Pricing players: Measuring football players’ media coverage merits

This post was contributed by Nick Eisen, Business Engagement Reporter, Birkbeck School of Business, Economics and Informatics

Image under CC courtesy of Eva Rinaldi via Flickr.com

Image under CC courtesy of Eva Rinaldi via Flickr.com

Media coverage of individual footballers may be as good as – or even better than – sporting performance as a criterion for estimating those players’ monetary value in terms of the return they can bring to their teams.

This view emerged from a talk on 18 January by Dr Pedro Garcia-del-Barrio, senior lecturer in Economics and Vice-Dean at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC Barcelona).

Titled Economic Evaluation Of Football Players Through Media Value, the talk was presented by Birkbeck’s Sport Business Centre (BSBC) and facilitated by the Department of Management’s Dr Giambattista Rossi at the British Medical Association in Tavistock Square.

Measuring ‘non-sport skills’

In his talk, Dr Garcia-del-Barrio described a footballer’s media value score as the number of news stories referring to a player expressed as a multiple of the number of news stories of the average player in a sample derived from the top 2,500 individuals in a data set of more than 5,000 players. In recent years, this data set has been selected from the top English, German, Spanish, Italian and French leagues, as well as Portugal, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and teams playing in the European Championship.

According to the speaker, this method, known as MERIT (Method for Evaluation and Rating of Intangible Talent), gives an estimate of a player’s “non-sport skills”. This Merit rating could also be used to estimate a theoretical value of transfer fees for professional footballers, and could offer a basis for estimating a media value ranking of teams and leagues.

Media value can be seen as connected to sporting performance but distinct from it, and Dr Garcia-del-Barrio noted that a player’s media value is important in determining that player’s market value, because that media value could be vital in areas such as team branding, and in increasing sales of tickets, TV rights and advertising space.

Other factors affecting the calculation of transfer fees, apart from sporting performance, include contract duration, the economic status of the hiring team, the player’s age at the end of the contract and years of experience, and the player’s media value as a proportion of the team’s media value.

MERIT – advantages and shortcomings

One advantage of Merit is that it enables comparison across sports: for example, the media value of a footballer versus that of a tennis player, who could never meet in a sporting arena, but may both appear in the media arena, where their respective presences can be compared.

At the same time, different Merit values (local, regional, international, time-related and others) could be calculated for one individual. For example, the same player could have one Merit value in one country and another Merit value in a different country, where coverage of the same player could differ between the media of the two countries.

The speaker also considered Merit’s potential shortcomings, one being that it does not currently distinguish between positive and negative coverage (although what constitutes “positive” and “negative” here might perhaps require further definition).

With a wealth of graphic presentations and data, Dr Garcia-del-Barrio also illustrated how Merit valuations compared with completed transfer fees.

An attentive audience responded with some complex questions to a fascinating and demanding field of study.

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