Founder Editor in Chief: Octavian-Dragomir Jora ISSN (print) 2537 - 2610
ISSN (online) 2558 - 8206
Contact Editorial Team PATRON The Idea
Unsupported Sport Spirit (International Edition)

Unsupported Sport Spirit (International Edition) [Very short memories of geopolitical and geoeconomic foul play]

Ten years ago… I wrote the four paragraphs bellow in the wake of Copa Mundial, hosted by Pele’s Brazil in 2014. At that time, “D10s” Maradona was still longing for Messi’s Messianic performance of 2022, which he missed, having left this flat earth of the round ball two years prior. Back then, football was the same “king of sports” among nations, with its virtues (unaltered?) and vices (escalated?), the epitome of a civilization that marches forward, whilst sometimes forgetting so easily to defend its very basic traits…

With 2024 on its way, I invited students of the Geopolitics and Business Master’s Programme to dig in the sports world with assorted lenses. We cannot escape noticing that the ancient ideals of suspending the warlike and weaponized behaviours in sports confrontations cannot fully camouflage the dark side of human nature. For sports only secure a “cold peace” in an otherwise “hot blooded” world of ardours and angers. Be it business or/of pleasure, sports are empowering (as well as corrupting). Anyway, press “play”! 

“The ball is round” is a statement endowed with immeasurable explanatory power, a veritable theory of general relativity of human life, since it is often used in so many extra-football justifications. It’s a statement that should be a working premise in any setup in the world, whether it’s based on rough elbows and fine ankles or anything else. The ideal of football would be for it to represent the game of the ball, played with the feet, but by people with their heads up whether on the field, the side-lines, the boards of sports clubs or associative structures. Representing a distillate of human passions, football concentrates both humanity and nothingness and it does so regardless of jurisdictions, cultures, histories and horizons. Football, as a common denominator of a huge part of the population of the world map, preserves in high concentrations everything that brings us together and divides us too: solidarity and passion, excellence and mediocrity, justice and crookedness, joy and hatred. The “Copa Mundial”, Brazil 2014, started some time ago, on which occasion we saw once again that football exhibits and exhales planetary virtues and vices.

In the cover story of the acclaimed international magazine The Economist, out of print in the country that reinvented the roundness of the ball, football could not be missing in the debut week of the event in Brazil. That country changed forever the biomechanics of the football player, such that the latter became all but a deterministic product of the natural environment saturated with sand and breeze: Ecce Homo Copacabanensis! A country where the economy is tired of so much emergence, where football, a ritualistic detail of the local life, no longer seems to be the universal good that can be substituted for food, shelter, health, or education, and where the people have shown signs of selling out in the face of a reality which the motley balloon can no longer easily put to sleep. Even if supposedly anesthetized by the football-drug, many Brazilians decried the corruption/complicity/collusion that came with the organization of this (un)holy competition in their own country. And if the football-addicted-Brazilians denounced the World Cup, with the USA still hard to convert to soccer, alongside the insensitive China and India, isn’t it apparent that football looks in great peril worldwide?

When the planet’s most beloved game has bogged down in the eyes of the world’s most powerful economy as well as its two most populous nations, it is clear that its attraction, downright insane in the modern age, is in danger of dying out, as finance, so necessary in the regeneration of any productive process, seems to have had a harmful effect here. We now have several items on the list of infamies: the scandal caused by offering the organization of the 2022 World Cup to the torrid (even in the winter) but also extremely petro-persuasive Qatar (with another one smouldering, yet diluted by years, regarding the South African 2010 edition); the disinterest in improving the provision of justice in the field (by delaying the adoption of video technologies to support refereeing as well as the consecration of the stupid dictum that “referees’ mistakes are part and parcel of the beauty of the game”); plus the failure to curb the transnational scourge of fraudulent betting (the ending of the very ideas of fair-play, true merit, and real show). FIFA is seen as the ultimate confidence-underminer, backfiring on those who have invested in this industry, but also turned a blind eye to its malformations.

