Bernardo M. Villegas
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It`s in the Regions Stupid!
published: Aug 13, 2019






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Soccernomics in the Philippine Setting (Part 4)

          It would be desirable if the Department of Education as well as TESDA will include futsal (or football for those with the necessary pitches) as an integral part of the sports curricula in public schools as well as including futsal as one of the major events in the Palarong Pambansa.  Since futsal can be played in a much smaller space than football, this sport can be considered “inclusive” in that children of the lower-income households can have the same opportunities as the children of the well-to-do in cultivating the necessary skills.  In fact, this is so obvious in the experiences of some of the outstanding football countries in the developing world like Brazil and Nigeria.  For those who have seen the video on the life of Pele, one of the greatest football players of his generation, it is obvious that children of the poor can have as much opportunity to excel in football if they are able to play the modified version of futsal in their childhood.  In this regard, I want to especially commend the efforts of the Henry Moran Foundation, the Gawad Kalinga Foundation, and embassies like those of Argentina and Brazil that have invested significant resources with working either with public schools or Catholic parishes in involving thousands of Filipino children in futsal or football clinics and tournaments.  We have to encourage many more of these initiatives.

         At the infrastructure level, we have to encourage many more LGUs to emulate the recent example of Biñan, Laguna that included in its budget the building of a modern football stadium (a modest one) that is already being used by the national leagues that are being organized.  In fact, it is already the home stadium of Stallion Laguna F.C., one of the remaining clubs in the PPL. If Biñan can do it, there are dozens of other LGUs that can follow the example, especially by adopting the Private Public Partnership (PPP) mode allowed under the Local Government Code.  I suggest that the major real estate developers like Ayala Land, Megaworld, Double Dragon, Cebu Landmaster, Camella and others explore the possibility of building more modern football pitches in tandem with LGUs using this PPP approach.  We have to commend Megaworld that has, on its own initiative, built a modern football pitch in Bonifacio Global City.  Emperador football field has already done much to promote the playing of football in the Greater Manila Area.  I hope they can replicate this experience in their various projects in Iloilo, Davao, Central Luzon and other emerging metropolitan areas.  The Aboitizes have already led the way in their real estate development in Lipa, Batangas by building a modern football pitch in my home province.  Football fans in these cities or provinces can do their share of exerting pressure on their respective LGU heads to allocate part of the taxes they pay to building more football pitches.  An advantage of a football pitch is that it can also be used for other sports, especially in track and field.

         I want to make it clear that these various strategic moves have one primary objective:  to promote the playing of football by more and more of the next generation of Filipinos who will see the Philippines emerge as a First World country in the next twenty to thirty years.  As we have a generation of Filipino children who grow up personally appreciating the many attractions of playing the beautiful game (together with their parents, especially the “soccer moms” who can become even more passionate in watching their children play!) we can expect these same people to be the spectators of the matches that will be played by the increasing number of local football clubs and, therefore, can encourage more media coverage, especially TV or digital media, which in turn can motivate  more marketing-oriented business enterprises to support the clubs financially, as they do especially in European countries.  This is what will make Soccernomics a reality in the Philippines.  It will not necessarily help us win international tournaments, especially the World Cup.   For this objective, we have to consider another complementary strategy. 

                 One of the most important insights based on data analytics that can be derived from the book Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski is that money paid to the players matters most in being on top of any football league, domestic or international.  Let me quote from the first chapter of their most recent edition of the book: “…much of the money thrown around in the transfer market is wasted.  In fact, the net amount that almost any club spends on transfer fees bears little relation to where it finishes in the league…By contrast, clubs’ spending on salaries was extremely telling.  The size of their wage bills explained a massive 92 percent of variation in their league positions, if you took each club’s average of the entire period.  That correlation shows little sign of going away.  We show almost exactly the same result using data for the Premier League and the Championship (the second tier of English soccer) for the decade through 2016.  In that period, wage spending still explained more than 90 percent of the variation in league position.  It seems that over the long term, high wages help a club much more than spectacular transfers.”  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.