The Political Economy of Football: A Cross-National Data Analysis of FIFA Men’s Scores, 1999–2014

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Ka U NG, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Kin Man WAN, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Thung-Hong LIN, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
From the perspective of political–economic synergies, we argue that the interaction of economic development and democracy, the essential factor sustaining a strong professional football industry, improves the performance of men’s national football teams. A professional football industry is a typical ‘club good’, a type of semipublic good that attracts people to take collective action in watching the game and investing their talent and capital. Moreover, economic development increases the private sport consumption of fans whether their countries are democratic or not. In contrast to wealthy autocracies, wealthy democracies effectively shape the transparent and competitive institutional incentives of leagues and contribute to their prosperity, which benefits the national football teams’ talent pools. We used panel data from 131 countries between 1999 and 2014 and fixed-effect regression models controlling the climatic conditions and population to show the effect of synergy between development and democracy on the performance of men’s national football teams, measured using the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) score. We found that democratically developed synergy, intermediated by a robust professional football industry, improved the performance of men’s national football teams.