English football has the commercialism of American sports without equal | football

nChelsea co-owner Todd Boyle angered some of English football’s most annoying people last week when he suggested the Premier League could learn from America and consider introducing the All-Star Game to boost TV revenue. “American investment in English football presents a clear and present risk to the game’s hierarchy and texture,” thunder Gary Neville on Twitter, in a token reaction. “They just don’t get it and they think differently.”

In response, many have pointed out that critics like Neville owe their livelihood to the Americanization of English football: without the influence of America’s example, all Shebang is modern-day. Premier League – As a business organized around huge TV deals, as an endless intermediary spectacle, as a dominant cultural form – it will not exist. Suggestions such as Buhli’s directed at promoting the marketing of English football; This is not “thinking differently”, but the essence of the sport as it has developed over the past three decades.

But there is another paradox here, and one that requires closer examination as European football delves deeper into the suicidal spiral of inflated salaries, bailouts, spending and debt. Despite the advantage of trick matches like the North-South Pohli meet, the American model of professional sports—where spending is restricted by salary caps, player acquisition is tamed by pre-season drafts, and marketing must contend with some form of teamwork—provides A way for tournaments to live within their means while ensuring equal competition. Beginning in the middle of the last century, America—the most capitalist society on Earth—developed equivalent structures in professional sports, even as its leagues ruthlessly seized every opportunity to turn the athletic competition landscape into a profit.

England – in football at least – went in a different direction, embracing commercialism without including the restrictions of the American style to ensure equality of competition at the highest levels of the sport. Some astounding cultural fluctuations have arisen from this difference. America — the land of 24-hour service, calorie overload, and a $10,000 emergency room visit — is now a paradise for sports equality, a country that has seen 12 different winners in the last 15 Super Bowls.

During the same period, England – the cradle of social medicine, the local pub, and the green village – became a football oligarch, with only five different clubs winning the Premier League. If competitive balance is essential to maintaining the ‘pyramid and fabric’ of English and European football, as it surely must be, there is a lot the old world can learn from the new – a point which UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has said. Unsuccessful Advocate for a European salary cap.

How have the two sports cultures diverged so severely over the past few decades? The answer has its roots in the very particular timing and evolution, in each country, of the relationship between labor and capital. The three largest professional sports in America are subject to equivalent restrictions: the NBA and the NFL both have salary caps, baseball majors are spent through a luxury tax, and all three have drafts to ensure an even distribution of young talent at the league level. It’s one of the laziest clichés of American sports writers point out For this as a form of “socialism”. In fact, these structures emerged during the second half of the twentieth century as an expression of a distinctly American form of capitalism. American professional sport as we know it today owes as much to strikes, shutdowns, and collective bargaining as it owes sponsorship, promotion, naming rights, or any of the other deal-making machinations commonly thought to symbolize the corrupting influence of money in sports.

Employee unions in professional sports began to emerge after World War II: patriotism Basketball The Players Association was originally established in 1954, and football and baseball saw the establishment of similar bodies in 1956 and 1966, respectively. Sports unions emerged in America during the height of the post-war agreement between organized labor and the business enterprise, when union representation was high and it was widely accepted that the economy would function best when the rights of workers and the interests of owners were reconciled. The relationship between players’ bodies and team owners was unwarrantedly hostile from the start: “This would be an adversarial relationship,” Marvin Miller, the first president of Major League Baseball Players Association, declared to players in 1966. “A union is not a social club. A union is a constraint. on what an employer can do. If you expect the owners to love me, praise me, and compliment me, you will be disappointed.”

Although overall union membership in American society declined in the decades after 1980, the power and influence of unions in sports did not – and the founding organizational charter for American professional sports, as a corporate business crystallized through negotiation between players and owners, remained the same. . . Introducing salary ceilings in each of the NBA (in 1983) and the NFL (in 1993) was the result of direct negotiations between owners and unions; Collective bargaining remains an essential feature of all major sports in America today, and the relationship is just as hostile now as it was in its infancy. Unions have played an important historical role in English football – the PFA, led by Jimmy Hill, secured the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961 – but in general, players’ associations in Europe and England have nothing like the institutional centralization of their American peers.

Unions emerged in the major American leagues at a time when all the big issues of modern sport — player mobility, revenue generation, television rights, pay sustainability, talent distribution — were up for grabs simultaneously. In the post-war years, television rights – as they are still seen today – were seen as fundamental to the long-term financial viability of professional sports. American television in the 1950s and 1960s was heavily regulated but dominated by three independent private operators (CBS, NBC and ABC) – another point of distinction from the UK, where ITV was the only commercial network until the early 1980s.

