Money, Money, Money

We’re #136! We’re #136! We’re #136!

Okay, these figures about the “200 best-paying teams in the world” is a bit of out date as they’re based on last season. Hull and Portsmouth are not in the EPL, nor is Siena still in Serie A.

But it’s nice to know we pay about the same on salaries that Fiorentina do, right? They’re good, right?

The most interesting thing about this list to compare and contrast the leagues though, even if it is apples and oranges.

For instance, look at the NFL. The Washington Redskins is that league’s highest paying team, yet they are ranked just #70 overall. They’re right behind the NBA’s Sacramento Kings — a team that is moving to the other end of California (Anaheim) this summer — and just a bit above Portsmouth.

Overall, the average ranking of an NFL team is #114. That makes sense considering the strict salary caps and unguaranteed contracts for the players. Yet, the league is the most popular here in the states with attendances nearly doubling the EPL, and a commanding multi-billion dollar TV contract and oodles of public money for stadiums.

But, it is also currently in a lockout because of qualms over revenue sharing between players and owners. Connected? I think so.

Anything else stick out to you? For me, the last thing is just how cheap the New York Islanders are. Man are they a mess.

22 thoughts on “Money, Money, Money

  1. I would dispute the apples to apples comparison and suggest some modifications. Even with the friendly (pre-season) games all but mandated for season ticket holders, 20 out of 32 teams only have 10 home games a year.

    Even with 80,000 seats sold out every game, thats 800k tickets sold, for what might be around 50 british pounds a seat as a slightly generous average. So ticket revenue for the season might be 40 million pounds.

    Compare to baseball, where they dont have salary caps and is more comparable to baseball.

    My phillies, of which i split two full season tickets with some friends charge an average of maybe only 30 pounds a seat (most seats are less but some are much more, and they have sold out 100+ straight games.

    So 80 games, 40,000 seats (a little more but just making the #’s easy), and 30 pounds a seat = 1.2 million in seat revenue per game * 80 = 96 million pounds.

    Thats double the ticket gate revneue for a good baseball club versus a pretty good football club.

    Now, i realize TV income isnt higher for football, but a football team I read (but can’t verify) spends about 60% more on it’s coaching staff, and other ancillary expenses have to be higher (ie: insuring contracts)

    So it doesnt surprise me that while Football is more popular, Baseball can pay their players more, at least for the good teams.

    IM some sense, I’d like to see how fulham spends, and where they rank versus comparable MLB teams, im guessing its a slightly similar curve with ManU-Chelsea being the Yankees and the redsox, with fulham maybe being… the angels?

    1. Wow, good stuff regarding baseball. Obviously, the less amount of NFL home games means the tickets will be higher. But in the long run the NFL team may be making the same amount as an MLB team who charges less but more often/longer.

      Also, nowadays a BIG part of game-day revenue isn’t from ticket sales — the kind you and I purchase. It’s from Box Seats and Luxury Suites.

      Also, again, this all shows how unsustainable the NBA is, no? Averaging just 17k fans a game according to the second link I provided yet with high salaries and guaranteed contracts. Then there is this story the other day about TV audience:

      1. agreed. The luxury box seats themselves arent that much but the concessions that are often bought end up being outragoeusly expensive, like 30 us dollars for a normal pizza etc.

        my season ticket for the phillies is 2nd row, 3rd base line right behind the tarp, aisle seat with an absolutely unimpeded view of the action, it by all rights is one of the best 1000 or so seats in the stadium. it is only $60 though, which may just about be the average price, though well above the median price, something i tried to factor n.

        interesting fact about basketball. at the heights of the recession even scalpers (our version of touts), would be sitting curbside for sixers game, committing no illegal acts, because even THEY had to sell (and htey markup prices outrageously) tickets for half the cost. The sixers were this year giving seats away for filling out surveys, and many of the luxury boxes, even if they were purchased, were dark, meaning they didnt want to pay the food cost to host clients, and just wrote off the $4,000 or whatever as a sunk cost. (somethign bill simmons said was happening nationally)

        it was amazing really.

        Basketball and Hockey of course have slightly bigger seasons than fulham do, but for football the grandaddy of all money is clearly the tv rights, which are distributed in a socialist manner, which makes every franchise, in spite of its ineptness, almost a guarantee to be lucrative, which tells you all you really need to know about the strike. For the first time in my lifetime i am clearly on the side of the players.

