I didn’t mean to imply in the last scroll that Deloitte only had one paragraph on the argument that promotion and relegation advances player development. I simply picked one particularly terrible paragraph on player development.
Now, let’s look at the other terrible paragraphs.
In the Executive Summary, Deloitte says that promotion and relegation would improve American player development in three ways:
1. “Increased competition at all levels of the club pyramid .
2. More ambitious ownership “may improve facility and coaching provision.”
3. “Better player development would assist the US National Team’s ambitions, and provide a potential revenue stream for owners looking to realise value through player transfers.”
Number 3 isn’t even an assertion that promotion and relegation helps player development, it’s just a statement that better players usually get bigger transfer fees.
Numbers 1 and 2 depend on promotion and relegation motivating owners. But motivation exists already, “at all levels of the club pyramid.” Ambitious owners, like players, have a plethora – nay, even a surfeit of positive motivation. Fame, fortune, that sort of thing. The idea that further negative motivation is necessary is, well, speculative at best.
Think about what we’re saying when we say promotion and relegation influences player development.
And think further about what we’re saying when we say promotion and relegation is the most important influence on player development.
Because if you have been thinking about those statements, you will have already concluded that neither is true. Barcelona has a basketball team fifteen years older than the oldest NBA team. Spain has had a promotion and relegation basketball league since 1957.
And if you put an all-time Spain team against an all-time Missouri Valley Conference team, the Spanish would be crushed. (Assuming Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson would mesh adequately. But I’m sure Wes Unseld could have handled things until Bird and Big O worked it out.)
It’s at this point that the promotion/relegation player development argument veers into a soccer cul-de-sac. Population, economy, training, popularity of sport – all those things may be important in other sports. But soccer is different. So goes the theory.
And it’s true. The United States has produced none of the world’s best soccer players at any point in history. So there must be some reason why the United States can produce all-time greats in basketball, baseball, gridiron football, ice hockey, bicycling, tennis, boxing, auto racing, track and field, skiing, mixed martial arts, golf, rowing, diving, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, sumo wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball, long-distance running, swimming, ice skating, speed skating, bobsled, weightlifting, skateboarding, BMX, and bowling….
….and freaking rugby, if you go by Olympic gold medals in the 1920’s….
…but not in soccer. Maybe it’s promotion and relegation.
(Well, the men haven’t. We should probably get around at some point to talking about how women’s soccer is completely ignored in this report.)
But why? What’s so special about soccer?
Because soccer is a global sport…unlike basketball, baseball, ice hockey, bicycling, tennis, boxing, auto racing, track and field, skiing, mixed martial arts, golf, rowing, diving, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, sumo wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball, long-distance running, swimming, ice skating, speed skating, bobsled, weightlifting, skateboarding, BMX, and bowling? We pretty much have to pretend soccer is the only global sport.
Because soccer has a very, very specific set of talents and requirements that sets it apart? So we’d have soccer as a physical endeavor on one side, and that every other sport in the world is more like every other sport in the world than it is like soccer. Another interesting theory. And one that would have to explain why soccer and cricket are more similar than, say, cricket and baseball. Weird that America hasn’t come up with any cricket stars.
In the actual report…by the way. The whole point of an Executive Summary is to, oh, what’s the word I’m after, summarize the actual report. While not everything in the report needs to be in the Executive Summary, the report should not be significantly different than what is described in the Executive Summary. Because then we don’t have an Executive Summary, we have Executive Extraneous Sentences.
In the actual report, Deloitte refers back to Roger Noll’s 2002 analysis of promotion and relegation. Which was not about player development. You can tell it wasn’t about player development, because the quote Deloitte uses doesn’t refer to player development, either.
“Holding the demand for soccer constant across countries and team locations within those countries, a nation with promotion/relegation will have stronger teams than a nation with leagues of fixed size. For example, the primary soccer league in the U.S., Major League Soccer, always will be weaker than the top European leagues even if soccer becomes as popular in the U.S. as it is in Europe because MLS does not practice promotion and relegation.”
