Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Archive for June, 2011

5 ‘Big European Leagues’?

Posted by John Beech on June 29, 2011

I’m not convinced.  Below is a photo of a window display in a sports shop in Limoges, France, that I took on Saturday.  You can click on the image to enlarge it and spot the three clubs featured.

It’s hard to imagine an English, German, Italian or Spanish shop giving such prominence to any club other than their own country’s.

Posted in Merchandising | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Chester revisited

Posted by John Beech on June 28, 2011

Not a return visit to the carryings on of Stephen Vaughan, or the resurrection at the Deva, but a revisiting of the Report of the Committee on Football, aka The Chester Report, published in 1968.  With the current Select Committee report on Football Governance in preparation, it seemed timely to have look at what has and hasn’t changed since Norman Chester and his committee found when they looked at the game almost forty-five years ago – his committee was appointed in June 1966 and first met on 19 July 1966.

In this first posting I’m going to look at how the context has changed, and then, in a couple of postings spread over a couple of weeks, I’m going to focus on the similarities and the differences of then and now, and finish with some thoughts on whether we have learned any lessons.

His terms of reference are interesting: “To enquire into the state of Association Football at all levels, including the organisation, management, finance and administration, and the means by which the game may be developed for the public good; and to make recommendations”  (the emboldening is my addition).  What I find interesting is that the Committee took what we would today describe as broadly stake-holder approach.  They included looking at the game from the players’ perspective, and from that of referees and linesmen, but, although a view from the fans’ perspective is often explicit, the committee didn’t explicitly report on the state of the game from a fans perspective.  The notion of fan ownership of professional clubs was yet to emerge.

Most striking too is the financial state of the professional game at that time.  Gates had been declining since a peak shortly after the war, and professional clubs were beginning to have to come to terms with the scrapping of the maximum wage and destruction of the retain clause following the Eastham case.  The writing was on the wall that the game was going to see a flurry of wage escalation and that commercialisation would be the inevitable response, although shirt sponsorship, for example, would still be banned for almost another 15 years.

Given the generally weak state of the game, the following data is perhaps surprising.  It is in the report but its source is the 1966 PEP report on English Professional Football.

Match receipts and
Other Operating Income

Salaries, team and
admin expenses

on all matches

Profit/Loss adjusted
by Average Earnings

Division 1





Division 2





Division 3





Division 4










(The original data was for the three seasons from 1963/64 to 1965/66, which I have averaged, and the final column I have added using the calculator to give an idea of the profit/loss in today’s terms allowing for inflation.

‘Wealth at the top’ is still the case today, although the Premier League clubs would be happy to turn the kind of profits being turned 45 years ago, inflation adjusted or not.  There is a financial disparity between the tiers, although it was nothing like as large as today – broadcasting rights had yet to be a major factor in football.

Interestingly the disparity between levels had been growing significantly over the previous ten years, as this table from the Chester report shows:

Match receipts

Team and Ground Expenses

Division 1



Division 2



Divisions 3 and 4



The lower tiers were already failing to keep income up to a level to cover expenses even more miserably than the old Division clubs.

More to come in later postings, but interspersed with more typical postings on the current scene.

Posted in Costs, Governance, History | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Of Dave and Goliath

Posted by John Beech on June 15, 2011

Watching Boylergate unfold still from the slight detachment of the Tirol is a singularly unedifying experience.

I should first make clear that I count Dave as one of my friends, and that I am also friends with a number of Supporters Direct employees whose jobs are now at risk.  I am not however a pre-move Wimbledon fan or an AFC Wimbledon fan.  I strongly disliked what happened, but I tend to see Sam Hammam and the local Council as the villans of the piece rather than Pete Winkleman.  I wish that the MK Dons would drop the ‘Dons’ part of their name, in the hope that all concerned would finally move on and adopt a more realpolitik approach.  That said, I find it fairly low down on the list of things that seriously bother me – it’s down there with Spennymoor Town, Livingston and Clyde (and maybe Kettering Town next), rather than up there with FIFA and corruption, for example.

The crisis, for that is what it is from a Supporters Direct perspective, seems to have issues at several different levels, the first and most immediate of which is the issue of what Dave Boyle tweeted (no click-through as Dave has deleted the particular comments which have had such drastic implications).

What he tweeted, he wrote in his personal capacity (it clearly states on his Twitter account “Comments reflect my views alone etc.“), but, of course, we can’t in practice ever disassociate ourselves from our employer that neatly (although I would argue the case for academic freedom if that employer happened to be a university!).  Dave seems to have recognised this, and resigned as CEO of Supporters Direct.  Why, it’s reasonable to ask, was that not an end to the matter?

Well, as Glen Moore reported it (1) in The Independent:

When his tweets came to the notice of the FSIF they wrote to Dame Pauline Green, chair of SD, asking for her comments. She replied that Boyle had apologised and promised there would be no repeat. The trustees of the FSIF, who include the Football Association and the Government as well as the Premier League, took the view that someone in his position, even if tweeting in a personal capacity, could not make such statements in a public forum and merely be given a rap on the knuckles.

