Jump to content
rllmuk
gospvg

Football Thread 2019/2020

Recommended Posts

Standard Liege took out the mighty Boro in the last round. :(

 

The Wolves team is head and shoulders above the rest though, you guys should clinch it! Just pass the ball to Adama!

 

 

  • Empathy 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Henderson using his time to do some good. 

 

 

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is brilliant. Clubs at the top will still have money coming in from commercial deals, shouldn't be a big deal for them to give some of that to clubs that would otherwise go to the wall after missing a few home games:

 

 

Should hopefully spark a conversation about why some clubs were in such a precarious position to begin with though, and why it took a pandemic to see some solidarity from the top to the bottom of the pyramid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Liamness said:

This is brilliant. Clubs at the top will still have money coming in from commercial deals, shouldn't be a big deal for them to give some of that to clubs that would otherwise go to the wall after missing a few home games:

 

 

Should hopefully spark a conversation about why some clubs were in such a precarious position to begin with though, and why it took a pandemic to see some solidarity from the top to the bottom of the pyramid.

 

Most clubs rely on an owner just writing a cheque. There are very few who generate a profit. 

Sunderland's wage bill in League 1 was £14m. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the £125m is a gift, just bringing forward the previously agreed payments (don't they call them solidarity or loyalty, some such guff).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Stoppy2000 said:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52165826

 

Liverpool the latest club to furlough some staff....


And a few months after announcing a pre-tax £42m profit. Feel like players taking a 40% cut, rather than a 30% reduction would mitigate much of the need for top-flight clubs to rely on government bailouts.

 

As a Red I’m really disappointed; on top of an existing upwards trend in revenue, the club will be making a small fortune off their incoming Nike deal and probably could cushion the current financial blow better than others. Its a shit look for the league leaders, especially in one of the few Labour strongholds in the country.
 

But football clubs gonna football club.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Liverpool have taken advantage of the Government paying 80% of their wage bill for PAYE staff and will top up the extra 20% so the staff won't lose out any money.

 

That makes perfect business sense, they've reduced their outgoings massively. Being a fan I'm not going to comment on the moral aspect because I'm clearly bias. I just wanted to point out that under the headline there is detail, because my instant reaction was it was a shit move.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Adrock said:

Liverpool have taken advantage of the Government paying 80% of their wage bill for PAYE staff and will top up the extra 20% so the staff won't lose out any money.

 

That makes perfect business sense, they've reduced their outgoings massively. Being a fan I'm not going to comment on the moral aspect because I'm clearly bias. I just wanted to point out that under the headline there is detail, because my instant reaction was it was a shit move.

It's a shit move. Only marginally better than what Spurs have done (and I'm a Spurs fan). It's not like Liverpool were in any danger of going bust. 

Don't see how the players taking a pay cut does anything except also help out the owners? 

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It makes business sense (and there will be less outrage towards far bigger businesses doing the same) but it remains an appalling bit of PR.

 

And less than 24 hours after the club captain is admirably linked with NHS fund-raising.

 

’This Means More’ can get in the fucking sea ten times over.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, that's fucking shit. I expected better from us, seems that when it comes to money we are just as bad :( 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every football club is going to do it if they can. The reason the players have to do it voluntarily is because unlike every other member of staff apart from possibly the manager they are part of a powerful union.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen Kenny is now the Ireland manager.

 

The whole Covid thing threw everything into confusion, as with the Euros next year and the playoffs at an unspecified time, it was no longer clear when he'd take over from McCarthy, but with the latter's contract due to end in July they decided to stick with the original dates, if not the underlying plan.

 

That leaves him in the odd situation of being just a playoff away from qualification to the Euros, but with no given date it's not even clear if he'll have the luxury of a couple of friendlies to get up to speed. I hope so.

 

It also renders McCarthy's entire reign pointless, at least as far as competitions are concerned, given their work in the qualifiers played no part in reaching the playoffs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Fry Crayola I assume its financially driven, especially given present circumstances. Otherwise its a bit classless from Ireland. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Adrock said:

Liverpool have taken advantage of the Government paying 80% of their wage bill for PAYE staff and will top up the extra 20% so the staff won't lose out any money.

 

That makes perfect business sense, they've reduced their outgoings massively. Being a fan I'm not going to comment on the moral aspect because I'm clearly bias. I just wanted to point out that under the headline there is detail, because my instant reaction was it was a shit move.


