Image credit: University of Twente
Year in, year out, the same few clubs dominate the national and international competition. Football isn't as much fun as it used to be, says Van der Burg, who works with the University of Twente's Centre of European Studies and is a member of the International Association of Sports Economists. The book's 29 short chapters give an outline of the economic developments in football, as well as how these could be harnessed to the benefit of the game. His book brings the scientific insight gained in this area to a wider audience by presenting it in an accessible way.
A SENSE OF TOGETHERNESS
Is European football becoming Americanized? Or, asks Van der Burg, are we going to restore the game back to its social roots? For a many years in the past, low prices and full stadiums were a reflection of football's culture of solidarity. So why did we not allow a sector that was performing brilliantly, without the intervention of profit-seeking owners, simply to retain its own character? Football fans and taxpayers are now paying ever more for a product which is not getting any better, but which in fact seems to be losing its sense of fun and excitement.
This malaise has led to a range of measures being suggested, some of which have already been implemented. The salary cap, for example. This obliges clubs to spend less on players, thus removing one of their major reasons for taking out extensive loans. It would also be simple for the European Union to ensure that the same football coverage is free in all member states, by implementing a ban on encryption for all coverage in which advertising revenues exceed production costs. This would make football cheaper and more exciting - the book explains how.
Another option to remind the sport of its social roots would be, in consultation with UEFA, to oblige all EU clubs to spend a proportion of their income on social projects, starting from 2014. The richest clubs would have to contribute the most, also as a proportion of their income.
And is any this ever likely to happen? Only if the EU wants it to, believes Van der Burg. He is aware, though, that Europe is the champion of the free market, the hard euro and budgetary discipline. But he sees this as 'a right-wing project with left-wing potential'. It would give professional football a chance to show its socially responsible side.
Tsjalle van der Burg has been writing about the economics of football for the past ten years, and his work has been published in scientific periodicals, as well as in national newspapers such as NRC Handelsblad and Trouw. He has also written a column for De Twentsche Courant Tubantia, on which this book is largely based.