There is perhaps no larger sports policy decision than the decision to host or bid to host a mega-event like the FIFA World Cup or the Summer Olympics. Hosts and bidders usually justify their decisions by touting their potential impact. Many organizers and promoters either fund or widely disseminate ex-ante studies that tend to highlight the positive effects of the event. For instance, the consultancy firm Ernst & Young produced a 2010 report prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that painted an optimistic picture of the event’s potential legacy. It estimated that an additional R$ 142.39 billion (4.91% of 2010 GDP) would flow through the Brazilian economy over the 2010-2014 period, generating 3.63 million jobs per year, R$ 63.48 billion (2.17% of 2010 GDP) of income for the population and additional tax collection of R$ 18.13 billion (0.62% of 2010 GDP) for the local, state and federal governments. Ernst & Young estimated that during the same period 2.98 million additional visitors would travel to Brazil, increasing the international tourist inflow up to 79%.
Such results, if true, would clearly attractive for governments considering a bid, but these expected impacts don’t always materialize. Moreover, hosting mega-events requires significant investments - and the cost of these investments is rising. Zimbalist notes emerging economies like China, Brazil, and South Africa have increasingly perceived "mega-events as a sort of coming-out party signaling that [they are] now a modernized economy, ready to make [their] presence felt in world trade and politics" (Zimbalist 2015). Their intentions may be noble, but the intention of using mega-events as a "coming-out party" means developing countries hoping to host them need to make massive investments. They are confronted by significant obstacles in that they lack sufficient stadiums, accommodations, transportation systems, and other sports-related infrastructure. As a result, each of the mega-events hosted by emerging economies has been exorbitantly expensive. The 2014 World Cup cost Brazil between USD 15 billion and USD 20 billion, while Beijing reportedly spent USD 40 billion prior to the 2008 Summer Olympic (Zimbalist 2015). Additionally, as the debt-ridden 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal demonstrates, expensive mega-events are not limited to emerging economies alone. Flyvbjerg and Stewart have even shown that every Olympics since 1960 has gone over budget (Flyvbjerg and Stewart 2012).
Such incredible figures, in terms of both costs and benefits, beget the question: are mega-events worth it? Which type of reports should governments focus their attention on? What economic consequences should a government reasonably expect? With such high stakes, policymakers need to choose wisely. We attempt to answer these questions and aid the decisions of policymakers by providing a concise review of the rich academic literature on mega-events. For the purposes of this paper, we mainly focus on the Summer Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup as mega-events. However, we also leverage information regarding events like the Winter Olympic Games, the UEFA football championships, and the Commonwealth Games. These events are organized on a smaller scale than the previous two, but they might provide some insights on how to best understand mega-events. We focus on claims surrounding the direct or indirect mechanisms that facilitate the impact that ex-ante studies predict. We provide a review of these claims and their validity according to the existing literature.
Section 1 focuses on the argument that mega-events lead to increased economic activity in the host economy. Specifically, we evaluate whether or not mega-events leads to access to previously inaccessible funds and increased investments. These investments could theoretically come from supranational organizations, private stakeholders, or public stakeholders. We also consider whether or not these new expenditures and investments have the multiplicative effect that many ex-ante studies assume they have. We finally investigate if the economic activity surrounding mega-events leads to increased revenues and tax collection for host governments. Overall, the existing academic literature suggests that any increased economic activity resulting from the event is routinely dwarfed by additional public budgetary commitments. Moreover, the arguments regarding multiplicative effects and increased revenues also tend to be exaggerated.
Section 2 shifts the focus to the potential impact of mega-events on a specific industry: tourism. We explore the effect of mega-events on the number of tourists visiting the host region and their spending habits. We explore this channel both for analyses specific to a single mega-event and for cross-country evaluations incorporating many events. Next, we consider the impact of a mega-event on a region’s brand and image in the international community with the idea of testing if hosting the competition will impact future tourism. Finally, we consider if mega-events lead to increases in the capacity of a city or country to welcome future tourists as a result of improved airport infrastructure, accommodations, and/or transportation systems. As was true in Section 1, the academic literature suggests that the claims of many ex-ante studies are misleading. Our review finds that there is some evidence for increases in tourist arrivals to certain events, but those increases are far smaller than what is generally predicted beforehand. These effects are also usually dependent on factors, such as the timing of the competition, that are specific to the host region and the event itself.
