Pro/rel doesn’t scare owners away

One argument against pro/rel in US soccer is that “rel” would scare away owners who have been bought a team in the top league.

Yet, I’ve never heard thoughts from the actual owners about this.

My guess is that owners are not nearly as concerned with pro/rel as critics of pro/rel say they are.

How do I know?

Because there are many pro/rel leagues around the world and they don’t have trouble finding owners. Some of those owners are even American who also own teams in non-pro/rel leagues.

American Stan Kroenke, for example, owns teams in the non-pro/rel MLS (Colorado Rapids) and pro/rel English Premier League (EPL) (Arsenal).

American-owned Fenway Sports Group owns a team in a non-pro/rel league MLB (Boston Red Sox) and pro/rel EPL (Liverpool).

As does the American Glazer family who own a team in a non-pro/rel league NFL (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and pro/rel EPL (Manchester United).

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Competition and monopolies in soccer

I thought the following dialogue about monopoly and competition from this 3Four3 podcast, with guest Ciara McCormack, was well said (around the 36 minute mark, emphasis added):

Host John Pranjic: The lack of competition, the lack of ideas being thrown into an arena, to let it fight it out and see which is best, that is what Canada lacks, that is what United States lacks, that is what Australia lacks, when it comes to soccer.

You get this one-size-fits-all attitude, from the top-down, that mindset alone is what kills the soccer environments in those three countries

Guest McCormack: There’s a reason in our societies, economically, that monopolies are frowned upon. It’s exactly the thing you are talking about. The lack of creativity.

I always liken it to, if I step on the field and I know I’m in the starting eleven every week — I can be good, I can be bad, I can sit and pick flowers the whole game and line [something] — and I know that I’m starting every week.

I’m not becoming better. People around me aren’t becoming better. They become stagnant.

Growing up in Canada, I’ll use my White Caps experience as an example. That was the only club team you could play for if you wanted a shot with the Canadian team.

The amount of power that gives the people in charge to treat the players what ever way they want, it just creates this awful culture.

When I was in Denmark, that would never have happened. You’re at a club and things aren’t going really good, then you go to another club.

Then another club starts with revolutionary ideas, that club rises to the top…

Exactly.

As I’ve mentioned before, we all have two powers: the power of voice and exit.

Pranjic and McCormack here describes negative consequences of not having a strong enough competition, or low power of exit, in a soccer federation.

These principles of voice and exit are true for all organizations from governments, private enterprises, schools, soccer federations and, as McCormack points out, teams.

It would be interesting to go deeper into how soccer federations are organized in other countries to compare to the U.S., Canada and Australia.

From my uneducated point of view, many seem to see their role more about fostering competition at all levels, rather than being in charge of competitions at levels.

For example, while U.S. Soccer seems focused on dictating the how many seats must be in stadiums and the minimum population sizes of team markets, England’s FA is more about ensuring that any team playing good soccer has a chance — no matter the size of their stadium or city.

I believe those in U.S. Soccer prioritize stability. That’s why they focus on stadium and market size. They think that will keep teams around, even when their results aren’t great.

I believe those in England’s FA prioritize the quality of soccer. It’s not that they don’t care about stability, but they believe stability comes from good soccer, not from the number of seats in the stadium.

First ball, then game

Wise words from Tom Byer in the tweet below:

“Fall in love with the Ball first and the game follows.”

 

Respect for the ball

Here’s a couple good highlights from this 3Four3 podcast with a soccer dad.

Words of wisdom, from a soccer dad to his daughter about how to approach the game:

Respect the game. Respect your opponent. Respect your teammates. And, have respect for the ball.

I learned when I was coaching that one of the toughest things to convince kids and parents from non-soccer backgrounds was to have respect for the ball.

Kicking the ball down the field works early on. Why mess with the “fancy” stuff?

Having respect for the ball and learning to master it doesn’t produce immediate results. It won’t improve your game that much next week or over the course of a season, but it builds over time.

