Economist and Stanford Professor Emeritus Roger Noll made a declaration in support of the City of San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball. He also provided a (presumably paid for) analysis of the issues at stake. The following is Professor Noll’s complete statement. A PDF version is available here.
DECLARATION OF EXPERT WITNESS ROGER G. NOLL
1. My name is Roger G. Noll. I reside in Palo Alto, California. I am Professor Emeritus of Economics at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where I am Co-Director of the Program on Regulatory Policy. My educational background includes a B.S. in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. My complete curriculum vita is attached as Appendix A.
2. My primary area of scholarship is the field of industrial organization economics, which includes antitrust economics and the economics of specific industries. I have taught antitrust economics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I am the author, co-author, or editor of thirteen books, and the author or co-author of over 300 articles. Many of these publications deal with antitrust economics. I also have published extensively on the economics of sports, including Sports, Jobs and Taxes, co-edited with Andrew Zimbalist, which deals with the economic impact of sports teams and facilities and for which Professor Zimbalist and I wrote a chapter on the implications of the economic impact of teams and facilities for antitrust policy.
3. I have served as a consultant in antitrust litigation, including matters pertaining to sports. I have served as an economic expert for the players’ association in all major U.S. team sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer) on the economic effects of restrictions on competition in markets for the playing services of professional athletes, including testimony at trial in Freeman McNeil, et al., vs. National Football League (U.S. District Court, Minnesota) and John Mackey vs. National Football League (U.S. district Court, Minnesota). In Bernard Parrish, et al., vs. National Football League Players Association (U. S. District Court, Northern District of California) I testified on behalf of the players’ association about the value of licensing rights for retired NFL players.
4. Other cases in which I have testified at trial in recent years are the following:
• In re Application of MobiTV Related to U.S. vs. ASCAP (U.S. District Court, New York City);
• Reggie White, et al., v. NFL: Lockout Insurance & Lockout Loans (U.S. District Court, Minneapolis);
• SmithKlein Beecham d/b/a GlaxoSmithKline vs. Abbott Laboratories (U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland);
• Novell vs. Microsoft (U. S. District Court, Salt Lake City);
• DVD CCA vs. Kaleidescape (Superior Court, San Jose); and
• In the Matter of Adjustment of Rates and Terms for Pre-existing Subscription and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (Copyright Royalty Board, Washington, D.C.).
5. In addition to the cases in which I have testified at trial, I have submitted expert reports and/or been deposed in numerous matters. I have also testified before the U.S. Congress on antitrust and sports matters on numerous occasions.
6. Attorneys for Plaintiffs have asked me to analyze Plaintiffs’ allegations in this matter to determine the economic evidence and analysis that would be used to prove liability in support of their claims. In undertaking this task I have read the Complaint, which was filed on June 18, 2013. I also have read Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, filed on August 7, 2013. Finally, I have made use of information that has been collected from other public sources and my four decades of research on the economics of sports.
7. The purpose of this Declaration is to provide a preliminary analysis of the economic issues in this litigation before discovery has taken place. Hence, I reserve the right to revise my analysis and amend my conclusions on the basis of new information that has not yet become available. In particular, I understand that this Declaration is being submitted in connection with settling of the pleadings and that I am not being asked to opine on the merits of the claims. I would like to have the benefits of the complete discovery record before reaching my conclusions on the merits.
8. The objective of an antitrust economics analysis of liability is to determine whether conduct by Defendants caused harm to the competitive process. Ultimately, harm to the competitive process means harm to consumers, in this case sports fans. My main conclusion is that preventing the Oakland Athletics baseball team from moving to San Jose causes harm to competition because relocating to San Jose would substantially increase the potential fan base and attendance of the team.
9. Major League Baseball (“MLB”) is made up of thirty teams. These teams are economic competitors in many markets, including markets for players, coaches, regional television rights, and product licenses. If teams are geographically close, they also compete for attendance among sports fans in a local area. Presently MLB has local teams that compete for attendance in Baltimore-Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and the Bay Area.
