prejudice, data shows this did translate into real discrimination. However the success of black players reduced bias over time.

The market for soccer players’ wages in England was very efficient from 1978-1997, with players’ pay strongly predicting their teams’ league positions. Stefan wondered what accounted for the remaining unexplained variation in league position. He hypothesized that discrimination against hiring black players gave teams with more black players an advantage, since they could get equivalent talent for lower wages.

Michael Crick collected data on black players in England. Teams hiring more black players consistently outperformed their wages, suggesting discrimination. In the 1970s very few teams hired black players. By 1992, 90% of couples had black players, attitudes were changing, and the advantage of hiring black players had disappeared. The data shows black players were predominantly strikers, had long careers, and were primarily British-born. The evidence suggests that discrimination against black players existed but declined by the 1990s as clubs increasingly hired black players.

Regression analysis in the 1980s showed black soccer players in England were better value for money than whites, indicating discrimination. By the 1990s, the evidence of discrimination had faded as clubs realized hiring black players improved performance. A similar pattern occurred in American sports. However, racism still exists in some leagues, giving clubs that embrace diversity an edge.

  • There has been a notable lack of black managers in English soccer, despite many black players on the field. This form of discrimination has proven more stubborn than discrimination against black players.

  • The prejudice persists partly because coaches/managers don’t seem to make that significant impact. The market for managers is much less efficient than for players. So blacks continue to struggle to get coaching jobs.

  • In the 1990s, Luther Blissett applied for 22 manager jobs without getting an interview, highlighting the issue. In 2008, Paul Ince became the first black manager of a Premier League team at Blackburn, but it only lasted six months.

  • Even successful black managers like Chris Hughton at Newcastle have been sacked prematurely. The few black managers in the Premier League like Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana have tended to be foreign blacks rather than British.

  • The underlying belief persists that only white ex-players have what it takes to be managers. Implicit bias against black managers remains strong. Meaningful progress remains elusive despite some high profile appointments.

  • In the 1970s-1990s, few black managers worked in English soccer. The first prominent ones were Ruud Gullit and Chris Hughton, who were seen as Dutch and Irish rather than “black”.

  • Currently, Hughton is the only black manager in the Premier League. The “Rooney Rule” from American football, requiring interviews of minority candidates, does not exist in European soccer.

  • The market for players is transparent - you can see their skills. So discrimination gets rooted out, as clubs want the best players regardless of race to win.

  • The manager market is not transparent. It’s hard to judge their contribution, so discrimination persists more easily.

  • An analysis of manager performance relative to player wages over 37 years finds only 10% of managers overachieve.

  • A list of the top overachieving managers is provided, with Bob Paisley and Alex Ferguson at the top. But many caveats apply - success depends on circumstances, not just the manager’s skill.

  • The best managers tend to end up at the top clubs. Ferguson at Manchester United and Wenger at Arsenal are good examples. They succeeded in these clubs despite often needing the highest wage bills.

  • Overachieving managers dominate the rankings because by definition more overachieving clubs will finish higher in the league. Also, overachieving at the top is seen as more impressive than at the bottom.

  • Ferguson and Wenger consistently overperformed, getting excellent results with wage bills that were only marginally higher than the Premier League average. This suggests they added real value as managers.

  • Wenger’s overperformance declined as others caught up by copying his innovations in statistics, nutrition, and scouting foreign players. Knowledge gaps get closed quickly in soccer.

  • Chelsea and Manchester City have recently spent massive amounts, giving them the highest wage bills. This has made overperforming harder for others, though Ferguson kept overachieving even in his last years.

  • Many excellent managers of lower division teams seem unrewarded and overlooked by bigger clubs, while many mediocre managers continue to get jobs. Sturrock, Parkin, Moore, and Beck are successful lower league managers who never got a chance at a top club.

  • The market for managers appears inefficient - the best managers don’t necessarily get rewarded or noticed, while hundreds of managers who add little value continue to get jobs.

  • Lower league managers may be undervalued due to their play styles, lack of charisma, or unfairly tarnished reputations. Sturrock believes his brief stint at Southampton unfairly tagged him as having ‘failed’ in the Premier League.

  • The importance of managers should be more measured. If you have the best players, you will win most of the time regardless of the manager. Managers have little impact compared to players.

  • Manager tenures have gotten shorter, now averaging about a year. This gives them limited time to make an impact.

  • Managers increasingly work with large staffs at clubs, so their influence may need to be improved.

  • Clubs often hire managers more as symbolic figureheads than for competence—things like being an ex-player matter more than tactical skills in hiring decisions.

So, in summary, the market for managers appears inefficient, their importance needs to be overstated compared to players, and their tenures are increasingly short, all indicating they have limited impact on team performance in most cases.

  • A famous soccer manager acts out John Terry’s pivotal penalty miss in the 2008 Champions League final, showing how influential and pressure-filled taking a penalty can be.

  • Penalties are very challenging for economists to analyze because they are so psychologically complex - involving nerves, expectations, pressure, etc. This makes the outcome harder to model and predict.

  • Penalties could be considered cosmically unfair - a few seconds that erase many hours of play and determine winners. Or they could be seen as fair, since both teams face the same challenge and pressure.

  • Penalties favor the team that kicks second since they know the score they must equal or beat. This has led to proposals like ABBA shootouts to address the inequity.

  • Players have inconsistent records on penalties - suggesting a significant psychological/chance element beyond pure skill. Stars like Messi and Ronaldo have poor penalty records.

  • Despite their cruelty and randomness, the manager suggests penalties may be inevitable in soccer. Understanding the psychology of kickers may be vital in improving one’s chances.

  • Penalties seem unfair because referees often misjudge them, and they have an outsized impact on the game compared to most calls. Managers frequently complain after games that penalties decided the outcome.

  • However, statistical analysis shows penalties do not affect match results in the long run. The percentage of home wins, away wins, and ties are nearly identical regardless of whether a penalty is awarded.

  • This is because penalties are usually given to the team already dominating territorially. So they tend to reward the stronger team, rather than changing the outcome.

  • Economists have helpful advice on taking penalties based on game theory. Players should randomize between shooting left and right rather than having predictable patterns. This forces the goalkeeper to guess and gives the kicker the best odds.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Economists have analyzed penalty kicks using game theory to try to predict the optimal strategies for kickers and goalkeepers.

  • Some kickers and goalkeepers have predictable tendencies that can be exploited if known in advance.

  • Dutch manager Jan Reker compiled dossiers on players’ penalty kick tendencies, which helped goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen in big matches.

  • German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann used a cheat sheet during the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal shootout against Argentina which may have helped him save a penalty kick.

  • In 2008, economist Ignacio Palacios-Huerta provided a report to Chelsea manager Avram Grant before the Champions League final analyzing Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar’s penalty saving tendencies.

The passage explores how game theory has been applied to analyze penalty kick strategies and how this kind of analysis has been used in practice, notably by Van Breukelen and Lehmann. The report provided to Grant demonstrates that detailed analysis of kicker and goalkeeper tendencies continues to play a role in high-stakes matches.

  • Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, a Spanish economist, analyzed penalty kick data and wrote a report for Avram Grant, then manager of Chelsea, with advice on penalty taking and saving.

  • The report recommended that right-footed kickers aim at the goalkeeper’s left side and that the goalkeeper should not move early when facing Cristiano Ronaldo.

