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Topological network properties of the European football loan system

Widdop, Paul and Parnell, Daniel and Bond, Alexander (2019) Topological network properties of the European football loan system. European Sport Management Quarterly. ISSN 1618-4742

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Abstract

Research question: Following a network perspective, we present football's European loan system as an economic network and aim to answer the following questions; (i) what is the structure of the network? and, (ii) what are the topological properties of the network? Research methods: Using data on the top-5 European leagues in European football 8139 loan transactions between 31 December 2009 and 22 December 2017 were analysed using social network analysis. Results and findings: The results show that the loan system is embedded in ongoing structural relationships across Europe, more so in the Italian Serie A than other European leagues investigated. Additionally, our findings indicate that several elite clubs are extracting value from the loan system, while others are value creators. Implications: The implications of this research are fourfold: recommendations for executive-level professionals in the football industry and how to maximise the structure of the system; considerations for UEFA and FIFA policy around regulations applied to loan systems; application of economic network theory to the trading (loan) system in European football; and recommendations for future academic research.

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