The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been consuming the attention of football/soccer fans around the world over the past two weeks and will continue to do so until the final match on July 15. The world’s most-watched sporting event, the World Cup has viewers tuning into matches from every country and at all hours of the day—including during work hours. Just as the Super Bowl and the National College Athletic Association’s Division I basketball tournaments have been demonstrated to cause a dip in productivity in the US, this quadrennial international event is bound to have an economic impact in many countries.
New research attempts to calculate just how big that impact is likely to be. Maude Lavanchy, a research associate at IMD Business School, and Willem Smit, an assistant professor of marketing at the Asia School of Business and an international faculty fellow at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, built a model to predict the productivity cost of the 2018 World Cup in a number of major countries based on how many matches were scheduled to take place during work hours in that time zone and how the expected outcome of each match (based on betting odds from UK bookmakers) would affect workers’ happiness—positively if their team wins, and negatively if they lose. The researchers outlined their findings in an article at Bloomberg earlier this month:
In all, we found that half of the 48 group-stage games could have economic consequences. Although such calculations are inherently speculative, they can nonetheless tell a useful economic story. And in this case, it doesn’t look good.
The National College Athletic Association’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, better known as March Madness, are upon us in the US. In the next few weeks leading up to the championship game on April 2, millions of Americans will devote millions of hours to watching the games, talking about them, betting on them, checking scores, and comparing tournament brackets with other fans. Last year’s tournament was watched by an average of 10.4 million television viewers and generated 98 million live streams, while the television audience of the championship game averaged 23 million viewers.
So if you’re a US employer, it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of your employees are going to come down with March Madness this month, potentially distracting them from their work. An OfficeTeam survey conducted in February found that the average worker spends 25.5 minutes per workday on sports-related activities during the tournament, or a total of about six hours. Nearly half of the professionals surveyed said they love celebrating sporting events like March Madness in the office.
The cost of that distraction? According to an estimate from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, US employers could stand to lose “$2.3 billion per hour in time employees are engaged with the tournament at work”:
More than 40 million Americans fill out tournament brackets, according to the American Gaming Association. Applying the current employment-to-population ratio to that figure indicates that 23.7 million workers will fill out brackets for this year’s games. Of course, the distractions do not end with filling out the bracket. Even more productivity is lost over the first two full days of tournament play (Thursday and Friday), when a dozen games are played during work hours.
The US women’s national hockey team will not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship at the end of this month in protest against stalled negotiations with USA Hockey over their wages and the league’s lack of financial support for team development programs for girls, ESPN reports:
In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. According to the players, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing during the remainder of the four-year period, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full-time and compete throughout the year. …
The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires national governing sports bodies to “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis,” as is the case in hockey. According to the players, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its national team development program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls.
The women’s team’s decision is reminiscent of last year’s controversies over gender pay gaps in professional tennis and between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. In the case of the US women’s soccer team, star players claimed, in their complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, to earn as little as 40 percent of what their male counterparts do despite winning Olympic and World Cup titles and drawing bigger crowds than the men’s team. Similarly, ESPN notes that the women’s hockey team has won gold in six of the past eight world championships and has won a medal in every Olympics, including the gold in 1998, so if the team is indeed being underpaid, that certainly wouldn’t reflect the quality of their work or breadth of their accomplishments.
ESPN baseball analyst and former major league pitcher Curt Schilling, no stranger to controversy on account of his loudly and publicly shared views on politics and social issues, has at long last exhausted his employer’s tolerance for his outspoken behavior. Schilling, who had worked for ESPN since 2010, got the axe on Wednesday after sharing a meme on Facebook related to the new “bathroom bills” limiting anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in North Carolina and other states, which many people found to be offensive and transphobic. The Los Angeles Times’ Chuck Schilken puts the news in context:
The 2001 World Series co-most valuable player (when he played for Arizona) has gotten in trouble before by expressing his opinions. He was dropped from ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series in August and then suspended for the rest of the Major League Baseball season for tweeting a meme that compared Muslims to Nazis.
Back in March, Schilling appeared to have violated ESPN’s [guidelines] for election coverage by stating that Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere” during a radio interview. ESPN said it addressed the matter with Schilling and allowed him to be part of its “Monday Night Baseball” broadcasts as planned.
In response to this week’s transgression, his employer finally pulled the plug, releasing a statement insisting that “ESPN is an inclusive company,” and announcing that “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated argues that Schilling gave ESPN’s management no choice:
Following the recent pay gap controversy inside women’s professional tennis, the New York Times reports that five star players from the US women’s national soccer team have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that their counterparts on the men’s national team are paid significantly more, despite the fact that the women’s team has performed significantly better. The team won their third World Cup last year, a gold medal in the last Olympics, and have become the standard bearer for soccer in the US, regularly drawing superior crowds and television ratings.
The women, who say they are filing on behalf of their teammates, have asked the commission to investigate the US Soccer Federation, which they report has paid them as little as 40 percent of what men’s team players make, and also shortchanged them on bonuses, appearance fees, and per diems:
The players involved in the complaint are among the most prominent and decorated female athletes in the world: the co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo. …
“We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly,” Lloyd, the most valuable player of last year’s Women’s World Cup, said in a statement released by the players and [their lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler.]
Solo was more blunt in the statement, directly comparing the women’s achievements with those of the men’s national team.