  • During the 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout between Chelsea and Manchester United, it seems Chelsea followed Ignacio’s advice closely.

  • Chelsea’s first six kickers aimed to the left side of the goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. This followed Ignacio’s recommendations.

  • Van der Sar eventually caught on to Chelsea’s strategy and pointed left before saving Nicolas Anelka’s penalty, which cost Chelsea the Champions League title.

  • The example illustrates game theory dynamics in penalty kicks. Kickers randomize directions to avoid being predictable, while goalkeepers try to guess the strategy.

  • Simon Kuper visited Manchester City’s training ground and met with their head of performance analysis, Gavin Fleig.

  • Top clubs like City increasingly use “match data” - detailed statistical information collected during games - to gain insights and improve player performance.

  • Some insights from match data:

    • Claude Makelele, a defensive midfielder for Chelsea and Real Madrid, was highly effective at breaking up opposition attacks even though he didn’t tackle much. His positional play was superb.
    • When Thierry Henry played for Arsenal, he scored far more often when receiving the ball from Robert Pires. Their styles of play complemented each other.
    • Manchester United’s defenders commit more fouls near their own goal late in matches when they are ahead, likely tactical fouls to break up attacks.
  • Clubs keep their match data secret and employ analysts to study it for patterns and insights. It is changing coaching and player evaluations.

  • StatDNA is a firm that sells match data analysis to clubs. Their focus is on players’ decision-making.

  • Match data will likely become more critical as clubs seek any edge.

  • Charles Reep, a Royal Air Force officer, was among the first to log match data in soccer games in the 1950s. However, his methods and conclusions needed to be revised, promoting long-ball tactics that were later discredited.

  • Neil Lanham recorded thousands of games by hand in the 1960s-1980s, promoting long-ball tactics. He advised lower-division clubs like Wimbledon with some success.

  • In the 1980s, managers like Arsène Wenger and Valeri Lobanovsky began using computers to analyze match data, giving players scores for each action. This was ahead of its time.

  • In 1996, Opta began collecting comprehensive match data for the English Premier League, revolutionizing analytics in soccer. Clubs received detailed reports on stats like passes, tackles, and distance covered.

  • Today, companies like Opta employ analysts to log every game event in meticulous detail, coding over 2,000 events per game. The data revolution has moved soccer from needing more information to an overwhelming amount.

  • Obscure data statisticians now work behind the scenes at many clubs, influencing decisions on which players to buy and sell based on their data analysis. This is changing how soccer clubs operate.

  • Soccer managers initially resisted using data analytics, preferring to rely on gut instinct. Alex Ferguson’s sale of Jaap Stam based on stats was a mistake showing the dangers of misusing data.

  • However, some innovative managers like Arsene Wenger embraced analytics early on. Wenger used stats to track declining performance.

  • Allardyce used analytics at Bolton to score more goals from set pieces. Moneyball inspired soccer executives to find new ways to value players.

  • Comolli brought analytics to Tottenham, fighting skepticism from traditionalists. Though he unearthed good players, he was eventually forced out as the “nerds vs. jocks” battle continued.

  • Analytics will supplement but not replace human judgment in soccer. Data can support decisions but not make them. Good mathematicians can model the complexity of soccer.

  • Gradually, soccer embraces analytics, just later than in other industries. However, some resistance remains from traditionalists fearing loss of power and data overuse.

  • Soccer clubs increasingly use data and statistics to gain insights and better decisions about players and strategy. Arsenal and Bolton were early adopters under managers Wenger and Allardyce.

  • Basic stats like passes, tackles, and distance covered have proven unreliable. More meaningful stats focus on high-intensity running, repeated sprinting ability, and keeper save percentages from inside the penalty area.

  • Proprietary stats developed by clubs are providing competitive advantages. Opta and other data companies have enabled more sophisticated analysis.

  • Numbers show traditional assessments of undervalued players like Makelele and Henry. Stats help identify players’ unique abilities.

Goals often come from set pieces like corners rather than fluid play. Data analysis has enormous potential, but soccer has needed to adopt it faster than U.S. sports.

  • Soccer clubs increasingly use data and statistics to analyze players and strategies. Opta and other data providers track a wide range of metrics.

  • Clubs differ in how they use data. Some ignore it while others, like Liverpool under new owner John Henry, aim to do “Moneyball for soccer.”

  • Liverpool hired Damien Comolli to bring data-driven decisions. But big signings like Carroll, Henderson, and Downing failed to perform.

  • Liverpool focused on a crossing strategy that data shows is inefficient for scoring goals. This highlights a limitation of soccer’s Moneyball - systems can become predictable.

  • In contrast, crosstown rival Everton, under manager David Moyes, made better use of stats for scouting and tactics. Moneyball can work in soccer but is still in the early stages.

  • Key challenges are getting managers to use data and adapting Moneyball to soccer’s fluid nature, where game theory comes into play.

  • Liverpool brought Damien Comolli to implement a “Moneyball” approach using data and analytics. However, his signings largely failed, and he was dismissed as a failure.

  • But Comolli did have some successes, like signing Bale and Suarez. His failures may have been due more to scapegoating than incompetence.

  • Other clubs like Everton have implemented data analytics more successfully under managers like Moyes. Analysts at Everton provide data to inform tactical decisions and player recruitment.

  • Data is still only one input in soccer decisions. But clubs are advancing in using data to gauge player performance and make transfer decisions.

  • There is room for improvement in areas like shot selection and free-kick routines that statistics show are inefficient.

  • Baseball executive Farhan Zaidi predicts a “goal probability added” stat may one day be soccer’s holy grail for quantifying a player’s impact. But soccer still lags behind baseball in its use of advanced analytics.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • In the early years of the European Cup (1956-late 1960s), teams from fascist capitals like Madrid and Lisbon dominated as dictators funneled resources to the capital cities.

  • After fascism declined, communist capitals like Bucharest and Belgrade found success, again benefiting from centralization under dictatorships.

  • Democratic capital cities like London and Paris struggled in European competition, lacking the same focus and resources from the government. Psychological factors also play a role, as soccer matters less in substantial cosmopolitan cities.

  • Provincial industrial towns dominated instead, as soccer clubs became important in these areas. The passage cites several examples of smaller cities like Nottingham, Porto, and Dortmund winning the Champions League.

  • The passage suggests Europe’s major cities like London, Paris, and Istanbul may start winning more as they accumulate money and power in soccer. Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League win could mark the start of this shift.

In summary, totalitarian governments historically boosted capital city teams. At the same time, provincial towns found soccer success in democracy, but this may change as money and power concentrate in Europe’s megacities.

  • The soccer team Newton Heath was founded by railway workers in industrial Manchester, England, in the late 19th century. The players competed in their work clogs against other factory teams. Newton Heath later became Manchester United.

  • In the Victorian era, Manchester proliferated as an industrial city, attracting migrants from the countryside and abroad. Life was difficult, with low life expectancy.

  • With little community, the migrant workers embraced local soccer teams like Newton Heath. This pattern was seen across industrial Northern England and the Midlands, cementing soccer’s popularity in these regions.

  • Today, many of the most popular clubs in Europe are still located in former industrial towns and cities like Manchester rather than capital cities. Supporting the local club gave migrants a sense of belonging.