The Economist made another useful observation. FIFA is a global monopoly of the international organization of football competitions (to which we add, maintained by an entire statist architecture that monopolizes, not disinterestedly, at the national level, the affiliated federations). However, the British journalists have completed their fine observation with a “neoclassical economics”, but slightly erroneous, judgment: where we have a monopoly, without a strong government to regulate it, abuses do take place; thus, there is a need for states to step in and confront this “market failure”. But, obviously, not only that we do not have a “world government” in the “anarchic society of nations”, but the monopoly (in this and many other cases) is nothing else than a conjoint governmental creation. The national football/sports federations are national monopolies that prolong their fallible monopolistic nature to a global scale, in the form of the… FIFA. The synthesis of national monopolies is a global cartel/monopoly, with its constituents displaying a solid propensity to strengthen their offspring, and with too scarce and easy-to-silence contesters! 

 Octavian-Dragomir JORA, Founder & Editor-in-Chief The Market for Ideas 

Photo source:



4D(iplomatic) Chess on a 2D Chessboard: The Geopolitical Saga of the 1972 World Chess Championship 

 Andreea-Elena NISIPEANU

 Antonio-Valentin STOIAN 

Understanding chess on a geopolitical level

Chess, a sport of the mind? Over time, chess has been viewed as an instrument of mental agility, as a means of strategic training, and has evolved since antiquity to the present day. The strategic thinking used in chess helps states to anticipate both political and military decisions in order to identify the best courses of actions to advance their own interest in defeating opponents. Chess, a suitable metaphor for the Cold War, is a perfect fit for the conflictual framework of that period because the game is played between two great powers, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, respectively, where the use of specific phrases such as “pawns” and “moves” became normalized in public and political discourse (Scott, 2022). In general, the use of chess as a geopolitical metaphor helps to stage the complex and strategic character of international relations for understanding the dynamics between geopolitical actors on the chessboard, where chess-specific methods such as planning moves, anticipating moves, or manipulating opponents are used. 

What did chess mean to the USA and USSR during Cold War?

The use of chess during the Cold War was seen by the two great powers of the time, the USA, and the USSR, as a means of imposing supremacy and gaining a substantial advantage in terms of ideological and psychological battle. For the USA, chess was never a major sport until the 1972 World Championship, before a seemingly insignificant game eventually led to a sense of pride and belonging for Americans. With the victory in the competition, the popularity of chess has grown in the country. From media coverage to sports betting to obsessively selling chess sets, the triumphant Bobby Fischer was seen as a national hero by illustrating the superiority of the West over the Communist bloc. In contrast, for the USSR chess represented an instrument of the utmost importance in political strategy, a tool of propaganda and a source of a false image of freedom for the proletariat. The USSR saw chess players as promoters of intelligence, which benefited the state by forming powerful soldiers to militarily and intellectually oppose the West. After more than three decades in which “the game of the mind” constituted the superiority of socialism over capitalism, the Soviets started discrediting chess, seeing it as an “example of capitalist decadence” following the USSR’s defeat in the historical match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky (Scott, 2022).

The 1972 Reykjavik chess competition was a symbol of the confrontation between the two spheres of influence, the East and the West, which marked an unconventional type of war, where pawns were used instead of weapons (BBC News, 2015). At the same time, this event contributed to the geopolitical tension between the two powers, given that the race for achieving hegemony was constantly fuelled by events such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which had obvious repercussions, continuously supported by the anti-communist crises and the Vietnam War of 1955-1975, representing the critical points in the clash between the two world giants. 

The historical game of chess between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky

Prior to the 1972 World Championship, various locations had been selected according to American and Soviet requirements, where each chose four locations. The USA preferences were Belgrade, Montreal, Sarajevo, and Buenos Aires as they increased its strategic position and financial gain, whereas the USSR’s preferences turned to be Reykjavik, Paris, Amsterdam, and Dortmund as it created a climate similar to that of Spassky’s hometown, the city of Leningrad, known today as Sankt Petersburg (Edmonds and Eidinow, 2011). Finally, Reykjavik was chosen as the place of dispute, a venue that favoured the communists. In response to this situation, Bobby Fischer did not show up at the start of the match citing reduced financial benefits. After negotiations with the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, Fischer arrived in Iceland two days later, which the Soviets interpreted this behaviour as an attempt to destabilize his opponent, Boris Spassky (Poole, 2008). The truth is that Kissinger played a fundamental role because it made him realize that the honour of his people and country were at stake. After the Soviet player won the first match of the tournament, Fischer resorted to other means of intimidating the opponent by imposing conditions such as the removal of the cameras. Following protests from the Soviets, these requirements were not taken into consideration, leading Fischer to threaten to leave the competition (Schonberg, 1981). However, a surprising phone call from Kissinger who promised to remove the cameras in the third match appeased the American player (Poole, 2008). The US diplomat focused on the psychological impact that the game would have on the adversary, considering that the Vietnam War seemed lost.

