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The Economics of Sports Labor Market Imperfections

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1 The Economics of Sports Labor Market Imperfections
FIFTH EDITION Chapter 9 Labor Market Imperfections Michael A. Leeds | Peter von Allmen

2 Introduction While salaries grew rapidly in all the major North American team sports, they grew more rapidly in some than others The faster growth of salaries in baseball than in football is surprising since revenues in football have risen faster and baseball is exempt from antitrust laws Baseball has a relatively stronger players’ association

3 Learning Objectives Understand how leagues exert monopsony power on players and the impact of monopsony on salaries Describe how unions act as a countervailing force on teams’ monopsony power and how the player associations have increased player income Describe how the most recently negotiated agreements in the NFL and NBA have changed the economic relationship between players and owners

4 9.1 The Monopsony Power of Sports Leagues
No major sports league has a competitive labor market In this section, we take a closer look at The reserve clause The advent of free agency in professional sports The impact of monopsony power on players who are not free agents

5 Monopsony Monopsony is a market structure with a single buyer
In a monopsony labor market, workers can sell their services only to the monopsony employer The impact of monopsony power is the mirror image of monopoly power A monopsonist uses its market power to drive down the prices it pays producers

6 The Monopsony Model ME It is an upside down monopoly (Figure 9.1)
$ ME S D L wc wm Lm Lc It is an upside down monopoly (Figure 9.1) Pays lower wages, wm Employs fewer workers, Lm Causes a deadweight loss The supply curve is the market supply curve Marginal Expenditure (ME) is the added expenditure from hiring one more player if all are paid the same wage Profit is maximized when ME = MB

7 Figure 9.1

8 The Reserve Clause Baseball set the pattern
Until the mid-1870s, players controlled the sport The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) set the rules Financial backers provided the money The NAPBBP had a crucial weakness It could not keep players from jumping contracts The Pittsburgh Pirates got their name because they “pirated” players from other teams

9 The Origins of the Reserve Clause
William Hulbert was many things A financial backer of the Chicago White Stockings A brazen thief An unwitting founder of modern baseball In 1875, he signed 5 players They were still under contract with other clubs After signing them he called for a new system to end such practices The new system allowed teams to “reserve” players – a gentlemen’s agreement

10 The Reserve Clause The text of the reserves clause is quite vague
[I]f, prior to March 1, the player and the club have not agreed upon the terms of such contract [for the next playing season], then on or before ten days after said March 1, the club shall have the right to renew this contract … except that the amount payable to the player shall be such as the club shall fix in said notice Its interpretation was unambiguous It bound players to teams in perpetuity This gave the clubs the right to set wages

11 The Clause Seemed Innocent
By 1889 the reserve clause became a part of all players’ contracts It bound players for a limited time The length of their contract plus one year This became a perpetual tie Owners did not let players play without a contract All parties eventually assumed the clause was a lifetime contract Other sports leagues copied it

12 Impact on Wages With no competition for players, teams reduced salaries to levels that just kept their players in the sport Roger Maris worked as a beer distributor in the offseason after breaking Babe Ruth’s record in 1961 Players had little countervailing power Major League Baseball Players Association was formed in 1953 It had no collective bargaining agreement until 1968

13 9.2 Unions in Professional Sports
Unions have been representing a declining portion of the civilian labor force In the 1950s, about one third was unionized By 2011, this had fallen to about 12% Globalization, technological advances, and demographic changes of the workforce have reduced the importance of unions In contrast, all major league players belong to professional sports unions

14 Introduction to Unions
Craft unions descended from medieval guilds They are organized along skill lines To keep prices high, they prevent non-members from practicing the same craft Modern craft unions consist of workers who share a common skill Example: Screen Actors Guild Industrial unions originated in 19th century Industrial revolution led to the rise of large firms Unions sought to offset the power of large employers Example: United Auto Workers

15 How Craft Unions Affect Pay
Some restrict access to skills Some restrict access to jobs They raise pay by restricting labor supply to Su in Figure 9.2a

16 How Industrial Unions Affect Pay
Workers act like a monopoly See Figure 9.2b They push wages up via collective bargaining and the threat of a strike They reduce employment in the industry