  • Industrial cities like Munich, Milan, Barcelona, and Turin experienced growth spurts in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, swelling with rural migrants looking for factory work. New soccer clubs sprang up and thrived along with the cities.

  • The link between industry and soccer remains strong across Europe today. Soccer helped provide a community for Internal migrants in rapidly industrializing cities.

  • Small provincial industrial towns like Liverpool, Nottingham, and Mönchengladbach dominated the European Cup in the late 1960s to early 1980s. Their metropolitan populations were relatively modest compared to major cities.

  • Mönchengladbach epitomized the rise and fall of small industrial towns in soccer. In the 1970s, they were highly successful but declined after that as the soccer economy modernized.

  • Small towns thrived initially due to market restraints - less money in soccer, limits on foreign players, and the ability of clubs to prevent players from leaving. This allowed them to build teams from local talent.

  • The rise of the soccer economy in the 1980s and ’90s (T.V. money, Bosman ruling, etc.) allowed big clubs to proliferate. Small clubs needed help to retain top players.

  • The turning point was Trevor Francis’ £1m transfer in 1979, demonstrating the swelling of the soccer economy. Ultimately, this favored big cities over small industrial towns.

  • Midsize European cities like Florence have declined in prestige and status compared to significant metropolises, as evidenced by the fortunes of their soccer clubs. Fiorentina in Florence was once a top team but has faded.

  • The economic swelling of soccer - with bigger T.V. deals, player transfers, etc. - has favored the largest, most popular clubs in big provincial cities with around 2-5 million people, like Barcelona, Madrid, and Munich.

  • These provincial powerhouses with built-in global fanbases have come to dominate the Champions League year after year. Midsize cities can’t compete anymore.

  • However, Zipf’s law suggests the balance may shift towards true megacities like London and Moscow as people migrate to the most significant urban centers.

  • If population size correlates with soccer success, London and Moscow should eventually win the Champions Leagues as they attract more people and talent. The era of provincial cities may give way to one of the global metropolises.

Here are the key points I took from your summary:

As a teenager, Nelson Mandela attended a British-style boarding school, Clarkebury Institute, in South Africa. The school aimed to instill British values and turn students into “Christian gentlemen” who spoke English and played British games.

  • Mandela was deeply influenced by the British culture and values at the school. He acquired a British first name, Nelson, and later embodied the ideals of a British gentleman.

  • His experience reflects how the British Empire spread British culture and values through schools and other institutions, not just exploitation and rule. This impacted millions in the official colonies and “informal empire.”

  • After WWII, the British Empire declined, and the American Empire rose. But the American empire did not actively spread American values and culture like the British had.

  • So, the legacy of British cultural influence, like tennis and soccer/football games, persisted even after the empire faded. Mandela’s story shows this influence.

Please let me know if I have accurately summarized the key points or if you want me to modify or expand the summary.

  • Soccer is called “football” in most of the world, while American football is called “football” in the U.S. The term “soccer” originated in Britain in the late 19th century and was commonly used until the 1970s, when it fell out of favor.

  • Soccer spread worldwide, mainly through British colonialists and ex-pats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was seen as an aspirational upper-class game. American football did not spread globally in the same way.

  • The Premier League now has a vast global following, partly due to the continued power of British cultural exports like the English language. The NFL has yet to achieve similar international success.

  • The popularity of the Premier League represents a kind of “soft power” lingering from the British Empire. Despite its political and economic might, Merica may have a different sports-based empire

  • A struggle is emerging between the Premier League and the NFL to conquer new international territories. This represents a clash between the lingering British informal empire and American imperial ambitions.

  • A new globalized sports fan emerges from this struggle, less tied to traditional national loyalties.

  • Unlike the British, Americans have not generally sought to build an empire or exert vast cultural influence abroad. Even when fighting wars, the U.S. aim has often been to “get in, do the job, get out” rather than create long-term colonies.

  • The American empire’s favorite sports, like baseball and American football, have not been good vehicles for cultural imperialism, unlike British sports like cricket, soccer, and rugby. For example, the Super Bowl draws vast audiences in the U.S. but tiny ones globally.

  • From the 1980s, new T.V. channels helped spread American sports abroad to some extent, but this was limited. Meanwhile, despite being seen as un-American, soccer spread rapidly among American kids.

  • Soccer is a safe, inexpensive sport for both girls and boys. Growing Hispanic immigration also boosted soccer. Now, more American kids play soccer than baseball, football, and ice hockey.

  • But the U.S. has developed its unique soccer culture, focused on youth and college soccer, women’s soccer, the World Cup, etc., rather than a top professional men’s league. Many suburban families like soccer precisely because money and stars like big American sports do not dominate it.

  • The NFL is popular and seen as an “equal” league where any team can beat others. But European soccer is seen as horribly unbalanced, with a few wealthy clubs dominating. Many in Europe now envy the NFL’s greater equality between clubs.

  • Some people believe the NFL is much more balanced than European soccer leagues like the Premier League and that sports fans prefer balanced leagues. But neither claim is valid.

  • The NFL looks more balanced because more teams win the Super Bowl each year than the Premier League title. But statistically, the dispersion of wins is similar between the two leagues.

  • The NFL incorporates mechanisms like a few games and playoffs that add randomness, so the best team sometimes fails to win the championship. This creates the illusion of balance but at the expense of fairness.

  • Bad teams in the NFL are rewarded with top draft picks, while bad Premier League teams get relegated. Both leagues have consistent winners and losers over time.

  • Research on fan preferences is mixed - some studies find fans prefer balanced contests, others the opposite. T.V. viewers favor balance, but it’s a small effect.

  • The data shows fans prefer unbalanced leagues with less predictable outcomes. The illusion of NFL balance is achieved through randomness rather than the true equality of teams.

  • If the Premier League were perfectly balanced, T.V. audiences would only rise by 6%. This suggests imbalance and dominant teams create interest.

  • Fans enjoy watching their team beat weaker opponents or seeing star players on visiting solid teams. Also, big groups have more fans, so more people are happy when they win.

  • Fans are skilled at rationalizing losses and don’t sink into depression when their team loses. Dominant teams also create an opposition that wants to see them lose.

  • Having a close title race does little to boost attendance overall. Fans will watch their teams play regardless of title chances. Avoiding relegation also creates fan interest.

  • Long periods of dominance have yet to reduce interest or attendance in the Premier League. Attendance and revenues have risen despite the power of a few top teams.

  • The Premier League’s global appeal continues to grow, attracting investment from American sports business people not concerned by competitive balance.

  • The English game has seen increased attendance at all levels, even in lower divisions, suggesting dominance has yet to undermine interest.

  • The article argues imbalance creates memorable teams that fans “love to hate,” which increases interest. The MLS needs more equality between groups.

Here is a summary of the key points about which European country loves soccer the most:

  • Playing soccer: The Faroe Islands has the highest participation rates, with over 14% of the small population playing. Iceland and Norway also have very high participation.

  • Attending matches: Cypriots attend league matches at the highest rate in Europe, with nearly 2,000 fans per game on average. The top leagues in England, Germany, Spain, and Italy also draw large crowds.

  • Watching on T.V.: Figures on television viewing are difficult to compare across countries. However, soccer dominates T.V. sports viewing in most European nations. Italy has very high TV viewership, with about 80% of people watching soccer regularly.