Section 3 briefly discusses other potential qualitative and social impacts of mega-events such as international business relations, crime reduction, and the "feel-good effect." In the penultimate section, Section 4, we discuss how these conclusions should impact the decision-making of policymakers. Finally, in a short conclusion, we summarize the findings of our review.
Data on the sports economy is often difficult to interpret, far from transparent, or simply unavailable. Data fraught with weaknesses causes observers of the sports economy to account for the sector differently, rendering their analyses difficult to compare or causing them to simply disagree. Such disagreement means that claims regarding the economic spillovers of the industry can be easily manipulated or exaggerated. Thoroughly accounting for the industry is therefore an important initial step in assessing the economic importance of sports-related activities. For instance, what do policymakers mean when they discuss sports-related economic activities? What activities are considered part of the "sports economy?" What are the difficulties associated with accounting for these activities? Answering these basic questions allows governments to improve their policies.
The paper below assesses existing attempts to understand the sports economy and proposes a more nuanced way to consider the industry. Section 1 provides a brief overview of existing accounts of the sports economy. We first differentiate between three types of assessments: market research accounts conducted by consulting groups, academic accounts written by scholars, and structural accounts initiated primarily by national statistical agencies. We then discuss the European Union’s (EU) recent work to better account for and understand the sports economy. Section 2 describes the challenges constraining existing accounts of the sports economy. We describe two major constraints - measurement challenges and definition challenges - and highlight how the EU's work has attempted to address them. We conclude that, although the Vilnius Definition improves upon previous accounts, it still features areas for improvement.
Section 3 therefore proposes a paradigm shift with respect to how we understand the sports economy. Instead of primarily inquiring about the size of the sports economy, the approach recognizes the diversity of sports-related economic activities and of relevant dimensions of analysis. It therefore warns against attempts at aggregation before there are better data and more widely agreed upon definitions of the sports economy. It asks the following questions: How different are sports-related sectors? Are fitness facilities, for instance, comparable to professional sports clubs in terms of their production scheme and type of employment? Should they be understood together or treated separately? We briefly explore difference in sports-related industry classifications using data from the Netherlands, Mexico, and the United States. Finally, in a short conclusion, we discuss how these differences could be more fully explored in the future, especially if improvements are made with respect to data disaggregation and standardization.
Previous papers such as Russell, Barrios & Andrews (2016), Guerra (2016), and Russell, Tokman, Barrios & Andrews (2016) have aimed to provide an empirical view into the sports economy. This proves to be a difficult task, given the many definitions of ‘sports’ and data deficiencies and differences in the sports domain (between contexts and over time). The emerging view in these previous papers provides interesting information about the sports sector, however: it shows, for instance, that different contexts have differently intensive sports sectors, and that sports activities overlap with other parts of the economy. This kind of information is useful for policymakers in governments trying to promote sports activities and use sports to advance the cause of broad-based social and economic development.
This paper is written with these policymakers in mind. It intends to offer a guide such agents can use in constructing sports policies focused on achieving development goals (what we call development through sports), and discusses ways in which these policymakers can employ empirical evidence to inform such policies.
The paper draws on the concept of ‘governance’ to structure its discussion. Taking a principal-agent approach to the topic, governance is used here to refer to the exercise of authority, by one set of agents, on behalf of another set of agents, to achieve specific objectives. Building on such a definition, the paper looks at the way governmental bodies engage in sports when acting to further the interests of citizens, most notably using political and executive authority to promote social and economic development. This focus on governance for development through sports (asking why and how governments use authority to promote sports for broader social and economic development objectives) is different from governance of sports (which focuses on how governments and other bodies exercise authority to control and manage sports activities themselves), which others explore in detail but we will not discuss.
The paper has five main sections. A first section defines what we mean by ‘governance’ in the context of this study. It describes an ends-means approach to the topic—where we emphasize understanding the goals of governance policy (or governance ends) and then thinking about the ways governments try to achieve such goals (the governance means). The discussion concludes by asking what the governance ends and means are in a development through sports agenda. The question is expanded to ask whether one can use empirical evidence to reflect on such ends and means. One sees this, for instance, in the use of ‘governance indicators’ and ‘governance dashboards’ in the international development domain. A second section details the research method we used to address these questions. This mixed method approach started by building case studies of sports policy interventions in various national and sub-national governments to obtain a perspective on what these policies tend to involve (across space and time). It then expanded into an analysis of sports policies in a broad set of national and sub-national governments to identify common development through sport ends and means. Finally, it involved experimentation with selected data sources to show how the ends and means might be presented in indicators and dashboards—to offer evidence-based windows into development through sports policy regimes.
