Last week the Southampton manager Ronald Koeman expressed his unhappiness with Martin O’Neill’s decision to use Shane Long in Ireland’s second leg play-off win against Bosnia. Koeman was “very surprised he played 40 minutes. The player didn't train for five or six weeks, [and] had only one training session on the Sunday”.
Such instances are becoming increasingly common in modern football where a tension exists between parent clubs and home countries. This outcome of the problem is often moral hazard. This is some form of after the fact opportunism; you take on an amount of risk while someone else pays the costs if things go wrong. For example, you may be more likely to drive your car dangerously or live an unhealthy lifestyle if you have car and life insurance respectively.
While Ireland and Southampton have no formal contractual agreement, Southampton are paying the wages of Shane Long on a weekly basis and it is, of course, in their interest to have a fit performer for the entire Premier League season. Ireland however faced a crucial match where short term success was in their interest. Southampton gave advice to Martin O'Neill but ultimately Ronald Koeman had no decision making power – Ireland were deciding on how much risk to take on, Southampton were carrying the costs if things went badly!
Economists are often interested in designing contracts to ensure that efficient risk bearing occurs between two parties stuck in dilemmas like these. It will be interesting to see whether such mechanisms arrive in football in due course or whether a club will legally challenge an international association if their asset returns as damaged goods from international duty. Should clubs be compensated when an international manager decides to outsource the costs?
As a fan it was great to see Shane Long play for Ireland last week, as an economist I think some of the risk needs to be shifted to international associations.