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Economics of Soccer Discrimination




Racism is an issue that has existed for many decades in all aspects of society. From the discrimination against people in the entertainment industry to different companies, this problem has not gone away. The murder of George Floyd and many other criminal justice cases have sparked up protests around the world to bring more attention to the issue. In fact, many players in different soccer leagues such as the English Premier League take a plea to fight discrimination before the game starts. Furthermore, in a game of PSG versus Istanbul Basaksehir, players abandoned the match in respect to combat racism because of a potential racist incident off the pitch and people still walked off the soccer pitch because everyone could see the common goal, fighting racism. It is important to have a look at discrimination that has occurred in the soccer industry as there are some insights that policy makers could adapt to help society from a broader perspective.

Back in the 1900s, racism in the soccer industry and in many other countries around the world was quite clear cut. For instance, fans used to throw bananas at black people and made many disgustful actions when black players had the soccer ball with them such as monkey noises. Furthermore, many stereotypes had been promoted such as the inability of colored people to play well when they were under pressure and the inability to read the game well. However, many colored people still continued to play this sport and excel at it despite facing atrocious criticism from outsiders.

Even though racism was a major problem in the soccer industry, it is declining, and the trend can be explained by a few fundamental economics concepts. Initially, many teams in the 1970s had very few black players (English soccer) but by the 1990s, around 90% of teams had black players. This is due to the fact that teams simply wanted to win and maximize profits which is why teams with lower budgets started to hire black players as the cost of racism began to have a major trade off with winning. The economic forces of competition caused clubs to minimize discrimination and simply hire talent they saw. In soccer, it is brutally clear whether a player is good or not no matter what the color of the player is. In fact, in the 1990s, people of color started to get paid what they deserved otherwise another greedy club would want to hire it. Since the economics of competition has a major impact on which team wins and which team does not, discrimination is minimized because managers and players know what their priorities are.

While racism in soccer has seen a major downward trend over the years, women soccer still has a long way to go. After the US women national team won its fourth world cup, a lot of players from the team filed a lawsuit against the US soccer federation for equal pay. Even the economics was on the women’s side in supporting this allegation. US Women national soccer games produced more revenue than US national men soccer games by 38% despite women games being marketed a lot less than men’s. However, organizations like FIFA kept the prize pool to be $400 million for 32 men teams while only $30 million for women for women’s 24 teams. In addition, even the US men’s national team wrote a statement to the US soccer federation for equal pay! Despite multiple efforts to help close down the wage gap between men and women, the US soccer federation said that it would not pay women equally because being a male player required more level of talent. The reasoning behind the federation rejecting the lawsuit is quite baseless. First off, there has not been an official match between the US men national team and women’s national team to determine who has a better level of talent. Now even if men have a better level of talent, that should not deter the federation from giving women an equal amount of pay because US women soccer generates more money than men and they are relatively better compared to the people they play against compared to men. Even though the US women national soccer team could not be successful with the lawsuit the team filed, their crucial leadership will definitely raise important questions to be discussed in the future as their efforts are being reproduced by players around the world such as Spain, Brazil, Columbia, and Argentina.

Even though the soccer industry has to continue to combat different types of discrimination, significant progress has been made over the years such as the increased representation of colored people on professional soccer teams and the collective advocacy to solve wage discrimination by many courageous women. There has been a major shift in focus from discriminating against players to assessing the level of talent within the players themselves as competition has increased significantly among teams over the years. This is something that needs to be reproduced more around the world as there are industries who still reject people based on discriminatory practices without sometimes realizing what they are doing. Therefore, policy makers can start to adapt practices and pass laws to help make the focus of hiring people more on talent rather than other non relevant factors.

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