Sports Stadium Madness: Is Fan Ownership the Answer?

February 27, 2012

The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank whose researchers have questioned government subsidies to sports stadiums since the mid 1980s, has released a new Policy Brief proposing fan ownership of teams as a solution to “sports stadium madness.”

Author Joseph Bast, president of the institute, notes “sports stadium subsidies impose a huge cost to society. Unearned rent being held onto by professional sports franchises, made possible largely by public subsidies for new sports stadiums and arenas, is a huge injustice and deadweight loss to the nation.”

“Unearned rent,” a reference to the work of economist Henry George, is created whenever private individuals use force or fraud to restrict competition, Bast notes. The solution, he says, is to remove the privileges that enable individuals and corporations to generate and keep unearned rent.

In the realm of professional sports, removing those privileges means fan ownership of sports franchises, ala the Green Bay Packers. “Because it is owned by the fans, the team will never relocate,” Bast writes, “so it can’t demand subsidies.” The Packers are the least-subsidized professional sports team in the country, he notes.

“The spread of fan-owned teams would break the subsidy culture that now grips all of the major sports leagues,” Bast concludes.

“How to Stop Sports Stadium Madness: Is Fan Ownership the Answer”? can be found online at http://heartland.org/policy-documents/sports-stadium-madness-fan-ownership-answer and at PolicyBot, The Heartland Institute’s online research database.


The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.


Related Resources from The Heartland Institute

August 19, 1985, Dean Baim, “Comparison Of Privately & Publicly Owned Sports Arenas And Stadiums,” Heartland Policy Study #6, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/no-6-comparison-privately-publicly-owned-sports-arenas-and-stadiums

November 26, 1990, Dean V. Baim, “Sports Stadiums As ‘Wise Investments’: An Evaluation,” Heartland Policy Study #32, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/no-32-sports-stadiums-wise-investments-evaluation

January 21, 1991, Edwin S. Mills, “Should Governments Own Convention Centers?” Heartland Policy Study #33, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/no-33-should-governments-own-convention-centers

April 4, 1994, Robert A. Baade, “Stadiums, Professional Sports, and Economic Development: Assessing the Reality,” Heartland Policy Study #62, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/no-62-stadiums-professional-sports-and-economic-development-assessing-reality

August 1, 1996, “Should Congress Stop the Bidding War for Sports Franchises? Volume 1: Federal Policy Makers,” Heartland Policy Study #74, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/should-congress-stop-bidding-war-sports-franchises-volume-1-federal-policy-makers

August 1, 1996, “Should Congress Stop the Bidding War for Sports Franchises? Volume 2: League Commissioners,” Heartland Policy Study #75, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/should-congress-stop-bidding-war-sports-franchises-volume-2-league-commissioners

August 1, 1996, “Should Congress Stop the Bidding War for Sports Franchises? Volume 3: Municipal Authorities,” Heartland Policy Study #76, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/should-congress-stop-bidding-war-sports-franchises-volume-3-municipal-authorities

August 1, 1996, “Should Congress Stop the Bidding War for Sports Franchises? Volume 4: Academics,” Heartland Policy Study #77, The Heartland Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/should-congress-stop-bidding-war-sports-franchises-volume-4-academics

February 23, 1998, Joseph L. Bast, “Sports Stadium Madness: Why It Started - How To Stop It,” Heartland Policy Study No. 85, The Heartland Institute, February 23, 1998, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/no-85-sports-stadium-madness

January 2006, Fred Foldvary, “The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent,” CSI Policy Study, Civil Society Institute, http://heartland.org/policy-documents/ultimate-tax-reform-public-revenue-land-rent-full-text-pdf