As was discussed on this blog, the rights to broadcast live Premier League football matches in the UK were recently auctioned off for a staggering £1.7bn per season. In the Premier League all of the clubs join forces to sell the rights collectively.
On the face of it, this collective selling would appear to be a potential breach of competition laws that prevents agreements between firms. However, despite some concerns and complaints, collective selling of football TV rights has been allowed, firstly because it is argued that it results in a more equal distribution of income amongst clubs, thus enhancing competitive balance and resulting in a more attractive product for the fans; secondly, because some of the revenue raised is redistributed down the football pyramid to lower league clubs.
In contrast to the Premier League, in Spain the clubs have traditionally sold their rights individually. This has been regarded as a significant advantage for the Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
For the 2013–14 season in total clubs in the top division in Spain earned substantially less than their counterparts in England. However, Barcelona and Real Madrid earned around 1/3 of the total and more than any club in England, whereas the league winners that year, Atletico Madrid, earned only around half that of Cardiff City which finished bottom of the Premier League. Despite this, it is interesting to note that, at least in terms of league winners, the Spanish league has been more competitive than the German league despite the rights being sold collectively in the latter.
However, the way in which the rights are sold in Spain may be about to change. A few weeks ago, following pressure from the majority of clubs, the Spanish government approved a law that will introduce collective selling. The sport ministry spokesman described this change as allowing Spanish football to ‘adopt to modern times’.
It has been reported that there is a clause in the legislation that guarantees all clubs an increase in revenues above what they currently earn from selling their TV rights individually. This may have been essential to persuade the larger clubs, in particular Barcelona and Real Madrid, to support the new legislation.
The change in legislation still needs to be cleared by the Spanish parliament and there has been a threat of strike action. It is also unclear how the clause described above might affect the standing of the collective agreement under competition law.
Assuming the change does go ahead, it will be interesting to see how much the subsequent collective sale of TV rights raises. One estimate suggests a significant increase, but still much less than in the Premier League. Even more fascinating will be in the longer term to see what knock-on effect this has on the degree of competitive balance in the league.
Barcelona back collective TV rights in La Liga City a.m., Joe Hall (04/08/14)
Is the balance of power in Spain’s La Liga set to change after historic TV rights change Sport.co.uk, Jason King (02/05/15)
Court suspends Spanish football strike Financial Times, Tobias Buck (14/05/15)
- Why does competition policy typically prohibit agreements between firms?
- Do you think collective selling will always have a significant effect on the degree of competitive balance in a sports league? What other factors are likely to be important?
- Assuming the new legislation goes ahead, how do you think Spanish football will change?
- Can you think of any other situations where agreements between firms may be beneficial?
One problem for motorists at the moment is the cost of petrol, where prices have reached over 1.37p on average, as we considered in the blog It’s fuelling anger. However, another problem could soon materialise and that is no petrol. Back in 2000, there was massive disruption to the public with a fuel blockade and a similar thing could occur, following the ‘yes’ vote by fuel tank drivers in favour of strike action.
Over the past few years, strikes have occurred across a variety of industries and if this one did happen with no contingency plan in place, disruption would be significant to both private individuals and companies. Drivers from Unite (the trade union) supply over 90% of fuel to UK garages and so any strike could lead to the closure of up to 7,900 stations.
However, the government has begun to consider the worst case scenario, if talks do not work with plans to begin training army drivers. There are concerns that without these plans in place, disruption across the country may occur with supermarkets, garages and airports all facing fuel shortages. Those who have a job that relies on travel, or even those who simply use their cars or buses to get to work will also feel the effects. Other problems within the emergency services could also emerge, but the government has assured the public that their fuel would be prioritised. The following articles consider this issue.
