Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Great Opportunity for FIFA to Display its New Approach to Transparency

Writing at the Sunday Guardian Jesse Fink says:
Now here's something. While FIFA swells its chest and promises the world it's changing its ways with a raft of new reforms carrying the imprimatur of Transparency International, it sells the Asian TV rights to a company run by Philippe Blatter, the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Fink suggests that transparency might help, and suggests some of the information that FIFA should make public:
So what made Infront the winning bid for Asia? Will we ever know? Will FIFA release the tender documents that substantiate Ericson's claim that it was the "best package"?

It's a perfect opportunity for FIFA to show just how transparent it is but don't hold your breath.
Transparency International must be feeling the sting of having FIFA invoke its good name in support of its actions. The BBC reports that TI also sees the Infront deal as not particularly consistent with good governance and has also called for greater openness with information:
Fifa announced yesterday it had appointed Infront Sports and Media to handle the sale of World Cup TV rights in a number of Asian countries for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

But they failed to disclose the president of Infront is Philippe Blatter, the Fifa president's nephew.

The announcement came a week after Fifa set out a two-year plan, working closely with Transparency International to reform the organisation following a series of damaging corruption scandals.

Sylvia Schenk, the author of Transparency International's damning report on Fifa, told the BBC that even if Sepp Blatter played no part in the decision to award the contract, it raised questions again about the governing body's lack of accountability.

She said: "When you have a situation where two relatives are in leading positions in two companies which agree a significant contract, it is of utmost importance for Fifa to be as transparent as possible regarding the decision-making process and Sepp Blatter's involvement in that decision.

"Given the situation Fifa is in right now, it would be better for Fifa to be more pro-active with their information where there could be a perception of a conflict of interest."
For its part, FIFA explains that its Finance Committee made the recommendation of Infront which was ratified by its Executive Committee (pictured at the top of this post). Sepp Blatter chairs the executive committee.  FIFA clearly saw this as problematic because in a statement to the BBC FIFA explained that specific actions were taken based on this apparent conflict of interest:
"The Fifa president is not a member of the finance committee and was not present when the decision was made. The Fifa president did not take part in any meetings or discussions and was not involved in the tender process."
 The 2009 FIFA Code of Ethics has this brief section on Conflicts of Interest (PDF):
1. Before being elected or appointed, officials shall disclose any personal interests that could be linked with their prospective function.

2. While performing their duties, officials shall avoid any situation that could lead to conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest arise if officials have, or appear to have, private or personal interests that detract from their ability to perform their duties as officials with integrity in an independent and purposeful manner. Private or personal interests include gaining any possible advantage for himself, his family, relatives, friends and acquaintances.

3. Officials may not perform their duties in cases with an existing or potential conflict of interest. Any such conflict shall be immediately disclosed and notified to the organisation for which the official performs his duties.

4. If an objection is made concerning an official’s existing or potential conflict of interest, it shall be reported immediately to the organisation for which the official performs his duties.

5. The deciding authority of the relevant organisation shall decide on such conflicts of interest.
Given the vagueness of these guidelines, it does appear that transparency is the only way that FIFA begins to gain some credibility. Consider that the chair of its Ethics Committee stands accused of bribery, a charge that he refutes the chair of the Finance Committee is under investigation for bribery, which he also refutes, and Sepp Blatter is the chairman of the Executive Committee which makes final decisions for FIFA, including those on conflicts of interest (as far as I can tell from the vacuous guidelines reproduced above). One might be forgiven for thinking that the entire governance structure is compromised from top to bottom.

In such a circumstance, as Fink argues above, the Infront case provides a perfect case for FIFA to operate under a full disclosure -- of both its internal governance mechanisms as well as its decision making process that resulted in a company headed by its President being awarded a substantial contract.

While it is unclear what FIFA is going to do, an interesting subplot that is developing is the relationship of Transparency International to FIFA.  Something is going to have to give in one of the two organizations.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Add Neoptism Rules to the List of Needed FIFA Reforms

One week ago Sepp Blatter spoke about the need for FIFA to undergo serious governance reform.  Here is what FIFA did this week:
FIFA said it also chose Swiss-based agency Infront Sports and Media in a tender process to handle sales across 26 Asian territories including China and India.

"Infront offered the best package for this important and very complex project both in financial as well as marketing aspects," Niclas Ericson, FIFA's director of television, said in a statement released by Infront.

Infront has long been scrutinized by FIFA's critics.

The Zug-based agency has close connections to FIFA's discredited former marketing partner ISL, which went bankrupt in 2001 and is once more at the center of allegations regarding kickbacks paid to senior FIFA officials in the 1990s.

Infront has been led since 2006 by Philippe Blatter, now its president and chief executive, who is a nephew of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
The Infront deal may indeed be perfectly legitimate, but absent practices of "good governance" it is impossible for an outsider to tell, which cedes the territory to FIFA's critics (e.g. here in PDF).

For most organizations, nepotism is generally not viewed favorably as a characteristic of "good governance." FIFA take note.

Damian Collins MP on FIFA in the House of Commons

The discussion starts at 17:11:22.and continues to 17:20:00.

Here is a link to the text of Mr. Collins' remarks on FIFA and the subsequent exchange:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baseball is Also a Beautiful Game

Source: FanGraphs

Nine Athletic Directors Ask NCAA for Reform

UPDATE 10/28: In the comments Rodney Fort (Thanks!) points out that the signatories of the letter aren't all ADs and provides affiliations and titles:
Bowlsby AD at Stanford
Littlepage AD at Virginia
Turner AD at the University of Washington

Jennstedt--Exec VP @ NCAA
Kretchmar--Faculty and Athletics Rep to the NCAA and editor of the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport @ Penn State.
LeCrone--Horizon League Commissioner
Orleans--Exec Dir of the Ivy League (retired)
Perko--Exec Dir at the Knight Commission
Waters--Retiring Sunbelt Commissioner
USA Today has reproduced a letter sent from nine leading athletic directors to Mark Emmert, chair of the NCAA, which calls for deeper NCAA reform.  Here is a link in PDF, and an excerpt:
Ongoing developments with regard to football-driven conference realignments, renegotiated television arrangements and more allegations of major rules violations all further emphasize the need for a fundamentally different value system and change of direction in Division I athletics – not simply for practical adjustments, however useful those adjustments may be.

