University Park, Pa. — Stanford University Press recently published Fans of the World, Unite! A (Capitalist) Manifesto for Sports Consumers co-authored by Stephen F. Ross, Penn State professor of law and director of the Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research, and Stefan Szymanski, associate dean of the Cass Business School, City University of London.
Ross and Szymanski have spent many years evaluating the ways in which sports leagues work across the world. Drawing on their extensive research, the authors narrow down their plan to two simple but significant reforms. This twofold remedy would result in sporting competitions being organized and contested in a manner better designed to maximize their appeal to sports fans, as noted in the book:
(1) Sports leagues should be restructured to vest control in a for-profit commercial enterprise that is separate and distinct from the owners of clubs participating in the competition, and (2) participation in each sport’s major leagues should be based on merit, demonstrated best by performance in the prior season."
Their first proposal, that team owners should not own sports leagues as well, is already implemented successfully by NASCAR. Their second proposal, that introducing competition through a promotion and relegation system in which the worst teams in the league are kicked out at the end of the season and replaced by the best performing teams in the next division down, is the standard practice for all international soccer leagues. These two systems would give poorly performing teams incentive to step up their game, allow fresh blood to enter the leagues, and engage fans in true competition.
Matt Mitten, law professor and director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School, describes the book as "fascinating reading that breaks new ground. Based on economic and historical research, this book provides an incisive analysis of the existing structure and governance of U.S. professional sport leagues, and the authors offer thoughtful, creative remedies to the perceived problems they identify. It is an original, thought-provoking contribution to the sports literature."
Ross is the Lewis H. Vovakis Distinguished Faculty and director of the Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy, and Research. His expert testimony and advice on antitrust issues in the sports arena has been sought by various governmental entities in the United States and Canada. Additionally, he has served as pro bono counsel to the Consumer Federation of America on sports antitrust litigation.