17 Figure 9.2a

18 Figure 9.2b

19 Strikes and Lockouts A strike occurs when workers act together to remove the labor input from the production process A lockout occurs when the management of the firm does not permit the labor input to operate

20 Are Unions Inefficient?
Monopolies drive price up and quantity down Have unions hurt sports? Unions can justify higher pay if Employers find ways to increase the MRPL Providing a voice to workers decreases worker discontent, thus increasing MRPL

21 Monopsony Unions v. Monopoly Employers
Owners retain monopsony power Only a few teams employ players They drive down pay Players now have monopoly power Unions negotiate with owners They drive up pay The result is bilateral monopoly Pay is now in an indeterminate range between the high monopoly price and the low monopsony price See Figure 9.3 Pay depends on each side’s bargaining power This was analyzed by Nobel Laureate John Nash A key is each side’s threat point – the well-being of each side if there is never a settlement

22 Sports Unions Unions in professional sports are a hybrid
They represents players with special skills like craft unions Because players work for a particular employer, unions bargain like industrial unions They are sometimes unlike any union They do not bargain over specific pay but for a framework within which individuals bargain They sometimes advocate positions that are unlike those of other unions or firms Example: During the 1998–1999 NBA lockout, the players advocate a free market for labor

23 Advent of Free Agency Because, at first, it applied to only five players, being reserved meant that a player was regarded as a star When players recognized the impact of the reserve clause, they sought to improved its terms Eventually, they sought to overturn it No major sport now has a reserve clause Players now have a path to free agency They can sell their services to the highest bidder

24 Football and Free Agency
The NFL was the first to get free agency In 1957, Radovich v. NFL ruled that football is interstate commerce A gentlemen’s agreement not to sign free agents quickly broke down Commissioner Pete Rozelle imposed the Rozelle rule

25 The Rozelle Rule Teams had to compensate each other when signing a free agent The rule turned signing a free agent into a trade Free agency was not restored until 1992 The NFLPA disbanded This allowed individual players to sue the NFL on antitrust grounds

26 Hockey and Free Agency The World Hockey Association (WHA) was formed as a rival league in 1972 It sued the NHL on antitrust grounds In an attempt to sign away players Courts declared players could become free agents

27 Figure 9.3

28 Basketball and Free Agency
The American Basketball Association (ABA) and NBA sought to merge in the mid-1970s The NBA players blocked the merger They did not want the “salary war” to end The union brought an antitrust lawsuit The ABA and NBA did not have a limited exemption allowing them to merge They got the union to drop its suit by granting the players free agency

29 Baseball’s Path to Free Agency
MLB players could not use the courts MLB was exempt from antitrust laws The legacy of the Federal Baseball ruling Free agency came first to MLB thanks to one man: Marvin Miller He made unions a force in sports Named Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 He was the MLBPA’s first full-time director

30 The Brilliance of Marvin Miller
He outsmarted the owners & commissioner He got them to form an arbitration panel The panel had three members One each appointed by owners and the union One mutually agreed upon Previously the commissioner handled all appeals In 1976, Andy Messersmith played a year without a contract His appeal went to the panel The panel voted 2-1 to declare him a free agent

31 Forms of Free Agency All leagues now have free agency
This is the right of a player to sign with any team that offers him a contract Each league has its own restrictions on when and how to achieve it There are two forms of free agency

32 Unrestricted Agency Player can sign with any team Eligibility
MLB: After 6 years NBA: After 4 years for first-round draft picks No restriction on other players NFL: After 4 years if his contract has expired NHL has a complex formula 27 or 7 rule allows free agency for 27-year olds or players with 7 years of experience Can vary with position and the number of games played

33 Restricted Free Agency
Player’s original team has the right of first refusal It can retain the player by matching another team’s offer Rules for restricted free agency vary MLB does not have restricted free agency NBA: After 3 years for 1st round draft picks It does not apply to other players NFL: After 3 years if his contract has expired NHL: Again has complex set of rules

34 Salary Arbitration Arbitrators play the judge in disputes
Unlike mediators who act as middlemen Arbitration comes in two forms Binding: both sides pre-commit to judgment This is often used with municipal unions Non-binding: both sides face indirect pressure to accept NHL and MLB have binding arbitration