In the early 1960s, NFL Commissioner Pete Rosell negotiated an exclusive two-year, $9.3 million deal with CBS to broadcast regular games and post-season games. That was an extraordinary amount of money for its time, but the real genius of the deal was in its combination: teams had previously negotiated their rights deals individually, with uneven results (prior to the CBS deal, New York Giants received $350,000 a year for rights). their television, while the Green Bay Packers only got a tenth of that), Rozelle convinced everyone to secure a single network deal and distribute the windfall profits evenly across all teams in the NFL. This, more than any other deal, was the deal that launched professional sports in modern-day America, and established the collective good as the paramount goal of American sports Administration.

But the money — serious money, of the kind that was only possible in a large, relatively competitive television market such as that of post-war America — also brought safety to American sports that spurred the negotiation of other chips at the bargaining table. The carrot of television money softened salary limits and draft restrictions, giving negotiations between owner and player a kind of synchronicity – the character of competition for everything at once – that was less evident in English and European football. By the time negotiations with ITV and BSkyB began in the early 1990s over the eventual formation of the Premier League, for example, issues such as transfer transfer and wage setting had been settled in the players’ favour, and there was no strong American-history of player-owner bargaining style to rely on. .

The American experience was different. All of these issues were resolved at once, not in a piecemeal fashion as in the UK. In 1983, NBA players agreed to a salary cap in exchange for a majority share of television revenue. In 1993, after a series of debilitating layoffs and shutdowns, NFL Introduce a salary cap while giving players freedom of movement between clubs they have long been denied. These landmark deals, along with the commitment to league-level parity secured by the sale of Rozelle’s CBS, set the tone for professional sports management in America in the decades that followed. As Los Angeles Lakers president Jenny Boss said in 2011, commenting on a new NBA-wide revenue sharing agreement, “We want a league with economically viable teams so that every team has the opportunity to compete. It makes the league healthier.”

The US judiciary has played its part in upholding these collective principles. Several of the first major television deals and collective bargaining agreements, particularly those that introduced salary and draft limits, were challenged on the grounds that they were anti-competitive. American antitrust law, which traces its roots to the antitrust crusades in the progressive era, has long held that restrictions on trade are permissible when they are necessary for the success of a joint venture. Courts have upheld the legality of structures such as the draft and salary cap on the grounds that the product of professional sports is competition itself.

In 2010, the Supreme Court pointed That restrictions in the NFL may be justified when they are motivated by the need to ensure the overall success of the league or “competitive balance”. The Competition Act was also published in English football, most notably in 1963, to abolish the “retain and transfer” system that had been impeding the free movement of players. But it is unclear how much protection British law, especially after Brexit, would provide mechanisms to ensure equal competition in the modern game. The salary cap in Leagues 1 and 2 was introduced at the start of the 2020-21 season Failed It presents a legal challenge, although this often appears to reflect the evasiveness of the scheme’s design.

Strong unions, the all-encompassing nature of negotiations between players and owners in the post-war years, and the unusual collective tradition of American competition law: these three factors together explain how America has evolved to have more equal structures in professional sports than England. The contradiction between the two countries is not between American-style socialism and British laissez-faire, as it is sometimes claimed: it is a clash of capitalism. The transformation of English football in the 1990s was part of the collapse of the Post-War Keynesian Compromise and the broader shift towards the market that began under the Thatcher government.

Reagan’s America experienced its own neoliberal transformation towards the end of the last century, of course, but by the time it was in full swing the prerequisites for sports professionalism, and the factors that give American sports its unique character – player power, collective bargaining, concern for well-being in the common good, were all set. A remnant of the new post-war order – no longer negotiable. English football has had all the shoddy business of American sports, but it has had no relief with the redistribution.

The results in England today are well known: unbridled player salaries, ridiculous transfer fees, a new breed of billionaires unfazed by ordinary notions of financial sustainability, an unbalanced competition that realistically only two or three clubs have any chance of winning. These problems sparked talk of empowering a Organizer To fix English football. One place to look for solutions may be across the Atlantic. Despite legitimate anger among fans over US-inspired initiatives such as the failure of the European Premier League, America’s creeping influence in football doesn’t have to be bad globally.

There are, of course, important differences between American and English sports that complicate the exact transfer of forms: promotion and relegation are strange concepts in the United States, and none of the big American sports have the multiple levels of professional competition that big Europe has. Football countries are proud. Football is also truly international, which makes parity mechanisms such as draft and salary caps more difficult to implement than in smaller US sports. England will not be able to emulate all the institutional constraints of American competition. But that’s no reason not to try.

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