In the end, the World Chess Championship was won by Bobby Fischer, with a four-point lead over Boris Spassky. The third match denouement, reflecting a psychological move used by the Americans who upset the Soviets’ certainty in winning the championship and impregnating a new dynamic of the game (Scott, 2022). The event led to the consolidation of the tension between the two countries. Boris Spassky was considered a dissident in light of his affinities to the West and his refusal to fully align with communist regulations. At the same time, due to being under pressure from Moscow and his colleagues who considered him “non-Soviet”, Spassky had little confidence in the triumph of the USSR on the chessboard. He blamed his defeat against Fischer on the party leadership and the unfavourable influence of the KGB through their involvement in the preparation of the game. After the defeat in the competition and the humiliation, Boris Spassky went into self-exile in France as he felt forced to leave the country due to the tense climate (Felshtinsky, Gulko and Popov, 2010).

The 1972 World Chess Championship remains a symbol of the Cold War, where the immortalization of the moment through television broadcasting, the production of films, the interpretation of songs, the writing of books and articles based on the subject, is identified with the cultural heritage of the American and Russian people alike (Edmonds and Eidinow, 2011). Therefore, the championship was a socio-cultural catalyst with significant political implications that characterized the foreign policy of the USA and USSR, aimed at strengthening the supremacy of their own ideology. Fischer’s victory represented a “checkmate” against Soviet dominance over the game itself, especially since they were counting on their prominent global position in the sport against the technological and economic advance of the Western World. 

The evolution of chess for the USA and Russia

Although, during the Cold War, chess served as a symbol of the shrouded confrontation between the USA and the USSR, things are now quite different as chess no longer has the same political load, but rather takes on the role of an intellectual and strategic sport with important cultural influences for both societies. With the end of the Cold War and the implosion of the USSR in 1991, chess went through a period of transformation, from a national game used for diplomatic purposes to normalization in contemporary Russian society. Chess as a sport is promoted and strengthened, through investments, in both the US and Russia, especially in schools, as it continues to be a competitive sport, being also supported by technological developments such as the emergence of sophisticated platforms and tools. However, relations between American and Russian players will be affected to some degree by the bilateral relations between the two countries. Thus, the future developments of chess for the USA and Russia will be dictated by the geopolitical context and the dynamics of international interactions, which are currently marked by the ongoing war in Ukraine that could escalate tensions between American and Russian states.

A new Cold War? With regards to Russia’s future interests in becoming a superpower, but also the interest of the United States in maintaining its global position, geopolitical dynamics can change with the outbreak of a new conflict strengthened by past events including Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 or the mutual accusations of cyber-attacks. Russia plays today, in its understanding, the role of a liberator and not of an aggressor, although all the conflicts it has provoked or sustained show the opposite, be those in Ukraine, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Syria, Armenia, Dagestan or Ingushetia, where its former policies aimed at ideas of culture and development have been thoroughly absent. The chess strategies they used to apply in foreign policy, and particularly in its relationship with the US, have an increasingly unimportant role. But will this sport of the mind succeed in bringing the two nations together again, or will the political games be carried out by force? Note that events can quickly escalate, leaving room for a new “cold confrontation”. 

Photo source:


BBC News, 2015. Has chess got anything to do with war? BBC News. [online] 3 May. Available at:

Edmonds, D. and Eidinow, J., 2011. Bobby Fischer Goes to War: The most famous chess match of all time. Faber & Faber.

Felshtinsky, Y., Gulko, B. and Popov, V., 2010. The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown. SCB Distributors.

Poole, S., 2008. Only pawns in their game? The Guardian. [online] 5 Jan. Available at:

Schonberg, H.C., 1981. Cold War in the World of Chess. The New York Times. [online] 27 Sep. Available at:

Scott, A., 2022. A Battle of Sixty-Four Squares: The role of chess in Cold War foreign policy. The Mirror - Undergraduate History Journal, 42(1), pp. 38-55. 


