Football does, as we know, come in a number of different forms and codes. It also comes in a number of differrent organisational forms. The way that leagues are formed, franchises handed out, how teams are promoted and or relegated. And the effect, at least as I see it, is that large numbers of clubs that are supposedly capitalist in their form are in fact workers' cooperatives. Which makes an argument about why there aren't such workers' cooperatives a touch difficult: for I'm asserting that there are. The argument comes from Paul Walker:
For me, yes. Right now I should be working on a revise and resubmit on a paper in which, in its conclusion, I argue why there are no worker cooperatives in football and in fact in professional sport more generally. So for me its "Football as a workers cooperative – or lack thereof". As Chris highlights football is a great subject for the application of economics, even the theory of the firm. When considering a football team we have a situation where human capital, talent at playing football, is the basis for the "firm" which we may think would favour ownership by the workers. When human capital is the major input into production ownership by, at least some of the workers, is common, e.g. partnerships in law and accounting etc. This was also true of pirates! The interesting thing for professional sports is that ownership by the human capital, i.e. the players, is extremely rare. This is, I would argue, because a worker-owned team would be at a disadvantage relative to a player-as-employee based team.
So far I agree except for the one point: that I think most clubs, European ones at least, are, in effect, workers' cooperatives. I agree entirely that in legal form they are not. There's a few fan cooperatives but no workers' ones. But pure legal form isn't quite, to my mind, the total definition. Of importance is to look at the flows of money. If the money flows as if an organisation were indeed a workers' cooperative then I'd be inclined to call it one even if the legal form wasn't so. And even a brief look at football club accounts shows that almost all of them make a loss almost all of the time. That's certainly not what we would imagine to be a defining feature of a seris of capitalist organisations. Further, the money all ends up in the pockets of the players.
I explain this in more detail here comparing US leagues with English. Put simply, US sports teams tend to make profits for they are organised as cartels. This restricts entry of new teams and there is no promotion or relegation. Thus, to be able to play the sport you've got to be accepted by one of those teams: this gives the team power over the player. UK soccer is not so organised. Here the competition is to stay (or get into) the top flight and movement by a team is possible. This gives much greater powers to the players for the supply of those capable of shining at the top level is now smaller than the demand for them. Thus any extra money coming into the sport (as we have seen with successive TV contracts etc) ends up flowing into the pockets of said players.
At which point I would be very tempted indeed to say that while soccer clubs do not have the legal form of a workers' cooperative the fact that all of the money, all of the profits and more leaving the "capitalist" owners with nothing but losses and pride, flows to the workers means that they are workers' cooperatives in fact.