Without a true focus on the underlying conditions that have produced our current problems, that system will continue to produce similar problems in the future. In contrast, as described in our earlier memorandum, we believe that truly re-connecting Division I athletics to our core values requires:

*A new governance approach that prioritizes those values over conference and institutional self-interest;
*Ending the fragmentation of Division I goals and governance that is inherent in the separate and dominant status of BCS football, so that it is clear to the public who is responsible for the integrated direction of college athletics;
*Providing an approach to finances that will sustain broad-based men’s and women’s athletics throughout Division I, consistent with institutions’ academic and other financial constraints and regardless of the sport in which specific revenues originate;
*Strongly recognizing student-athlete academic success in the distribution of NCAA and BCS national and conference revenues;
*Implementing simplified, consistent and effective rules and enforcement that clearly value integrity rather than merely compliance;
*Considering whether it may now be appropriate to treat student-athletes in “big-time” football differently from athletes in other sports, acknowledging that this would be a substantial change; and,
*In all these ways, establishing a national culture and incentive structure that will promote ethical behavior by institutions, coaches and student-athletes.

We realize that these and the other items outlined in our earlier communication provide summary statements of complicated problems. But with all due respect, in the context of the goals noted above we do not believe that the Board’s proposed agenda, courses of action, or consideration of outside views have been or will be adequate to the fundamental tasks at hand.
Especially interesting is that systems of governance in science are being considered as potential models for governance reform in college athletics:
“We talked about different ways to do what the NCAA says it wants to do, which is to make enforcement clear and more consistent, and more linked to [college sports'] underlying values,” Jeffrey H. Orleans, the former executive director of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents and one of the letter’s signatories, said in an interview on Wednesday. The federal government’s approach to policing itself offers a few clues on how this might be done: The Office of Research Integrity, for instance, investigates research misconduct at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other federal agencies.

That body, Orleans said, “is not the FBI, and it’s not the Department of Justice. It is a peer group in the sense that it’s made up of scientists, but they are the people who wind up considering disbarment from federal funds if there’s been some kind of research fraud.”

Orleans said he was not advocating for the NCAA to model itself entirely after the feds. But he does think the association ought to reconsider its current system. “We were looking for ways to deal with the inevitable tension that happens when an organization regulates itself,”  he added. “Peer judgment has its values, but sometimes it has its limits.”
I agree that models of governance for science and technology in universities have potential to offer lessons to reformed governance of athletics, as I wrote last summer.

Branch vs. Davis on College Sports

Last month I linked to a lengthy essay in The Atlantic by historian Taylor Branch on the NCAA.Branch was hard hitting and very critical. This week the NYT has profiled Branch in glowing terms and the article has received considerable praise from many quarters.

But not everywhere.  At Sports Illustrated Seth Davis takes on Branch in defense of the NCAA, here is an excerpt:
A lengthy article in an esteemed national publication criticizes the hypocrisies of college athletics. The author details a multitude of scandals involving seedy recruiting, nefarious boosters and academic fraud. The narrative winds to a damning conclusion: "[T]hanks to the influence of the colleges, there is growing up a class of students tainted with commercialism."

You might think I'm referring to the essay by Taylor Branch that was published last week in The Atlantic under the headline "The Shame Of College Sports." But I'm not. I'm actually referring to an article that appeared in the June 1905 edition of McClure's, a prestigious monthly academic journal. The two-part series, authored by a former Harvard football player named Henry Beach Needham, makes a compelling case that the enterprise of amateur athletics is doomed. In The Atlantic, Branch also writes that "scandal after scandal has rocked college sports," but while that phrase implies this is a recent trend, Needham shows us that it actually extends back more than a century.

I mention this as a counterweight to the prevailing conventional wisdom -- namely, that the publication of Branch's article is a landmark event that has skewered the NCAA's bogus amateurism model for good. The piece has certainly spurred much discussion. A post on The New Yorker's website deemed it a "watershed." Jeff MacGregor of suggested "a kind of cultural critical mass has finally been reached." Frank Deford called it "the most important article ever written about college sports." From NPR to MSNBC to Business Insider to every sport outlet in between, the story has been hailed as a slam-dunk, once-and-for-all indictment of the NCAA.

To be sure, Branch's article represents a brilliant piece of reporting, which is not surprising considering he won a Pulitzer Prize for his three-volume series on the American civil rights movement. Branch lays out in fascinating detail the structural and legal history of the NCAA that has led us to this point. However, when it comes to analysis, fairness and context, Branch's work leaves much to be desired. If there is a reasonable counter-argument to be made, Branch ignores it. If there is a fact that contradicts his conclusions, he omits it.
Branch has published a rejoinder, and here is an excerpt:
The nub of our dispute is over the general terms of service for college athletes. Davis says I overlook the fact that athletes are paid already with scholarship packages, while I say these in-kind benefits beg the fundamental question of whether the colleges and the athletes should be free to bargain for more or less.

To insist that athletic scholarships settle the compensation issue is like saying that any worker who gets medical coverage doesn’t need or deserve a salary. Worse, the NCAA demands adherence to this absurd standard by forbidding both sides to negotiate changes. Non-playing adults thus reserve to themselves all the wealth generated by college sports, whereas the NCAA punishes highly-valued athletes (famously the Georgia Bulldogs receiver A. J. Green last year) even for selling an old jersey.

Davis argues that scholarships are more than enough. (“If anything,” he writes, “most of these guys are overpaid.”) This is a convenient perspective for those who enjoy or benefit from the current structure, but that doesn’t make it fair. The NCAA’s unique amateur rules are imposed by private collusion of the colleges without sanction in law. College players, unlike Olympic athletes, are excluded from NCAA membership and from all rights of due process by the consortium that tries to govern them.

To me, the basics of genuine reform are simple. No college should be required to pay or not to pay students who play for them in any sport. Athletes should have the rights other citizens take for granted, and should be represented in every organization that depends upon their skill and devotion. We are the only country in the world that hosts professionalized sports at institutions of higher learning. There are profound questions about whether these two missions can or should coexist, but genuine education will not begin until we stop pretending that compensation itself makes college athletes “dirty.”