The Petro-political Pole Position: Why Geopolitics Matters in Motorsports 

 Robert MANEA

In the realm of motorsports, where speed and technology converge in a symphony of competition, another essential element is increasingly asserting its presence on the global stage: oil. What began as a simple rivalry between cars and racing teams has transformed into an arena where geopolitics and motorsports intersect, with the struggle for energy resources becoming a crucial element in the strategies of athletes, teams, and even nations. 

Geopolitical intersection and motorsports

Whether in Formula 1, rallying, NASCAR, or karting, motorsport races are increasingly becoming a reflection of global geopolitical relations, with oil taking centre stage. And it’s no surprise. Not only do racing cars need oil to showcase their true power on the track, but major global economies aiming to establish a reputation in this industry also rely on it. A victory in a race is no longer just a triumph on the track, it’s also an indirect assertion of a country’s energy resources. Key players such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia dominate the oil export market, accounting for a total of 31.5 million barrels produced per day.

Formula 1 engines, such as V6, V8, or the older V10 models, guzzle significant amounts of gasoline (110 litres – the fuel limit per race, per car), leading to a constant and consistent demand for oil. But can the supply meet the demand?

Since the advent of Futures Contracts for oil in 1983, with the current price at $73 per barrel on New York Stock Exchange, their value has been on an upward macro trend, with the evolution and magnitude of motorsports playing a significant role in demand. 

Technology in favour of sustainability

In an era marked by climate change and ecological concerns, the pressure for motorsports to adapt is palpable. Formula 1 teams are turning their attention to more energy-efficient technologies and sustainable fuels. This evolution is not just a consequence of ecological concerns but also a strategy to distance themselves from dependence on finite and geopolitically unstable resources.

The trend of electric engines in the automotive market has also reached motorsports. As of 2026, Formula 1 will introduce hybrid engines capable of producing up to 1000 horsepower. Could a fully electric engine surpass its thermal counterpart in terms of efficiency? Although it might be more efficient and sustainable, oil giants would not allow such a shift to happen. Capitalism and consumerism would not permit a shift towards electric car battery production when they have millions of barrels to produce daily. 

Collaborations and geopolitical partnerships

Partnerships between racing teams and energy companies represented by states are becoming more frequent and tighter. These collaborations transcend the boundaries of motorsports and become an integral part of geopolitical games, where each state promotes its own agenda within a broader competition.

The United States is promoted through ExxonMobil, a partner with the Red Bull team, the Netherlands through Shell, which fuels Ferrari. Lubricant manufacturer TotalEnergies represents France, Saudi energy giant Aramco becomes the main sponsor for Aston Martin, and Malaysia, operating Petronas, collaborates with Mercedes-AMG.

Motorsport competitions are not just fast-paced races on the track; they are also methods of promoting national image and energy resources. A victory in Formula 1 or other competitions automatically becomes a statement of power, not just in sporting terms but also in the context of geopolitics. Oil giants see these competitions as an opportunity to showcase their resources, technology, and the ability to influence power spheres in the energy domain.

What initially seemed like a competition between cars and drivers has now evolved into a complex game of power and geopolitical influence. Motorsports are no longer just about winning on the track; they are also about winning in the arena of energy geopolitics. With each lap on the track, it unfolds not just as a speed race but also as a race to secure a privileged position in the world of energy resources. 

Photo source:


2021, Brian Kaiser, The Strategic Politics of Formula 1 Racing: Insights from Game Theory and Social Choice.

2022, HotNews: Formula 1, schimbări majore la nivel de motorizare din 2026. See:

2022, Simon Chadwick: a professor merging economics, geopolitics and sports. See:

2023, Alexandru Coita, Între urs și dragon: cât de mult afectează competiția geopolitică prețul petrolului. See:


More than Just a Game: How a Football Match Flared Up a War between El Salvador and Honduras 

 Daniela-Florentina PAVEL

 Denisa-Cristiana PĂDUREAN 

Throughout history, conflicts have had diverse roots, ranging from various reasons such as disputing territories, resources, maintaining honour, or even love-related. However, a remarkable situation arose when two Latin American nations, El Salvador and Honduras, found themselves in conflict, with football matches among the factors fuelling tensions (, 2010). 

Pre-existing tensions between El Salvador and Honduras

The relationship between the two Central American states was sensitive even before the actual football matches took place. There were concentrated tensions around territorial disputes and socio-economic issues. El Salvador’s small size compared to Honduras and the rapid population growth led to the migration of Salvadorans to uninhabited regions of Honduras, initially as farmers. The 1967 Agrarian Reform escalated tensions, and Honduras began expelling illegal immigrants and Salvadoran citizens, resulting in violence and mutual accusations.

