I once had a passion for soccer. First as a player, then as a fan. The fan passion had begun in 1990 at the latest. The fall of the Iron Curtain had reunited Germany, and in Italy, Germany became soccer world champion. Germany was a sea of flags, and I was right in the middle.
Enthusiasm had waned steadily over the years. In 2014, in Brazil, it flared up once again; Germany became, very convincingly, world champion for the fourth time (besides 1954, 1974). When the team returned to Berlin, I cheered for my heroes along with hundreds of thousands (I took the photo above on 15 July 2014).
I haven’t watched football hardly ever since then. Love was gone. Maybe because I’ve gotten older. In any case, because I don’t like the structures in professional football.
For the fans, it’s about passion, belonging, a sense of community. But these feelings are used for one thing in particular: To earn money with them. With admission tickets, watching advertising, with pay TV, with merchandising.
Admittedly, this is how many business models work. But in soccer, the business model is particularly difficult from the customer’s point of view. Because the provider is usually a monopolist. In the case of the Fifa World Cup (of course, it’s a trademark) it’s Fifa.
The tendency towards monopoly formation is natural in sports since competition is inherently non-existent. (Who really wants to see two, three or four competing world championships like in boxing?)
Of course, this “naturalness” doesn’t make the monopolies any better. Nothing more needs to be said about Fifa. It has become a showcase of what happens when monopolies are not regulated.
Corruption, excessive prices, ultra-rich function holders, little customer orientation. That’s how monopolies act; that’s how Fifa acts.
But why doesn’t that change? Probably because politicians lack courage – nobody wants to mess with the sport. That needs to change. And I think it’s possible.
Here’s what needs to happen.
People must become aware that the core of the problem is the formation of monopolies in sports. Since monopolies cannot be prevented there, the only remaining options are supervision of the monopoly or regulation.
Once society recognises that organisations like Fifa are monopolies that need to be regulated, the pressure on politicians to do so will increase.
So it doesn’t help to criticise Fifa constantly. We need to see the structures behind it that allow Fifa to act the way they do. It’s high time to treat Fifa like you treat other monopoly companies: You take them on a tight leash.