  • Overall, it is difficult to definitively say which country “loves soccer the most” based on the available data. However, southern European and Nordic countries consistently rank highly across the different playing, attending, and viewing metrics. The data suggests Italy, Spain, Iceland, Norway, and Cyprus have populations that are among the most soccer-crazed in Europe.

  • FIFA published a survey ranking countries by the proportion of soccer players, with places like the Faeroe Islands ranking very high. But the data needs to be more credible, especially for developing countries like Mali.

  • European data is more reliable. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria that ranked high on FIFA’s list also have high numbers of registered soccer players, lending credibility.

  • England is often seen as having the most passionate soccer crowds, but Germany has a higher average league attendance. Attendance data fluctuates over time.

  • Eastern European leagues have seen a significant drop in attendance since the fall of communism. Western European data is more reliable, but it still needs improvement.

  • Looking at the top divisions’ combined average attendance as a percentage of the population, England, Germany, and Austria stand out as having the most enthusiastic crowds. Iceland is also noteworthy for its high participation, given its small population.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • TV viewing figures are essential for gauging which country cares most about soccer since relatively few people play or attend matches compared to those who watch on TV.

  • T.V. ratings have generally declined over the past 30+ years as more channels have emerged, but sports remain among the most popular programs.

  • International soccer tournaments like the World Cup and Euros consistently draw huge T.V. audiences across Europe. The matches unite people in a way that little else does anymore.

  • The passage will examine viewing figures for significant tournaments to identify the European country most obsessed with soccer. Reliable data is needed, separating broadcasts on public channels from private ones.

  • The passage suggests that big soccer matches serve as communal glue in most European nations nowadays, giving people a collective experience. England may be one example, where World Cups provide a bonding opportunity at a time when other unifying forces have declined.

The passage analyzes T.V. viewing data across Europe to identify which country cares most about soccer based on the vast audiences drawn by events like the World Cup. The country with the highest viewership will be deemed the most soccer-obsessed in Europe.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • Organizations like FIFA and the Olympic Committee exaggerate their viewing figures for events like the World Cup and Olympics opening ceremonies. They report improbably high numbers of viewers, sometimes over 1 billion.

  • Kevin Alavy is an expert who provides more reliable estimates of viewing figures based on T.V. ratings and “people meters” data that track viewing habits. His data shows the real audience for events is often around 1/3 of what organizers claim.

  • Alavy has collected extensive data on viewing significant soccer tournaments since 1998 across 54 countries. This allows comparisons of accurate viewing levels between countries.

  • Viewing figures need to be adjusted for factors like when games are played, which teams are playing, and how far the tournament has progressed. Regression analysis can isolate the impact of these factors.

  • The “fixed effect” left after other factors are removed estimates each country’s underlying propensity to watch international soccer. This measures the avidity of fans in each country.

  • For example, the fixed effect for the U.K. is 6.98 - meaning just under 7% of British households will watch a game at the World Cup or Euros regardless of teams/timing. This controls for all other factors.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • A regression analysis of T.V. viewing figures for World Cup and European Championship matches from 2000-2008 was conducted across 54 countries. It found several factors that influence average viewership:

  • Time of day - Games in primetime got higher ratings. Games from midnight to 5:40 a.m. got lower ratings.

  • Significance of match - Later tournament stages and games where teams had something to play for got higher ratings.

  • Teams involved - Games with Brazil and England tended to get slightly higher ratings. Games with national teams got much higher ratings.

  • Correcting for all factors, Croatia had the highest average viewership of international soccer matches. Other European nations like Norway, Denmark, and Serbia also scored highly.

  • Asia’s figures may be inflated by showing games on multiple channels. The U.S. and India had low viewership, but it rose in 2010.

  • Surprisingly, some soccer powers like Spain, France, and Mexico had below-average viewership. This may be due to regional divides in Spain and preference for other sports in the U.S.

  • The analysis couldn’t include Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, contenders for Europe’s most soccer-crazy nations.

  • The stereotypical image of the soccer fan in Britain is heavily influenced by Nick Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch, in which he describes a lifelong, monogamous devotion to Arsenal starting from childhood.

  • Hornby portrays fandom as an unbreakable lifelong “relationship” or bond, more potent than actual relationships or marriage. Fans are “chained” to their club through extreme loyalty and dedication.

  • However, in real life, many British soccer fans are much less loyal and monogamous in their fandom than Hornby’s image suggests.

  • Surveys show lots of fans support multiple clubs over a lifetime. Many switch club allegiances due to family influence, geographical moves, or changes in a club’s success.

  • The “one club for life” image is more of an idealized myth or marketing rhetoric from soccer officials than reality for most fans.

  • Fandom appears to be becoming even more fluid, with modern fans expressing multiple allegiances and “polygamist” tendencies in their support.

  • The actual motivations and loyalty of fans are more complex than the simplistic Hornby model suggests.

  • There are two main types of soccer fans - the lifelong, devoted “Hornbys” and the more casual “sod-that-for-a-lark floating punters.”

  • Foreign fans, especially in Asia, tend to be more casual “serial supporters” who switch club allegiances frequently.

  • Even in Britain, polls show many fans are fickle and support successful clubs like Chelsea when they are winning.

  • Most soccer fans are “armchair” supporters who rarely attend games.

  • Among those who attend games regularly, there is still evidence that many are casual fans rather than lifelong devotees.

  • Analysis of historical attendance data shows high “mortality” rates, with many fans not returning year after year, suggesting fickle support.

  • Success on the field boosts attendance, again indicating many casual fans.

  • The devoted, lifelong Hornby-style fans seem to be a minority even among regular match-going spectators. Most fans are more casual and brand-conscious.

In summary, the loyalty and devotion romanticized by Hornby seem less prevalent than assumed, even in Britain. Many fans have more casual, changeable allegiances.

  • There is a tradeoff between having loyal fans who always keep their seats versus having the the capacity to accommodate new fans when a team succeeds. Teams need some fan turnover and mortality to make room for new fans.

  • Attendance tends to rise and fall with a team’s league position, confirming a market in soccer spectators.

  • The authors developed a model to estimate the number of loyal fans versus new fans sensitive to success (“BIRGers”).

  • The model estimates that only 2.5% of new fans go to the Premier League winner, while most fans choose a local plausible team.

  • The model shows that 50% of spectators do not return for the exact match the following season. There is significant churn in attendees.

  • This contradicts the notion of hardcore, lifelong loyal fandom. The majority of match-going fans only attend sporadically, not every match.

  • So while there is a hardcore of loyal fans, the typical match-going fan only attends occasionally and their loyalty is limited. Lifelong committed fandom is rare.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • In a study of one struggling English soccer club, Professor Alan Tapp found that fans talk loyal but don’t always act loyal.

  • Many self-described “loyal supporters” were actually “casual fans” who occasionally supported other teams or treated soccer as one of several weekend options.

  • Tapp identified three groups of fans: “fanatics” (devoted longtime fans), “committed casuals,” and “carefree casuals” (more interested in a good game than team loyalty).

  • Even among the “fanatics”, 1,000 of 8,000 season ticket holders did not renew each year, driven more by life circumstances than team performance.

  • Fandom is a fluid process rather than a static condition for many. People’s intensity of support can shift over time.

  • Many fans support multiple teams or clubs. The notion of undying loyalty to just one club is rhetoric that doesn’t match reality.