The massive expulsions in 1969 generated an atmosphere of hostility, and football matches became the arena for expressing national resentments. Closed borders and the discriminatory perception of Salvadorans fuelled tensions, with Honduras unprepared to handle the massive influx. Immigrants became a socio-economic burden, and El Salvador’s refusal to resolve the issue led to forced expulsions (Cluj Today, 2023).

Football matches as the spark igniting the conflict

As tensions escalated between El Salvador and Honduras, the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in 1970 became an opportunity for citizens to release their fury and stadiums became alternative battlefields. The matches provided a chance for fans to defend their national identity, escalating the conflict in a three-stage elimination match in June 1969.

The first match hosted by Honduras took place in Tegucigalpa on June 8th, where Honduran fans attempted to demoralize the Salvadoran team the night before, aiming to impact their game performance. El Salvador lost the match, contested the victory, and the subsequent suicide of Amelia Bolaños, later considered a national heroine, heightened tensions. The second match, hosted by El Salvador on June 15th, saw an escalation of harassment against the Honduran team and a clear victory for El Salvador. Post-match reactions included riots in El Salvador and violence against Hondurans. The third match ended with El Salvador’s victory, further amplifying resentments, and tensions escalated into an armed conflict known as the “Football War”. El Salvador severed diplomatic ties with Honduras, and the two countries entered into a war marked by aerial attacks and socio-political tensions. The war ended four days later, through the intervention of the Organization of American States (OAS) in August 1969, marking a significant step in resolving the conflict (Chirinos, 2018). 

The role of football in politics and national identity in Latin America

In the historical context of Latin America, football has become a tool used by the political class to seek support and unite the population. Sports like football play a crucial role in solidifying the identities of former Spanish colonies. The football matches that triggered the Football War were not just manifestations of intense emotion but also acts of self-inflicted violence, as rivalries for national identity were sparked by defeats and retaliatory strikes.

As a result, the Football War illustrates the strong bond between national identity and sports in Latin America and shows how governments can use sports as a tool in national identity politics amid socio-economic and political crises. In the end, it is interesting to consider whether sports, despite their proclaimed values of transformation and unity, might be just a mask for the suffering caused by poverty (Chirinos, 2018). 

Photo source:


Chirinos, E. A., 2018. National Identity and Sports in Latin America: The Hundred-Hour Football War between El Salvador and Honduras. Mapping Politics, 9, pp. 20-26.

Cluj Today, 2023. Războiul Fotbalului din 1969 între El Salvador și Honduras, [Online]. Cluj Today. Available at:, 2010. Războiul Fotbalului: Meciul care a declanșat, [Online]. Available at:


Bouncing between Authenticity and Pragmatism: The NBA’s Tense Ties with China 

 Cătălina TOMA

The NBA’s extensive involvement in China extends far beyond the casual observer’s perception. The league generates an estimated $5 billion annually from its Chinese endeavours. Additionally, several NBA team owners and players have substantial personal investments in China.

In 2019, a Houston Rockets official tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. This tweet caused a big stir worldwide, including angry reactions from the Chinese government and media. Chinese broadcasters responded by stopping the broadcast of Rockets games and removing them from their websites and social media pages. The NBA’s Chinese partners also stopped working with the league, and Chinese fans began boycotting the NBA and its products.

This incident was not the only one to strain relations between the NBA and China. In 2021, former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, who has been a vocal critic of China’s human rights record, wore shoes with the words “Free Tibet” on them. This gesture prompted a new round of criticism from the Chinese government, who accused Kanter of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

Kanter wore the shoes to display his support for Tibet during the Boston Celtics’ season-opening game against the New York Knicks. This sparked outrage from Chinese fans, who took to Chinese social media platform Weibo to express their anger towards Kanter and the Celtics. The Celtics’ Weibo page was flooded with comments demanding that the team discipline Kanter or apologize publicly. As a result, Tencent, the video-streaming platform that holds the rights to broadcast NBA games in China, pulled the live stream of the Celtics-Knicks game. Tencent’s sports website also announced that it would no longer stream any upcoming Celtics games. The NBA’s large investment and revenue from China make it hesitant to offend fans and partners in the country, as was evident in the 2019 Daryl Morey incident.

