Instant gratification rules in the big-time

AS if we didn’t know it, recent analysis by CIES Football Observatory has revealed that major football clubs are geared towards short-termism.

Across 31 European leagues under consideration, the percentage of club-trained players fell from 23.2% in 2009 to 16.9% in 2018. Southern Europe (12.8%) and Western Europe (15.7%) show the lowest number of players developed at home, while Northern Europe (21.9%) is at the top of the list.

Among the “big five” leagues, Serie A has a worryingly low 9% of club-trained players. Premier League and France’s Ligue 1 are next with 22.7%.

The Premier League has the highest percentage of “migrant” players, with an astonishing 59%, underlining the global nature of the league, both in terms of ownership and spectator appeal, as much as the financial clout of the English league. It is debatable if this situation will continue once the UK leaves the European Union. Italy has an expatriate percentage of 52.4%, while Germany has 46.2%.

CIES commented: “The evolution in the percentage of players having already migrated over the course of their career also allows us to account for the process of the internationalisation of the football players’ labour market. The proportion of footballers in this situation has increased from 46.4% in 2009 to a record level of 56.9% in 2018.”

CIES’ work reveals a number of very clear trends. The market has become very deterritorialised by a decreasing presence of club-trained players, a higher level of expat players and greater mobility. Therein lies the problem – clubs have a responsibility in their local market which is not necessarily being fulfilled.

CIES added: “In an increasingly segmented and speculative context, owners and executives tend to optimise financial returns on the transfer market to the detriment of more eminently sporting considerations. An increasing number of players consider their team as a mere stepping stone to more lucrative markets. Agents and their entourage also play a decisive role in this regard.”

CIES believes that this scenario creates instability that reduces the competitiveness of a growing number of clubs, tipping greater advantages towards the wealthiest clubs. In other words, as the market becomes more reliant on the transfer market, rather than the development of talent, those without resources cannot possibly compete.

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