  • Fandom may resemble music fandom more than idealized monogamous marriage - people can love multiple bands/teams and move on over time.

Based on the information, the common belief that soccer fans frequently commit suicide when their team loses is exaggerated or unfounded. The article suggests that soccer may prevent suicides rather than cause them. A few key points:

  • Stories of fans committing suicide over soccer losses are often unverified or lack credible sources. For example, the claim that 100 Bangladeshi fans committed suicide after Maradona was expelled from the 1994 World Cup comes from a dubious source.

  • There is evidence that suicide rates decrease during major soccer tournaments. A study by Greek epidemiologists found a significant drop in suicides during World Cups, suggesting soccer distracts from problems and boosts morale.

  • While soccer-related suicides occasionally occur, the perception they are familiar with is likely an exaggeration. Suicide has complex causes, and losses by a favored team are seldom the sole or primary trigger.

  • Rather than causing suicides, soccer appears to provide a form of social integration and respite that may deter suicides. As a mass phenomenon that captures public attention, major soccer events seem to reduce isolation and give people’s lives temporary meaning and purpose.

In summary, the perception of frequent soccer-related suicides is essentially a myth. The available evidence indicates soccer likely prevents more suicides than it causes.

  • In 2010, the majority (unspecified number) of the 38,364 reported suicides in the U.S. were male. Suicide rates peak in the spring when daylight hours are the most extended.

  • Émile Durkheim’s 1897 study on suicide concluded that when people lose connection to society due to sudden changes, they may commit suicide. Later studies looked at links between sports and suicide.

  • Some studies found increased suicide rates when a local team was knocked out of playoffs or relocated to another city. The team lost too much for some vulnerable, highly identified fans.

  • However, sports may also prevent suicides by providing meaning and community. Frederick Exley’s memoir depicts how his devotion to the N.Y. Giants football team gave him purpose and saved him from suicide during bouts of loneliness and alcoholism.

  • More research is needed overall, but sports may contribute to and prevent suicides depending on the individual. For some vulnerable fans, losing their team may push them over the edge, while for others, the sense of community may keep them going.

The figures suggest sport is an important communal activity for many people. About a third of Americans watch the Super Bowl; soccer is even more popular in Europe, with most of the population watching major games in some countries.

World Cup soccer tournaments, the most significant sporting events, often coincide with peak suicide months in the Northern Hemisphere. A study of tournament dates and suicide rates found that in almost every European country studied, fewer people killed themselves while the national team was playing in the World Cup or Euro Championship. For example, in Germany, which always qualifies, there were 30 fewer male and 14 fewer female suicides each June during tournaments than in June without soccer.

Overall, soccer tournaments appear to help save several hundred lives across Europe. The decline in suicides lasts beyond when teams are eliminated, suggesting the games have a uniting effect that depresses suicide rates for a period after.

Though limited, existing research in Britain also indicates reductions in suicidal behaviours and psychiatric emergencies during and after World Cups that Scotland qualified for.

The critical factor is enhanced social cohesion - people bonding over a shared interest. Winning or losing games is secondary; what matters is the communal experience, and sense of belonging fans get from following the team and events like tournaments.

  • Hosting major sports events like the World Cup does not make the host country rich financially but makes people happier. There are intangible benefits to national unity and morale.

  • Politicians often tout the supposed economic benefits of hosting, like a tourism bonanza and long-term infrastructure improvements. But, the economic impact studies used to justify massive spending on stadiums and facilities need to be revised. The financial return could be much better.

  • The film Field of Dreams captures the sentimental idea that building stadiums are uplifting, even if teams and fans don’t yet exist. This has driven excessive stadium construction in the U.S., often funded by taxpayers.

  • Many U.S. cities built new stadiums to lure or keep sports franchises, aided by questionable economic impact studies. An example is George W. Bush and partners profiting from a taxpayer-funded stadium for the Texas Rangers.

  • The academic Rob Baade punctured inflated claims about financial returns on stadiums and events. Hosting sports can boost national unity and happiness, but the economic impact is shifting entertainment spending, not generating new activity.

  • For developing countries, the intangible social benefits of hosting may outweigh the cost. But they should view it as a consumption item, not an investment. The real reason to host is increased national unity and morale, not economic profit.

  • Robert Baade, an economics professor and former basketball player, published research in the 1980s showing that public investment in stadiums does not provide an excellent economic return for taxpayers. This challenged claims by stadium boosters.

  • Baade found that cities with and without stadiums had similar economic growth. Stadiums are used infrequently and generate little local spending. Money spent on stadiums means less spent on hospitals, schools, etc.

  • Baade testified before Congress, and his research encouraged other economists to study the economics of stadiums. An “anti-stadium movement” emerged as the evidence mounted against economic benefits.

  • Baade and others showed events like the World Cup and Olympics generated far less economic impact than claimed. Foreign visitors accounted for a small share of attendees, and their incremental spending was minor.

  • Research on the 2006 World Cup in Germany by Holger Preuss found only about one-fifth of attendees were foreigners who traveled explicitly for the event. Over half were Germans who likely substituted World Cup spending for other entertainment spending.

  • Credible economic research has debunked claims of significant economic benefits from stadiums and mega-events, leading to more realistic expectations. But some boosters still exaggerate likely benefits.

  • Research shows that hosting major sports events like the World Cup only sometimes leads to significant economic benefits for the host country. Any boost in visitor spending is usually offset by locals spending less or going abroad to avoid the event.

  • The costs of hosting are usually far higher than expected due to demands from organizers like FIFA for state-of-the-art facilities. Stadiums and infrastructure built for the event often become white elephants after it is over.

  • South Africa hyped economic gains when bidding to host the 2010 World Cup but quietly abandoned such predictions shortly before the event. The expected surge in foreign visitors did not materialize, and the new stadiums were unnecessary.

  • Despite this experience, Brazil still pursued lavish spending on stadiums and infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup. The Brazilian sports minister expressed enthusiasm for the event as a “stimulus for development” even though the economic impact would likely be negligible.

  • In general, the evidence indicates hosting major sporting events is not an effective economic development strategy for developing nations. The benefits tend to be exaggerated while the costs spiral out of control.

  • Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva claimed hosting the World Cup would boost Brazil’s economy through infrastructure development and job creation.

  • However, the costs of stadiums and infrastructure have spiraled far beyond initial estimates, with Brazilian taxpayers footing most of the bill rather than private businesses as initially planned.

  • Construction delays allowed companies to charge more to finish on time. The World Cup has benefited construction firms and FIFA more than regular Brazilians.

  • Some infrastructure improvement is needed, and new stadiums will raise the comfort level of fans, potentially increasing future ticket sales and club revenues. But the economic benefits are overstated.

  • Economists argue major sporting events provide little economic boost. Word-of-mouth marketing benefits are questionable, too. Public skepticism of these inflated claims is growing.

  • Hosting is more about happiness and prestige than profit. Countries compete fiercely to host to increase national pride and joy, not for financial gain.

  • In summary, Brazil is sacrificing some of its future prosperity to host the World Cup spectacle, providing more happiness and branding for the country than economic benefits.

  • While increased wealth has brought some happiness in poorer countries like Brazil and India, more income does little to increase happiness in more prosperous European countries.

  • Several factors influence happiness levels in Europe - Scandinavians are happiest, Eastern Europeans least happy. Age, gender, education, marital status, unemployment rates, and spending time with others also impact happiness.

