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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Combating Match-Fixing

This post was contributed by Noy Shani, The London Economic. The article was first posted at The London Economic on June 8

Match-fixing awareness is on the increase and a multitude of organisations are now involved in tackling the problem. The London Economic’s Noy Shani was at a special match-fixing seminar at Birkbeck, University of London and came back optimistic.

Match-fixing---FootballNew-found optimism was at its peak. Just ten minutes before the panellists and guests took their seats at the basement level of the Birkbeck lecture hall, the formerly ‘immortal’ Sepp Blatter had shocked the world of football with his decision to resign as the president of FIFA.

Seems like the perfect timing just ahead of a seminar talk about combating match-fixing in football, doesn’t it?

Two years ago Birkbeck started engaging with UEFA, the European Union and FIFPro, the world union for professional football players, and following some fascinating insight and research in the field, a new and glossy looking booklet titled ‘Don’t Fix It – Protect Our Game’ has been introduced.

The special seminar on a warm London evening featured special panel guests Kevin Carpenter – independent legal and sports consultant; Andrew Harvey – a Visiting Research Fellow from Birkbeck Sport Business Centre; and Tony Higgins – FIFPro’s European Division Vice-President.

Kicking off the panel discussion, Andy Harvey, said: “At the local level it is important to understand the main driving forces behind match-fixing.  Most of the time these are not discussed at all.  The best prevention was and remains education.

“Players need to have much more understanding about their responsibilities.  Those that get involved in match-fixing regret it afterwards, they realise they let their family members, team-mates and fans down.”

Match-fixing affects and distorts sporting events and lives worldwide.  It reduced the number of spectators watching football in countries such as Malaysia, had players banned for life and left a stain on team-mates and fans.

Worse of all, it still continues around the globe and is spreading.

Combating match-fixing

1,500 players from nine European countries were surveyed as part of the recent research.

There are of course differences between one country and another, says Tony from FIFPro.

“In some countries players do not have contracts, they are considered as entertainers and this can affect how they are getting paid.”

You will probably admit it.  If your employer stops paying you for months end, pretty soon you will be looking for some ‘side projects’.  Players in fact do the same.

“Some will resort to match-fixing so they can feed their families,” adds Tony.

No wonder than that the number one reason for players to be involved with match-fixing according to the survey is financial difficulties, topping the list with 27%, ahead of the fact it’s ‘easy money’, coming second with 22%.

Enforcement or education?

Billions are spent to combat issues like drug use and related transactions.  It does not necessarily eliminate drugs.  This model also applies to match-fixing.  Enforcement alone just won’t cut it.

There is a great deal of outside pressure on footballers from Eastern European or less developed countries, including sometimes threats to their or their loved ones’ lives, said Tony.

This is, he said, the reason why FIFPro got more involved.

So, what could still stop match-fixing?  The players surveyed believe that the number one factor, with 23%, is their personal honesty and integrity. This strengthens the view that educational programmes to combat match-fixing are the way forward.

The sort of people players trust the most in delivering such schemes are player unions and national associations.  However, reporting mechanism have proved basic or not practical, whilst organisations that do run designated hotlines don’t have enough trained staff to deal with the size of the problem.

Even if these were in place, would players actually trust them?  This remains doubtful.

36% of those surveyed said that they will not report an approach to fix a match or any suspicious of match-fixing because of lack of trust and confidentiality.

Confusion left, right and centre

The more I listen to the discussion it becomes apparent that stakeholder advocacy and involvement are required to make combating match-fixing a success.

Bear in mind, when I say success, I mean relative success.  After all, how would you even go about measuring it?  Counting the number of calls to ‘match-fixing hotlines’?

Confused?  There are many more contradicting issues also between the legal and regulatory aspects of combating match-fixing, says panellist Kevin Carpenter.

“Is there a justification for a life ban for footballers involved in match-fixing?  In criminal law you are not easily put in prison for long periods.

Carpenter also reckons that legal education in the field is too minimal.

“People don’t know how to prosecute it.  It is new and still vague.  And how do you enforce match-fixing cross borders if activity in one country affect yours?  It is not straightforward.  Some of the people involved don’t have the powers to issue warrants for instance.”

Where does this leave us?

Match-fixing and similar threats to football take many forms and involve complex sets of behaviour from many participants.

The problem cannot be resolved by one organisation or person, as the research suggests.

It requires an approach involving government, referees, fans, the European Union, clubs, FIFA and UEFA, law enforcement entities and universities.

Andy, Kevin and Tony believe there is much more awareness nowadays, more than there ever was.

“Five years ago there were a few cases but now it seems more prominent because society, football players, fans, clubs and authorities are no longer ignorant to the consequences of match-fixing,” they all agreed.

And with that awareness, they are all optimistic that match-fixing can be handled differently and more successfully than it ever was before.  I will take their word for it.

For more information on match fixing and the involvement of Birkbeck, Unviversity of London in sports  management, visit www.sportbusinesscentre.com

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Olympic gold medallist shares the secrets of his success at Birkbeck’s Business Week

This post was contributed by Guy Collender, Communications Manager, Birkbeck’s Department of External Relations.

Adrian Moorhouse MBE, Olympic gold medallist, speaking at Birkbeck's Business Week

Adrian Moorhouse MBE, Olympic gold medallist, speaking at Birkbeck’s Business Week

The phenomenal swimming achievements of Adrian Moorhouse MBE speak for themselves: world number one from 1986 to 1992 for 100m breaststroke, Olympic gold medal winner in 1988, and serial breaker of world records. He has also been incredibly successful in business. The management consultancy he co-founded, called Lane4, boasts 80 staff, works in 30 countries and has been recognised repeatedly by The Sunday Times as one of the best 100 small companies to work for. How did he manage to transfer his success from the pool to the boardroom? That intriguing question was the subject of the Alec Rodger Memorial Lecture, entitled What can business learn from sport?, which Moorhouse delivered on 24 June during Birkbeck’s Business Week.

Moorhouse emphasised the importance of applying sporting practices and insights from organisational psychology to create conditions for success. He explained how this was the philosophy of the University of California, where he trained after winning a sports scholarship at age 18. Often referring to the success of Team GB at the 2012 Olympics, he described how the athletes were assisted throughout in a way that is rarely the case for businesses. This approach helped Team GB to third position in the medal table. He said it is necessary to identify “critical performance moments” and then give people what they need when they need it. He also stressed practising under pressure, learning from failure and setting goals as part of talent development.

Moorhouse continued by focusing on goals, saying: “Sport motivates people well with goals. People [in business] don’t work hard enough on meaning.” He employed a goal framework to show how to divide the ultimate goal into manageable stepping stones en route to the overall prize, and how he had to meet a mind-boggling 400 key performance indicators on his way to winning gold in Seoul during his four-year Olympic campaign.

Building mutual trust within teams was highlighted as an essential component of success. He explained how leaders have to believe in people and work together on goals, and how individuals need to be “team-fit”.  He said: “My goal is to create an environment where people can be brilliant. My job is to release their talent.”

Aside from the role of the team, Moorhouse did refer to the personal resilience, self-esteem, self-belief, discipline and rigour required to succeed. He shared a headline from The Daily Telegraph, which declared “Moorhouse is a failure”, after he came fourth in the 1984 100m breaststroke final. At the next Olympics he was to prove the journalist wrong when he won gold.

Moorhouse did explain that not all sporting skills and approaches can be transferred to the world of business, but it is clear that his sporting background and “entrepreneurial nature” are enabling him to succeed.

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