I invite Seth Davis to meet me in any verbal forum that can substitute for mid-court or the fifty-yard line. There we can trade questions and answers openly. He can cross-examine me on any argument or fact in my survey of college sports from the Civil War to Cam Newton. We may have fun, because the arena is inherently colorful and wondrous, but I will challenge him to declare his basic premise. Exactly how does he justify fastening amateurism on somebody else, and on college athletes alone? By what presumption must we all be satisfied that they are not earning too much? Here’s hoping that Davis and I can push forward in constructive debate.
I think I know who would win this debate.

Theater of the Absurd

USA Today reports on the latest goings on in college football realignment:
The theater of the absurd that is college football expansion got even more ridiculous Wednesday. After three U.S. senators, nine Big 12 Conference schools and one billionaire booster wrestled with whether West Virginia or Louisville should join the league, the result is expected to remain the same.
The New York Times provided the details on the squabbling among US senators:
Two other people with direct knowledge said that the lobbying of the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, had helped Louisville. His communication with Oklahoma’s president, David Boren, a former senator, and Texas Tech’s chancellor, Kent Hance, a former congressman, played a role in raising Louisville’s fortunes. Hance confirmed that McConnell called him to push Louisville.

Although West Virginia still has a chance to join the Big 12, news of Louisville’s emergence sent a shock through the state.

“If a United States senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made, then I believe that there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth,” Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said in a statement. “West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”
Politics interfering with our college sports? Here is one response to that view:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

University Spending on Athletes vs. Other Students

Universities with big time college sports programs have seen spending on athletes ("student-athletes" in the vernacular) increase at a much faster rate than academic spending on students as a whole:
Athletic programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision spent on athletes at a rate that far outpaced academic spending per student during a recent five-year period, according to new research reported by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Spending per athlete grew by 50 percent in the FBS during the five-year period, while academic spending per student increased by 22 percent . . .
It should not be a surprise that the NCAA proposal to increase support for student-athletes has faced some oppostion on campus:
Mike Martin, chancellor of Louisiana State University, said that faculties on many campuses are pushing back against excessive spending on sports. “I’ve got 1,400 faculty who would love to get $2,000 more a year, having gone four years without any pay raises,” he said. “We say athletes need the full cost of attendance, but you may not need the full cost of living.”
Eventually, universities will come to realize that tapping the untapped value of their "student-athletes" is in everyone's best interests. But they are not there yet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jens Sejer Andersen on FIFA Reform Process

Jens Sejer Andersen of Play the Game has written a hard hitting but very fair perspective on FIFA's proposed reforms. In addition, Andersen asks whether the role that Transparency International is playing is actually constructive.  Here is an excerpt:
In a very personal appeal the new communications director of FIFA, Walter di Gregorio, repeated the appeal to the media that he also brought to Play the Game 2011 lately: Give us credit, judge us by the facts.

That is a very legitimate claim. But it is up to FIFA to start providing facts instead of doing everything in its power to conceal and manipulate facts. At this stage we have heard so few new facts that there is no basis for renewing the judgments.

Time is running out for FIFA to be believed. Blatter gave a hint that the independent body which will perhaps be chosen to look at the ISL files will also be able to deal with other matters that FIFA’s own legal bodies cannot deal with.

We can only hope this hint will become reality “before the end of the year” as Blatter said.

No reform of FIFA will be successful if it is based on oppression of facts and attempts to push inconvenient stories into oblivion. The ghosts will return, sooner or later, if not exposed to daylight. 

So far, the fact you can derive from the press conference is that FIFA is singing the same refrain as it has done every time corruption charges have become too serious to ignore: Change will come. Once in the future. Commissions will work. Trust us.
Here is an idea, why not Lord Triesman on the FIFA Good Governance Committee?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

FIFA's Good Governance Committee and Conflicts of Interest

Last Friday, FIFA announced that it was going to establish an "independent" and "transparent" advisory committee to guide its reform process -- the Good Governance Committee. Lucky for me and for FIFA, I happen to have some expertise in the empanelment of expert advisory committees.

A first thing to look for as FIFA establishes the committee will be to see if it enforces a conflict of interest policy for the panel. It would seem obvious that including individuals on the committee who have an employment, business or other formal relationship with FIFA or its member confederations would diminish the independence (perceived or actual) of the committee. Good governance procedures should start with the creation of the Good Governance Committee.

What is a conflict of interest?

The US National Academy of Sciences, which routinely empanels advisory committees, provides a useful definition (here in PDF):
It is essential that the work of committees of the institution used in the development of reports not be compromised by any significant conflict of interest. For this purpose, the term "conflict of interest" means any financial or other interest which conflicts with the service of the individual because it (1) could significantly impair the individual's objectivity or (2) could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. Except for those situations in which the institution determines that a conflict of interest is unavoidable and promptly and publicly discloses the conflict of interest, no individual can be appointed to serve (or continue to serve) on a committee of the institution used in the development of reports if the individual has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the functions to be performed.
I would not be surprised if FIFA has little awareness of issues of conflict of interest, as it has rarely if ever sought to formally solicit independent advice. However, since FIFA is being advised by Transparency International, there is a good chance that such issues will be brought to their attention. As well, the media who cover FIFA might also press the organization on how it plans to ensure the independence of its Good Governance Committee, including its management of issues of conflict of interest.

A committee that I served on of the Bipartisan Policy Center a few years ago wrote a report on expert advisory committees and emphasized the importance of transparency in disclosure of actual or potential financial conflicts of interest (here in PDF).

An early indication of the seriousness with which FIFA is taking its Good Governance Committee will be whether it clearly delineates and applies a conflict of interest policy, including full disclosure of potential conflicts. Such a move will enhance the credibility of FIFA's steps towards reform by providing a public assurance in the actual independence of the advisory body. Should FIFA not take such steps its efforts at reform will be rightly questioned from the outset.

Here are a few more details from the US NAS on conflicts of interest as related to advisory committees:
General Principles

The term "conflict of interest" means something more than individual bias. There must be an interest, ordinarily financial, that could be directly affected by the work of the committee. Conflict of interest requirements are objective and prophylactic. They are not an assessment of one's actual behavior or character, one's ability to act objectively despite the conflicting interest, or one's relative insensitivity to particular dollar amounts of specific assets because of one's personal wealth. Conflict of interest requirements are objective standards designed to eliminate certain specific, potentially compromising situations from arising, and thereby to protect the individual, the other members of the committee, the institution, and the public interest. The individual, the committee, and the institution should not be placed in a situation where others could reasonably question, and perhaps discount or dismiss, the work of the committee simply because of the existence of such conflicting interests.

