I want to write about the economics of the Wrexam football club. They have docu-series currently airing on FX weeking until late October. They have two celebrity owners whose level of wealth falls squarely within the range of optimum dramatic tension i.e. rich enough to buy and improve a tiny Welsh football club, but so rich that they can buy their way out of every problem without utterly ruining themselves and their families.
I want to write about it, but I won’t. I’ll be patient and wait until the first season is over. Instead, I want to encourage you to watch all or part of the season with an eye towards the drama and risk there is to be found in solving such a complex economic problem. Pay attention, there will be a quiz in two months:
- How do you optimize your committment to an investment whose financial payoff is gaining access to a higher revenue stream via a process as unpredictable as finishing at or near the top in a 24 team football league? How do you cope with that much noise in a system with such poor underlying odds?
- How do you optimize your committment to an investment whose payoff has an enormous non-pecuniary element (i.e. joy from the success of the team) and that non-pecuniary element is a true local public good (non-excludable and non-rival) that represents a significant portion of total utility in local households?
- How should local stake holders treat their relationship to the team? The supporters group has significant voting power when transitioning ownership. What should they be maximizing when they cast their votes? On what observables should they base their decisions?
- In what ways are the owners failing to optimally allocate resources within the team?
- In what ways is the manager and coaching staff failing to optimally manage the player resources they have?
- Are incentives aligned top to bottom in the organization? Within the team?
- How do you measure success and failure with a sports club? Should these metrics, or the relative weights on these metrics, change with the scale of the club, it’s resources, and its fan base?
When the season is over we will revisit these questions and more. Running a sports team is an incredibly complex problem to solve. Most previous inside looks have been pure PR projects for the very biggest clubs, worth billions of dollars. These clubs/teams are enormous enterprises, with vast hierarchies and narrowly divided tasks. They are in many ways simply too big to fit into frame for an intimate documentary. If that’s what you’re interested in, fiction is the better channel because it can abstract away from all the field maintence and beer pricing, and just show you Brad Pitt cutting deals over the phone while stuffing food into his beautiful face.
To really understand this business from the inside, you gotta go small. To places where a small number of individuals are making an inefficiently vast range of decisions. Welcome to Wrexam so far looks to be one of the very best views into that world. I can’t wait to see more.
I just hope they find someone to update their zonal marking system on set pieces. I don’t know, maybe much some YouTube videos or something. Yikes.