(Enthusiasts of pro/relicana can name several more recent authors addressing the topic in greater specifics, let alone greater emotion. And we’ve seen how unpicky and non-choosy Deloitte has been with its sources. So basically, how much do you have to suck for Deloitte to have ignored you? I’m not going to name any names, but there have got to be at least five guys out there who should be taking this snub personally. The poor Kleibans must be climbing the walls. Oh – I guess I am going to name names.)
Noll makes two crucial misassumptions, one overt and one implicit. The implicit one is the same everyone else makes – that negative motivation produces results, no matter what other factors may be happening.
The explicit one is assumption is almost a disqualification of Noll’s entire paper. There is no reason to “hold the demand for soccer constant” when discussing American soccer. If the demand for American soccer was constant…well, we’d probably be talking about something else.
Even accepting Noll’s premise, it again boils down to the idea that motivation is directly proportional to success. The promotion and relegation/player development premise suggests, if not demands, that every promotion and relegation nation be better than any “closed” league. The United States has a string of World Cup appearances it did not used to have. The only other time the United States had similar strength in international soccer was around the time of the 1930 World Cup. Coincidentally, there was a strong league in the 1920’s. Interestingly, that strong league didn’t relegate or promote a single team in its history.
The United States and Australia should to this very day be helpless in international soccer. This is not the case. Australia is currently the reigning champion of Asia. Poor, pitiful little MLS hasn’t managed to win its continental club championship (since 2001, anyway), but not even the most ungenerous observer would claim that the A-League is inferior to the more established promotion and relegation leagues in Asia. An A-League team even won the Asian Champions League in 2014. According to Noll, this should never have happened.
And, of course, as we saw in our last little visit, Brazil in the 1950’s and early 1960’s did acceptably without promotion and relegation.
Deloitte also produces a chart comparing population with FIFA ranking as of August 2016.
Speaking of Australia’s competition on the international stage. You may be looking for China on this chart. You’ll find them about one monitor to your right, and one monitor up. You do have a four monitor display, don’t you?
If only China had promotion and relegation. Oh, really? Since the death of Chairman Mao? Wonder why it’s not working.
Deloitte also quotes an ESPNFC report showing that fewer MLS players, but still a majority, would prefer a promotion/relegation system to Brand X.
I wonder why fewer players nowadays see promotion and relegation as something desirable. Maybe it’s been the enlightening and entertaining work of forward-thinking writers such as Modesty Forbids.
(I’m a huge fan of hers.)
I think at this point Deloitte UK officially stopped trying. The whole point of this report was to show how much money everyone was going to make by adopting promotion and relegation. When we started this section, it was all about how promotion and relegation was going to bring in more television ratings and higher transfer fees and how owners and players would have to learn to make boxes out of money just to have more places to store their money. Not fifteen pages later, Deloitte UK literally wonders why so many players like the idea.
I mean, I have more confidence in my World Cup picks, and I picked Cameroon to win once.
"More vibrant sporting competition." I wonder what the current Vibrancy Ratings are in UEFA. Or perhaps "exciting" was the word our Thesaurus rex was groping for. Be such vibrant excitement as it may not or may, and previously we've discussed how Deloitte UK sort of forgot to prove that increased vibrancy leads to increased people actually watchingancy, I have every confidence that if in the next poll ESPN asks the players if they'd be interested in taking a pay cut for the sake of promotion and relegation, we'd get those numbers down to a level where Scott Carey would have to squint to see them.
I have my own theory on how to build the number of viewers, fans and players, thanks for asking. It’s that increased popular interest in a sport increases its economic viability, which in turn increases the amount of time and resources put into training people to perform those jobs.
I know, crazy, right. In our next chapter, we bask in the sparkle of this little gem from Deloitte’s report:
While there has been great success in increasing the franchise fee for new (expansion) franchises, there is yet to be evidence of asset appreciation of existing US club soccer franchises, and the subsequent realisation of this value (and profit) through a sale.
But first, let’s take a little more time off to enjoy the US men’s national team in World Cup qualifiers. At least for a given definition of “enjoy.”