It makes absolutely no business sense for a business to continue paying millions per week on players who are literally doing fuck all. What would make business (and moral) sense would be to put every player on the government salary scheme, paying them £2,500 a month so they can get a sense of fucking reality instead of insisting they deserve their ridiculous salaries because it somehow “contributes to the NHS” (the ridiculous excuse by the PFA as to why they shouldn’t take a pay cut).


Other players in other countries are taking a 70% pay cut and these tossers refuse to take a 30% cut?


Fuck the Premier League.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, ryodi said:

Every football club is going to do it if they can. The reason the players have to do it voluntarily is because unlike every other member of staff apart from possibly the manager they are part of a powerful union.

Yup. It's not really on the clubs but on the players. I don't imagine that the contracts have a pandemic waiver that automatically lets the clubs pay their players a lot less than originally agreed.

 

Alas I think this highly emotive issue isn't as black and white and some people would think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:


It makes absolutely no business sense for a business to continue paying millions per week on players who are literally doing fuck all. What would make business (and moral) sense would be to put every player on the government salary scheme, paying them £2,500 a month so they can get a sense of fucking reality instead of insisting they deserve their ridiculous salaries because it somehow “contributes to the NHS” (the ridiculous excuse by the PFA as to why they shouldn’t take a pay cut).


Other players in other countries are taking a 70% pay cut and these tossers refuse to take a 30% cut?


Fuck the Premier League.

 

Players aren't on PAYE as far as I'm aware so they couldn't go on the scheme.

 

As for not accepting a cut, the PFA are lamentable in complete lack of social awareness. I've not read any articles yet but is the NHS thing because they wouldn't be able to donate the money they'd planned? The money, whilst as a headline sounds like a lot, is a drop in the ocean for the NHS and right now money isn't what the NHS needs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Players are PAYE, and that is forming part of their PFA defence that cutting their wages will cost the government millions on lost tax.

 

Great thread here about how the clubs arrived at the 30% figure

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who would have thought that Leeds would come out of this whole episode with an improved public image whilst Spurs and Liverpool have done huge harm to theirs? I think the behaviour and actions of some of the clubs is disgusting. They're mirroring the actions that Philip Green, Mike Ashley and Branson were pilloried for in their businesses and clearly illustrating (although we knew before) that there is a distinct lack of morality at the heart of football. The PFA have the highest paid union CEO in the world and have dragged their feet and handled the situation really poorly; it's a national scandal that Gordon Taylor remains in that role, he's been doing it since 1981! 

 

All this is making me lose a bit of love for the game. However, I know that an awful lot of footballers are already giving money; Kasper Schmeichel gave £20,000 to Age UK fairly early on and I'm sure loads of them are doing stuff behind the scenes. However, now is the time for them to be a bit more visible about it - follow Rashford's approach and show the naysayers what good they are doing. More column inches were given to Grealish in the mainstream media than to any of the altruistic gestures they've made so far. I'm also getting increasingly frustrated at the focus on footballers contributing more and the lack of scrutiny on wealthy financiers etc doing the same. 

 

 

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Adrock said:

 

Players aren't on PAYE as far as I'm aware so they couldn't go on the scheme.

 

As for not accepting a cut, the PFA are lamentable in complete lack of social awareness. I've not read any articles yet but is the NHS thing because they wouldn't be able to donate the money they'd planned? The money, whilst as a headline sounds like a lot, is a drop in the ocean for the NHS and right now money isn't what the NHS needs.


PFA says Premier League 30% pay cut plans would harm NHS https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52168692
 

Quote

The Professional Footballers' Association says proposals for a 30% pay cut for Premier League players would be "detrimental to our NHS".

Quote

The league wants players to take a 30% salary cut in order to protect jobs, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But the union says that equates to more than £500m in wage reductions, and a loss in tax contributions of more than £200m to the UK government.

Quote

What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the NHS?" the statement read. "Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?"


This is a “union” representing people in some cases earning more in a month than the average person earns in a lifetime. I really hope one of the benefits of this whole shitty pandemic is that the Premier League takes a long hard look at what it’s become. My wife’s uncle played for Burnley, captained Northern Ireland and even scored against the hosts Spain in the 1982 World Cup (Billy Hamilton) and the Premier League players now seems a million miles away from players like him.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:


PFA says Premier League 30% pay cut plans would harm NHS https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52168692
 


This is a “union” representing people in some cases earning more in a month than the average person earns in a lifetime. I really hope one of the benefits of this whole shitty pandemic is that the Premier League takes a long hard look at what it’s become. My wife’s uncle played for Burnley, captained Northern Ireland and even scored against the hosts Spain in the 1982 World Cup (Billy Hamilton) and the Premier League players now seems a million miles away from players like him.