On playing pickup:

The thing that really irritates is street [i.e. pickup soccer] or futsal that’s not free…and that is artificially created to be super safe and it never works. It has the opposite effect. You might as well be playing club soccer because the same people are running it. Not say club soccer is bad. It’s not. We obviously play it.

But it has to be organic. It has to be free flowing. It has to come from the right place.

And, the players who are participating on it, at some level, have to get it. And the parents have to to get it and see the value in it.

If you don’st see the value in it, then it’s a real hard sell.

People ask all the time, you know, ‘futsal and street, what’s the point? You’re going to get hurt. It’s just for fancy footwork and they’re not really scoring goals and what do you see the benefit of it.’

Well, if I have to explain to you, then it’s not worth it, because you don’t get it. Sometimes it’s not always about the results, it’s about the process.

If you boil it down, street and maybe futsal to a lesser extent, is soccer. So, if you got a kid that can go play street for 4 hours, well maybe that’s the sacrifice for that week and maybe the [club] game isn’t.

But the sell for that is real difficult.

That 4 hours of street ball is more true soccer time than the average club soccer kids get over the course of a season.

Playing pickup in any sport is an important dimension to development. The best basketball players spend countless hours on their driveway hoops and in the park with friends.

For some reason, that lesson doesn’t seem to translate well to soccer, until its too late.

Kids play soccer to sell ‘hotel-room-nights’

From the website of a new youth soccer complex opening in my area:

Tournaments are expected to generate 18,000 room nights each year for [name of city] hotels.

That is the primary purpose of competitive youth soccer in the U.S.: selling hotel room nights.

From that perspective, it’s doing pretty well. Maybe a little too well.

Health insurance and sports

On Marginal Revolution, it is asked which system should be redesigned from scratch?

My first answer: health insurance.

Many problems in health care (like cost inflation) and employment stems from one simple design flaw: the tax benefit companies receive for buying health insurance that individuals do not receive when they purchase it on their own.

This has caused an unproductive melding of health insurance and employment that aliens would find strange, but we accept as normal.

We don’t expect companies to provide home and auto insurance and those markets are not nearly as mucked up.

My second answer is soccer in the U.S.

Somehow, unlike most of the rest of the world, we wedded sports and schools together from about high school on, including soccer.

I don’t have much problem with it for American sports that are not played widely around the world.

But, it has been detrimental to soccer development. If anyone wonders why the U.S. isn’t in the World Cup and, when we do qualify, we don’t make it far, I believe part answer is school sports.

Our youth soccer culture has emerged to prep players for college soccer rather than World Cup competition, which is a different game (the checkers/chess analogy applies), in several dimensions.

It also changes how the market for players and development of players works at crucial ages.

The U.S. is the Galapagos Islands of soccer.

To the inattentive, it looks like to the sport played elsewhere.

But, being cut off from the rest of the world in various ways has caused it to evolve along a slightly different path, which happens to not be optimized for producing the chess players that operate on the world stage.

Iceland is a good example of a country that went another way. Literally an island, it opened itself up to the soccer cultures of soccer-playing countries and from its tiny population has produced a World Cup team that played to a draw against Argentina last week, which is like Emporia State beating KU in basketball.

Mini pitches in Iceland

A piece of info that I didn’t know about Iceland’s rise in the soccer world was the mini-pitches they installed at 111 elementary schools around the country.

From the Men in Blazers, I heard about the high number of UEFA licensed coaches and the large indoor football halls they built so they could play year-round.

I had not heard about the mini-pitches at schools until I read about it in the book, Soccernomics.

Mini-pitches at schools was also part of the German soccer revival.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup. Iceland, a country with the population the size of some U.S. suburbs, qualified for the 2018 World Cup.

In this post, I contrasted the typical U.S. soccer field with street soccer courts in Brazil (which are Brazil’s version of mini-pitches).