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The Political Economy of Football: Democracy, Income Inequality, and Men’s National Football Performance

Kin-Man Wan (), Ka-U Ng () and Thung-Hong Lin ()
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Kin-Man Wan: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Ka-U Ng: McGill University
Thung-Hong Lin: Academia Sinica

Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, 2020, vol. 151, issue 3, No 9, 1013 pages

Abstract: Abstract The reasons why some countries outperform others in international football games warrant exploration. In this article, we argue that the synergy of economic development, democratic experience, football association duration, and low income inequality improves the performance of men’s national football teams. Contemporary professional football is a typical “club good” that encourages members to act collectively by watching games, organizing associations, and investing in talent and capital for team success. We hypothesize that economic development sustains professional football, particularly in democratic regimes that allow collective action through football associations. Wealthy democracies most effectively shape institutional incentives that improve the transparency, fairness, and competitiveness of leagues and contribute to their prosperity, benefiting the talent pool for national football teams. In addition, income inequality excludes the talents from the poor and reduces national football performance. We used panel data from 119 countries for the period from 1999 to 2014 as well as fixed-effects models to verify our hypotheses. The result confirms that democracy improves national football performance. During this period, for instance, Panama, a young democracy, got 13.2% increase in estimated ln FIFA scores. By contrast, Thailand, becoming autocracy in 2007, experienced 12.6% decrease in estimated ln FIFA scores. Democracy stock also moderated the effects of a long football association history to improve national football performance. In addition, reduced income inequality increased performance.

Keywords: Football (soccer); Democracy; Income inequality; Development; Football association (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11205-020-02410-y

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