 

That is truly scandalous logic employed by the PFA.

 

I listened to Gary Lineker earlier, on the Marr show, and he made the pertinent point that there are high worth individuals in all industries. Maybe we should have a windfall tax of high worth individuals? Not just target footballers.

 

The way clubs as businesses deal with it, via furlough or whatever they do is also a separate issue.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Solution,  cut the players by 50% and the clubs donate the extra 20% straight to their local hospital.

 

I await the PFA's agreement because that is totally a good faith argument on their part.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael Cox really standing out in the shutdown as a quality writer - some great analysis on free kicks here.

 

Spoiler

Does your team have a free-kick specialist?

In the conventional sense, the answer is probably yes. Almost every team has one individual who, when a free kick is won just outside the box, is the natural option to take the shot.

But “specialist” implies some level of accuracy, some level of success. And realistically, while plenty of players fancy themselves as the next Juninho Pernambucano, it’s relatively rare to see a free kick directly struck into the net. It’s even rarer for a team to have a player capable of scoring multiple free kicks in a league campaign.

In the Premier League, the success rate of direct free kicks is around 5.5 per cent, which feels somewhat low considering the build-up to a dangerous free kick, the sense of anticipation and the amount of time it takes for the referee to organise the defensive wall. In other words, it takes around 18 direct free-kick attempts to score a goal.

And while there are occasionally matches where a side gets three or four opportunities to shoot from a free kick, this is relatively rare. There are — not including when a free kick is taken short to a team-mate to strike — around 0.45 shots per team, per game, from direct free kicks. All this means, on average, each Premier League team scores from a direct free kick once every 34 games.

That is, of course, where specialists come into the equation — if this is something that lots of teams try, and are constantly unsuccessful at, it’s useful to have someone capable of succeeding on a consistent basis. Even then, however, some of the Premier League’s most famous specialists are less clinical than you might imagine and in the 28-year history of the Premier League, only eight players are in double figures for free kicks scored.

It’s no surprise to learn that David Beckham is top of the list, although the extent to which he’s ahead of everyone else is somewhat startling. With 18 successful free kicks, he’s scored 50 per cent more than his nearest challengers.

 

Using the results of Ballon d’Or voting as the basis for this definition, another three players fit alongside Beckham (2nd in the Ballon d’Or in 1999) in the “world-class player” bracket: Thierry Henry (2nd in 2003), Gianfranco Zola (6th in 1995) and Cristiano Ronaldo (a winner on five occasions).

That leaves four others — Ian Harte, Morten Gamst Pederson, Sebastian Larsson and Laurent Robert — who weren’t ever likely to come into Ballon d’Or contention but were, in the true nature of the word, free-kick specialists.

The problem with only including players who have scored 10 or more free kicks over their entire Premier League career, though, is that it depends upon longevity. Someone like Luis Suarez, for example, had a fine free-kick record but was only in the Premier League for three and a half seasons, so doesn’t qualify here.

So let’s look at this in a different way: free kicks scored per season.

How many free kicks does a player need to score in a league campaign to be considered a serious threat? One is clearly too few, two in a season doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. So let’s say three — if you’ve scored three free kicks in a season, you’re a free-kick master.

This, again, is a relatively short list. In 27 complete Premier League seasons — which means 546 individual campaigns for a side — there have been 38 players who have scored three or more free kicks in a season. On average, only 1.4 teams each season can look back at the campaign and think their free-kick taker was truly prolific.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this list is that, from the Premier League’s first six campaigns, 1992-93 to 1997-98, only one player scored three or more free kicks in a single campaign. It wasn’t a household name like Matt Le Tissier or Alan Shearer but instead the relatively unheralded Rick Holden in Oldham’s 1993-94 campaign, which ultimately ended in relegation.

Increase the threshold from three to four and you find some truly spectacular individual campaigns. Only seven players in Premier League history have scored four or more free kicks in a campaign. Three of them did it twice: Beckham, Gianfranco Zola and Ronaldo. The other three were Harte, Yaya Toure — who became a free-kick threat curiously late in his career — and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. The Dutchman, like Toure, needed to wait for his opportunity to take free kicks regularly, having been second in the pecking order when playing alongside Zola at Chelsea. His prolific campaign came in 2004-05, with Middlesbrough.

When asked about his approach by The Athletic, Hasselbaink was genuinely surprised to know he was in such exulted company.

