As the discussion in the previous section has indicated, it must be other explanations than the popular one – increased financial inequality – that have driven the excitement of European top football downwards. The question in the heading is of course a difficult one to answer, but I will at least try to formulate some possible causes.
Literature has some hints to offer. Haugen (2008) performs a limited empirical analysis on the change of UO after the introduction of the 3-1-0 point score system.
He claims (and argues logically through game theory) that this change may have affected UO adversely (led to a reduction). Still, the clear ongoing negative trend (for more than fifty years) as observed in Figure 1, cannot be explained by this single change in the eighties.
However, other rule changes have been introduced, both before and after the change in point score system. For instance, changes in the off-side and penalty-kick rules as well as a denial for the goal keeper to use hands when a return is made.
This last one is especially interesting. The original underlying reasoning was to avoid boring keeper returns. This rule change has not reduced returns to the keeper, at least not observed on my TV-screen. On the contrary, the keeper has become a much more important player, using his feet in a radical new way; both offensively and defensively. Presumably, if the best teams have better keepers than the less good teams, such changes impose a benefit for the best teams, again stimulating a decrease in UO.
Much of the changes in the rules, aimed at removing boring parts of the game may have adverse consequences on UO. Hence, a closer look into this area may be of interest.
Another quite different topic is corruption. Wagering or betting markets are, although different, closely related to most sports, football included. Se for instance Forrest (2006); Forrest and Simmons (2003) for an in-depth description of this link.
A fundamental fact concerning these markets are that odds, and especially high odds, have a stimulating demand effect. Odds are closely linked to probabilities and will grow for the non-favorite with an increasing probability for a win for the favorite. As such, it seems obvious that low UO is critically important for high wagering demand. This holds for both honest as well as dis- honest (match fixing) gamblers.
Hence, if a certain sport draws benefits from a lively betting market, a low UO may be an output that works. Low UO characterizes (logically) a league where betting is high. Obviously, the dishonest gamblers, the match-fixers, would be especially eager if the league is imbalanced (low UO) as the odds would then be high.
Based on the above arguments, a hypothesis regarding a positive association between low UO and high corruption seems plausible. That is, if some data containing amounts of corruption related to various countries say the corruption index is regressed against UO, we might find a significant association.
Indeed, this is the case, as shown by table 3.
Table 3: Regression analyses with UO (ρL) as independent and the Corruption index as dependent variable.