Unveiling the Socio-Economic Impact of Sporting Success
Angel Barajas, Academic Supervisor of the International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy at HSE Perm, Leading Research Fellow, Associate Professor, University of Vigo, Spain talks about Russian football, financing Spanish football clubs, and what the local area needs. Professor Barajas has headed the International Laboratory at HSE Perm since 2010, and is a leading authority on football club rankings, corporate finances and evaluating intellectual assets.
— Angel, how can I start with anything other than a question about the FIFA World Cup. Have you seen any games?
— Of course I’m tracking the games in Brazil, after all — I take a professional interest in sport. Sadly the time difference and workload mean that I don’t get to see everything I’d like to live. No one could have expected Spain to be thrashed 1:5 by the Netherlands. I got my hopes up for the Chile game, but — alas…
— Tell us about your research here in Russia, and in particular, in Perm.
— We’re looking at how intangible factors influence a sports club’s success, what impacts the interest levels among fans, and what can help a club develop. We aim to be as objective as possible, and use open sources like the number of people attending a game or an individual club’s performance match to match.
— But aren’t Russian football clubs rather closed?
— That’s not unique to Russian clubs. It’s the same back in Spain. It’s rare for clubs to open up, list on the stock exchange and so on – only a few English clubs have done that. We worked with the Vigo football club Celta and Obradoiro basketball club from Santiago de Compostela on the local socio-economic impact of sporting triumphs.
It’s become something of a second home to me, over the years, and I am very happy working here
But we’re in our Laboratory not only interested in football, the same model can be applied to any major sporting event. The main goal is to get an objective picture of whether or not a particular region or city needs sport.
— Most football clubs in Russia are supported by the state or by major state corporations. While it’s relatively easy to get state funds, is there any incentive for club owners to look elsewhere?
— It’s the same in Spain, club owners also seek state funding, because it is a lot easier than attracting private sector funds. At least, it was before the financial and economic crisis. Changing this, attracting investment is a key issue today — just look at UEFA. It’s not right for some clubs to have access to extensive state funding, while others don’t. They should all enjoy equal opportunities – that’s the origin of UEFA’s financial fair play initiative.
But state agencies mainly fund infrastructure projects (new stadiums) and lower level clubs, and tend not to interfere much — viewing it as social or community investment.
— What are your impressions of Perm – it’s historically a heavily industrial area, very different from your area of research, what do you see in its future?
— Any area taps in to what natural riches it has, and it makes sense that Perm is an industrial hub. It’s become something of a second home to me, over the years, and I am very happy working here. Of course, it needs to move beyond those primary resources and develop a more advanced economy, with more added-value. Whenever I come to Perm I am blown away by the potential the place – and its people – have.
Vadim Skovorodin, Russia’s Business Class newspaper, Perm
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