What makes a football match a fascinating and one-of-a-kind viewing experience that no other media, such as TV shows or films, can deliver? – A football match, and sports in general, has the power to surprise you. Keep you guessing who will win. Or perhaps, in the end, no one will win if it’s a draw.
Football is exciting because the outcome is uncertain. Millions of viewers tune in to watch their favorite club play with a hope in their hearts that their club would emerge victorious. While a rom-com will always have a happy ending, the same cannot be said about football.
This reality and not fiction is what makes sports special. The equal probability that a supporter might be devastated or ecstatic at the end of a football match is truly fascinating. It is this adrenaline rush that fans always seek.
To articulate this precise sentiment in boring, formal terms, we would have to label it — the uncertainty of outcome.
Now, the uncertainty of outcome is very important in sports. In fact, it is the crux of what makes sports, sports. Remove this and you don’t have sports in the world.
Now, this concept isn’t a simple yes or no – yes, we have uncertainty of outcome or no we don’t.
There are varying degrees that are associated with it. But as a thumb rule – the higher the degree of uncertainty of outcome, higher the demand. What this means is the more competitive a match, the more interesting it will be hence creating a high demand.
For example, in a Man City vs Sunderland match, Man city is clearly the favorite to win therefore the uncertainty of outcome is low and so is the demand for the match.
On the other hand, consider Man City vs Liverpool. In this case, the teams are equally balanced and it will be difficult to predict the result. The uncertainty of outcome is high, demand is high.
Take this same concept and apply it to the top 5 European leagues in football. The Premier League is regarded as one of the most competitive leagues in the world but it is also the most-watched league in the world. Do you see the relation?
Now there are many factors on what makes the premier league so good, but having a high degree of uncertainty of outcome is one of them.
Now Consider a traditional company. its clear and obvious motive will be to increase its market power and maximize its profits. Essentially, its goal will be to become the ultimate best — to come as close as possible to becoming a monopolist in its sector.
However, sports economics works a little differently. Now if a professional team becomes a pure monopolist, i.e they always win. Then the uncertainty of outcome becomes null and it will be impossible to stage a match. Hence no revenue.
Now it is impossible to become a pure monopolist but consider you are very close to that – a perfect example would be Bayern Munich in Bundesliga.
Bundesliga is 6 places behind the Premier League in terms of viewership.
So, from an economic motive, every team has a conflict of interest of not becoming too superior in playing talent compared to other teams in the league. As that would create an imbalance, and hamper the revenue stream. (Low uncertainty of outcome). Talk about dilemma?
But what about the clubs whose motives are not economically driven. That would give rise to teams like Manchester City and PSG (add Newcastle to the list as well!). for the owners of these clubs, money is not a problem. They are not trying to create an additional revenue stream. The extra money probably doesn’t hurt but that’s not their primary goal.
That is why these owners can pour their money into the clubs, with ambitions of only winning titles and not caring enough for the tangible economic gains.
There is an argument to be made that the ultra-rich clubs can severely disrupt the balance of the league. With one side spending more on a single player than what is another team’s total squad value is, maybe it is only time until football becomes less interesting.
Imagine a world where upsets and underdog wins are no longer possible; we are rapidly nearing that reality. Money truly is a double-edged sword.
But until that happens, we can sit back, relax, grab a cold beer and enjoy the uncertainty of outcome – well, whatever little is left of it!