The term "conflict of interest" applies only to current interests. It does not apply to past interests that have expired, no longer exist, and cannot reasonably affect current behavior. Nor does it apply to possible interests that may arise in the future but do not currently exist, because such future interests are inherently speculative and uncertain. For example, a pending formal or informal application for a particular job is a current interest, but the mere possibility that one might apply for such a job in the future is not a current interest.

The term "conflict of interest" applies not only to the personal financial interests of the individual but also to the interests of others with whom the individual has substantial common financial interests if these interests are relevant to the functions to be performed. Thus, in assessing an individual's potential conflicts of interest, consideration must be given not only to the interests of the individual but also to the interests of the individual's spouse and minor children, the individual's employer, the individual's business partners, and others with whom the individual has substantial common financial interests. Consideration must also be given to the interests of those for whom one is acting in a fiduciary or similar capacity (e.g., being an officer or director of a corporation, whether profit or nonprofit, or serving as a trustee).

Financial Interests

The term "conflict of interest" as used herein ordinarily refers to financial conflicts of interest. In assessing potential conflicts of interest in connection with an individual's service on a committee of the institution used in the development of reports for sponsors, particular attention will be given to the following kinds of financial interests if they are relevant to the functions to be performed: employment relationships (including private and public sector employment and self-employment); consulting relationships (including commercial and professional consulting and service arrangements, scientific and technical advisory board memberships, and serving as an expert witness in litigation); stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments and investments including partnerships; real estate investments; patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property interests; commercial business ownership and investment interests; services provided in exchange for honorariums and travel expense reimbursements; research funding and other forms of research support.

Friday, October 21, 2011

FIFA Reforms: Ask Us About Them in March 2012

UPDATE #3: Play the Game provides an overview of reactions here.

UPDATE #2: Transparency International says let's wait and see.

UPDATE: FIFA has made its press pack available as a PDF here.

The image above comes from the FIFA press conference today in which Sepp Blatter announced a reform agenda for FIFA. The "Road Map Good Governance" includes the establishment of 4 Task Forces and a "Committee Good Governance" to provide recommendations to the FIFA Executive Committee. No specific reforms have been adopted.  Blatter explained to the press that they should come back next March and ask him about them then, implying that changes would be in place by that time.

In the press conference Blatter was asked about the details "Committee Good Governance" and he replied that it would have the following characteristics:
  • 15-18 members
  • independent, transparent
  • will take up the committee with Transparency International
  • wants TI on committee
  • empaneled by December 31
  • first meeting in February
  • first report in March
  • someone in a parliament or a minister
Blatter apologized for earlier invoking Henry Kissinger and other big names (Placido Domingo and Johann Cryuff). Blatter did not seem to have given much thought to the committee or its role and De Gregorio appeared to hasten the end of Blatter's meandering reply to this question.

It will be interesting to see how TI responds to the FIFA proposals, because FIFA has rejected the top-line TI recommendation " to carry out comprehensive governance reforms overseen by a group composed of representatives from outside FIFA (elder statesmen, sponsors, media and civil society) and inside football (federations, clubs, professional leagues, players, women’s football, referees, supporters) in a way that ensures its independence." Will TI allow itself to be co-opted into a process that appears minimalist at best?

The FIFA proposals, while perhaps a small positive step, do not involve the establishment of an independent group.  Indeed the new Task Forces and Committee will be bodies that are created by and report to the FIFA Executive Committee.

In short, FIFA has not yet embarked on a reform agenda. It has set up a few advisory task forces and committees to propose reforms. While new FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio's plea to give FIFA time is noted, the bottom line is that today, nothing has changed. While some will point to the announced release of the ISL court documents as a positive step (and indeed it is) it hardly makes up for the fact that governance reform remains off in the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

End Relegation? Don't Think So

The BBC reports that some Premier League owners are making noises about ending the practice of relegation and promotion:
Several foreign-owned Premier League clubs want to scrap relegation, according to League Managers Association (LMA) chief Richard Bevan.

Bevan fears that if more clubs are sold to foreign investors they may have enough votes to force changes.

But the Premier League said relegation and promotion were part of its rules and added to the league's strength.

Bevan hopes that a parliamentary inquiry into football governance would also help prevent the proposal.

"We're very keen that the report is successful in helping the Football Association introduce a licensing programme for clubs," he said.

"Because there are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League.

"If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen."
I'm not sure what to make of this, and neither apaprently does Bevan or anyone else:
The Premier League clubs have not formally discussed any such move since Bolton chairman Phil Gartside proposed his two-tiered structure two years ago, an idea which was soon dismissed.

However, Bevan still believes it is a possibility, arguing any new owner of a Premier League club would not need to be foreign for them to see there would be money to be made from scrapping relegation.

"It doesn't really matter if you're from overseas or not, does it?" he said. "It doesn't matter whether you're from Birmingham or you're from Burma."

A Premier League spokesman said that they did not recognise LMA chief executive Bevan's claims, which come a week after the government demanded changes to the way that football is run.
Change appears to be coming to European football, and everyone is trying to position themselves for the unknown. But ending relegation and promotion seems far-fetched by any criteria.

What Will FIFA Do?

Tomorrow is the day that FIFA is expected to release its plan for reform.  The BBC explains what is at stake:
Having overseen the biggest crisis in Fifa's history, Sepp Blatter knows the next two days could well shape his legacy after 13 years at the top of world football.

If Fifa's president produces a series of serious measures which back up the zero-tolerance rhetoric we have been hearing for so long now, there might just be a chance he will be given the credit for cleaning up the discredited organisation.