10. Economics research and prior litigation have concluded that each major professional sports league in the U.S., including MLB, possesses market power in the provision of major league games in its sport in North America. Among the ways that MLB exercises its market power is by controlling the number and geographic location of major league baseball teams in North America. MLB has adopted rules that define the “home territory” of each team in the league and that place restrictions on franchise relocation. For now irrelevant historical reasons MLB has placed San Jose in the home territory of the San Francisco Giants, even though a team in San Jose would be less of a direct competitor to the Giants than is a team in Oakland because San Jose is much further than Oakland from the Giants’ home stadium.
11. One domain of competition in MLB as well as other professional sports is competition among cities to attract or to retain a team. Economics research shows that the financial success of a baseball team depends on the economic and demographic characteristics of its home territory, the quality of its home stadium, and the financial terms and other arrangements concerning the stadium. Cities actively compete for baseball teams on the basis of agreements that they offer to a team concerning a home stadium. The alleged anti-competitive conduct in this case is Defendants’ inhibition of competition and restraint of trade through the application of restrictions on team relocation which are preventing the City of San José from competing with the City of Oakland for the Athletics Baseball Club (Athletics).
12. Economists who have studied the location of teams in a league have concluded that in some circumstances a league has a reasonable business justification for restricting relocation. In particular, because the success of a league depends on the financial success of each team, leagues have a valid interest in assuring that each team will enjoy sufficient popularity in its home territory to be financially viable. This pro-competitive justification does not apply to MLB’s refusal to allow the Athletics to move to the City of San José.
13. San Jose is much more attractive than Oakland as a home location for a baseball team for several reasons. First, San Jose has a much larger population base, and so substantially greater potential home attendance for a local team. Second, San Jose is located in the Silicon Valley, which is the corporate home to many of the world’s leading high technology companies. This feature of San Jose is important because an increasingly important component of the revenue of a major league sports team is the sale of luxury boxes and other reserve seating to corporations, law firms, and wealthy individuals. Third, San Jose has identified and made available to the Athletics a location for a new stadium that will be a substantial improvement over the facility and location where the Athletics currently play. For these reasons San Jose is a much more attractive home territory for the Athletics than Oakland. Moreover, relocation to San Jose is financially attractive to the Athletics precisely because it increases total economic output, which in sports is the number of fans in attendance.
14. Competition in the local market for major league baseball would be enhanced if the Athletics relocate to San José. By increasing the potential revenue of the Athletics, relocation to San Jose would increase the financial incentive of the Athletics to field a team of higher quality. Making the Athletics more competitive would intensify competition between the Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, the other Bay Area major league baseball team.
15. MLB has not yet set forth its complete business justifications for preventing the movement of the Athletics to San Jose, so a full analysis of this issue is not feasible at this time. ￼￼￼In antitrust economics, a restriction on competition can be justified only if it is reasonably necessary to achieve a pro-competitive objective, which is defined as an improvement in performance that benefits consumers. Given that San Jose is substantially more economically attractive than Oakland as a home location for the Athletics, the only plausible reason for preventing relocation of the Athletics to San Jose is to protect the Giants from more intense competition from the Athletics.
16. Protecting an incumbent firm from losing business to a more efficient competitor is never a reasonable business justification for a restriction on competition. In this instance, such protection is especially unwarranted. Since moving to their new stadium in downtown San Francisco, the Giants are among the most successful teams in MLB. Indeed, the success of the Giants since relocating to a new and much superior stadium illustrates why the quality and location of a stadium is extremely important to the success of a team. While the Giants will experience more intense competition from the Athletics if the latter move into a much better stadium in San Jose, historical experience with stadium improvements demonstrates that increased attendance at home games of the Athletics will not come at the expense of the Giants, just as the Giants’ improved attendance since relocating to downtown San Francisco has not come primarily at the expense of the Athletics.
￼I declare that the foregoing is true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on September 6, 2013 at Stanford, California.
ROGER G. NOLL