The Lead

Yesterday I spent quite a lot of time discussing the price of elite talent in football. While transfer fees tend to be wildly inefficient in relation to the skill of an individual player (insert obligatory Torres reference here), player wages do rather nicely. European footballers, for the most part, earn what they ‘deserve.’

Are there any other revealing price efficiencies in football? Why yes! UEFA for example regularly hands out fines to clubs for various levels of misconduct, from racially abusing players to pulling down your underpants to reveal an illegal sponsor. How exactly these fines are determined is a mysterious process, but there have been enough of them doled out that we can very roughly determine what matters to UEFA, and what does not.

Descending from most important to least important, in UEFA’s eyes, mostly sourced from the Telegraph’s list back in October 2012:

  • Use of fireworks and far right banners in stadiums, rioting against police and officials: Russia fined £96,000 for fan behaviour in Euro 2012.
  • Offending paid sponsors: £80,000 fine for Nicklas Bendtner for his infamous Paddy Power underpants reveal during Euro 2012.
  • Racist abuse: Serbian FA fined £67,000 for racially abusing the England U21s. This mind you for UEFA is on the very high end of the scale…recent racist abuse fines have ranged between £35,000 and as low as £16,000.
  • Sectarianism: Rangers fined £35,652 for singing sectarian songs in Europa League game against PSV.
  • Confronting a match referee: £33,000 to Arsenal for conduct in Champions League loss against AC Milan.
  • Coming out late for the second half: Manchester City received £24,740 for walking down the tunnel late in their match against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League. This as the Telegraph notes was “…over £8,000 higher than Porto were subjected to for monkey noises at Mario Balotelli earlier in the campaign.”
  • Showing a banner that reads “Against Modern Football”, accompanied with a cartoon sheikh with a bag of money: £8,000 to Ajax for their behaviour at the Etihad, today.

Let’s try and break that down a little further. Generally speaking, on average, showing a banner that reads Against Modern Football is in UEFA’s eyes about 1/4 as bad as racially abusing players with monkey chants and the like (in Mario Balotelli’s case, it’s about half as bad). It’s just under 1/10th as bad as rioting against police, setting fireworks off in a stadium, and committing other assorted acts of violence.

“Against Modern Football.” The official line from UEFA is that the banner was “provocative and inappropriate.” Which means UEFA believes it is the arbiter of neutral, non-abusive, barely politically-specific fan slogans.

If this is modern football—the infantilism of football supporters, the arbitrary doling out of fines following a bizarro world moral code—well, I’m against it.


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