Fail to deliver on his promises of reform and the damage to Blatter's already-tarnished reputation may be beyond repair.
This BBC interview with new FIFA VP Jim Boyce provides some optimism that fresh voices can indeed help to foster change.  That said, I'll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jack Warner Responds: A Tsunami is Coming

Jack Warner, the former FIFA official now banned for corruption, has written a letter to the Trinidad and Tobego Guardian in which he claims that "a tsunami that would hit the FIFA, and indeed, it will come." Here is an excerpt:
What is now even more interesting is that in spite of being a senior FIFA official for 23 years and serving as the FIFA’s 8th president for a period of 13 years, Sepp Blatter now suddenly sees the need to reform the FIFA from within in his last term of office and in the sunset of his days. This is hypocritical to say the least for it is public knowledge that his four terms of office have been dogged with controversy and allegations of corruption to which he has never responded. Why now I ask? But of this I will have much more to say.
I wonder why Warner is holding out on releasing his information, does he think that the threats will deliver a reprieve?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Take the Money and Run

In the video above, Jack Warner urges FIFA delegates to just take the money (cash in brown paper bags in lieu of silver trinkets of equal value). The most telling part is his characterization of the monetized trinkets as money for "football development." Perhaps says something about broader FIFA expenditures?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You'll Never Walk Alone (Unless it is Away from TV Rights Sharing)

More tremors.  Liverpool floats an idea:
Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, has insisted the break-up of the established broadcasting deal, worth £3.2bn in total to all Premier League clubs for 2010‑13, is "a debate that has to happen", with the Anfield club in favour of the Spanish model that allows Barcelona and Real Madrid to negotiate individual contracts that dwarf their domestic and European rivals.

Since the Premier League's foundation in 1992 its success has been largely based on the principle of collective selling, where each club no matter how lowly can expect a fixed share of TV deals with "merit" awards for finishing positions as an add‑on. Changing this model would risk revolt from the smaller clubs who stand to lose most, and thus threatens the league's very structure.

At present, the Premier League sells domestic and overseas broadcasting rights collectively and more than doubled international revenue in its last negotiations, from £625m for 2007‑10 to £1.4bn for 2010‑13. With the Premier League shown in 212 countries and having 98 broadcast partners around the world, it is expected the next deal will show a similar increase, with overseas rights potentially worth more than domestic for the first time.

Ayre believes the Premier League's four biggest global draws – Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – deserve an increased share from 2013, with overseas broadcasting having a greater influence on the Anfield club's financial future than a new stadium. "Personally I think the game-changer is going out and recognising our brand globally," said the Liverpool managing director. "Maybe the path will be individual TV rights like they do in Spain. There are so many things moving in that particular area.

"What is absolutely certain is that, with the greatest of respect to our colleagues in the Premier League, but if you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton. Everyone gets that. Likewise, if you're a Liverpool fan from Liverpool, you subscribe. But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to Astro, or ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it's a very small number. Whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

News Roundup: Romario, the FA Bid, and that White Elephant

Some various news today . . .

In Brazil, former World Cup star Romario, who is now a member of the Brazilian congress, takes sharp issue with FIFA's demands that various Brazilian laws be suspended for the World Cup:
The Brazilian congress is currently debating a bill that would meet Fifa's conditions for the tournament.

Romario, 45, led Brazil's attack when they won the World Cup in 1994.

The former star was speaking on a visit to Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium, which is being refurbished for the tournament.

"If Fifa is not put in its rightful place it will soon have more power than our president," he told journalists.

Romario said Fifa could bear the cost of maintaining discounted tickets for students and pensioners during the tournaments estimated at around $100m (£64m).

"Fifa could earn a little bit less so that the Brazilians can take part," he said.

Fifa says the money it makes from World Cup tournaments is reinvested in football.Earlier Romario expressed himself more strongly on his Twitter account.

"Brazil needs to stop this business of becoming a slave of Fifa," he tweeted.

"The sovereignty of the country must be respected".
England's FA has released details on the full cost of their failed 2018 World Cup bid, from insideworldfootball:
Four days after Sport and Olympics Minister High Robertson described England's doomed 2018 World Cup bid as the "biggest single failure" of his ministerial career, it was revealed today that the bid cost £6 million ($9.5 million/€7 million) more than everyone had been led to believe.

According to just-released Football Association accounts, the actual amount was £21 million ($33 million/€24 million), not the £15 million ($23.5 million/€17 million) that has been widely reported for months.

England gained just two votes in December including that of their own FIFA vice-president at the time, Geoff Thompson, despite campaign lobbyists criss-crossing the globe to try and garner votes at huge expense. . .

"When I look back on it now, I wish we had the gumption or the knowledge to realise at a very early stage that FIFA wanted something fundamentally different than what we were putting on the table," [Robertson] said.

"I wish we had had foresight to appreciate that earlier in order to stop the investment of £15 million."

England's spending per vote won was the highest of any bidding country apart from Australia, who forked out a monstrous £28 million ($44 million/€32 million) on their 2022 campaign and won just a single vote.
I discussed Australia's failed bid not long ago here.

Finally, the London Olympic stadium deal with West ham has collapsed today. British sports minister Hugh Robertson says:
British sports minister Hugh Robertson said. "We know there is huge interest in the stadium out there from private operators and football clubs and crucially we remove any uncertainty.

"This is not a white elephant stadium where no one wants it, we have had two big clubs fighting tooth and nail to get it."
I wonder where the stadium will eventually rank on PTG's "White Elephant" Index?

Monday, October 10, 2011

FC Sion vs. UEFA Heats Up

The legal battle between Swiss club FC Sion and UEFA is coming to a head (an earlier discussion is here). The dispute centers on the expulsion of FC Sion from the Europa League competition due to what UEFA claims was the fielding of six ineligible players, whereas FC Sion argues that they were in fact eligible. After the expulsion, FC Sion took UEFA to court in the Swiss canton where it is located and, so far, has found sympathy.

For its part, FC Sion has declared total victory after a Swiss court ruled that UEFA must readmit the club to the Europa League, and has ordered UEFA to pay FC Sion's court costs and imposed a daily fine (1,000 Swiss Francs, the maximum penalty) for each day of noncompliance.

On the other side, UEFA has appealed to the European Union to create an exemption for UEFA from civil lawsuits, which won't help in the current case as Switzerland is not in the EU:
[UEFA President Michel] Platini feels other teams could follow suit if excluded from European competition.

"I know the clubs will take us to court," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's the first thing they will do.

"That's why I went to [EC President José Manuel] Barroso [pictured left] and asked him for judicial protection.

"I told him: 'If you believe in what I'm doing for football, then you have to protect me, otherwise it's going to be difficult.'
FC Sion was also disputing the ineligibility of  the the six players with the Swiss league where the team plays. The club had taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the league relented and has declared the players eligible. Thus, FC Sion dropped the CAS action.

What are the possible outcomes here?  I can think of at least three.

One is that UEFA relents and follows the court order. This seems unlikely, given the statements made by UEFA so far.

