Football and the Crisis. To Florentino Perez with love

Rafael Puyol. Professor. IE Business School

2 July 2009

The summer is here, bringing with it a series of new hires that could send the budgets of several football clubs into meltdown – strange behavior indeed in the current economic climate.

Globalisation has reached football, a sport also affected by the brain drain, the exodus of qualified migrants whose brains are in their feet and whose salaries are in the clouds. The leading clubs increase their diversity with players from all over the world who bring colour to the ethnic fabric of their squad. But dream teams have to be paid for, with astronomical budgets that often take teams to unheard-of levels of debt, a practice which, in times of crisis, is at the very least somewhat unseemly.

Nothing can be done to stop the internationalisation of football, but its impact can be modulated. One good example is FC Barcelona´s policy, with its homegrown manager and a base made up of players from its youth system. Not only has it brought value to the collective effort by a feeling of belonging, but it has also brought excellent results.

I would dare to propose that football should follow the rules of other sports, such as the NBA or car racing, namely a limit to what the teams can spend (which is still a lot) on players or on preparing their vehicles.

The commitment to the youth system, good scouting and the intuition of the underlying quality of a young player cannot be replaced by a cheque book for paying tried and tested players who are more interested in advertising than wearing the shirt of a club they serve as mercenaries.

My team, Sporting de Gijón (I know, I know…) is in no danger of overspending. My other team, Real Madrid, bound as it is to the return of King Midas, would do well to ponder on the good practices of its rivals and bear in mind the maxim that it is more important and more responsible to spend well than to spend a lot.

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