The NBA’s relationship with China is a complex and challenging one. On the one hand, the NBA is a global league that should value free speech and support the rights of its players to express their opinion. On the other hand, the NBA also needs to be mindful of the political realities of China and the potential consequences of speaking out against the Chinese government.

Perhaps the NBA will choose to stand up for what is right. The league has the power to make a difference in the world, and many sincerely believe that it should use that power to promote freedom and democracy. 

Photo source:


Bay Area Reporter (2019). Jock talk: The price of protest. Available at:

CNN (2021). China-NBA conflict: Basketball player Enes Kanter spoke out. Available at:

Fox Sports (2021). NBA veteran’s Free Tibet Shoes may spark another $1.5B Chinese boycott. Available at:

San Francisco Chronicle (2022). Benefits of NBA-China Partnership? Well, there’s the money. Available at:


A Well-Oiled Affair: The Controversies Surrounding Qatar’s Hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup 

 Maria-Andreea CRISTIAN

 Diana-Ștefania HUȚANU 

It’s not something I will be backing or promoting. It’s disappointing in the sense that there’s no respect on a lot of levels, even though it’s a game of football. Although I’m cheering for the boys who are going to play football there, from the minute it was announced I thought it wasn’t the best idea”. (Beth Mead, English professional footballer)

For me it is clear: Qatar is a mistake. The choice was bad”. (Sepp Blatter, Former FIFA President)

We should never again have a World Cup that fails to respect basic human rights and has none of the expected assurances and protections”. (Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch) 

The 2022 World Cup held in Qatar was not only a world-class sporting event, but also a pivotal moment in the global geopolitical arena. Following the award of the right to host this competition, Qatar was placed heavily in the media spotlight, becoming a topic of discussion in the context of international relations, socioeconomic issues and human rights concerns.

It is remarkable how, in the year 2022, a Middle Eastern country can host the World Cup where it has lured millions of people from the poorest countries on earth – often under false pretences – and then forced them into what many call “modern slavery” according to The Independent’s Miguel Delaney (Delaney, 2022).

Awarding the right to host the World Cup in Qatar was a surprising decision that caused much controversy. Issues such as extreme summer temperatures and human rights concerns have been brought up in the media. However, Qatar, a major player in geopolitics, took full advantage of this opportunity to strengthen its position in the international community. One of the most criticized aspects of the organization of the World Cup in Qatar was the condition of the migrant workers involved in the construction of the stadiums in an unbearable temperature at that time, but also the poor accommodation conditions. Critics pointed to poor working conditions, abuses and human rights violations. This issue attracted the attention of the international community and generated extensive discussions about the ethics of organizing an event of this magnitude in a country with such practices.

In 2017, Qatar was subject to an economic and diplomatic blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. This crisis has had a significant impact on the region and adversely affected preparations for the World Cup. However, Qatar has successfully managed the situation by engaging through diplomacy and strengthening its global relationships.

Qatar initially set out to host an innovative and sustainable tournament – from stadiums powered by renewable energy to advanced technologies in security and fan experience, Qatar has demonstrated that it can host a state-of-the-art event with a strong focus on sustainability, technology and modernization.

The sporting event has sparked the interest not only of football fans, but also of world leaders and non-governmental organizations due to ethical conflicts. International reactions to issues such as human rights and labour conditions have had an impact on Qatar’s reputation and have led to significant changes in the country’s approach to these areas compared to their vision of sustaining sustainability. 

Photo source:


Delaney, M. (2022). Everything wrong with the Qatar World Cup. The Independent.

Falk, G. (2022). Qatar 2022 World Cup: 15 quotes on Qatar 2022 ahead of the tournament – including comments from Steve Clarke, Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger.

León, I. (2022). Qatar diplomatic crisis: a political conflict toward regional dominance. Navarra.

Roan, D.; Lockwood, D. (2023). Qatar World Cup 2022: FIFA ‘must deliver on Qatar human rights promises’ – Norwegian football chief.

Sofotasiou, P. (2022). Qatar 2022: Facing the FIFA World Cup climatic and legacy challenges. UK. 