A second is that the case is pushed in the courts to a final resolution (via appeal to the highest jurisdiction), and ultimately either FC Sion or UEFA will emerge victorious. This strategy bears great risks for UEFA, but a resolution in their favor would be their most preferred outcome.

A third is that UEFA begrudgingly admits FC Sion to the Europa League group as a fifth team, along with Celtic, and cheers loudly for them to crash out of the competition, while in parallel pressuring Swiss and EU authorities to rejigger the rules to prevent such conflicts in the future.

However this conflict it resolved, it will mark an important precedent in the rising battle of lex sportive and lex imperium.

Will TV Money Reshape European Football?

When I ask people who know much more than I do about European football there is a consensus that the answer is "no -- things will stay much the same."  Perhaps my views are overly influenced by the havoc in US college sports that has resulted from the scramble for TV money.  But I do see potential for major change to take place within the UEFA leagues, motivated by TV revenues. The latest data point comes from the EU Parliament:
The European Parliament is set to put forward a motion which will pressure La Liga to introduce a collective television deal in order to tackle the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain's top division.
Individual television rights deals are negotiated by Spanish clubs at present, meaning Barcelona and Real Madrid, with the largest fan bases and who can count on the support of 57 per cent of football fans in the country - according to a 2007 survey - can rake in far more revenue than any rival.

Each year the duo make approximately €120 and €140 million (£105 million-£122 million/$162 million-$189 million) from television rights, with the next highest recipient being Valencia - the last team to win La Liga in 2004 - who receive just over €40 million (£37 million/$57 million).

A new deal last year, which was still based on individual rights, was agreed by most Spanish clubs and would see the big two's dominance reduced slightly, but would mean they still take 34 per cent of all television rights money.

Valencia and Atlético Madrid would then share 11 per cent between them, and the rest of the division the remaining 55 per cent.

Though UEFA is powerless in the matter, they are keen to help influence a new collective television deal in Spain . . .
UEFA clearly desires consolidation of TV rights, and such consolidation will make it more likely that leagues will see integration via revenue sharing, and down that slippery slope lies the possibility of new forms of cross-league competition if not realignment.  Far fetched?  Maybe.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Closing the Books on PTG 2011

Well I had a great week. I met a lot of smart and interesting people, presented my first academic paper on sports governance and learned an awful lot.

Thanks especially to Jens Sejer Andersen and colleagues both for organizing a really great conference, but also (and with sincere gratitude) for allowing an academic policy wonk from Colorado to present some new research on FIFA governance in the milieu of seasoned professionals and insiders.

Blogging around here next week will return to its normal pace, though there is no shortage of topics and issues to discuss. I do have a title for my next paper on sports governance, building on a ongoing discussion here -- Lex Sportiva vs. Lex Imperium. That is indeed where a lot of the action is going to be in the rapidly evolving context of international sports governance. Stay tuned, much more to come.

Now I must finish up a presentation on rates of decarbonization across the Canadian provinces, complete a short essay about the L'Aquila earthquake prediction and lawsuit episode and prepare an invited piece for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the relationship of scientists and politicians ... the sport break, it appears, is now over!

About that FIFA Scrum

As mentioned yesterdayPTG even issued a press release about it, which if anything understates things:
FIFA and Jennings clash over claims that FIFA is like the mafia

In a sensational session at Play the Game, FIFA’s new communications director, Walter De Gregorio, confronted Andrew Jennings during a session on corruption in FIFA and refuted the veteran investigative journalist’s claim that he was banned from the world body for his tough line on questioning corruption claims.

De Gregorio insisted that Jennings was banned from FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich for making press conferences “his own platform” and taking up too much time in sessions that are strictly limited to 15 minutes.
Jennings vehemently denied this suggestion, insisting that his behavior had always been “polite”, and told De Gregorio that he had been banned after writing a story on a personal bonus paid to by FIFA to President Sepp Blatter.

The pair initially clashed after Jennings claimed that FIFA met all the definitions of the mafia with an all-powerful don surrounded “by greedy crooks”, provision of “protection” and a code of “omerta” that silenced any whistleblowers through exile.

De Gregorio, who only signed up for the conference two days earlier, was picked out in the audience by Jennings and challenged.

De Gregorio took the microphone and told Jennings and a packed audience: “Mafia killed and raped thousands of people. It’s disrespectful to FIFA and to people who lost their lives.”

The former editor of Swiss newspaper Blick, De Gregorio only started working at FIFA this week. After the session, he told a throng of reporters that Blatter had personally wished him “Good luck” after telling the FIFA supremo that he was coming to Cologne for Play the Game for a session on FIFA.

De Gregorio insisted to reporters that, now on the inside, he did criticize FIFA and asked “difficult questions”. He added that “FIFA is very complex” and very different on the inside to the public perception.

Media coalition files for release of files
The session was left in little doubt to Jennings’ perception of the world body. The English journalist said that he was confident a challenge to a Swiss court to release sealed documents relating to the case involving FIFA, kickbacks for media rights and the failed marketing group ISL would eventually be released.

The case, which was closed last year, involved compensation and allegedly cleared Blatter and two other unnamed executives. Jennings questioned why documents for a case that allegedly cleared those involved should be suppressed. He is leading a coalition of media organizations, including the BBC, fighting a Zug court to release the documents – a challenge that FIFA is opposing.

“Why are FIFA spending money on expensive lawyers to suppress documents?” asked Jennings, who waved a paper at De Gregorio listing 167 bribe payments over the ISL case and warned the FIFA communications director: “There is more coming.”

Proof will come
Jennings was joined on stage by German investigative journalist Jens Weinreich who, like his English colleague, also recounted details of how he has been exiled from FIFA’s headquarters for asking difficult questions about corruption.

The pair both told the audience that further revelations about FIFA would be coming out soon.
Weinreich earlier claimed that the cost of buying a vote during the recent shambolic World Cup bid process was 20 million US dollars, which was “often transferred to secret tax havens.”

"I am hearing a lot about one-day accounts, one-day companies,” added Weinreich. “This is more complicated than money in brown envelopes pushed under doors. Can we prove it? Not just now.”
Weinreich called for the formation of a wide-ranging commission of law enforcement agencies, forensic accountants and members of the media to combat the corruption in FIFA.

