There is no doubt that the formation of professional leagues is to be attributed to the American system: the baseball league was born in 1876, followed by hockey, basketball, football and, only more recently, soccer. As in other economic sectors, it is the owners, investors and executives who dictate the rules aimed at regulating the competition, both on and off the pitch.
The owner-player relationships
Already from the end of the nineteenth century up to very recent times, American sport was shaken by violent union clashes, by very long strikes and by lockouts by owners. The origin of the conflicts is to be found in the peculiar characteristics of working relationships in professional team sports. Contrary to what happens in unionized industries, the salaries of the players, instead of being fixed according to uniform parameters, are negotiated individually: the collective agreement of the players provides only a minimum wage and some benefits. In the case of the NBA basketball league, for example, the difference in salaries ranges from a minimum annual salary of $ 250,000 to $ 30 million earned by Michael Jordan in 1997 is a bit like what happens in show business, where a significantly different salary is paid to the stars compared to the supporting actors. However, while in the entertainment world the quality of the product is in a certain sense determined a priori by the skill of the interpreter, in the case of the American sports system the quality is also determined by that of the opponents, who in principle can be much lower, dropping the interest of the competition.
The method devised by the owners to address this disparity in the salaries and technical potential of the teams is the so-called ‘reserve system’. The new players, the freshmen, are chosen by the teams that select them in the reverse order of their ranking, to ensure that the worst teams have the advantage of having the best players in the university league. This method should ensure that all talented players are evenly distributed among all teams participating in the league, rather than being concentrated in the few teams whose owners have the intention and ability to offer higher wages to the players.
Another effective way of simultaneously resolving the disparity between players ‘wages and the difference between companies’ spending power is called a salary cap. Through this method the owners and the players establish a collective agreement whereby a certain percentage of the overall proceeds of the league must be donated for salaries and benefits .of the players. Dividing this sum relative to the whole league by the number of teams determines the maximum (and minimum) budget that each team can spend relative to wages. This system was first introduced in 1983 in the NBA and then in 1993 it was adopted by the NFL American football league, with even stricter conditions than in the basketball industry.
Property structure of the alloy
Traditionally the American leagues have been made up of individually owned and administered teams, who have come together to offer their sports product. In the competition between teams, the choices of individual owners are potentially important not only as regards the engagement of the best players capable of winning the championships, but also as regards the stipulation of television, commercial and stadium use contracts in order to secure higher profits.
In addition, team owners, with only the permission of the antitrust commission, can transfer the team or franchise from one location to another. Such team transfers, operated to obtain a greater financial flow for the owners, can entail serious burdens not only for the teams already present in a catchment area, but also for the league as a whole.
In fact, they can compromise the relationship of trust and affection that fans establish with the team not only locally but also nationally, causing heavy repercussions for the league in the television revenue sector. Sometimes, in relative terms, a market that is advantageous for a team may not turn out to be so in terms of the league: in these situations, conflicts arise between the owners, who mainly look at their personal profit; It is an important choice for an American professional league to decide who should own, control and exploit the television rights.