Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FIFA, UEFA, Nationalism and Culture

Another post from one of Sven's colleague's on Pileus discusses the issue of soccer, nationalism, and citizenship and the ongoing debate between FIFA and UEFA.

Here is my comment to the post:

While there are frequent disputes between FIFA and UEFA, I think this article points to one of the main cultural differences between American sports and European ones. In the U.S. we crown a single champion at the end of the season. In Europe teams compete in multiple competitions at once. A soccer player may compete with his club for the league season title, the league tournament title, the country's cup tournament (among all the clubs), the champions league or Europa cup, all while playing on his country's national team competing for the European cup, Confederations cup, or the World cup.

So lose one, another one is still up for grabs. This has the disadvantage of not crowning a decisive champion, but has the advantage of keeping fans' interest on a number of levels: even if a team is eliminated early on in one competition, they may remain competitive in two or three others. And fans keep spending money to watch matches. Teams and players are judged on the number of trophies they bring home from the many different competitions.

Just this season Portsmouth, a team at the bottom of the Premier League table, managed to keep their fans coming to games because they made it to the finals of the FA cup (where they eventually lost to Chelsea).

All this to say that Americans like crowning a definitive champion in all sports: winner-takes-all. A look at the debate surrounding college football's bowl system confirms this. American sports are also more insular (no offense Toronto Blue Jays). British or Spanish club teams, for example, look at themselves as part of the broader network of international football. The Yankees and Lakers see any international competition as little more than an occasional nuisance.


Jeremy said...

I don't think most American College Football fans would have a problem with multiple championships, so long as the concept of relegation were introduced.

The fact that Vandy is still in the SEC and Wash St in the PAC-1? is what's wrong with the system, not the fact that there is no summative championship.

Jeremy said...

WSJ agrees:

Corry Cropper said...

I love the idea of relegating teams. It's actually "unAmerican" that terrible performers get to stay in the top leagues.