TV rights spur sport incomes, says economist

In the late 1950s the average income of a league baseball player in the United States was around $40,000 per annum. Cut to 2010 — the average income has crossed $1 million.

The huge expanse of the economic pie of the sport was the result of not just sale of tickets, but mainly due to the big-time television rights.

Noted economist Allen Sanderson of the University of Chicago on Wednesday evening brought sports, statistics and economics under one roof in his lecture “Economics of Sports” organised by the University of Chicago Alumni Association and Chicago Alumni Clubs of Bangalore.

Economics of sport, Sanderson pointed out, has the unique feature of “competitive balance.” 

Balancing inequality

While corporate giants go for the kill to capture the market by trying to knock their opponents out of the competition, many sports have inbuilt measures to balance inequality to a certain extent.

Categorising wrestling events in weight classes is an example to create some kind of balance in the sport, Sanderson explained.

Then there are methods to eliminate the component of luck. In swimming, the best swimmers in a competition get the most sought-after lane 4 or 5 on the basis of previous times and not by the draw of lots.

Element of luck

“If it had been a draw of lots (to allot lanes), a weaker player could have got the best lane and the element of luck would have crept into his or her winning,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson is of the view that three cities — Paris, London and New York — should never host the Olympics.

“These cities lose their bounce as they are already well known. There is no new appeal in these cities to attract tourists,” he said. 

Finally, which sport will dominate US in 2025?  Sanderson says it will be college athletics.

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