  2. Interesting to see, I always wonder with these lists where the support staff and office workers fit in. The manager of the field wardens and the like. If a players average weekly salary doubles your yearly one, or even worse that intern at Chelsea who Ashley Cole used as target practice.
    Was surprised to see the Cubs so high up there, what are they doing with that money?

      1. I don’t buy that. Good management (financial, youth development, transfers and coaching) can absolutely make it sustainable for us to “push on” and be a constant challenger for Europe. Until this season Everton have been and they have comparable total wages and somewhat comparable transfers. Their youth system appears to have yielded better results and I generally like their transfer strategy. Ever since Moyes put together his core squad, I get the impression they have decided to concentrate on one big signing a year. We should do something similar given that our squad is generally good across the board.

        1. Nah – money rules. Wages consistently and strongly correlates with finishing position. Cups less so, because there are fewer matches and in a knockout tournament there are surprises (Birmingham!). I hate to say it, but relegation will always appear larger on the horizon than European football for a club of our size.

          Everton have almost double our attendance, for instance. This season, we’re 15th in the average attendance league, and we have cheap tickets. The top ten clubs in the average attendance table – Man U, Arsenal, Newcastle, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Sunderland, Villa, Everton, Spurs.

          I’d argue that at least 8 of these clubs are ahead in the queue for European football.

          For us – avoid relegation and go for a good cup run.

          1. We shouldn’t pin our hopes on youth development to enable us to “push on”. The academy’s been an abject failure: it hasn’t produced a single player of note since Sean Davis. If it can’t be relied upon to supply a decent player at least every other season, then we’d be better closing it and spending the money on wages and transfer fees. We don’t have any comparative advantage in divining which small boys will blossom into top-class footballers a decade hence. But we are able to outbid most other clubs in the world for semi-finished articles, and offer a stage in one of the world’s best leagues. That’s what our recruitment policy should revolve around.

  3. Just a quick glance, would this infer that Stoke and West Brom are perhaps massively overachieving in the Premier League, both 13th and 11th respectively in the league and Stoke with an FA Cup Final appearance. Stoke paying salaries on average $9,000 less than the nearest Premier league team (Wigan on $35,000) and West Brom $12,000 less than that.

    Just thought it was interesting

  4. This really puts last season’s amazing accomplishments in perspective, as well as Tottenham’s foray into the CL.

    I listened to a pod-cast recently (either the Guardian or ESPN, I can’t remember) that claimed American investors believe the EPL is undervalued. Looking at the “value” of sports teams stateside, it would appear that the money flows up to the top (the owners) as opposed to the players or staff, which is to be expected when you consider American sports teams are franchises (businesses) and not clubs (communities). Looking at it this way, it is understandable how there is a clash between ownership and fans at Manchester and Liverpool. It would be interesting to see if the same thing happens at Arsenal considering their recent take-over.

    Last year during an interview, Harry Redknapp was asked about the possibility of buying or becoming a part of a group of buyers to save Portsmouth. His response was two fold: I don’t have that kind of money, and you don’t buy a football club to make money. Clubs aren’t meant to be cash-cows, and considering their ability to be regulated to lower leagues means there is always going to be an element of risk involved (ex. Leeds United). I wonder if American owners really know what they’re getting into when they buy into EPL teams? Their shock at how much players get paid, and the relative ease of breaking contracts, suggests otherwise.


    1. I’d say that some do, some don’t.

      Hicks and Gillete, obviously, had no freaking idea what they were getting into. But I think that says more about them as people than anything else — after all, didn’t Hicks’ Rangers go bankrupt? How the hell that is possible in MLB I still can’t grasp.

      I’d say that Randy Lerner of Aston Villa has shown, so far, that he knows what he is doing. The Glazers have as well, although if you speak to the Guardian’s David Conn he’ll argue that the amount of debt laden on the club proves otherwise. Despite the fact they’re still winning…

      Anywho, I think that EPL teams are deemed ‘undervalued’ in that they are often not a part of a larger conglomerate but are stand-alone entities. (I made a comment on FOF awhile back about this). I could be wrong, but even though MAF owned Harrods and Fulham, they were never really mentioned in the same ownership breath per se. There was Fulham, and there was Harrods.

