Thursday, November 5, 2009

And Now in Sports...

Yes, I am writing about sports. What do you know?

On The Commons has an article about tax incentives that move sports franchises away from their home towns, and their fans. It suggests that public ownership would be a better solution all around:

Over the long term, it’s not the stadiums that have economic value. It’s the team. Most cities that enter into bidding wars to lure franchises are not getting the best deal. It’s the owners who profit handsomely from these enticements.

Now that I’ve convinced you that private ownership of sports teams has its downside, you should know that public ownership of a sports franchise is illegal under the bylaws and franchise agreements in all of the major professional sports leagues. The restrictions are in effect because of the spectacular success of the Green Bay Packers, who are located in a small market and are hardly failing. The idea that the Packers would move elsewhere is unthinkable because a non-profit municipal corporation run by a board of directors owns the team. The same is true in Europe, where most of the soccer teams are publicly owned.

If public ownership were allowed, owners would be barred from moving teams from small markets where they were profitable – like Green Bay – into larger markets. The value of the franchises would be affected to the detriment of the owners, but it would be a good thing for everyone else...

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that any major league sports franchise be involuntarily turned over to public ownership via eminent domain or otherwise. What I am suggesting is that the home team we live and die for should be seen as part of the local commons, something that belongs to all of us – in much the same way we view parks, schools, sidewalks, city plazas, and libraries. We should recognize it as the quasi-public institution it is.