Shifting Power: Embracing a Free Market Approach in Football Competitions 

 Vlad I. ROȘCA

The business or diplomatic perspective on the international football landscape is currently dominated by the idea of the European Superleague (ESL). Endorsed by A22 Sports Management S.L., this concept of a new continental football competition that should operate as a competitor to the well-established UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League has challenged upheld beliefs about the competitive landscape in terms of sports competitions.

For decades, European football fans have been used to major international competitions organized by the governing body of European football, UEFA. It had become a habit and it was somewhat obvious that the continental competition system had to be under the tutelage of UEFA, the supreme decision-making forum in European football. As such, we had the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League (the former UEFA Cup) or the newly established UEFA Conference League.

“Champions of Europe”, an unofficial title, belonged (and still does) to the winner of the UEFA Champions League. In other words, to the team that won the pinnacle competition, organized by the upmost forum, which brought to the start the crème de la crème of European football clubs. This, while UEFA reigns over 55 national association members, from England or Germany to, by some, questionable, Israel or Kazakhstan.

There wasn’t (and still isn’t) any other official competition, at continental level, outside the sphere of influence of UEFA. But, recently, several major European football clubs broke away and questioned the monopoly. Judging by the principles of a free, neoliberal market economy, then the question arises as to why not wouldn’t football clubs be allowed to follow their own (financial?) interests and establish a league of their own, by breaking away from that of UEFA?

Such separatist movement in sports is quite new, but not singularly. The idea of a separate European Superleague (that should be organized outside of the rule of UEFA and act as a competitor league to UEFA’s leagues, most notably, to the Champions League) was met with disagreement, concerns and controversies, because it challenged the establishment that European soccer was used to since 1955, when the first European Champion Clubs’ Cup, later renamed into Champions League, was organized.

Odd enough (especially for football romantics), let’s not forget that the Mitropa Cup was set up by professional football clubs in Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in order to strengthen the dominance of these countries in European football and to financially support the professional clubs there. The financial goals of the Mitropa Cup, similarly to those of a proposed European Superleague, were to encourage investment from wealthy owners or sponsors to boost clubs’ financial resources and competitiveness.

With the idea of the Superleague, the European football market is now shaken by a possible paradigm shift from UEFA-monopoly to competitive market. Advocates of the breakaway project argue that the goal of the European Superleague is to maintain the overall competitiveness and quality of European football while ensuring a fair and sustainable environment for clubs. Which is actually also the promise of UEFA. Apparently, this ideological tension arises on a narrative that challenges tradition and innovation.

A paradigm shift was also met and endured by Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, who had the idea of making swimming a more lucrative and media-friendly sport. In 2017, Grigorishin established the International Swimming League, as an alternative to the swimming tournament sanctioned by FINA. Inspired by other sports, Grigorishin created a swimming league that operated on a team-based model, not on individual swimmers, with teams representing cities or regions and competing against each other in series of meets. The idea behind was pretty simple: cities or regions are symbols of identity that create a sense of belonging to one’s geographic ties to an extent that individual athletes are unable to do. The ISL, though, was short-lived, not because of its lack of success, but because it had to be abandoned following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The European Superleague in Football would now be a similar breakaway project. The idea would be to replace the current UEFA Champions League format and guarantee the participation of elite clubs year after year, regardless of their domestic performance. Most criticism to this concept is due to concerns over sporting merit, competitive balance, and the potential negative impact on domestic leagues and smaller clubs, with the rich getting richer and the poor becoming even poorer. If top-flight clubs compete against themselves and attract higher media and sponsoring incomes in the Superleague, when returning to play their domestic games in the respective national leagues, they would exert higher dominance over national league competitors that only play internally. All of this, while UEFA has been making major efforts over the recent years in order to distribute revenues more evenly among clubs, to implement financial fair play regulations to ensure financial stability, and to promote youth development programs to nurture talent.

This and many other question marks still remain raised, as it is yet unclear how the project of the Superleague might follow. Currently, opinions are for and against, with no clear path on what might possibly be.

For the moment, and in terms of sports economics, let’s simply remember that – whatsoever, successful or not – the idea of the Superleague challenged UEFA “establishment” of monopoly. How would football (competitions) change if it (these) moved towards more free market, with more organizations (businesses?) apart from UEFA organizing tournaments? Would this be beneficial or not? Questions difficult to answer, yet worth to be debated. 

Photo source:


Octavian-Dragomir JORA


Adrian-Ioan DAMOC




The Market For Ideas Association

The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)

Amfiteatru Economic