35 Salary Arbitration in NHL
Team and player submit proposals to panel The panel may choose either offer or impose its own ruling The panel has 48 hours to make its ruling A recent study shows that the rulings closely track what econometric studies say the players are worth

36 Salary Arbitration in MLB
MLB uses Final Offer Arbitration (FOA) FOA is designed to prevent addiction to arbitration

37 Addiction to Arbitration
Arbitrators like their jobs They don’t want to offend either side They are pressured to choose middle ground Labor and firm have no incentive to compromise Moderating one’s offer just shifts the middle ground This makes arbitration addictive Labor Firm Arbitrator

38 Final Offer Arbitration (FOA)
Each side makes one offer Arbitrator must choose one Arbitrator cannot impose or propose an independent solution FOA restores the incentive to compromise Of 34 players who initially filed for FOA in 2011, only 3 actually went to arbitration

39 The Impact of FOA Players have lost more than half the arbitration cases Arbitration still has had a huge impact on salaries 78 players filed for FOA in Only 6 went to arbitration The average salary of the 78 players more than doubled

40 Measuring Monopsony Power
Krautmann, von Allmen, and Berri (2009) compare 3 major sports leagues Players who are not eligible for arbitration or are restricted free agents Are paid 66% of their MRP in the NBA Are paid 50% of their MRP in the NFL Are paid 19% of their MRP in MLB When they are eligible They receive 77% of their MRP in the NFL They receive 86% of their MRP in MLB

41 Salary Caps The collective bargaining process is typically a matter of compromise Three of the four major sports leagues—the NHL, NBA, and NFL—now have salary caps We introduced salary caps in Chapter 5 Here we examine their impact on team payrolls

42 Salary Caps in the NBA Payrolls are now limited to 49-51% of basketball related income (BRI) The individual salary scale is based on experience The NBA levies an escrow tax on all salaries 10% of all salaries are held in escrow by the NBA The tax applies if total salaries exceed the cap It holds regardless of exceptions and exemptions Income in escrow goes to the NBA until salaries fit below the cap

43 Salary Caps in the NHL Payrolls are set at 57% of qualifying revenue
No individual can receive over 20% of the team’s allowable payroll Players put 13.5% in an escrow account similar to the NBA’s The current lockout is about how what percentage of revenue goes to the players

44 Figure 9.4

45 Salary Caps in the NFL (Hard Cap)
Players different shares of different sources 55% of national media revenue 45% of NFL ventures revenue 40% of aggregate local revenue The NFL has no individual limits Bonuses are a complicating factor

46 Bonuses in the NFL A bonus counts against the cap if it is easy to obtain Example: signing bonuses They are prorated over the life of the contract The do not count if not easily earned Example: leading the league in sacks

47 The Impact of Salary Caps
Caps have significantly reduced payrolls Caps have significantly leveled payrolls See Figure 9.5

48 Figure 9.5

49 Figure 9.6

50 Luxury Taxes In MLB Teams with payrolls above a threshold must pay a tax The threshold will rise from $178 million to $189 million in 2014 The tax is 17.5% of overpayment for first-time offenders and can rise to 50% In the NBA Teams pay 150% tax for first $5 million over the cap This rises to 325% for teams $15 million over

51 The Impact of Rival Leagues
Entry undermines monopsony power Salaries rise with serious challenges NFL salaries doubled between 1982 and 1986 because of the USFL Between 1970 and 1976 salaries in the NHL more than tripled because of the WHA See Figure 9.7

52 Figure 9.7

53 9.3 Labor Conflict and Compromise
Labor relations in professional sports have been particularly contentious Table 9.1 shows that each of the four major North American sports has experienced a work stoppage since 1980 The NBA’s lockout shortened the regular season from 82 to 66 games in 2011 The NFL lost preseason games 2011 The NHL is on the verge of losing its season

54 Rationality and Conflict
Economics presumes rational behavior Rational people do not needlessly impose costs on themselves Strikes and lockouts seem willfully to waste resources In the NHL, both team owners and players would have been better off if they had agreed to implement a salary cap at the beginning of the season and avoided the loss of income that resulted from the lockout