“Really? I didn’t know that! I needed to be a little bit further from the box because of my power. My technique was OK to lift it over the wall and down but I needed to use my power. That was my asset. I had a little bit more than Gianfranco, for instance. Gianfranco was very good at free kicks close to, or on the edge of the box. I needed five or six yards of space outside the box to be at my best so I could get it up and over.

“If I had those five or six yards, I was more confident it would be harder for the goalkeeper to keep it out. I knew I had the power to beat them. If I could get it up and over the defensive wall, it was almost like the ball would fly faster, in a way, like Beckham did. He was better further out than closer because he had the power. I’m not saying I was as good as Beckham but that was my preferred place.”

Hasselbaink was also highly unusual — if not unique — among Premier League free-kicks specialists because of his distinctive one-step run-up. What advantage did that give him?

“I could have gone off a longer run if I’d fancied it but, the thing is, when you come in off one step, the goalkeeper doesn’t have the time to adjust and set himself. It’s like you can catch them almost unaware and, sometimes, off-balance. When you have a longer run-up, you have to concentrate on the ball but you don’t see the goalkeeper making a step to the right or left. The keeper has more time to steady himself, more time to watch your body shape in the run-up and consider which way he will dive.

“With me, I eliminated that doubt because he doesn’t have a chance to make a step either way. He’s almost on his heels from the outset, and not properly prepared. Normally, we would study goalkeepers and work out what they tended to do at free kicks; which way their bodies would shift, instinctively. They normally stand in the same place. With my power, if they make a step to their right, then I would go into the opposite corner to exploit the fact their body weight is moving in the other direction. That step to the right already puts his weight on his right foot and makes it harder to dive to his left.”

That’s a revealing insight; it’s as if Hasselbaink was treating free kicks like penalties. Not only was he scouting opposition goalkeepers, working out patterns and trying to use that to his advantage, he was also capable of reacting to the goalkeeper’s movement before shooting.

That message was replicated by Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, scorer of seven Premier League free kicks, in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine in 2016. “Before a game, I look at videos of the keeper to see if they take a guess at where a free kick will go or if they stay in their place,” he explained. “Then, when I’m standing over the ball, I try to look at the goalkeeper to see what he’s doing. If he takes a step one way, there’s sometimes a chance to score the other side.” The Iceland midfielder has a habit of scoring free kicks where the goalkeeper is unable to even attempt to make a save.

 

Only two players have scored five free kicks in the same campaign. One is David Beckham in 2001-02 and the other was Robert the following campaign. Taking another measure, it could be argued that Robert was the Premier League’s best free kick taker of all time. He scored one free kick every 13.6 appearances, an unbeatable record. Such was his expertise from those situations, when Robert was still with PSG, he used to instruct team-mate Ronaldinho how to take the perfect free kick.

The common factor among all these players is that, while their technique varied, they broadly all tried to “whip” free kicks, using a mixture of sidespin and topspin to get curl and dip on the ball. That’s how they solved the major issue when trying to score from a free kick — getting the ball over the wall but under the crossbar, while also using enough power to beat the goalkeeper. “I hit my free kicks with the inside of my foot, connecting at a low point on the ball, bringing the ball over the top,” Larsson once explained. “This creates topspin and dip.”

Sigurdsson’s explanation was similar. “It’s about achieving the best possible ball speed and applying the right type of spin to achieve the optimal trajectory,” he explained. “For example, you need forward spin (topspin) for the ball to come down.”

Until around 15 years ago, that was the accepted manner of striking a free kick. But during recent years, the rise of the “knuckleball” free kick has become the more fashionable way of striking a dead ball, particularly from long range. It became particularly popular in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible dipping free kick against Portsmouth in 2008, which left goalkeeper David James dumbfounded.

 

But Ronaldo’s free-kick record is not particularly impressive in terms of raw numbers. During his peak free-kick years of 2007-13, Ronaldo was scoring a free kick every 13.4 attempts. Since then, that rate has dropped dramatically to one every 20.9 attempts, lower than the average. He hasn’t yet scored a free kick in Serie A for Juventus, from 27 shots. Like in other elements of football, the most consistent “failures” tend to also be the most prolific players but Ronaldo has started to stretch the test of that argument.

Yet with free kicks, players are evidently inspired by individual moments rather than by the numbers, and Ronaldo’s free-kick style has been replicated by others. One — although he insists he developed his technique individually — is his former Real Madrid team mate Gareth Bale. Intriguingly, when asked about why he adopted the knuckleball approach, Bale cites style over success.