Jennings and Weinreich both agreed that all FFA documentation should be put on line and meetings of bodies, such as the ethics committee, should be streamed over the Internet.

“There’s a need for total transparency and right now, I don’t see any” said Weinreich, who added: “Interpol should investigate FIFA.”
Below are Jennings and De Gregorio exchanging views after the session, a sight not likely to be seen again anytime soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

FIFA Under Fire

From today's sessions on FIFA, here are the videos. If you want to skip to the juicy stuff, start with numbers 3 and 4 below. My talk is somewhere in Number 1.

Watch live streaming video from playthegame_dshs at

Watch live streaming video from playthegame_dshs at

Watch live streaming video from playthegame_dshs at

Watch live streaming video from playthegame_dshs at

Sometimes a Rare Event is Just Rare

At PTG, I just saw a talk by Katarina Pijetlovic of Tallinn University of Technology, on alleged irregularities in ITF draws for Wimbledon and the US and Australian Opens.  Apparently, in the past 12 of these events Roger Federer and Novak Djoikovic were drawn into the same half of the tournament and Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal were drawn into the same half of the draw.

In any one event the odds of such an outcome are 1 in 2, and across 12 such events, 1 in 4,096 (0.5 to the 12).  The suspicion, Pijetlovic explains, is that there was some nefarious goings on in the draw process.  She pointed to a recent analysis by ESPN of tennis draws which showed that the US Open draws were outliers with respect to the low ranking of players faced by the top seeded player in the first round.

What is going on here? Cheating? Subterfuge?

Pijetlovic expressed doubt because the drawn are done in public with a person (usually a former tennis player) pulling names out of a container (often a trophy).  But still, she said . . .

I for one am not convinced by either of these analyses that there is anything here as they lack a coherent theory  - What benefit would conferred to the tournament?  Is there collusion across tournaments to pair Feder/Djoikovic and Roddick/Nadal?  Why connect the US Open draws with the top 4 seeds across three tournaments?  Why neglect the French Open?

I asked Pijetlovic about it in the Q&A and she said that the statistics were not impossible but were improbable. Fair enough. But there are an awful lot of things that happen in sport. Some much so that rare events are sometimes observed and the joint probability of rare but otherwise unconnected events will be smaller still.

To observe a rare event (or several) and to conclude that there is more to it requires more than just rareness. Otherwise it is just data mining. Sometimes, the luck of the draw is just the luck of the draw.

A FIFA Scrum

As I write this post, a few feet to my left is an impromptu discussion involving Andrew Jennings, Jens Weinreich and FIFA director of communications, Walter De Gregorio (who apparently just started on Monday), surrounded by dozens of conference participants. I can hear De Gregorio repeating that he is not here at the Play the Game conference to deliver any message.  Based on his remarks during the session, I think that he already has. More on that later.  I'll post up the video of the Jennings-Weinrech session and the FIFA non-message message when PTG has it ready.  It is really remarkable.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

FIFA is Just the Most Visible Sports Governance Challenge

Yesterday I saw an eye-opening talk by Nikki Dryden, a former Olympic swimmer and currently a humans rights lawyer, on the governance of FINA -- Fédération Internationale de Natation -- which oversees international swimming competitions under the auspices of the IOC (more details here).

Here is an excerpt from the PTG press release on Dryden's presentation:
At what point do sports’ governing bodies stop serving the athletes they represent, and start to serve themselves? Nikki Dryden, a New York-based human rights attorney and former Olympic swimmer, told Play the Game that the actions of world swimming’s governing body appear to put it firmly in the latter category.
When Dryden was enjoying a successful swimming career, she had little time to focus on the financial affairs of FINA. However, since she ended top level competition, she has seen her sport’s governing body become richer, more secretive and less accountable.

FINA has 22 full time staff, and its administrative budget for 2008 was $3.3 million, she pointed out. However, the organisation’s increasingly hefty revenues are not being reflected in its funding for development programmes and provision of prize money.

In 2005, FINA ended the year with excess funds of USD 9 million, but spent just USD 300,000 on development programmes, Dryden said. In some cases, she added, basic safety safeguards, such as equipping lifeguards with binoculars, are being compromised, while at the same time, athletes are increasingly being forced to wear the logos of FINA and its sponsors.

The Goldman Dilemma

I learned of the "Goldman Dilemma" from Perikles Simon's fascinating talk on doping at PTG today. Here is how the dilemma was characterized in the NYT last year:
There’s a well-known survey in sports, known as the Goldman Dilemma. For it, a researcher, Bob Goldman, began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were quite ready to take the bargain.

Only recently did researchers get around to asking nonathletes the same question. In results published online in February, 2009 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exactly 2 of the 250 people surveyed in Sydney, Australia, said that they would take a drug that would ensure both success and an early death. “We were surprised,” James Connor, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of New South Wales and one of the study’s authors, said in an e-mail message. “I expected 10-20 percent yes.” His conclusion, unassailable if inexplicable, is that “elite athletes are different from the general population, especially on desire to win.”
In an op-ed several years back I used former American football player Ronnie Lott's pinkie as a way to explain the debate over stem cells.  Lott famously had the tip of his pinkie cut off after the 1985 season. I used the example to segregate people into categories of "Stalwarts" and "Dealers" -- the former would refuse to trade a pinky regardless of the benefits, whereas the latter have their price. Elite athletes are apparently Dealers, making regulation of doping a difficult challenge at best, hence the dilemma.

Simon cites this paper as offering the best evidence of blood doping in track and field athletes -- a 14% occurrence rate.

My op-ed on stems cells and Ronnie Lott's pinkie can be found here in PDF.

The Broader Implications of the ECJ Decision on TV Rights

The FT opines on yesterday's decision by the European Court of Justice on television broadcasts of Premier League games:
The decision by the European Court of Justice that the League cannot grant exclusive licences to broadcasters if that means banning the import or supply of foreign decoders mean that Europe’s fans now have the right to shop around for a cheap foreign decoder, to circumvent high-priced pay TV subscriptions at home. Some believe the ruling may also strike a blow against the grip of mighty broadcasters, such as BSkyB, on the beautiful game. That may be welcome. But the more important point is that the ECJ has reaffirmed the fundamental principle of free movement of goods and services. The court has clearly declared that protection of intellectual property is not sufficient justification to impede the internal market ...
Informed observers are still working through the implications of this legal decision. But it seems clear that one consequence will be a move away from country-specific television contracts toward EU-wide contracts. EU-wide contracts open the door to domestic league partnerships, in order to better capture the uneven value of broadcasts, consider:
Of the £3.4bn revenues [the Premeir League] agreed for their 2010-13 TV rights, £2bn came from the UK and about £350m from continental Europe.
Presumably a similar ratio exists from other national settings.

