Keeping One's Eye on the Ball: Exploring the Intensity of Sports Activities across Europe

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As described in Russell, Barrios & Andrews (2016), past attempts to understand the sports economy have been constrained by a number of data limitations. For instance, many of these accounts use revenues when value added measures would be more appropriate. Similarly, many accounts use top-down definitions that result in double counting and an inflated estimate of the size of the sports economy. More importantly, past accounts have focused most of their efforts estimating the overarching size of the sports economy. Constrained by aggregated data that groups a wide range of sports-related economic activities together, they primarily discuss the size of the sports-related economic activity. Their focus on answering the question of "How big?" conceals substantial differences between activities. Core sports activities, such as professional sports teams, behave very differently than activities, like sporting goods manufacturing that are closer to the periphery of the sports economy. Likewise, there are even important differences amongst core sports activities. Professional sports teams are very different than fitness facilities, and they might differ in different respects.

Guerra (2016) demonstrates that, when detailed, disaggregated data are available, the possibilities to analyze and understand the sports are greatly increased. For instance, Guerra (2016)  were able to conduct skills-based analyses, magnitude analyses, employment characterizations, geographic distribution analyses, and calculations of the intensity of sports activities. The sector disaggregation, spatial disaggregation, and database complementarity present in the Mexico data used in that paper therefore enables a more detailed and nuanced understanding of sports and sports-related economic activity.

Data with characteristics similar to those found in Mexico are few and far between. We have, unfortunately, been unable to completely escape such data limitations. However, we have compiled and analyzed a large array of employment data on sports-related economic activities in Europe. In the paper that follows, we describe our analyses of these data and the findings produced.

Section 1 begins with a discussion of employment in sports and an explanation of why we chose this variable for our analyses. Section 2 provides an overview of the data used in this paper particularly focusing on the differences between it and the Mexico data discussed in Guerra (2016). It also describes the methodology we use. We analyze these data using one of two related measures to understand the intensity of sports-related activities across different geographic areas in countries. We also construct measures at the level of a single country in order to compare across entire economies. At the international level, we adopt the revealed comparative advantage (RCA) measure that Balassa (1965) first developed to analyze international trade. Within specific countries, however, we use a population-adjusted version of the RCA measure known as RPOP. Section 3 presents the most relevant findings and Section 4 discusses their limitations. Section 5 concludes with the lessons learned and avenues for future research. While there are limitations on these analyses, they can give policymakers a better understanding of the distribution and concentration of sports across space. Such information can serve as an important input for sports-related investment decisions and other sports-related policies.

CID Working Paper: 322
Last updated on 09/06/2016