While rugby fans may decry his loss to the sport, Canterbury University economics lecturer Dr Seamus Hogan told NBR ONLINE there is no loss to the New Zealand economy.If the Rugby Union is good at getting fans to pay for the value provided, and if Sonny Bill's manager is good at negotiating his pay, then he doesn't provide much value above his pay. Because the rugby union can't perfectly price discriminate, fans might get some surplus from a good player that isn't captured by the rugby union. But, if the player has a good manager, sponsorship and endorsement deals ought to mop up at least some of what's left.
"If he was prepared to play in New Zealand free, obviously that would be of tremendous value to the rugby union because it would get more bums on seats.
"Beyond that, there wouldn't be any spill over benefit economically to the country."
Dr Hogan says that in terms of economic activity, if Williams' presence in a match gets more fans into the stadium those people are just spending money they would have spent elsewhere.
"It is just a transfer. It's not a benefit to the country economically."
Dr Hogan says Williams gets almost the full value of his contract because he has unique talents.
But I would have expected that fans shifting away from rugby into something else because of the departure would have some loss of associated surplus. The other activity also generates surplus, just less of it; that's why it was the second choice prior to the staffing change.
He says somebody who is a very good lock, such as Brodie Retallick from the Chiefs, cannot command a high price because the next-best lock is right behind him.Afraid I'd missed that.
"If he goes, the cost to the rugby union of losing him is not great because there is somebody waiting to take his place.
"But if Williams goes this year, we have to take a step down in the quality of our second five-eighths."
However, Dr Hogan says it would not be a big slide because there are plenty of other talented second five-eighths around.
Williams' biggest value is probably in terms of the entertainment he provides, such as taking his ripped shirt off during a World Cup match last year, he says.