  • Hosting major sports tournaments like the World Cup increases self-reported happiness in the host country, even when controlling for other happiness factors. This effect can be equivalent to hundreds more euros per month or moving people up the income ladder.

  • The happiness boost lasts a few months after hosting a tournament, though longer for World Cups than Euro championships. Host countries also see a slight dip in happiness in the years leading up to the game.

  • Politicians justify hosting tournaments in financial terms rather than admitting they make people happier. But happiness, not just income, should be a goal of policymaking. Events like sports tournaments increase happiness by bringing people together.

  • England managers and players routinely express overconfidence before World Cups, believing England has a “God-given right” to win despite little evidence to support this.

  • When England loses in the World Cup, it is often to a former wartime rival like Germany or Argentina, fitting British tabloid history narratives.

  • England’s losses are blamed on freak occurrences of bad luck that supposedly could only happen to them.

  • Moreover, when England loses, it claims the other teams cheated through underhanded tactics or biased refereeing decisions.

  • In reality, England seldom progresses deep into the knockout stages of the World Cup compared to other nations.

  • The summary suggests England needs to take a more realistic view of its soccer abilities rather than act entitled to win and blame external factors when it doesn’t.

  • England has a long history of underperforming and being eliminated early at World Cup tournaments, often losing to old rivals like Germany and Argentina.

  • There are predictable phases to England’s World Cup exits, including overconfidence going in, attributing losses to bad luck, blaming individuals as scapegoats, and quickly resuming everyday life after elimination.

  • England fans and media have often harbored unrealistic expectations that England is destined to win tournaments when a mathematical analysis shows England wins about two-thirds of matches, which makes tournament victories unlikely.

  • England’s frequent early World Cup exits have become a national ritual marking the decline in England’s global status, celebrating underdog heroes, and mixing dreams of glory with familiar letdowns.

  • After decades of this cycle, England fans finally seem to be adopting more realistic expectations, accepting the team as decent but not destined for glory. England is just another country without a manifest destiny to win tournaments.

  • England has historically underperformed in international soccer competitions compared to expectations. This is considered a significant issue in English sports.

  • Several incorrect reasons are often cited, such as too many foreign players in the Premier League limiting opportunities for English players.

  • However, the real reasons likely have to do with:

  1. English players are tired and injured from the grueling Premier League season - they can’t speak for international tournaments.

  2. Tactical issues - English players need more tactical knowledge than other countries.

  • The notion that foreign players are hurting England’s national team is likely false - if anything, competing against them has improved English players. Performance has increased in the era of the internationalized Premier League.

  • The underlying issues are similar to theories in development economics about why some countries lag behind others economically. However, protectionism, like limiting foreign players, is unlikely to help.

  • England’s national team struggles in major tournaments partly due to player fatigue from the grueling English league season. Players like Lampard and Gerrard have acknowledged being exhausted in tournaments like the World Cup.

  • Sending more English players abroad to less demanding leagues, as Croatia does, could help them be fresher for international play. England manager Capello pointed to the lack of midseason break as an issue.

  • English soccer’s overreliance on a shrinking working-class talent pool is also problematic as the country becomes more middle-class. In recent World Cups, over 50% of England players came from working-class backgrounds, while most Britons now stay in education past 16.

  • This exclusion of the middle classes brings fewer new ideas and attitudes. Working-class anti-intellectual attitudes like disdaining tactics and education have been prevalent in English soccer and likely hinder innovation.

  • But these traditional attitudes have faded somewhat in the past 15 years. England needs to continue modernizing its coaching and draw talent more broadly from different social classes to maximize the national team’s potential. Expanding the talent pool is critical.

  • Most British soccer players still leave school at 16, following the working-class tradition that they should focus solely on soccer rather than getting an education. This makes the sport unwelcoming to middle-class teenagers.

  • Educated players like Graeme Le Saux have been mocked and abused by teammates for being “posh” or “gay” (used as a derogatory term for middle-class). Foreign players in the Premier League have also faced hostility for reading newspapers or being intellectual.

  • There is evidence that sporting talent and academic talent are linked. By discouraging educated youth, English soccer loses out on talent to sports like cricket and rugby.

  • Some people in English soccer are realizing there may be an unintentional bias against the middle classes in recruitment. Widening the talent pool could help improve the England national team.

  • English soccer’s isolation from the European mainland contributed to its decline from the dominant power in soccer’s early decades. It was cut off from the knowledge networks where the best soccer was played.

  • Western European teams dominated at the 2006 World Cup, while countries from other regions like the Americas, Asia, and Eastern Europe couldn’t match the Western Europeans. This exemplified a long-running trend of Western European superiority in international soccer.

  • Western Europe’s soccer excellence stems from the reasons it has historically led in areas like science and wealth - it’s interconnectedness and dense networks allow rapid exchange of ideas and innovations.

  • Proximity enabled the scientific revolution, as ideas spread rapidly among scientists across Western Europe. Soccer tactics similarly spread quickly across borders.

  • Soccer is the most integrated part of Europe’s economy, with players and coaches readily moving between teams and leagues. This fosters intense competition and refinement of tactics and talent.

  • The Champions League showcases the best soccer, played in Western European style - fast-paced passing by athletes. Teams worldwide now emulate this style.

  • A core group of 5 western European countries - Germany, France, Italy, Holland, and Belgium - have dominated global tournaments. Their interconnectedness fosters innovation and excellence.

  • More isolated countries on Europe’s geographic fringes underperform in tournaments, unable to access the knowledge networks. Proximity to the core correlates to soccer success.

  • Nations on the periphery of Europe, like Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and Scandinavia, often struggle in soccer because they are isolated and develop dysfunctional domestic styles.

  • England’s isolation deepened after the Heysel disaster banned English clubs from Europe. When the country reconnected to Europe in the 1990s, it benefited by hiring foreign managers like Sven Goran Eriksson and importing ideas.

  • Foreign managers have statistically outperformed English managers for the England team. Players like Gerrard revert to outdated English styles under English managers.

  • Other periphery countries have also hired foreign coaches to import know-how and combat isolation. Yet England made the mistake of appointing an English manager again after Eriksson.

  • England needs continental expertise to teach virtues like pacing a full 90-minute match. Italians are masters at this.

  • If England can fully integrate into Europe and stop worrying about foreigners in its league, it can finally perform at its full potential. But the common belief that England underachieves may need to be corrected.

  • England has not won any major soccer tournaments since 1966 and often fails to qualify. This has led to accusations that England underperforms in international soccer, given that it is the “mother country” of the sport.

  • To determine if England underperforms, we need to evaluate their performance compared to what would be expected given the country’s resources - namely population size, GDP per capita, and years of experience playing international matches.

  • Using a database of international soccer matches from 1872-2012, regression analysis shows these three factors explain a quarter of the variance in match performance as measured by goal difference.

  • England has one of the most experienced national teams. It is also one of the wealthiest soccer countries. However, its population of 53 million puts it at a disadvantage compared to powerhouses like Germany, Italy, and France.

  • Given its resources, England’s expected goal difference per game is +0.19 compared to opponents. This suggests its mediocre performance in major tournaments is about what would be expected.

  • In summary, while the English may expect too much from their team, the data does not support the view that England drastically underperforms relative to its resources. Its track record is consistent with a country of size and wealth.

