Peak performance by Késenne

Kjetil Haugen
Molde University College 

Stefan Késenne
The Economic Theory of Professional Team Sports: An Analytical Treatment
162 pages, hardcover
Cheltenham, Glos: Edward Elgar 2007 (New Horizons in the Economics of Sport)
ISBN 978-1-84720-207-9

Stefan Késenne is, by most serious sports economists, judged as one of the leading researchers in the field. He has been actively publishing for more than 30 years, responsible for more than 50 internationally refereed journal contributions. He is also vice president of IASE (The International Association of Sports Economists) and holds editorial duties in JSE (Journal of Sports Economics) as well as in ESMQ (European sports Management Quarterly). When someone like Késenne finally publishes a text-book, setting up his research programme, everybody who are interested in sports economic theory ought to know their visiting hours.

The book, relatively short in size (around 150 pages), is far from short in contents. Késenne touches upon his favourite subjects, profit maximization versus win maximization, Walras versus Nash equilibrium, as well as mobility freedom in player labour markets. As such, the book may be seen as a nice compilation of Késenne’s research work presented in a stylish, readable, but still relatively condensed manner.

Késenne’s style is quite direct and in some cases normative as opposed to descriptive. A quote may indicate what I mean (On restrictions on player mobility, Ch. 5 – Késenne describes the pre-Bosman transfer market):

So, players and player contracts were traded between clubs on the transfer market like, albeit well-paid, modern slaves.

Personally, I like this style, although other readers may not be as keen as I am. Still, I find it refreshing that writers dare to express their true opinions. and perhaps even more refreshing that certain publishers allow it.

However, the monographic structure of the book may not make it perfectly suitable for modern European (and definitely not Norwegian) students. As the subtitle indicates – An Analytical Treatment – the level of mathematical treatment is relatively sophisticated. Personally, I enjoy this very much, but I have a feeling that most students (perhaps also some colleagues) may find this level too sophisticated. Thus, extreme care should be taken when it comes to course assignments for this book. I would indeed – as an absolute minimum – recommend a basic course in microeconomics as a prerequisite before letting students loose on the text. Perhaps also an introductory course in Sports Economics may serve as a necessity for ordinary students. Surely, for Scandinavian students, we’re talking Master level. This is not a text suitable for the average Bachelor student.

The book does contain both exercises and answers to the exercises, which in my opinion strengthens the book’s possibilities as student text, but then again, at the correct level.

Given the above-mentioned considerations, I have no problems in recommending this book. Any serious sports economist should have it readily available, and I agree strongly with Andrew Zimbalist’s statement on the back cover:

There is no book like this currently available.

So, what else is there to say? Buy the book, read it, and enjoy the richness and beauty of modern sports economics theory. If anybody ever asked the question: Why do we need sports economics? – Késenne has definitely provides the answer.




© Kjetil Haugen 2008

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