Liam Lenten's 'Some Sports Economics'

What do sport and economics have in common? Quite a lot when trying to explain economic theory to students as La Trobe University senior lecturer Dr Liam Lenten asserts.

liam video grabHe has put together a six video series called “Some Sports Economics”, where he explains common economic concepts using sporting analogies.

The result is an entertaining strategy to engage students in learning what they need to do.

“There is no doubt that trying to fathom economic theory is hard without applying it to real life situations,” said Dr Lenten.


“Sports is a fun way of doing economics and takes the greyness out of the equation,” he said.

“Since many of my undergraduate students like and appreciate sports, but sometimes fail to grasp some of these fundamental concepts when presented in the typical textbook manner, I hope that by giving them a frame of reference that better appeals to their sensibilities, this series can make a significant pedagogical contribution to teaching and learning practice in the Economics discipline.”

Dr Lenten says the videos are also potentially within the grasp of senior secondary school students and the general public if they are really into sports and understand the background behind the examples used.

The first video - when scoring an own-goal is the only way to win – shows how scoring against yourself can actually be a winning strategy. Dr Lenten uses the case study of a 1994 Caribbean Cup match between Barbados and Grenada, in which Barbados needed to win the match by two clear goals to advance to the knockout-stage. 

The second video - Full versus half-full stadiums in maximising profits- gives insight into the demand equals supply truism by contrasting ticket sales for two different teams.

The third video - The economics behind inelastic ticket pricing- explains why the mystery behind AFL doesn’t charge more to see games live – but stadium food costs a fortune. It’s called inelastic pricing and the concept of complementarities.

The fourth video - The economics of comparative advantage and Usain Bolt – focuses on why Jamaica’s decision not to run the world’s fastest man (Usain Bolt) in the final leg of the Beijing Olympics 4x100m relay final helped them win the race.

In the fifth video - Media broadcast rights and the Prisoner’s Dilemma - media broadcast rights in the sports industry are considered and why what they face is what is called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.

The sixth video -Why do governments fund sports - is a quick cost-benefit analysis over government spending on sports, raising the question of whether bidding to host the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup is really worth it.

The videos were produced by Matt Smith, Digital Media Officer at La Trobe University.

Transcripts of the series are viewable on YouTube directly, via a playlist called ‘Some Sports Economics with Liam Lenten’.

To view the series visit: Some Sports Economics


Penny Underwood, MediaWise

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