Why tax international athlete migration? The ‘Coubertobin’ tax in a context of financial crisis
International athlete migration is not a new economic fact. English football spread to France in the late nineteenth century and British players moved to Paris and created a football club there, the so-called Racing Club. As early as the 1950s, the Argentine football player Di Stefano, the Hungarian Puskas and the French Kopa were playing together in the Real Madrid squad. More recently, the growth of international athlete migration has increased significantly in the past 15 years due to economic globalisation and a change in regulation of European professional sports (Andreff, 2006a). Globalisation has affected the sports economy in its various dimensions
(Andreff, 2008). The global market for all sporting goods and services, in 2004, was assessed to be in the range of €550-600 billion. The global market for football is valued at €250 billion. The market for all sporting goods is valued at about €150 billion. The value of broadcasting rights related to sport events is estimated at €60 billion, although the global market for sports sponsorship is nearly €18 billion. In 2006, the global market for doping was assessed at €6 billion. Even if these figures are not exact, the trend towards globalisation of sport business is crystal clear. By the same token, the market for high-level sporting talents has also globalised. It is a labour market in which professional players and other highly talented athletes are internationally transferred – from a club in one country to a club located abroad. International transfers of football players skyrocketed in this global labour market since it was entirely deregulated in 1995. Then, this deregulation has affected international labour market in other professional sports and, finally, in all high-level sport. Recently football has become the most investigated global market in the sports economy, giving rise to serious concerns with regards to transfer of teenage players below the age of 18. In the face of a teenage trade sometimes compared to trafficking of human beings or even new (international) slavery, some recipes have been suggested to supervise and regulate international athlete migration, including the design of a specific taxation. In the new context of financial crisis and global economic recession it is as yet unclear if this is likely to put a brake on such migration or to boost it. This chapter is structured as follows. First, some empirical evidence is provided
as regards to the magnitude of international athlete migration, including the international transfer of teenage athletes or players. Then, the focus is on the
economic determinants of such migration and some of its outcomes. A model of international player transfer taxation more specifically geared towards hindering teenage transfers is elaborated on, whose strengths and weaknesses are compared to former and existing (FIFA) regulation in football. Did the whole picture change with the emergence of the current financial and economic crisis? Since the latter is not over and an economic analysis of its consequences is not stabilised yet, only some hints about its impact on international athlete migration will be sketched in the conclusion.