Roy Masters & Maynard Keynes

Roy Masters & Maynard Keynes


Featured Image: Maynard Keynes (‘The New York Times’) and Roy Masters


I’m greatly intrigued when a sports journalist, albeit an educated and erudite one, liberally quotes one of the arguably greatest International Economists of the 20th Century? Maynard Keynes had possibly one rival in the Western World in John Kenneth Galbraith?

Roy Masters is no slouch himself and is the product of a multi-talented family of genuine polymaths. Maynard Keynes was a member of the ‘Bloomsbury Set’ in peri-WWI in London. He boasted unusual early proclivities but eventually married Lydia Lopokova , a Prima Ballerina in Diaghilev’s ‘Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo’. I question she would have been to Roy Master’s taste but then Roy was more ‘Sydney Push/NRL’ and Germaine Greer/Clive James than ‘Bloomsbury’. However I’ve no doubt he could have communicated effectively with the likes of other ‘Bloomsberries’; Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Aldous Huxley, Roger Fry and perhaps even Lytton Strachey + Dora Carrington? Duncan Grant? However I digress.

I especially liked Roy’s analogies in the following ‘masterpiece’. Read on.

How to win fans – or at least keep them – in the age of no sport

If John Maynard Keynes ran an NRL or AFL club, the last employee he would sack would be the guy in charge of fan engagement.

Keynes was the brilliant Cambridge economist whose multiplier strategies of increasing government spending to keep the workforce employed are used by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It’s classic Keynesian “pump priming” aimed at lifting aggregate demand, so the butcher can pay the baker who then pays the candlestick maker etc.

If governments since the Great Depression slavishly follow Keynesian economics, why don’t football clubs, some of which have sacked their entire digital staff?

The coronavirus pandemic means games are no longer played and, when they eventually resume, spectators are likely to be banned from stadiums, meaning clubs need to maintain engagement with their fans.

Furthermore, with everyone obeying social isolation rules, clubs must be innovative in how to maintain contact.

A story I learnt about Keynes while enrolled in a course at Cambridge University is relevant.

According to the great philosopher Bertrand Russell, a colleague of Keynes at Cambridge prior to World War I: “One morning, I met him [Keynes] hurrying across the Great Court of Trinity [College]. I asked him what the hurry was and he said he wanted to borrow his brother-in-law’s motorcycle to go to London. ‘Why don’t you go by train?’ I said. ‘Because there isn’t time,’ he replied. I did not know what his business might be, but within a few days the bank rate, which panic merchants had put up to 10 per cent, was reduced to five per cent. This was his doing.”

Keynes convinced the board of the Bank of England that they should halve the bank rate, rather than double it, thereby averting a monetary crisis.

Similarly, football clubs should be adopting a course which may seem counter-intuitive: rather than sack those who work in digital departments, they should be employing more staff to provide a service to paid-up members and attract new ones.

Some clubs, such as the Storm, are active in member engagement, allowing the cameras into areas previously unseen by fans.

Brandon Smith, for example, provides online vision of his training, while based at his New Zealand home and Sandor Earl engages fans via his gym classes.

Clubs should consider the data of a keen NRL fan who uses the Twitter handle @thenrleconomist.

Totalling followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter of all professional football clubs in Australia – 18 AFL; 16 NRL; four Super Rugby and 10 A-League – NRL clubs dominate.

The Broncos, with more than a million followers, are No.1, followed by the Storm No.2, New Zealand Warriors No.3 and Rabbitohs No.4.

AFL clubs Collingwood 5th, Essendon 6th, Richmond 7th, Hawthorn 8th, West Coast Eagles 9th and Adelaide Crows complete the top 10.

Super Rugby clubs rank poorly: Queensland Reds 30th; NSW Waratahs 36th; ACT Brumbies 39th and Melbourne Rebels 44th.

A-League clubs record a greater range: Melbourne Victory 19th; Sydney FC 24th; Central Coast Mariners 47th and Newcastle Jets last.

The AFL/NRL followership on social media is at odds with data on paid-up club memberships.

Membership of AFL clubs is 3.8 times larger than NRL.

The Sydney Swans rank 8th in the AFL, with twice as many members as the NRL’s No.1 ranked club for memberships, the Rabbitohs.

Yet, in social media, the Swans are 14th overall and the Rabbitohs 4th.

The Brisbane Lions are 17th in the AFL for membership, with a total only marginally less than the Broncos – the NRL’s No.2 team for membership – yet the Lions are 33rd overall for social media followers.

The AFL has a long tradition of fans demonstrating fealty to their club via paid-up membership, while Sydney NRL clubs have been mainly interested in membership of their poker machine palaces.

But another reason for the disparity between AFL/NRL club membership and social media following is what the media calls “click bait”.

As a former AFL chairman once told me, “You guys [NRL] do soap opera better than us.”

Whereas AFL fans are currently using the football drought to select “the best five Hawthorn players since 1987”, NRL fans are arguing over membership of the Party Boy Team of the 80s.

Twitter’s @thenrleconomist also compares social media following between 2014 and now, demonstrating that some Sydney NRL clubs are slipping back.

Why should we be surprised?