If so, then league partnerships could open the door to revenue sharing via jointly packaged television contracts. League revenue-sharing partnerships might be another step toward some form of integration of European football.

So while UEFA is probably dealing with the consequences of the ruling for its own rights to Champions League matches, now negotiated on a country-by-country basis, UEFA is probably also thinking about the implications for European football more broadly. The economic integration of European football can only be welcomed by UEFA, as it enhances its role at the expense of its member associations.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Financial Fair Play: What is the Problem?

Before this afternoon's panel at PTG on Financial Fair Play in UEFA, I thought I had a pretty good sense of the issue. I'm not so sure after hearing from Sefton Perry (UEFA Club Licensing), Christian Müller (former CFO of the German Football League), John Beech (Coventry University) and Stephan Szymanski (University of Michigan).

Szymanski (right) opened the discussion by reminding the audience of the simple economics of football, which are:
  • Spending on salaries leads to winning
  • Winning leads to revenues
He showed a version of this figure (Figure 3.1 from Soccernomics with Simon Kuper) which illustrates the relationship of wages and performance in the English Premier League:
UEFA has also published similar data for the top leagues across Europe.
Szymanski also showed data relating winning to revenues. With this as background he pointed to the fact that despite the reality that clubs often have financial troubles, they rarely disappear.  In fact, he said, in England's top four divisions since 1982 68 teams have gone into receivership but only 2 folded -- only to be reincorporated again.

So what problem is it that UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations are trying to solve?

To answer this question, Szymanski points us toward Article 2(2) of the UEFA FFP regulations which outline the financial goals as follows (p. 2 here in PDF):
a) to improve the economic and financial capability of the clubs, increasing their transparency and credibility;
b) to place the necessary importance on the protection of creditors by ensuring that clubs settle their liabilities with players, social/tax authorities and other clubs punctually;
c) to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances;
d) to encourage clubs to operate on the basis of their own revenues;
e) to encourage responsible spending for the long-term benefit of football;
f) to protect the long-term viability and sustainability of European club football.
Obviously, the goals of FFP are not to address the financial status of the vast majority of teams in the lower portion of league tables (those most at risk of going bankrupt) -- UEFA's Perry pointed out that the FFP regulations apply only to the top 233 teams that participate in UEFA club competitions out of the 700 some odd top level European football clubs.

During the panel the frequent use of term "financial doping" and frequent references to Roman Abramovitch, Manchester City and "sugar daddies" made it seem that the problem is one of perceived unfair economic competition off the pitch, which is both an ethical issue and one that poses real risks to clubs and their supporters, especially if owners finance spending sprees via debt rather than equity, and then leave long-term supporters to deal with the consequences.

But if this is the problem, then the solution would seem to be straightforward -- implement a salary cap, rather than the arcane, complex and eminently game-able FFP regulations that UEFA is now putting into place. I say straightforward not as a matter of economic theory, which seems sound enough, but due to the fact that numerous sports leagues around the world have chosen to implement salary caps of one sort or another --including those in North America, Australia and even in Russian hockey and English rugby.

Note that some European football connoisseurs are dismissive of the salary cap as being too "American." The regulation-promotion system, they argue, does not require the parity in outcomes that is desired of the American franchise system. This is well and good (I too am a fan of relegation-promotion), however insofar as FFP is concerned relegation-promotion is obviously an issue for the bottom dwellers in league tables, not for the top flight --certainly not those in the Champions and Europa leagues that is the focus of UEFA's FFP. Consider as well that English rugby has both a salary cap and promotion-relegation, with academic research suggestive of its effectiveness.

A salary cap in European football would limit the ability to buy wins (remember, salary is the main determinant of success, see the figures above) and thus revenue. So a salary-capped team would automatically put a lid on "financial doping." The obvious question is that if it makes so much sense in both theory and practice, then why is UEFA adopting FFP regulations instead?

I'd hypothesize that the answer to this question lies in the messy politics of Europe, where national associations still hold on tightly to their turf (one speaker at PTG this week characterized the national associations as still having a WWI mindset with respect to nationalism) despite appeals to a continental identity. Thus far, UEFA's efforts at consolidation/integration have been rebuffed.

Given the money at stake in pan-European competitions (e.g., in the Champions and Europa leagues) and for players (post-Bosman) no national association will implement a salary cap unilaterally, as that would simply create an incentive for its best players to move to a non-capped league. Securing agreement on a salary cap among UEFA's 53 football associations must have seemed more daunting to UEFA than the indirect approach of a more arcane regulatory system.  This may sound familiar to those familiar to European politics beyond football.

The deeper problem here of course -- and one that Szymanski hinted at -- is that there is a chance (a good one in my opinion) that UEFA's FFP regulations won't work as designed or will be deemed illegal. One need not look far to find other efforts at European integration that have papered over the actual challenges to such ties, with unfortunate consequences.

The panelists collective confusion was apparent as they ended the discussion by disagreeing as to whether Roman Abramovich's injection of funds into Chelsea was qualitatively different than Gazprom's injection of funds into Schalke. Someone broght up the notion of "true market" value of such investments as a test of their appropriateness. However, after seeing Tom Markham's presentation earlier today on football club valuation, I suspect that placing a requirement for "true market valuation" on anything related to football clubs would probably doom the enterprise forever.

PTG "White Elephant Index"

Henrik H. Brant, director of the Danish Institute for Sports Studies, just gave a preview of the Play the Game "White Elepahnt Index" which is a ranking of the utilization of major stadiums in the aftermath of mega-sporting events, such as the Olympic games and the Word Cup.

At the top of their White Elephant Index? The most successful stadium built for a mega-event is Turner Field in Atlanta, built for the 1996 Olympics, which in 2010 drew about 24,000 people per event, with more than 80 such events per year:
At the bottom of the Index? Estádio Municipal de Aveiro is a football stadium in Aveiro, Portugal built for the UEFA 2004 tournament, and drew only about 1,000 people per event in 2010.
The full index will be released in November.