  • England has historically performed better than expected in soccer relative to its resources (population, income, experience), especially in recent years. 1990-2010, England outscored opponents by 0.68 goals per game, more than predicted.

  • However, England’s overperformance could be more vital than the game giants like Brazil, Argentina, and Germany. It ranks below them in goals scored above expectations.

  • Much of England’s lack of trophies comes down to luck and timing—tiny margins in a few key games separate triumph from failure. England has been unluckier than most in major tournaments.

  • Overall, the conclusion is that England performs just fine relative to its resources. It overachieves more than teams like Italy. England could achieve more with better luck in pivotal moments and a larger population. However, unrealistic expectations, given its limitations, lead to perceived underperformance.

Here is a summary of the key points about why poor countries are poor at sports:

  • There is a common myth that poor people are best equipped to become great athletes, with the idea that sports provide an “escape route” from poverty. However, this is generally not true.

  • Poorer countries tend to perform worse at international sports competitions. This is because they need more resources, facilities, expertise, and population size than wealthier nations have.

  • Talented athletes from poor countries often emigrate to more affluent countries, which offer better training facilities and professional opportunities. This ‘brain drain’ deprives their home nations of sporting talent.

  • Sports participation is lower in poor countries, meaning fewer people have the chance to develop as athletes. Things like malnutrition also hinder athletic development.

  • Richer countries began investing in organized sports earlier, giving them a head start in developing sporting expertise and traditions. Poorer countries are playing catch-up.

  • Case studies like Didier Drogba show how emigration to richer countries can allow talents from poorer nations to thrive. But this is a loss rather than a gain for their native countries.

  • Ultimately, poverty puts countries at a significant disadvantage in sports due to lack of resources and opportunities. Increased investment and improved facilities could help poorer nations perform better.

  • The common perception is that poor people and countries excel at sports due to “hunger” and natural athletic gifts. However, the data shows the opposite - richer countries and people dominate sports overall.

  • The author compiled data on major international competitions across many sports to determine the best sporting countries. The United States ranked first overall, followed by Germany and Russia. Poor countries like India and China performed very poorly per capita.

  • Looking at performance adjusted for population, Norway was ranked the best sporting nation per capita, followed by smaller European nations like Luxembourg and Sweden. Larger developing countries were far from the top.

  • The evidence shows that wealth and resources, not “hunger” from poverty, are the most significant factors driving sporting success for individuals and countries. The perception that poor people excel at sports is a myth not supported by facts.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Norway wins disproportionate medals relative to its small population, demonstrating the importance of wealth and resources for sporting success.

  • There is a strong correlation between a country’s success in sports and its ranking on the U.N.’s Human Development Index, which measures well-being. Rich, developed countries tend to perform best in sports.

  • Poor countries, like most African nations, struggle in sports besides soccer and running, needing more money and infrastructure.

  • In diverse South Africa, the white minority dominates sports like rugby and golf, while the black majority struggles in soccer due to the effects of apartheid-like malnutrition.

  • Several examples are given of why poor countries underperform in sports, including lack of nutrition, facilities, medical care, and coaching. Ultimately, money and resources are key factors enabling sporting success.

  • Danny Jordaan, who organized the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, grew up under apartheid, where the country was isolated from world soccer. Many South Africans assumed their national team would easily win the World Cup in 1998 due to ignorance about the global game.

  • Poor, isolated countries often lag in sports because they lack connections and exposure to see how the game is played elsewhere. Their players seldom make it to the top leagues.

  • Organizational mishaps like unpaid fees and poor planning often happen to African national teams before big tournaments, further hampering performance.

  • Many top South African players are classified as “Coloured” under apartheid racial categories rather than “black.” Better nutrition and opportunities under apartheid help explain their disproportionate presence on the national team.

  • European stars often come from poor neighborhoods where they get abundant practice time from a young age, accumulating Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” needed to achieve expertise.

Here are the critical points about Brazil and Argentina’s international soccer performance from 1990-2010:

  • Brazil has been remarkably consistent, maintaining a 73-78% win percentage in the past six decades. They perform exceptionally well in World Cup years, winning about 5% more often. This suggests they raise their game for major tournaments.

  • Despite not reaching a World Cup semi-final from 1990-2010, Argentina’s performance was better during this period than in the 1980s, their worst decade ever at 53% wins. The myth is that the Maradona years were a golden age, but the statistics show Argentina has steadily improved after 1990.

  • Beyond the top teams, determining the most impressive smaller soccer nation requires considering their population size, wealth, and experience. Factors like practice time, infrastructure, and knowledge networks also matter.

  • With the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, many more countries are now to be evaluated. Performance statistics over 20+ years are needed to draw meaningful conclusions.

In summary, the usual suspects like Brazil and Argentina lead the way. Still, a deeper analysis of resources and potential is required to identify overlooked overachievers like a “Tom Thumb” of international soccer. Consistent performance over decades matters more than a brief golden age or drop-off.

  • Diego Maradona was a brilliant but inconsistent player for Argentina and clubs, unlike the more consistent Lionel Messi. However, Maradona could perform brilliantly when it mattered most.

  • Argentina’s failures when Maradona played were likely not his fault - the country’s economic decline in the 1980s matched the soccer team’s performance. Recently, as Argentina’s economy improved, so has their soccer team.

  • The list of most successful national teams is dominated by Europeans, partly due to experience/tradition and control of global soccer. But practice alone doesn’t lead to dominance - talent and resources are essential.

  • Countries need experience, population, and wealth to be a prosperous soccer nation. Using data on these factors, Brazil and Spain are the biggest overachievers relative to their resources.

  • Surprisingly, Iran and Iraq also overachieve significantly compared to their resources. Iraq performed well from 1990-2010 despite political turmoil, thanks to the brutal motivation techniques of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • On July 11, 2010, the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands was tied 0-0 after extra time.

  • The authors thought they might decide the winner based on a PDF they had sent the Dutch team that morning, written by economist Ignacio Palacios-Huerta.

  • Palacios-Huerta had previously provided Chelsea with an analysis of Manchester United’s penalty takers for the 2008 Champions League final.

  • The PDF analyzed Spain’s penalty takers, histories, and tendencies extensively.

  • The authors thought there was a good chance the World Cup final would go to penalties, and their analysis could help the Dutch win.

  • However, Spain scored a goal in extra time to win 1-0, making the penalty analysis unnecessary.

  • The passage illustrates the growing use of analytics and “Soccernomics” in soccer. The authors believed their data-driven advice could decide a World Cup final.

  • Spain had been isolated from Europe under Franco’s fascist rule, hurting their soccer. Signing Johan Cruijff in 1973 was a turning point, bringing Dutch “total football” ideas to Spain.

  • Cruijff later transformed Ajax’s youth academy to focus on passing/positional play rather than winning. This philosophy spread back to Barcelona when Cruijff coached there.

  • Cruijff helped create a youth development culture and play style in Spain that led to great club sides like Barcelona and, eventually, the dominant Spanish national team that won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012.

  • Interconnection with Europe through players like Cruijff was crucial to improving Spanish soccer and making Spain a powerhouse. This exemplifies the authors’ argument about Western Europe’s networked soccer culture.

  • Ajax has a famous youth academy that has produced many top players over the years, following the philosophy of Johan Cruyff.

