By Nick Harris
8 April 2010
The failure of England’s leading football clubs to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League was a predictable consequence of the declining value of the pound, and not a sporting aberration, according to a leading Cambridge academic.
Lionel Page, a Frenchman resident in England, is a behavioural economist and research associate at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, and a research fellow at the University of Westminster.
Page has conducted extensive research into various relationships between football, economics and psychology, including exploring the effect of crowds on referees’ decisions, and establishing the scientifically provable phenomenon of home advantage in the second leg of European ties.
Writing for sportingintelligence today, in the wake of the exit from Europe of Manchester United – the team he supports – following earlier exits by Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, Page says: “I was actually expecting that the English teams would ‘under-perform’ [this season] . . . except I would argue they did not actually under-perform; they did what economic analysis suggested might happen.”
Page points out that the value of the pound against the Euro has crashed 25 per cent in two years, but this did not have any marked effect in the transfer market until last summer, when the Premier League clubs, especially the big clubs, sold big names (Ronaldo, Tevez, Alonso), and spent less money (net) than in any season for a decade.
Significantly, English clubs’ net spending also fell for the first time in a decade below the net spending of clubs in Spain’s top division and Germany’s top division.
“It may not be fully incidental that Arsenal and Manchester United fell in the Champions League to teams from precisely those two leagues,” Page writes, in reference to Barcelona (who beat Arsenal) and Bayern Munich (who beat United).
Page also asserts that English club rugby has lost its dominance in Europe because of the value of the pound, and predicts English football’s domination of top European club football could be over. “If you add the staggering debts of top clubs, the will of Uefa to cap spending on players as a function of clubs’ turnover, and the Ofcom ruling on Sky’s selling prices, it is a fair to bet to say that the following years won’t look like the 2003-2009 era,” he says.