Harry Arne Solberg
Tronheim Business School
This book in two volumes, which consists of 48 articles by 65 authors, presents economic analyses of various sports and sport activities. The first volume corresponds with the traditional pattern in these kinds of handbooks. This is reflected by the title, which corresponds with the main title, namely “The Economics of Sports”. In this volume, the majority of the articles (15 of 25) focus on issues related to team sport economics. This bias is no coincidence, as the literature on sport economics has focused much more on team sports than on individual sports. Additionally, it has 10 other articles which include analyses of issues related to golf, car racing (NASCAR), college sports, mega events and refereeing.
The second volume has a different perspective, which also is reflected by the title: “The Economics Through Sports”. Here the theoretical perspectives represent the entry to the issues. How can specific economic theories shed light over issues of current interest in sports and sport activities? The first part focuses on the economics of discrimination, with the empirical data being related to race, gender, and to the geographical background of the athletes. The other theoretical perspectives are production theory, econometric methods, industrial organisation, finance and public finance of sport. Some other theories of interest for stakeholders involved in sport are also given attention. One such example is price discrimination, which is common practice in ticket sales. This volume is the most innovative, and hence the most interesting.
However, Oxford University Press is not the only publisher covering this field. Therefore, they will be compared with rivalling contributions. In 2006, Edward Elgar published a book carrying a very similar title, consisting of 86 chapters, i.e. practically twice as many as Oxfords two handbooks. Thus, it covered more issues, but also went more in-depth on each issue. In addition, Edward Elgar published its International Handbook of the Economics of Mega Sporting Events in 2012, which consists of 26 chapters. Compared with these two publications, Oxford’s Handbook reads a bit superficial.
This, hoewever, should not be read as negative critique of the articles. Many of them are interesting and will give the readers valuable insight into sport economic issues. As an example, Stefan Szymanski’s chapter “Economics of League Design: Open versus Closed Systems” may serve as an interesting and useful starting point for readers who want to understand more of the basics in sport contests. Likewise, Duane W. Rockerbies’s article: “The demand for Violence in Hockey” explains why violence and fighting is more accepted in hockey than in other sports.
It is well documented that the monetary benefits from hosting major sporting events tend to be significantly lower than the costs. Hence, if it is worth spending efforts on events, it must be because of the so-called intangibles, i.e. impacts that not are sold at markets and therefore not measured in monetary terms. This calls for specific methods, and to that end the chapter on “Contingent Valuations in Sports” by Bruce K. Johnson and John C. Whitehead is a good point of departure for readers who want to learn more about how to such impacts can be measured.
In fact, the second volume contains a number of interesting contributions that also many non-economics would fins interesting and readable.
Nevertheless, when opening a “handbook” one will expect it to cover the most important topics and also to go deeper into selected topics. Such expectations are not met by this handbook, which becomes obvious when comparing it with Edward Elgar’s two titles, both covering more topics and offering more in-depth analyses of specific topics.
Such books are also affected by the origin of the authors, and Oxford’s contribution is no exception. The fact that 49 of the 65 contributors come from North America (45 from the US) also influences the choice of topics. As an illustration, nine of the eleven chapters about team sports focus on North American leagues. This includes the main four professional North American leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL). Additionally there are two chapters on soccer (known as football outside the US), one of which is is about the Bosman ruling and in the English Premier League, and the other about career duration in German soccer. There is also a section on college sport, which is an exclusively North American phenomenon. This bias represents a major difference in relation Edward Elgar’s books, which to a much larger extent cover sports and empirical cases from the whole world.
To summarize, the two volumes have several articles of interest for readers who want to understand more about economic issues in sports and sporting activities. Despite this, it does not fully meet its readers’ expectations of a handbook, since too many topics are too coincidentally and narrowly covered.
Copyright © Harry Arne Solberg 2014