The aim of the study is to investigate whether discrimination factors exist within professional football clubs, concerning the management of their human capital, by analysing the correlation between the footballers’ wages and their performance. An analysis was conducted to show that discrimination, based both on nationality and race, can affect the strategies adopted by football club managers and in the professional footballer labour market, where players are considered to be the human capital of football enterprises. The research framework consists of an analysis of the existing literature on discrimination in sports and of a quantitative analysis based on an exploratory approach, where the wage differences among Italian Serie A league footballers are compared to the performance of each group of players (organised by race or nationality). The results of the analysis of data for all Italian Serie A clubs show that discrimination (in pay) exists against Italian and white players. In contrast, when small and big clubs are considered separately, the findings relating to small clubs highlight that foreign and black players face such discrimination. The results suggest that managers of professional football clubs apply a discrimination strategy. In addition, the results provide practical implications on the types of discrimination errors that are committed by the management of big and small football clubs. Big clubs tend to overrate the contributions of foreign and/or black players compared to those of Italian and white players, while small clubs tend to overrate the contributions of Italian and white players compared to those of foreign and black players. To reduce discrimination, clubs have to correlate how much players are paid with their performance. Further research is recommended to identify the impact of wage inequality on the football labour market and on professional team management.
Key words: Human capital, discrimination, wages differences, performance, team management, labour market, football clubs.
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