Based on this research, sections three and four discuss the governance ends and means commonly pursued and employed by governments in this kind of policy process. The sections identify three common ends (or goals)—inclusion, economic growth, and health—and a host of common means—like the provision of sports facilities, organized activities, training support, financial incentives, and more—used in fostering a development through sports agenda. Data are used from local authorities in England to show the difficulties of building indicators reflecting such policy agendas, but also to illustrate the potential value of evidence-based dashboards of these policy regimes. It needs to be stated that this work is more descriptive than analytical, showing how data can be used to provide an evidence-based perspective on this domain rather than formally testing hypotheses about the relationship between specific policy means and ends. In this regard, the work is more indicative of potential applications rather than prescriptive. A conclusion summarizes the discussion and presents a model for a potential dashboard of governance in a development through sports policy agenda.
 This terminology comes from Houlihan and White, who identify the “tension between development through sport (with the emphasis on social objectives and sport as a tool for human development) and development of sport (where sport was valued for its own sake)” (Houlihan & White 2002, 4).
 The paper relates to a vibrant literature on this topic, which investigates the reasons and ways governments support the sports sector (classic and recent studies in this literature include Adams and Harris (2014), Gerretsenand Rosentraub (2015), Grix and Carmichael (2012), Grix (2015), Hallman and Petry (2013), Houlihan (2002, 2005, 2016), Houlihan and White (2002), Hylton (2013), Koski and Lämsä (2015), Schulenkorf and Adair (2013), and Vuori et al. (1995).
 Work on the governance of sports assesses the way international entities like FIFA and the IOC work with national and local governmental bodies to oversee, regulate, and otherwise manage sports like football and the Olympic movement, using authority to create and implement rules on behalf of those involved in the sport itself. See, for instance Forster (2006), Geeraert (2013), and Misener (2014).
As described in Russell, Barrios & Andrews (2016), past attempts to understand the sports economy have been constrained by a number of data limitations. For instance, many of these accounts use revenues when value added measures would be more appropriate. Similarly, many accounts use top-down definitions that result in double counting and an inflated estimate of the size of the sports economy. More importantly, past accounts have focused most of their efforts estimating the overarching size of the sports economy. Constrained by aggregated data that groups a wide range of sports-related economic activities together, they primarily discuss the size of the sports-related economic activity. Their focus on answering the question of "How big?" conceals substantial differences between activities. Core sports activities, such as professional sports teams, behave very differently than activities, like sporting goods manufacturing that are closer to the periphery of the sports economy. Likewise, there are even important differences amongst core sports activities. Professional sports teams are very different than fitness facilities, and they might differ in different respects.
Guerra (2016) demonstrates that, when detailed, disaggregated data are available, the possibilities to analyze and understand the sports are greatly increased. For instance, Guerra (2016) were able to conduct skills-based analyses, magnitude analyses, employment characterizations, geographic distribution analyses, and calculations of the intensity of sports activities. The sector disaggregation, spatial disaggregation, and database complementarity present in the Mexico data used in that paper therefore enables a more detailed and nuanced understanding of sports and sports-related economic activity.
Data with characteristics similar to those found in Mexico are few and far between. We have, unfortunately, been unable to completely escape such data limitations. However, we have compiled and analyzed a large array of employment data on sports-related economic activities in Europe. In the paper that follows, we describe our analyses of these data and the findings produced.
Section 1 begins with a discussion of employment in sports and an explanation of why we chose this variable for our analyses. Section 2 provides an overview of the data used in this paper particularly focusing on the differences between it and the Mexico data discussed in Guerra (2016). It also describes the methodology we use. We analyze these data using one of two related measures to understand the intensity of sports-related activities across different geographic areas in countries. We also construct measures at the level of a single country in order to compare across entire economies. At the international level, we adopt the revealed comparative advantage (RCA) measure that Balassa (1965) first developed to analyze international trade. Within specific countries, however, we use a population-adjusted version of the RCA measure known as RPOP. Section 3 presents the most relevant findings and Section 4 discusses their limitations. Section 5 concludes with the lessons learned and avenues for future research. While there are limitations on these analyses, they can give policymakers a better understanding of the distribution and concentration of sports across space. Such information can serve as an important input for sports-related investment decisions and other sports-related policies.
