Regulation by taxes or strict limits: Managing profits in american professional team sport leagues

Joel Maxcy, Pauline Milwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to focus an empirical investigation on the financial ramifications of regulatory policies on American professional team sport leagues, while at once including the inseparable effects on the outcomes of contests. The authors conduct a comparative analysis of the impact of alternative regulatory mechanisms adopted by American professional team sport leagues, and their implications for the league performance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper conducts a comparative analysis of ten years of financial and contest data from Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL). Using relative measures of payroll and profits for the two leagues, the authors test hypotheses on the impact of the market-based payroll taxes of the MLB with the strict payroll limits imposed by the NHL and their relationship to both financial and contest outcomes of the two leagues. Findings – The comparison of MLB and NHL shows that market-based tax incentives are more consistent with the league financial objectives than strict, enforced mandates, suggesting that comparatively higher profits are associated with the MLB’s approach when compared to the strict bounds imposed by the NHL. Conversely, the comparison of player costs in the NHL and MLB reveal no distinguishable features based on the alternative regulatory methods. Originality/value – This paper provides an initial, valuable assessment of different regulatory mechanisms on the on-and off-field (-ice) performance of MLB and NHL. Given that MLB has adopted market-based tax incentives to regulate payroll (the competitive balance tax), and the NHL has imposed strict payroll limits (hard salary cap), the authors at once consider MLB’s innovative revenue-sharing system alongside the NHL’s more conventional and restrained method of revenue redistribution, and their implications for performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-66
Number of pages15
JournalSport, Business and Management: An International Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Marketing


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