The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The soccer Women's World Cup is currently being played in Canada. In this recent interview, noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist explains why the Women's World Cup benefits host city economies more (or at least harms them less) than the Men's World Cup does—even though the latter is a much larger event that attracts more fans. The reason is that the Women's Cup does not require massive new stadium construction or gargantuan government subsidies of the sort that are typical for the Men's World Cup and the Olympics.
Zimbalist might have added that the Women's Cup also doesn't usually involve the forcible displacement of thousands of people from their homes, as occurred before the 2014 Men's World Cup in Brazil, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics (which involved the expulsion of over 1 million people), among other cases.
Zimbalist documents the enormous economic costs of government subsidies for the Olympics and the World Cup in greater detail in his interesting recent book Circus Maximus. Here in the United States, government subsidies for stadiums and the use of eminent domain to to seize land for them, also cause substantial harm.
Even if you are a big sports fan (as I am), these trends should trouble you. It should be possible to host major sports events without either bilking taxpayers or forcibly displacing people from their homes. Indeed, that's how big-time professional sports was generally run until the mid-twentieth century. We can and should return to those more humane and less wasteful practices. The multibillion dollar industry of professional sports should be able to fund its own stadiums, and acquire the necessary land from voluntary sellers. In the meantime, if you want to watch a major sports event that isn't as morally compromised as most others, the Women's World Cup may be a good choice.