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Economic Justification For High Salaries In Sport

2631 words - 11 pages

Justification of the huge salaries paid to some top athletes; an economic perspective.

Over the last century there has been much research into the area of Labour Economics, and hence the determinants of supply, demand and wages for labour. In this essay, I will be looking at the unique example of the Sports Labour Market with specific focus on the European Football Market, and use various economic models to justify the huge salaries currently offered to top athletes within this field.
The wages of professional footballers have risen dramatically since the Bosman ruling in December 1995, in which EU football players were given the right to a free transfer at the end of their ...view middle of the document...

The conventional model used to analyse wage determinants states that the demand for labour is dependent on the Marginal Revenue Product of Labour (MRP) which is “the change in revenue that results from the addition of one extra unit (employee) when all other factors are kept equal” (Investopedia, 2012). In the field of sport, the industry is in a real sense selling its athletes, hence the demand for labour is dependent on the athletes “product” which could be viewed as his or her contribution towards the teams win column. The value of a win to the sports franchise is dependent on how the fans respond when the team wins more games. This value could be realised through the many revenue streams that sports franchises currently operate, perhaps most notably in the form of increased ticket sales, increased spending on merchandise and prize money. The “Standard Model” or “Perfect Competition Model” for wage determinants assumes that the sports franchise will operate at the profit maximising level of output, i.e. when the last unit of labour that is added adds as much to the firms revenues as to its costs → MRPL = MCL as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1– PC Model
Revenue and cost

Marginal Wage Cost



Employment of labour

However, there are many limitations to this model, as the labour market for competitive athletes is far more complex. One basic argument against this model is that if in a perfectly competitive industry; firms earn abnormal profits, it assumes that more firms will enter the market and diminish these returns. Nonetheless, there are huge barriers to entry in the professional sports industry, and freedom of entry and exit does not exist. If we look at the Premier League for example, each club typically has a local monopoly, and due to the nature of the market, one firm may bid up the price of labour as it hires more units, hence in the sense it could be viewed as a monopsonistic market (R. Sandy, 2004). Furthermore, there is uncertainty over quality, as sports teams have uncertainty over both the new players they hire and even experienced players and in the PC model the quality of labour is assumed to be known to the firm. Also due to long-term contracts it is impossible to predict how their skills will deteriorate or improve over that period and if any injuries will occur. Furthermore, Players have to learn the weaknesses and strengths of their team-mates and to coordinate their strategies. A group of players who have been together for years will be much more effective than a group of equally talented individuals who have just been assembled into a team (R. Sandy, 2004).
When establishing a suitable model to justify the enormous wages paid to some top athletes, we should first consider some basic economic principles. By definition, Star players are scarce hence the supply of these star players is highly inelastic.This in itself would inflate the wage of these players, as the supply of top talent is very...

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