chapter  Chapter 24
14 Pages

The labour markets of professional football players

WithJean-François Brocard, Christophe Lepetit

The labor markets of professional football players have specific features, making them very peculiar to analyse. The application of classic economic theories is indeed inadequate when aiming at analysing the relationship between supply and demand in this one market. In particular, the traditional hypothesis made to describe classic labour markets (atomicity of buyers and sellers, homogeneous products, perfect information, no barriers to entry, etc.) are rarely observed in this market. Nowadays, the market is well documented with regular institutional reports providing official data, facilitating the research. The empirical analysis of the labour market of professional football players seems to validate another theory: the labour market segmentation. Indeed, according to the latter theory, a sole and homogeneous labour market does not exist, but rather several markets (or market segments) on which actors’ behaviours and supply and demand adjustment mechanisms would substantially diverge. Besides, an historical analysis of this labour market shows its high sensitivity to the level of dedicated regulation. In the past 20 years, a wide variety of deregulation decisions were made, either by the sports world itself or by national of international public regulators, which substantially impacted how the market operates. Among the main consequences are the large increase in international mobility of players and the talent concentration in the very best leagues and wealthy clubs. This deregulation trend also resulted in the emergence of several abuses such as the grey areas surrounding the intermediaries’ activities, or the development of mechanisms such as the third-party ownership in the transfer market. These elements all encourage the implementation of stricter regulations aimed at ensuring a proper functioning of the labour market of professional football players in order not to jeopardise the two main characteristics of professional sports: the integrity and the uncertainty of sports competitions.