In order to appropriately understand the sports sector, its magnitude, embeddedness in the economy, and strategic value, it is necessary to develop a framework through which to study it. Having a standardized and comprehensive methodology to analyze the sports sector will allow policymakers, academics, and other stakeholders to look at the sports sector at a new level of detail and rigor.
Previous work has outlined the numerous data quality and aggregation challenges currently present in the sports economy literature (Russell, Barrios & Andrews 2016). In light of these challenges, this paper attempts to build on the suggested categorization of the sports industry and develop a sound strategy to analyze the sector through an empirical exercise in a specific context: the Mexican Economy.
To this end, we first attempt to understand how connected the sports sector is to other activities in the economy and identify which sectors share similar know-how with m1. Additionally, we attempt to determine the relative magnitude of the sports sector through variables such as value added and employment.
Similarly, we consider study the spatial considerations around sports related economic activities at a subnational level. The advancement of spatial economics has allowed us to understand a new dimension of how an economic sector can develop and how characteristics inherent to a given geography can play a role in determining why some activities end up appearing and developing in the places they do.
Lastly, some descriptive and regression analysis efforts in this paper enabled us to better understand and characterize the sports sector. Such exercises allow us to learn what type of workers typically comprises the sports sector, and whether such profile is different across the different categories of sports activities. Among the variables analyzed I the descriptive exercise, we can look at education level and wages–among others–of those who work on this sector, and compare them to the overall employed population.
This paper is structured as follows: Section 1 will make the case for how publicly available data in Mexico meets the level of detail required for this type of study. Section 2 will look at the way in which the sports sector is nested in the overall economy. Section 3 studies the magnitude of the sports sector through different metrics. Section 4 looks at the type of jobs that comprise the sports sector. Section 5 looks at the differences in intensity of sports activities and early work on its potential causal roots. Section 6 provides some conclusions.
Men’s professional football is the biggest sport in the world, producing (by our estimate) US $33 billion a year. All is not well in the sector, however, with regular scandals raising questions about the role of money in the sport. The 2015 turmoil around FIFA is obviously the most well known example, creating a crisis in confidence in the sector. This study examines these questions, and the financial integrity weaknesses they reveal; it also offers ideas to strengthen the weaknesses.
The study argues that football’s financial integrity weaknesses extend far beyond FIFA. These weaknesses have emerged largely because the sector is dominated by a small elite of clubs, players and owners centered in Europe’s top leagues. The thousands of clubs beyond this elite have very little resources, constituting a vast base of ‘have-nots’ in football’s financial pyramid. This pyramid developed in recent decades, fuelled by concentrated growth in new revenue sources (like sponsorships, and broadcasting). The growth has also led to increasingly complex transactions—in player transfers, club ownership and financing (and more)—and an expansion in opportunities for illicit practices like match-fixing, money laundering and human trafficking. We argue that football’s governing bodies – including FIFA – helped establish this pyramid.
We explore the structural weaknesses of this pyramid by looking at five pillars of financial integrity (using data drawn from UEFA, FIFA, clubs, primary research, and interviews).
In the first pillar of Financial Transparency and Literacy we find that a vast majority of the world’s clubs and governing bodies publish no financial data, leaving a vast dark space with no transparency.
In the second pillar of Financial Sustainability we estimate that a majority of global clubs and governing bodies are at ‘medium to high risk’ of financial failure.
We find, additionally, that European tax debts have grown despite Financial Fair Play, and confederations and FIFA contribute to a pattern of weak Fiscal Responsibility.
We then create a new metric of Financial Concentration and find that the football sector is at ‘high risk’ of over-concentration, which poses existential questions for many clubs and even leagues.
In the final pillar of Social Responsibility and Moral Reputation, we find that football’s governing bodies face a crisis of legitimacy stemming from a failure to tackle moral turpitude, set standards and regulate effectively. We suggest a set of reforms to re-structure FIFA in particular, separating its functions and stressing its regulatory role.