  • Cruyff later brought his ideas to Barcelona when he coached there. He helped establish Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, which has also produced many top players.

  • The Ajax and Barcelona academies emphasize developing technical and tactical skills, especially passing ability. They focus on having all teams play a consistent 4-3-3 formation and pressing game style.

  • The academies care more about developing well-rounded people than just athletes. They treat the youth players like family.

  • A key to success is having coaches like Cruyff and Guardiola who know the academy players and can integrate them into the first team. Homegrown players are likelier to get opportunities at clubs like Ajax and Barcelona than places that buy many stars.

  • Ajax and Barcelona have successfully produced top talent over many decades because of the consistent philosophies, coaching, and opportunities given to academy players.

  • Spain’s soccer success closely tracks the country’s integration with Europe. In the isolated decades under Franco, Spain struggled in international soccer.

  • After joining the E.U. in 1986, Spain grew more affluent and networked, and the national team began improving sharply, though it was still mocked as “underperformers.”

  • Even in the “bad” decades, Spain was overachieving relative to its population, wealth and experience resources. It just needed to be more significant and more prosperous to win trophies.

  • A richer, more crowded, experienced, and networked Spain became first a contender, then the world’s best team, converting its resources into goals.

  • Spain’s emergence from isolation, plus unique individuals like Xavi and Villa, enabled its overperformance. The country remained networked despite the 2008 crisis.

  • Spain’s victory over the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final was a triumph of intra-European knowledge transfer, with both teams effectively Cruijff’s products.

  • Guus Hiddink is a Dutch soccer coach who helped export soccer expertise from Western Europe to new soccer powers worldwide, including Russia, Australia, and South Korea.

  • In the late 20th century, six western European countries - the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, England, and Spain - dominated global soccer. They perfected the continental European style.

  • But in the 21st century, European coaches like Hiddink brought this expertise to emerging soccer nations. Hiddink coached South Korea to its best World Cup in 2002, Australia to its best in 2006, and Russia to its best Euros in 2008.

  • This knowledge transfer is helping shift power in soccer away from Western Europe toward the rest of the world, just as economic power is going. The map of global soccer is being redrawn.

  • In the past, Victorian British business people, sailors, and colonial officers spread soccer worldwide. But Asia and North America remained immune until the late 20th century when globalization (trade, T.V., Internet) brought the game there.

  • Hiddink and other European expat managers are accelerating this global spread of soccer know-how. As a result, western European nations like Holland will decline in soccer status. Soccer expertise is becoming globalized.

  • Soccer has spread globally in recent decades, capturing new fans in places like Japan, China, India, and the U.S. These countries hired European coaches to improve their soccer quickly.

  • Guus Hiddink coached the South Korean national team for the 2002 World Cup. He helped them advance despite their hierarchical culture and lack of strategic thinking. Through two-way learning, Hiddink gained more respect for passion in soccer while teaching the Koreans the continental style.

  • At the 2002 World Cup, peripheral soccer countries like South Korea, Japan, the U.S., and Turkey performed surprisingly well.

  • Turkey’s soccer success correlates with its growing population, rising incomes, and importation of European knowledge/players. After decades of underperforming, Turkey emerged as a European soccer contender in the 2000s.

  • The global spread of soccer and the improving performance of peripheral countries symbolized a power shift in international soccer in the early 2000s. Emerging nations became increasingly competitive with traditional powers.

  • After a fallow period, globalization improved Turkish soccer as they adopted a more European style by combining Italian defending, German work ethic, and Dutch passing. This showed national styles don’t work in soccer - you need a mix.

  • Greece also abandoned its national style and brought in German manager Otto Rehhagel, who instilled a collectivist mentality. Greece adopted “European soccer” and won Euro 2004 against expectations.

  • In the same period, Guus Hiddink brought European tactics to Australia, another marginal soccer country. He transformed the “vagabond” Australian players, teaching them to think tactically and not just run around chaotically.

  • Hiddink also managed demanding players like Mark Viduka tactfully. The Australians quickly absorbed Hiddink’s European approach.

  • The Turkish and Australian experiences showed soccer culture isn’t fixed. When incentivized, teams can adopt more successful European tactics. Globalization enabled the spread of a European style.

  • Soccer has spread from the historical core countries of Western Europe to the periphery, including places like Australia, Russia, and the United States.

  • Guus Hiddink played a crucial role in improving the soccer teams of marginal countries like South Korea and Australia by introducing modern tactics and helping players develop creativity.

  • Countries like Spain, Russia, and Turkey have benefited as soccer know-how has spread globally. The playing field levels, size, and population give countries an advantage.

  • The United States has steadily improved in soccer as it has ended its isolation and begun competing more with top teams. The U.S., China, and Japan are poised to challenge the traditional powers as they close the experience gap.

  • As soccer knowledge spreads widely, a growing, economically advancing country like Iraq or China may win the men’s World Cup. The periphery is catching up to the historical core.

  • Soccer has increased as an industry over the past few decades, primarily fueled by the growth of television broadcasting. In 1974, total European soccer revenue was only around $200 million. Now, it is a $25 billion business, more significant than American sports leagues.

  • T.V. broadcasting has driven this growth by generating massive revenues from selling rights to show games. It has also changed soccer - refurbishing dilapidated stadiums, reducing hooliganism, and allowing creative players to thrive less fearing injury.

  • Soccer’s global appeal has grown enormously, overtaking American sports like the NFL in worldwide popularity. Revenues have continued growing even through the economic crisis after 2008.

  • High player salaries and debt levels at some clubs are a consequence of this success. Critics may dislike the commercialization of soccer, but economically, it is not a bubble - revenues have risen in tandem with costs.

  • There is still huge potential for further growth as soccer taps into massive markets like China, India, and the U.S. that still need to be scratched. The global T.V. rights earnings of the Premier League are still more remarkable in England than in the rest of the world combined.

  • Japan and other non-European teams may join an expanded Champions League, solving the travel problem by playing their European games back-to-back. This could attract millions of new viewers.

  • Some worry this may lead people to illegally download matches for free instead of paying, but research shows people are willing to pay for exclusive sports content.

  • Viewers now have more options to watch soccer - cell phones, tablets, etc. - allowing them to watch anywhere. Young fans already use a “second screen” to chat online while watching.

  • Technology like holograms may further enhance viewing in the future.

  • In 30 years, European stadiums may be filled with Asian fans paying $500 a ticket, compared to $100 now. Or Major League Soccer will be the top league instead.

Here are the key points summarizing the critical soccer books, articles, and other sources listed:

  • Soccer has become a global phenomenon, with books charting its growth internationally, including in China, Africa, and the U.S.

  • Many biographies and autobiographies provide insider perspectives from top players, managers, and executives.

  • Academic studies analyze topics like game theory, statistics, economics, fandom, tactics, and social issues around soccer.

  • Journalists have written expansive histories of the sport, accounts of iconic matches and tournaments, and exposés of corruption.

  • There are detailed examinations of influential clubs, managers, and national teams across Europe and South America.

  • Magazines and websites provide ongoing soccer coverage and analysis.

The sources cover soccer from diverse perspectives and geographies, documenting the sport’s evolution, impact, and significant figures and events. Academic research and statistical analysis also reveal new insights. Together, they showcase soccer’s cultural significance and global reach.

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About Matheus Puppe