Fuel strike drivers vote yes in row over conditions BBC News (26/3/12)
Plan for fuel strike, says Downing Street Financial Times, George Parker (27/3/12)
Talks urged to avert fuel tanker strike Independent, Andrew Woodcock and David Mercer (27/3/12)
Ed Miliband: Fuel strike must be avoided at all costs Telegraph, James Hall (27/3/12)
All striking tanker drivers want is responsible minimum standards Guardian, Len McCluskey (27/3/12)
- If a trade union bargains for higher wages, what is the likely effect on employment and unemployment?
- How might strike action by tankers affect businesses?
- Are there likely to be any adverse long term effects if strike action does occur over Easter?
- How could strike action affect a firm’s costs of production? Think in particular about those who rely on travel as part of the business.
- What other options are there to trade unions, besides striking? Assess the effectiveness of each of the options.
- If a shortage of petrol emerged, what would you expect to happen to its market price?
No, bonfire night hasn’t been moved, but the 30th November could certainly be a day to remember. This day has been ‘selected’ by Unions for a nationwide day of action in response to government plans to increase workers’ pension contribution. The action would undoubtedly lead to massive disruption to public services across the UK and if an agreement is not reached with Ministers, we are likely to see further days of industrial action. In the words of the TUC boss, Brendan Barber, if no agreement is forthcoming, there will be ‘the biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation’.
The so-called pensions crisis has been an ongoing saga with seemingly no end in sight. As the UK population gets older, the strain on the state pension will continue to grow. The dependency ratio has increased – there are more and more pensioners being supported by fewer and fewer adults of working age. If the level of benefits is to be maintained, workers must either work for longer or make larger contributions to make up the deficit.
Plans are already in motion to increase the retirement age, but this in itself will not be sufficient. If pension contributions do increase, workers will undoubtedly find themselves worse off – a larger proportion of their gross income will be taken and hence net incomes will be lower. With less disposable income, consumer expenditure will fall, and given that consumption is the largest component of aggregate demand, the economy will take a hit. This is even more of a concern given the pay freezes we have already seen, together with rising inflation. People’s purses will get squeezed more and more, So, while raising pension contributions may help plug the pensions deficit, it could spell trouble for the economic prospects of the UK economy.
In addition to the potential longer term effects, there will also be a significant short term effect, namely, the loss of output on the day of the strike action. If workers are absent, the company will produce less than their potential and in some cases, the lost output can never be regained. If the postal workers go on strike, businesses may find packages go undelivered, customers experience delays, bills are not paid and so on. In all, strike action on the scale that is planned will have an impact on everyone, so it is in the interests of the economy for some sort of agreement to be reached. As Mr. Barber said:
‘If there’s no progress, then potentially we will see very widespread industrial action across the public services’
The following articles look at this conflict.
Unions plan ‘day of action’ over pensions Financial Times, Brian Groom (14/9/11)
TUC: ‘Strikes will be the biggest for a generation’ says Brendan Barber Telegraph (14/9/11)
Unions call for ‘national day of action’ over pensions BBC News (14/9/11)
Unions call collective day of strike action in November Guardian, Helene Mulholland and Dan Milmo (14/9/11)
Ed Miliband to warn trade unions that they must modernise Independent, Andrew Grice (13/9/11)
Trade unions plan day of action over pensions on Nov 30 Associated Press (14/9/11)
Are the trade unions about to save Britain? Telegraph, Mary Riddell (12/9/11)
Pension row unions in day of action The Press Association (14/9/11)
Unions set date for pensions strike as ‘unprecedented ballot begins’ Telegraph, Christopher Hope (14/9/11)
TUC to attack ministers over public sector pensions BBC News(14/9.11)
Secret plan for union strikes to cripple the country Telegraph, Christopher Hope(14/9/11)
- What are the main costs of strike action to (a) the individual going on strike (b) the firms which lose their workers (c) small businesses (d) the economy?
- What is meant by the dependency ratio? What action could be taken to reduce it? For each type of action, think about the costs and benefits.
- If pension contributions do increase, explain how workers will be affected. How will this affect each of the components of aggregate demand?
- Based on your answer to the above questions, what is likely to be the impact on the government’s macroeconomic objectives?
