The strategic resting of key players for particular matches is becoming more persistent in a variety of team sports. In 2016, the Football League announced fines totalling £60,000 for 12 clubs who contravened rules over fielding their strongest teams in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy. Previously, the Premier League voted to loosen the rules regarding player selection following fines issued to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackpool for fielding weakened XIs in defeats to Manchester United and Aston Villa in 2011.
Soccer is not the only sport where this issue has gained increasing coverage in the national media. Recently, the National Basketball League (NBA) Commissioner, Adam Silver, sent a memo to the league's board of governors, outlining the way teams are choosing to rest starters in some games as “an extremely significant issue for our league”. Furthermore, Silver insisted that owners should be more involved in the decision-making process as “decisions of this kind ... can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation and damage the perception of our game”.
This issue seems to be a conflict of competing interests with individuals responding to competing incentives. On the one hand, fans have complained that they have paid a premium price to see stars play, then arrived at arenas only to find that those players are getting the game off. Furthermore, networks have paid $24 billion to the NBA in the latest television contract negotiations and expect the top talent to feature in televised games. On the other hand, head coaches and the players (particularly with the top teams) feel that their priority is performing in the end of season playoff series rather than the 82 regular season games.
Lebron James, widely considered the best player in the NBA, has recently said “I don't think the NBA can do anything about it”. However, the amount of revenue at stake may lead to the NBA attempting to influence coaching decisions further which has important implications namely whether business interests may impact coaches’ autonomy over implementing competitive strategies to enhance a team’s chances of success.