Incentives for sports teams


Apparently the North Korean football team will not be sent to the mines after their 7-0 loss to Portugal. But the Nigerians have been ordered not to play international football for two years although this is apparently to ‘put their house in order’ not as punishment. However it raises the whole question of sporting incentives.

Victors get the glory and the sponsorships. Losers get ….. less glory and sponsorships. Unless you are the Indian cricket team or the Columbian goalkeeper. So are the incentives strong enough for our sporting heroes? Are the marginal incentives between winning and losing enough to get our cricketers, footballers (soccer or rugby – or even the other rugby) and netballers performing optimally on the world stage? Or do we need some punishment for losses? Should we shun our cricketers who have lost the one day series in England or even fine them (or worse!). And what would be the effect of this?

One possibility that comes to mind: perhaps we only use positive incentives for sport to make sure potential sporting heroes have the incentive to practice and try-out for stardom. If we used negative incentives then this would work for our current crop of footballers and cricketers, but not for the next generation. Seeing the losing Australian captain of their favorite sport languishing in gaol or having their house burnt down (or even being burnt in effigy), young Bruce or Sheila may think that sports-stardom is not worth it, and concentrate on other things (like studying) instead. Of course, this may not be a bad thing!

11 Responses to "Incentives for sports teams"
  1. Not the Columbian goalkeeper but a defender.
    An own goal by a goalkeeper really would have been unforgivable.

  2. Personally, I would have thought that the entire history of international sport – which has been in the main amateur and with no other reward than the knowledge of representing one’s country – is a testament to that tradition of rewards/incentives that stresses intrinsic motivation, value in a thing itself, rather than carrots and sticks.
    Csikszentmihalyi is probably the father of this, but it has a solid grounding in economics thanks to Tirole and Benabou.
    What lessons incentives in international sport have for other endeavours, including the formal labour market, is to me an interesting research question.

  3. Goldman’s survey showed that around half of elite athletes would dope to win Olympic gold medals even if it meant that they’d die before the age of 50.
    I don’t think we really need any more incentives of top athletes.

  4. A goal-keeper cannot make an own goal, only a team -mate on the field can.

  5. David Beckham was hung in effigy after his sending off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. It doesn’t seem to have affected aspirations of  England youth wanting to play for theit country (although one might argue that the English team has gone downhill in quality).
    Of course, you are classifying success in terms of winning or losing in a competition where there can be only one winner every four years.
    How would the same philosophy  transfer to research on the world stage for research?   If a researcher fails to secure the Nobel prize should they be subject to negative incentives? No, instead they may receive lesser glory and grant funding (sponsorship) than the winner of the Prize. Why? Because they may still deliver value. Likewise, the runner-up in a World Cup delivers value to supporters in terms of entertainment, exposure for sponsors, media coverage, etc.

  6. BB&B, that is false.  There are cases of goalkeepers messing up an attempted throw to a teammate and scoring an own goal.

  7. The expected future salaries of playing AFL or cricket provide an incentive for Alex Keath, for example, to choose between the two sports. Match payments and salaries may have more to do with this decision than inspiring wins in either sport.

  8. The link you had pointed seems to be Pakistani in origin and certainly potrays India in a very negative light across a number of themes it seems.

    nice one..thank God we have you aussies to look up to for sportsmanship….

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