- What other action, besides striking, could unions take? Is it likely to be as effective? Do you think strikes are a good thing?
- Illustrate on a diagram the effect of a trade union entering an industry. How does it normally affect equilibrium wages and employment?
Greece’s public deficit currently stands at 13.6% and the UK isn’t that far behind. Austerity measures are planned to reduce the Greek deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. This will be achieved through a variety of spending cuts and tax rises. This is the price that Greece will have to pay to receive a £95 billion bailout. Wages are likely to be frozen, cuts will be evident throughout the economy in areas such as education and pensions and the general population may see a tax rise.
In response to these proposals, on which Parliament will vote by the end of the week, the Greek economy has suffered from widespread strikes. Flights were grounded, trains stopped, schools shut, hospitals closed their doors, offices closed for business and those close to retirement are considering resignation before the measures are passed.
As life almost comes to a stop in Greece, could the UK follow suit? It’s no secret that the UK deficit is enormous – £163 billion or about 12% of GDP. Nor is it a secret that spending cuts and tax rises are inevitable. Furthermore, over the past two years, there have been several high profile strikes. (See article The Winter of Discontent: the sequel? and Turbulence in the air). A spokesman from The Public and Commercial Services Union said:
“If the cuts are anything like what is being suggested, industrial action by the unions is not only likely, it’s inevitable”.
The bailout of Greece may avert one Greek tragedy, but another one could be just around the corner and that’s not just for Greece.
Greece brought to half over general strike over cuts BBC News (5/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans Reuters (4/5/10)
Bank of England Governor: poll winner will be out of power for a generation Independent, Andrew Grice and Colin Brown (30/4/10)
Flights grounded, shops shut in Greek strike Channel 4 News, Kris Jepson (5/5/10)
Greek strikers hit Athens streets over austerity plan BBC News (4/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans The Economic Times (4/5/10)
- What is the purpose behind the strikes? How effective are they likely to be?
- What are the costs of strikes to a) consumers b) businesses c) the wider economy?
- Why is collective bargaining more effective than individual bargaining?
- Why could the Greek picture be a possible forecast of the UK economy after the May election?
- Are strikes a price worth paying if the government is to reduce its debt?
Throughout October we saw widespread strikes, from bins to the post and airline flights to buses – and it’s not yet over. (See article The Winter of Discontent: the sequel?) Last November, BA cut the number of cabin crew members, despite strike action, which delayed hundreds of flights. This issue has yet to be resolved and over the weekend, there were further talks to try to reach some agreement. However, no truce was reached and so further strikes are now expected. Indeed, the Unite union announced the results of another ballot of cabin crew, showing even larger support for strike action.
However, BA is not the only airline facing strike action. Some 4000 pilots at Lufthansa, a German airline, called a four-day strike, following disputes over job security. This has led to thousands of flights being cancelled and thousands of passengers left stranded. Although the strike was suspended after one day, the dispute is not settled.
The stimulus for this action appears to date back to the huge turnover that Lufthansa made in 2007, with pilots feeling they should have a share in this success, along with its recent purchase of Austrian Airlines and the need to turn this into a profitable enterprise. The Lufthansa pilots are concerned that foreign pilots will be brought in to replace them in order to reduce costs. The airline fears that this strike could cost them about £21.9 million per day. With both sides unwilling to yield, it looks as though many passengers may find themselves stranded for a bit longer.
- How effective is the strike action by Lufthansa and BA likely to be? Which factors affect this?
- With a huge turnover in 2007, why were pay cuts at Lufthansa felt to be necessary by the company?
- How would wages be determined in the airline industry without trade unions? Illustrate this on a diagram and use that to explain why some workers get paid more than others.
- On your diagram of wage determination, now illustrate the effects of a trade union entering the market. How are wages and the equilibrium level of employment affected?
- Other than striking, what other options do workers and unions have?
- If strike action is costly to BA and Lufthansa, why don’t they simply agree to the unions’ demands?