This line was taken in the context of a crackdown on abusive behaviour in the game, including the FA’s Respect campaign and the recent suspension imposed on Wayne Rooney for swearing into a TV camera after scoring against West Ham. The FSIF board subsequently released a statement saying they “no longer had confidence in Supporters Direct’s leadership and judgement”. Funding previously offered to the tune of £1.5m over three years, was withdrawn.

An interesting question, which I have not seen an answer to, is why this anonymous person brought the tweets  to the attention of the FSIF rather than complain directly to Supporters Direct.

The FSIF (the Football Stadia Improvement Fund) (2) is itself part of the Football Foundation which is funded as described.  The Fund’s role is to provide “grant aid to clubs in the Football League, the Conference and the National League System, down to step 7 and below, that want to improve their facilities for players, officials and spectators.”   The mission of the Football Foundation itself is “to improve facilities, create opportunities and build communities throughout England” (3).  It strikes me that the Trustees of the FSIF were not acting on behalf of the FSIF but rather in the interests of their parent bodies, and I’m unclear as to how the pulling of funding for Supporters Direct, and thus seriously threatening its existence, is in any way creating opportunities and building communities.

What comes across is the convoluted way that football is governed in the UK – by a farrago of committees where ‘conflict of interests’ is a phrase rarely heard.

Which takes us to the ultimate issue – how is Supporters Direct funded?  The case that we actually need such a body is more than adequately expressed in the wealth of evidence submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Football Governance (3).  With the clear exception of the Premier League, all in the football garden is not seen as rosy, and a very strong case indeed for the Supporters Trust movement is made.

The FSIF have made clear that “funding would still be available to individual trusts and they should apply directly on a case-by-case basis“, but this conveniently ignores the fact that a primary purpose of Supporters Direct is to help in establishing Supporters Trusts, and that, but for the work of Supporters Direct, many of the Trusts who can still apply for funding would not exist.

If there is a lesson in the whole sorry saga, it is that Supporters Direct needs to be funded not directly through a multi-stakeholder stadia improvement fund (???), or indeed the Premier League.  The Premier League funding Supporters Direct is at least partly like having the Countryside Alliance finance the League Against Cruel Sports in that their objectives are antithetical, and linking them in this way just sets up the likelihood of the car crash we find with Boylergate.

For this reason I am not entirely sympathetic to the Early Day Motion calling ultimately for the resumption of funding of Supporters Direct by the Premier League (4).  In the context of a House of Commons investigation into football governance, it would surely make more sense to move to a more stable funding basis for Supporters Direct, where the ‘hand on the tap’ is the FA, or better still the DCMS.

Posted in Governance, Trusts, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Big 1, 2, 3 or is it still 4? Or more?

Posted by John Beech on June 9, 2011

Currently I’m working on a joint research project on various European football leagues with colleagues in Austria.  One set of data which we have produced so far casts some light on this perenial debate.  The latest version of the date centres of course on whether Liverpool ‘have fallen out of the Top 4’, and/or whether Manchester City ‘are  making it into a Top 5’, and/or variations on that theme.

We looked at the points scored each season by each club (adding back in any points deducted), going back to the 1995/96 season – an arbitrary choice, as any is, but one which suits our purpose as it is the season when 3-points-for-a-win was widely adopted across Europe (although the Premier League had embraced this system earlier).

The table below shows the percentage each club grabbed of the total points scored, and the percentage of time they spent in the Premier League over the sixteen seasons.

Overall %

95/96 to 10/11

% Presence

1   Manchester United



2   Arsenal



3   Chelsea



4   Liverpool



5   Aston Villa



6   Tottenham Hotspur



7   Everton



8   Newcastle United



9   Blackburn Rovers



10 West Ham



11 Middlesbrough



12 Bolton Wanderers



13 Manchester City



14 Fulham



15 Leeds United



16 Southampton



17 Sunderland



18 Charlton Athletic



19 Leicester City



20 Portsmouth



21 Birmingham City



22 Derby County



23 Wigan Athletic



24 Coventry City



25 Sheffield Wednesday



26 Wimbledon



27 West Bromwich



28 Stoke City



29 Nottingham Forest



30 Wolverhampton Wanderers



31 Ipswich Town



32 Reading



33 Crystal Palace



34 Hull City



35 Bradford City



36 Watford



37 Blackpool



38 Sheffield United



39 Barnsley



40 Norwich City



41 Queens Park Rangers



42 Burnley



Together the top four in the list grabbed a total of 28.79% of the points scored, comparable with the 28.32% that Celtic and Rangers grabbed as the Big 2 in the Scottish Premier League over the same period.  Manchester United, with 7.88%, dominated the Premier League slightly less than Bayern München dominated the German Bundesliga with 8.36% (they were ahead of Bayer Leverkusen with 6.83%).  And, before you ask, no, we haven’t looked at Italy or Spain yet.

What emerges is a fairly predictable picture of the Premier League – continued dominance and presence by a smallish group of clubs, and a long ‘tail’ of clubs who were either relegated and haven’t yet come back, clubs who have yoyoed in and out, and some recent newcomers.

How this relates to the financial state of the individual clubs is certainly food for thought, and indeed further research…

Posted in Governance, History, Premier League, Pyramid movement | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

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