Scenes in Russia

By Matt Engler ’18

On Dec. 1, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) released the groups for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup. The presentation was held in Russia, the location of the tournament, and all 32 teams were assigned a group. This draw attracted millions of fans around to world all tuning in to find out what group their country ended up in.

The draw is a way to randomly, yet fairly, assign teams to groups to compete in “group stage” matches at the beginning of the tournament. There are four pots, each signifying FIFA’s rankings of the teams in the tournament. Pot one signifies the best eight teams, pot two signifies teams ranked from 8-16, and so on. The teams are randomly selected in a lottery ball system. The balls were picked out of the bowls by former World Cup winners. Some of those historic players included Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona and Cafu.

As each group starts to form the media and fans start to decide which groups would be considered a “group of death.” The name refers to the extreme competitiveness of the group. While FIFA does its best to even out each group the random draw creates certain groups which are very competitive. This one group stands out amongst the rest. Group F in many journalists opinions is the group of death at this upcoming World Cup. The group contains Germany, Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea.

“With a young team it’s going to be difficult to get results in a foreign country. Drawing Sweden and Germany wasn’t ideal. However, I have faith in the team,” Mexico fan Pato Perez Elorza ’20 said.

Germany is the favorite to win the group, being the reigning world champions, while Mexico is always a fierce opponent making its way to the round of 16 in the last World Cup.

What makes the group truly interesting is the underdogs. Sweden and South Korea both possess talented players such as Heung Min Son, and Andreas Granqvist. The draw however did feel a bit empty without certain teams in attendance.

There were several notable countries that failed to qualify this year. In many ways they can form their own group. Some of those countries were Italy, United States, Chile and the Netherlands. “Italy has failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, but the result may not come as a surprise to those who have been watching the Azzurri in recent years.” Jonathan Wilson of Sports Illustrated said.  

The World Cup kicks off Thursday, June 14, in Moscow. The tournament will be played over a month long period with the final taking place on Sunday, July 15. The tournament, while under heavy speculation due to its location, is the biggest sporting event in the world and brings billions together to enjoy the beautiful game.

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The Financial Issues Surrounding Soccer

By Matthew Engler ’18

Paris Saint Germain is a French professional soccer team founded in 1970. The club, originally french owned, was taken over in 2011 by Qatar Sports Investments and Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaïfi. The new owners revamped the club through mass spending and investment of new players. Over this past summer, PSG paid $263 million for Barcelona player Neymar da Silva Santos Junior(ESPNFC). This was $100 million more than the previous world record transfer fee(Paul Pogba). The fee itself costs as much as some teams stadiums, let alone one player.

UEFA, or the Union of European Football Association, introduced financial fair play regulations for the 2011-2012 club season. Since then, these regulations have acted as financial boundaries for clubs to follow to prevent mass spending, and therefore diluting the competitiveness of certain leagues. Framework spending would be laid out each year for specific clubs and UEFA would deliver sanctions to clubs who overstepped their boundaries. In theory, these sanctions should prevent clubs from overspending. However, these sanctions have failed to provide any change or properly be implemented. This lack in effectiveness has allowed the $263 million transfer of Neymar to go unpunished and un regulated.

The increase spending of football clubs throughout Europe are destabilizing and volatilizing the transfer market. World football alone has its own economy within its market. The English Premier League, one of the five top leagues in Europe, spent over £1.4 billion on players alone last transfer window. This spending has been on a sharp upwards trend. In 2007, the English Premier League spent a total of £400 million(The Telegraph). Its spending has more than tripled ten years later, and with rising transfer fees, the spending is predicted to increase.

This begs the question, how can UEFA solve this spending problem? As discussed before, UEFA’S initial attempt at a reducing unfair financial acts through sanctions failed to be implemented, and did nothing to put an end to out of control spending. A solution could include what some consider a “salary cap”. In American sports leagues such as the NBA and the NFL, each team has a certain amount of money they can spend on players salary. In the NBA for example, if a team were to breach their salary cap they end up paying what is called a luxury tax to the league. This luxury tax tends to be very expensive and helps to prevent teams from overspending on players. The one problem with this is there are no transfer fees in American sports leagues. Players are not bought and sold, rather they are offered various contracts. In the football market players are usually bought out of their contract, through either an offer from another club or a breach of a release clause. This means the current PSG player Neymar is actually costing PSG close to half a billion dollars due to the five year contract they have to pay him on top of the $263 million release clause they paid Barcelona.

These issues will remain in the footballing world until proper financial fair play regulations are imposed on the transfer market. This multi billion dollar industry is relying on some sort of financial framework to prevent possible market failure, and therefore the destruction of the game of football.