“Professionalism is killing football. The spectacle and the quality of this sport are waned due to the expediency and the accomplishment of the clubs’ aspirations”. These thoughts are coming to the fans’ minds more often than ever, especially the elder ones, by criticizing the new rules which are recently established in the football market and by reminiscing the times when football did not have this commercial/professional form.
The main purpose of this research focuses on the European leagues, so as to examine the differences between the modern football times and the football of the old times. In order to succeed this ambition, it is essential for the researcher to delve into each league that will be used as a sample throughout the decades. The main objective is to compare ten European leagues in three different symbolic time periods. The researcher will try to answer the question: Is the contemporary professional football worse than the antiquated amateur? It is understood that, during the research, scientific analysis of the leagues will be included.
Division of Champions in Three Time Periods
The approach, which the researcher needs to follow, has to be relied on certain historic facts that have developed football into the sport all fans love to watch today. For this reason, the overall number of the clubs which have won at least one time the league title at the five major European leagues (English, Spanish, German, Italian and French) and at five less mainstream (Dutch, Belgian, Austrian, Portuguese and Swedish) will be presented.
Consequently, the number of the champions will be separated in three different parts:
• In the first part, the champions of all leagues will be divided in two different groups. The first time champions before the league in each country become professional and after that.
• In the second part, the number of the clubs which won the league title after the Bosman ruling and 22 years before this legal decree will be resulted.
• The final part is referred to the champions before the acquisition of the majority of Chelsea F.C. shares by Roman Abramovich and 14 years before this landmark date. The above investment process constituted the first well-structured business activity of a foreign investor and signaled a new era in football history.
By using the statistical method of Wilcoxon Rank Sum-up test, the researcher will analyze the data and will prove whether the statistical difference of each period is significant or not. Then, the conclusions that will be extracted will be scientifically validated.
Amateur vs Professional Football
Football did not turn into professional sport at the same time for all the countries that are contained in the research. For example, English Football League considered as professional tournament from day zero (1888), Spanish Primera Division also started as professional league (1929) and before that only Copa Del Rey was thought as a national competition (1903). Additionally, football acquired professional features in 20s and 30s in countries such as Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Austria or even later for Germany, Netherlands and Sweden (50s & 60s). Therefore, it seems reasonable the amateur unique champions to be less the professionals.
In the first graph, the difference in frequency of new champions is reflected. Since England and Spain started having professional leagues straight through, they are not included. The results show that in six out of eight leagues the champions were more when the football was amateur rather than professional. To be more accurate, the champion allocation dropped significantly in Portugal (-85.5%), in Germany and Netherlands (-79%), in Sweden (-64%), in Italy and Belgium (-22%). On the other hand, professionalism in football contributed in Austria (+50%) and in France (+15.5%).
In Netherlands and in Germany, twenty-nine different clubs have achieved to become champions, but only five clubs managed to win the title for the first time in their history since football turned to professional. In Portugal, the situation is even worse. From 1939, only Boavista had the chance become champion for the first time, in 2001. In Sweden, although only five clubs have won the title in professional form, the Swedish football was amateur until 1967, so there is an excuse for this performance.
Italy and Belgium seem to have equivalence champion frequency, while France is the only country which hits double digits in both periods. As for Austria, it was the country with the first fully professional league in the European Continent, in 1924. It might have more unique professional champions, but this observation is not enough as the Austrian league has the fewest clubs among the ten countries which are examined. One other distinctiveness of Austrian football is that Rapid Wien has won the Austrian and German league, in 1941, as well as a German Cup, in 1938.
The statistical method to test if these above discrepancies are statistically significant is the Wilcoxon Rank Sum-up test. When the observations are less than 30, and the distribution of the sample is not known, the most appropriate test to identify statistical significances in two samples is the Wilcoxon Rank Sum-up test. The Null Hypothesis in this example is that the two means are equal (H0: mean1=mean2). The results are: W = 48, Wcrit = 49 while the confidence level is 95%. Wcrit > W, consequently the Null Hypothesis is rejected and the two samples do not have the same mean. That means that there is statistically significant difference in the number of champions before and after the football turned to professional.
The Bosman Ruling
Bosman ruling was a European Court of Justice decision, in 1995, that allowed a player to leave a club on a free transfer as soon as his contract expired. The decision banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid.
Jean-Marc Bosman was a player for RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division whose contract had expired in 1990. His intention was to move to Dunkerque, a French club. Nevertheless, Dunkerque refused to meet his Belgian club’s transfer fee demand, so Liège refused to release Bosman. The Belgian took his case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and sued RFC Liège for restraint of trade. The Court’s decision, which was one of the most radical in football history, modified the European football market to the bone.
In this second graph, the allocation of the champions after the Bosman ruling is highlighted. For getting a better taste of how this fact changed the balance of European leagues, the samples of the graph are dated 22 years before and 22 years after this court decision.
From the major leagues, only French football benefited from Bosman ruling, by having increased the number of its champions at 43% approximately. English and Italian leagues encountered considerable losses (-45.5%), while German felt back a little (-25%) and Spanish remained balanced. On the contrary, all the less mainstream leagues raised their numbers by profiting from the decision. Swedish was the most privileged league with 43% more champions than before, when Portuguese (+33%), Dutch (+25%), Austrian (+20%) and Belgium (+17%) follow.
At this point, the Wilcoxon Rank Sum-up test will prove again if there are any statistical significances between the two samples. The Null Hypothesis in this example is that the two means are equal (H0: mean1=mean2). The results are the following: W = 103.5, Wcrit = 78 while the confidence level is 95%. Wcrit < W, accordingly the Null Hypothesis is not rejected and the two samples have the same mean. In other words, there is no statistically significant difference in the number of champions before and after the Bosman ruling.
Chelsea in Roman Abramovich Era
In the last graph, the situation that has been taken place in the ten leagues after the acquisition of the majority of Chelsea F.C. shares by Roman Abramovich is described. The Russian tycoon became the first foreign individual business man that spent over 150.000.000€ for a Premier League club, by setting new rules in the global football market. More precisely, the takeover of Chelsea dissevers the football of 90s from that of the 21st century.
From the five major leagues, Italian champions were halved, Spanish and French champions were merely diminished, 20% and 12.5% respectively, and German and English champions remained unaffected (0%). From the five less popular leagues, Dutch champions were increased by 67%, Swedish by 33% and Belgian by 25%. The Austrian champions were unaffected (0%) and only the Portuguese felt back (-50%).
The Wilcoxon Rank Sum-up test will be used for one last time, to find the statistical significances between the two samples. The Null Hypothesis in this example is that the two means are equal (H0: mean1=mean2). The results are the following: W = 101, Wcrit = 78 while the confidence level is 95%. Wcrit < W hence the Null Hypothesis is not rejected and the two samples have the same mean. So, there is no statistically significant difference in the number of champions before and after the acquisition of the majority of Chelsea F.C. shares by Roman Abramovich.
The findings of the research conduct to the conclusion that, in amateur football, the chance to win the league title was given to the clubs more frequently. Professionalism reduced these chances to minimum as the dominant clubs were less easy to be competing. The Bosman ruling and the entrance of foreign owners in football reality are not considered as facts that influenced more negatively the global football scene. As, a result, the football fans are right when they are nostalgic for the football of the old times.
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The Wilcoxon Rank-Sum Test. (1997). [ebook] Auckland, California: Department of Statistics Univercity of Auckland, pp.1-10. Available at: https://goo.gl/DrTmUW [Accessed 11 Jan. 2018].
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