55 Economic Theory and Labor Conflict
Economists reconcile strikes with rational behavior by acknowledging that uncertainty affects negotiations If one side is overly pessimistic, it may settle for a less favorable agreement than it could have reached If one side is too optimistic—overstating its own bargaining power or understating its opposition’s power—conflict may result

56 Settlement in Contact Zone
If both labor and management know exactly how far they can push the other side, they can typically reach a settlement without conflict Figure 9.8 illustrates how this might occur They both settle in the contract zone The contract zone is the range of wages or salaries that is acceptable both sides

57 Illustrating Conflict (Figure 9.8)
Union willing to accept Firm willing to accept Low Wage High Wage Contract Zone Both union and firm are willing to settle within the contract zone

58 Conflict The threat point for labor is the minimum acceptable wage
The threat point for management is the maximum offer Conflict occurs if one side or the other misjudges this point and stays outside of the contract zone This is illustrated in Figure 9.9c

59 Illustrating Conflict (Figure 9.9c)
Union willing to accept Firm willing to accept High Wage Low Wage Union’s Perceived Contract Zone If the union underestimates the firm, it will refuse offers in the actual contract zone

60 Labor Conflict in Professional Sports
Unions in sports bargain over bigger issues than most unions Most unions do not bargain over basic entrepreneurial decisions But issues like revenue sharing and league expansion or contraction are often at the heart of negotiations in professional sports

61 Conflict in the MLB MLB owners were often divided
Large market v. small market They could not present a coherent stance This caused uncertainty by players over what owners wanted and mistrust of the owners The players also knew that big-market owners wanted to settle and would eventually prevail over the small-market owners

62 Conflict in the NHL Alan Eagelson has left a legacy of ill-will
As executive director of the NHLPA ( ) he engaged in massive conflicts of interest He was also an agent for many players He had business dealings with NHL owners As director of a foundation that oversaw international hockey exhibitions, he told players that revenues would benefit their pensions But he told the owners to keep the revenues Eagleson went to prison Players lost faith in the owners

63 Comparing 2011 NBA and NFL Negotiations
The NFL lockout marked its first work stoppage since 1987 The NBA followed four months later The circumstances were very different The NFL was hugely profitable The NBA was in some distress

64 The 2011 NFL Lockout Both sides had so much to lose that conflict seemed illogical But the key was uncertainty and mistrust Both the NFL and the NFLPA had relatively new leadership that had not previously negotiated a CBA Each side mistrusted the other’s actions The NFL negotiated a TV contract that would pay $4 billion even if it played no games The NFLPA filed to decertify, opening the way for another antitrust lawsuit

65 The NFL Agreement Owners got
A 7 percentage-point reduction in labor’s share of revenues A rookie salary cap Credit in revenue for stadium investment (reducing amount shared with players) Players got Commitment that teams would be at or close to the cap Added funding for retirees and safety research Restriction on preseason practices No expansion of the season to 18 games

66 The 2011 NBA Lockout The NBA sought significant, basic changes
Lower percentage of revenue to players A harder salary cap Players threatened to play in Europe

67 The NBA Agreement The agreement is unusually long – 10 years
Owners got The desired reduction in labor share A much harder cap thanks to the escrow tax noted earlier Players got relatively little A promise that teams would come close to the maximum payroll established by the cap

68 Professional Tennis Associations
In 1968, the first year of “open” tennis, the prize for winning the men’s singles at Wimbledon was only £2,000 Both professionals and amateurs compete in an open tournament By 2012, the prize rose to £1,150,000 This is an increase of 57,400 percent The prize for women went from £750 to £1,150,000 The tennis associations helped

69 Professional Tennis Associations (cont.)
Men and women have separate unions The men’s Association of Tennis Professionals was formed in 1972 (ATP) Sony Ericsson Women’s Tennis Association was formed in 1973 (WTA) Both associations resemble craft unions They restrict supply by defining who qualifies They provide labor to tournaments

70 A Different Kind of Union
The ATP and WTA do not specify how much tournaments pay specific players They establish the reward structure of the tournaments They also negotiate all aspects of the “working conditions” Example: Bathroom facilities in locker rooms ATP and WTA do not engage in negotiations with a single management group but with tour sponsors

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