Transfer Fee Regulations and Player Development
This paper studies the role of transfer fees in professional sports, where players can commit to binding long-term contracts. They cannot switch clubs before their contract expires unless the old club agrees to let them go; the transfer fee is the price of that agreement. Transfer fees have been defended as a necessary incentive for clubs to invest in training their young players. The apparent absence of significant training costs (compared to the level of transfer fees) has undermined this defense. We present a model without training where an industry of clubs with heterogeneous marginal revenue products for player ability and a population of players with various levels of talent and experience match. Transfer fees are needed to allocate scarce playing opportunities efficiently among players of different levels of known and potential ability. We show that total surplus is lower without transfer fees because playing time gets reallocated towards older players with less upside potential. The resulting increase in player salaries exceeds the transfer fee costs for each level of ability. (JEL: J31, J41, K12, L83) (c) 2006 by the European Economic Association.
Volume (Year): 4 (2006)
Issue (Month): 5 (09)
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