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A numbers game

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This post may well be, to paraphrase David Lange, “so dry it’s combustible”, and I’ll probably (quite rightly) stand accused of needing to, as they say, “get out more”, but here goes anyway…

I’ve noticed on the forums, in the context of discussions around players transferring between clubs, a good measure of whining about some clubs buying players, paying players, and generally having too much money. Although I think it’s highly debateable whether or not these things are much of a problem in reality (clubs with money are spending it – quelle horreur!), I still found it worthy of some investigation to see if it can be established how widespread practices such as these might be.

So I went online, to the charities and the incorporated societies registers, downloaded as many up to date, publically available, annual reports as I could find, and had a wee poke around.

I could give you a whole lot of waffley commentary about this, but what I’d much rather do is simply present the data in a sort of ‘league table’ and let you be the judge. A bit of explanation first though.

On the table below, just like a real points table, each club has ‘for’, ‘against’ and ‘goal difference’ columns. These correspond to income, expenditure and surplus/deficit. This should be of use to people interested in comparing the financial performances of all the clubs lined up against each other.

‘Year’ is the year of the most up to date annual report I could get. ‘League Position’ is where they finished in the Northern League the same year as the accounts provided. ‘$/League spot’ is their total expenditure divided by where they finished in the league. The purpose of this is so you can see how much money they spent for each position on the ladder they attained above the bottom – this is how I chose to rank the clubs because I think it’s interesting to see to what extent spending money helps you to be successful on the pitch.

Oratia, Hibiscus Coast, Claudelands and Warkworth weren’t in the Northern League the year of their most recent publically available annual reports, so they are unranked. Mangere, Metro, Mt Albert-Ponsonby, and Onehunga Sports either don’t have recent annual reports available, or the reports I found were incomplete and therefore of limited use for these purposes.

You can click on the image for a larger version.

Table

So is it possible to “buy the league”, in a Roman Abramovich kind of sense, at this level?

To help you decide, I’ve made this graph which compares league position with how much each club spent. I haven’t labelled the clubs to keep things nice and pure. (I have no idea how to do it)

Graph

Two clubs, very helpfully, had a reporting line for “player payments”, but nobody else did. So one is left with two options for the rest – either choose to believe they don’t pay players, or look for where else in the profit and loss statements that payments might be lurking. In the table above I included numbers where clubs have reported expenditure on ‘coaching’ or ‘coaching staff’ – this could be the Head Coach’s salary/honorarium or it could be paying players to ‘coach’ – you be the judge as the numbers vary wildly. ‘Team costs’ could be uniforms and petrol money or it could be something else – I don’t know. ‘Wages’ could be, and usually are I suspect, the bar manager, cleaner, and/or part-time ground staff.

Whatever you choose to believe, did the amounts of money spent in these areas assist with performance on the pitch? Let’s see…

Graph2

Notes:

If you are looking at your club’s figures above and wondering why they don’t match your set of annual accounts, don’t panic. All clubs have slightly different accounting practices so in order to standardise things as much as possible, and get to a point where we are comparing apples with apples, I have had to do a bit of rearranging of the figures as they were presented. For example, where bars were accounted for separately with only bar profit carried forward into the main accounts, I have unpacked that income and expenditure and accounted for it along with everything else. I’m hoping I haven’t stuffed any of this up but as always, I’m happy to stand corrected and there may well be some remaining anomalies that I’m not qualified to spot.

Also for the purposes of consistency, all figures exclude depreciation.

Every club is different. For example, some clubs have far more junior teams than others and that costs money. Just because a club spent a whopping amount in a financial year, doesn’t mean it all went into the first team – it almost certainly didn’t.

Manukau City’s position is skewed upwards because the data includes their expensive Chatham Cup trip to Dunedin, which they had to fundraise extra income for, and commit extra expenditure to. They obviously wouldn’t have done this in the course of an ordinary year.

Western Springs’ income is skewed upwards by a large grant from Auckland Council, which I assume is for their new Tiger Turf or other one-off improvements to their facilities.

Ellerslie’s accounts are for 14 months, while everyone else’s are over 12 so their figures are skewed upwards a bit.

Melville’s accounts are just a one pager so drawing too many conclusions from their seemingly modest spend may be a bit shaky.

Tauranga City’s accounts explicitly state that no player incentives have been paid. I thought that was worth mentioning.

As for ‘what does it all mean?’ Stuffed if I know. You tell me.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1 NZ Northern Men's Division 2 NZ Northern Men's Premier Other Football Topics

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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