Can David Beckham help keep the World Cup from destroying our economy?

Via Du Nord – David Beckham and Jack Warner have done so much for American soccer. Now, they're going even further, helping to spare the United States from the crippling financial responsibility of hosting the World Cup:

That would hopefully not be this David Beckham Academy:

Now, it would seem at first glance that since hosting the World Cup would be good for American soccer, and helping a rival nation's bid would therefore be bad. It would follow that if the United States did not get the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022, and that if David Beckham had even the slightest part in that, the damage to the sport in this country would outweigh any theoretical good his Galaxy experiment did. As for the spectacle of a CONCACAF administrator working against a CONCACAF bid, well, I haven't yet received clarification on whether I'm allowed to call for Jack Warner's assassination or not, so for the moment I'll keep silent (kill him).

But, according to economist Dennis Coates, quoting economists Victor Baade and Robert Matheson, contrary to everything we've read for the past fifteen years, the 1994 World Cup cost Americans over $9 billion.


Wait, no, not each. Nine billion divided by 250 million is… Applications… Games… Minesweeper… wait, no… Calculator….oh, it was only $36 each? So much for blaming my credit card debt on the USSF.

I suppose you're wondering why you've been out $36 all this time. The figure has been bandied about recently by an economist named Dennis Coates, who had an op-ed a couple of weeks ago which said, in so many words, that the World Cup only benefits FIFA and national soccer organizers.

I suppose as a soccer fan I'm feeling unusually snarky towards this, but I feel like both sides are fudging the math here. Frexample:

It's a rare football stadium built these days that isn't adaptable for futbol.

But yes, it's awful when stadium concessions and facilities are upgraded. I for one enjoyed peeing in troughs, and sympathized for women who were not able to. Those days are gone, alas.

In other words, we're talking about existing stadiums, and the idea that absent the World Cup they would deteriorate into post apocalyptic hellholes is…well, true, if the LA Coliseum is anything to go by. But then the question becomes whether it's better to upgrade the stadium or bulldoze the place and build another one. Soldier Field was remodeled without the World Cup, after all.

Goodness, how terrible that all sounds.

Again, the premise pretty much has to be that the host city will not only be spared the World Cup, but never host anything ever. And if the premise is that the World Cup is all that stands between your town becoming the next Gary, Indiana…well, isn't this supposed to be an argument against hosting the World Cup?

I hate to go all rock, flag and eagle on you here, but we shouldn't do anything because of what the terrorists might or might not do. Otherwise, let's shut down Disneyland. Eric Rudolph committed crimes before and after the Atlanta Olympics, after all.

I assume we compared these costs with normal population growth, right? Of course, if we were really serious about reducing traffic and lowering the amount of trash generated, that's nothing a few neutron bombs wouldn't solve.

So we're taking into account the financial impact of the same amount of visitors total, so there's no change. Got it. Wait.

So how does all this cost us $36 each?

That…sounds wrong. It reads as if Baade and Matheson came up with a figure, and blamed the World Cup for not meeting it. It sounds like Baade and Matheson drew a picture of an apple tree then went to look at a tomato plant to compare results.

But let's assume their methodology was completely kosher, and that personal income as they define it is the way to measure such things. I unfortunately missed the part where Baade and Matheson compared the host cities' personal income with those of nine similar American cities. If Orlando lost a ton of money, but Tampa gained, for example. If Washington lost, but Baltimore gained. Detroit lost, did Cleveland gain? And so forth.

Maybe it sounded better in the original. I'd quote the original Baade and Matheson study, but it costs $30, and I'm already feeling that $36 hit from the World Cup, thus proving their point.

In this light, I found Coates' use of this quote a little interesting:

Mm. Quite.

Beau Dure has interviewed Coates, and is currently in the middle of a back and forth with him on his site. The key seems to be the concurrent decrease in personal income in World Cup host cities in 1994. I still have a nagging suspicion that's as if we said the New Orleans economy has suffered greatly because it has hosted ten Super Bowls, and didn't take into account any large hurricane-like events that might or might not have occurred.

But the real, unanswerable point that Coates makes is the lack of transparency in the economic projections, and who will pay for any shortfall. American taxpayers should not have to pay for a World Cup. If English, Russian, Australian or Qatari taxpayers want it more, then they should have it.

And this is why David Beckham and Jack Warner have helped us so greatly, by trying to divert the World Cup away from us. Why, the sport might have been crushed under the weight of the tournament. Wait, what's this?

But…but if this is true…then David Beckham and Jack Warner aren't helping American soccer at all!

I…have to lie down….