      For instance, for a long time the Chicago Cubs were not just the Chicago Cubs. They were an asset of the Tribune Company’s conglomerate that owns newspapers, tv and radio stations, websites, etc. I think NESV’s purchase of Liverpool will start this trend that has been ongoing stateside for the past 20-30 years.

  5. What I found most interesting was that Tottenham wasn’t much higher than us. Their average salary was only 6K pounds per week per player higher than us which while not insignificant means that a Tottenham player’s wages won’t necessarily be way too high for us if we get a transfer.

    I find the wage scale secrecy in the EPL to be quite strange. In the US, most of that information is public. Why the difference?

    1. I thought that.

      I wonder if it’s because they have many more squad players than us on low wages, bringing the average down? (This could be the case – more often than not, the list of players for us is shorter than the list of players for the opposition on the back of the match day programme).

  6. Let’s accept the opening comment that Major League Baseball and EPL are comparable. Let’s look at the winners of each league, and where the winner ranked among payrolls (using the attached poll, admittedly baseball’s payroll changes every year, and its play-off system can create upsets):

    2001 Arizona D’Backs 23rd Man U 3rd
    2002 Anaheim Angels 7th Arsenal 5th
    2003 Florida Marlins 21st Man U 3rd
    2004 Boston Red Sox 2nd Arsenal 5th
    2005 Chicago Wh Sox 5th Chelsea 1st
    2006 St Louis Cards 11th Chelsea 1st
    2007 Boston Red Sox 2nd Man U 3rd
    2008 Phil. Phillies 3rd Man U 3rd
    2009 NY Yankees 1st Man U 3rd
    2010 SF Giants 9th Chelsea 1st

    Clearly money is important in baseball. You can get into the playoffs with tight budgets (Tampa Bay was in a World Series with the third worst payroll), but big spenders usually win. I argue that MLB has more variety in its champions because they do not buy/sell players. They develop them through (a) their farm team, (b) trade players or (c) sign some free agents (the latter increases the payrolls up and can turn contenders into winners).

    But managing the three talent categories (farm, trade, and free agent) is a highly specialized role in baseball (the General Manager who leads a battery of professional talent scouts, player development specialists, and lawyers), which really does not exist in EPL (where the Manager usually is in charge of buying/selling). This creates good competitive results and variety among the MLB champions.

    1. delayed response here but 3 things.

      1) the first 6 years of a baseball players life they are bound to the team that broke them into the major leagues. 3 of those seasons are at the MLB minimum wage, which works out to like 6,000 pounds a week.

      2) baseball is more luck, at least the playoffs are. even a good playoff team versus a team that is only slightly betetr than average but lucked their way in is maybe a 63-37 favorite at best, and you have to win 3 series like that

      3) teams can try to time their resources. they also own their junior players in the equivalent of league 2 and up. you can sell alot of these players for very good players and even get financial relief to try to load up for one or two good seasons out of 10 with a normally average budget.

  7. Two points about how baseball is different from association football: first, MLB has the draft system, salary dump trades, etc. that allow low-payroll teams to hoard talent for a time, but they usually cycle in and out. The benefit of being a high-payroll team is that the off cycles are shorter and not as severe. (For example: a down cycle for the Red Sox or Yankees consists of missing the playoffs for one year.) Of course, if a team is mismanaged (NY Mets) they can have long, painful down-cycles despite high revenue/salaries.

    It also should be noted that not only do the short playoff series invite upsets, the division format allows weaker teams in at the expense of better teams. The two teams in the World Series last year (the Giants and Rangers) both benefited from being in bad divisions and playing weaker competition. If they were placed in the American League East (with both the Red Sox and Yankees plus the Devil Rays on an up-cycle), both teams would likely have struggled to finish 3rd, let alone make the playoffs. That’s very different from the EPL model.

    As for American football, it’s hard to compare average salaries to other leagues because the rosters are so large. When you have 45 players on the team, there is a lot more roster filler that can drag the average down. I suspect if you compared the ten or fifteen highest paid players from each team, several NFL teams would jump close to the top of the list.

    1. There’s no doubt that things could be more competitive, but the open market thing is the issue. If Japan’s baseball league was super-rich, if Canada came up with a viable alternative to the NFL, if the European basketball leagues got things together (as I believe they are), then you might see players disappear from the US games and get a system more like europe.

      Presumably at some point the players’ unions will challenge the whole draft/controlled rights system and then you’ll get bedlam.

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