The BC Lions have a rental agreement on the publicly-owned BC Place stadium that is quite striking.
The BC Lions pay no rent on the first $9 million of net ticket sales to play at BC Place Stadium <snip> After the rent-free $9 million, the Lions are charged 10 per cent on the next million, 12.5 per cent on the next million, 15 per cent on the next million, 17.5 per cent on the next million and 20 per cent on all amounts over $13 million.
— BC Lions Contract Finally Revealed – The Tyee
If you follow North American sports leagues, you’ll be familiar with this kind of arrangement. It is a cooperative collective model heavily subsidized by the state for the multi-millionaire owners while being a brutally competitive market model for the players, and a monopoly service provider model for the fans.
The number of teams is fixed, new teams are not allowed in unless the collective decides (using a consensus model) to let a new team in. Once in, many of the revenues including incredibly lucrative TV contracts are shared by all. If a team does not perform well one year, it can, the next year, bind the best new players of the year to a contract regardless of where they would have actually wanted to work1. If a team does not perform well for decades (apparently there’s a hockey example in Toronto), fans, you’re stuck 2
Professional sports should be a test bed for innovative cooperative economic models.
But, this rental model is fantastic. What would it look like if we were all given similar rental deals to what the BC Lions get?
- The rent is based on a percent of the income, so affordability is built into the structure.
- The threshold before you begin to pay rent is pretty high, more than half of the highest expected ticket sales, meaning over half of us would pay no rent if we got this deal from the government. I don’t think we even need a structure as generous as the BC Lions get.
- The rent rates are progressive. The more you make, the more you would pay in rent. Whatever you pay, it would still be affordable.
- The threshold is inflation indexed. So, even as prices increase with time, affordability is not affected.
- The owner (the BC government) is a team partner in ensuring your success, helping you with property improvement as necessary (new roof), and business ventures such as food sales and more to make your property more useful.
I would love for professional sports to be a test bed for innovative cooperative/socialist models. The features that keep professional sport sustainable and competitive should make it out into the greater world. So, our rents should be based on ability to pay, our minimum wages or social supports should be tied to inflation, salaries should be capped at the upper end, people who are disadvantaged one year should get extra help in “next year’s draft”, and we should all share in revenues.
Sports socialism for all!
- Sorry Google, you can’t have Roshni even though she’s the best new designer this year and has been a Google fan since she was born, because Yahoo did not have a very good year, so if Roshni wants work, she’ll go to Yahoo! ↩
- If you want to continue to watch hockey at the highest level, you can either hope that enough of you stay away for the team to completely collapse and get new ownership, or you you can support a different team (like a traitor). ↩