Last night, just after I finished consuming my weekly fix of football, came the big game in a sport that the Americans also call football. The Superbowl.
The game was thrilling, and the winner – defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 – was a unique sports club: The Green Bay Packers, representing a small town is Wisconsin with 101,000 inhabitants. The club is non-profit entity – it belongs to it’s 112,000 shareholders who bought their shares for a few hundred dollars each, and do not receive neither dividends nor preferential treatment when applying for game tickets.
On the Green Bay ownership model and economic impact you can read here.
To me the game, and the winner, is a symbol to the opposite directions these two “footballs” and two continents have taken. It is a fascinating development as it represents the complete opposite of real economics where capitalism is identified with America, while socialism has a defining role in the European economy. Don’t confuse style with substance. The glitzy NFL is not capitalist. Conservative in style – European football is the epitome of greed.
In the 1970s and 1980s, European champions came from relatively small towns like Nottingham and Eindhoven or from relatively poor parts of Europe: Romania, Portugal and Yugoslavia (in 1990). The final game of the major European Cup was also contested by small town clubs from Malmo, Bruges and Moenchengladbach.
The local level also enjoyed great parity. The Spanish title fell to towns like San Sebastian and Bilbao. The Italian to Verona and Napoli. The English to Leeds, Derby and Nottingham. Big name players signed for big teams. But there was a true sense of fair chance.
The NFL actually went through a market-dominated period in the 1980s, when California, Chicago, Washington DC and New York distributed all Superbowl victories among themselves.
Those days are over. Progressive income-distribution methods have meant that Green Bay was the 10th team (out of 16) to represent the NFC in the Â big Game in last decade. The AFC segment of the league was dominated by Pittsburgh and New England over the same period , but it was mainly due to superior management, not an economic advantage.
In 21st century European football, a title won by a Portuguese team in 2004 was considered a shock.Despite the country’s outstanding talent and major tradition. A European title, or even a spot in the knockout phase, for an Eastern European team defies logic. Greedy capitalism ensures that the game’s income ends up in the hands of very few – Madrid, Barcelona, London, Manchester, Milan, Munich, and very little elsewhere.