After he had scored two free kicks in Wales’ opening two games at Euro 2016, Bale was asked about why he changed his free kick from whipping them to driving them with a knuckleball technique. “I used to curl them before when I was younger but I started a different technique because I found it more exciting. I found the curl a bit boring, to be honest. I’m not going to fib.”

When Bale was again asked about his free-kick style last year, he repeated the same message. “I found it was nicer to watch than a floated one,” he explained. “With the knuckleball, it can go anywhere; it can be a spectacular goal or it can go into Row Z. But I found when you did catch it perfectly, it was probably the best strike on goal you can get.”

It’s almost like Bale is admitting his dramatically changed approach isn’t about an improved chance of success — it’s because he wants to have fun, an attempt to score a “worldie”. And Bale’s approach is so dramatically different, in technical terms, because having previously attempted to control the ball and deceive the goalkeeper with spin, now he’s attempted to impart no spin whatsoever. “I think it has as little spin on the ball as possible — that’s normally what makes the ball move,” he explained.

Konstantin Hert, known as Konzi, is a football freestyler with “freekickerz”, a YouTube channel with over eight million subscribers, far more than any Premier League club. He’s renowned for his incredible knuckleball free kicks, and also believes that no spin is the optimal approach for deceiving a goalkeeper.

“I’m aiming for the perfect knuckleball when there’s no spin, just like a dead ball,” he explained to the F2 Freestylers. “And if it’s moving — maybe twice, to the left or to the right, that’s for me the perfect one. You have movement, and that’s why the goalkeepers hate them, they’re unpredictable…the ball just changes direction. You can have the dip with topspin, which is maybe easier for taking free kicks to get over the wall, but for me the perfect knuckleball is one with movement. At least two movements.”

And when it comes off, it’s unquestionably spectacular. Marcus Rashford’s free kick in Manchester United’s win 2-1 over Chelsea in this season’s Carabao Cup is the most obvious recent example. Watch the footage from behind the strike and the wobble Rashford gets on the ball is absolutely incredible. It moves at least three times in the air and dips perfectly into the top corner beyond Willy Caballero.

 

On that basis, Rashford is a knuckleball master. Yet because the unstoppable trajectory of that free kick is so obviously about unpredictability — to the taker, as well as the goalkeeper — it’s difficult to get any kind of consistency with that type of strike.

Sure enough, Rashford has shot 14 times in the Premier League this season without success — the highest number of all players yet to score. Over the course of his top-flight career, he’s attempted 34 shots from free kicks with just one success, the low free kick with reverse swing which deceived Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge for the first goal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign. Watch all of Rashford’s free-kick attempts in a row and they are often stunningly inaccurate, scuffed wide of the near post, or sliced hopelessly out for a throw-in.

The only player with comparably bad statistics, going back to the start of 2016-17, is David Luiz of Chelsea and Arsenal, who has one goal from 33 attempts. He has a different tactic altogether: he approaches the ball with a straight run-up and strikes the ball with the side of his foot. “It’s like when you play table tennis, with the topspin… when I make contact with the ball, I try to bring my knee up, to get that movement,” he told Gary Neville on Sky Sports. But while the Brazilian has scored a couple of memorable long-range free kicks, the statistics don’t suggest his approach is particularly successful.

Going back to the list of players who have scored three free kicks in single campaign, the two most recent entries are Philippe Coutinho (2016-17) and James Maddison (2018-19), who both favour whip rather than the knuckleball. Granted, the unpredictability of the knuckleball has a further benefit, in that goalkeepers find it difficult to parry cleanly, and therefore any on-target shot has a decent chance of being spilled for a team-mate to convert the rebound, although it’s hardly the best advertisement for that style of free kick.

It’s also worth examining the statistics to find players who should be allowed to take more free kicks. Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (one goal from two shots) and Alex Lacazette (one from three) probably deserve more opportunity to strike at goal. We can also feel sorry for their new team-mate Cedric Soares and West Ham’s Mark Noble, who have both scored with their only free-kick attempt in the last four seasons but haven’t been trusted to take another.

At the other end of the scale, Watford haven’t scored with any of their 57 free kicks since the start of 2016-17, while the player who has attempted the most shots from free kicks without scoring during that time is Harry Kane on 22.

And when these figures become so poor, you start to wonder whether teams are too intent on shooting from these situations. Staying with Kane, here’s one of his recent attempts from Tottenham’s home meeting with Brighton. The Seagulls are using a four-man wall, comprised of their entire defence — Dan Burn, Lewis Dunk, Andy Webster and Ezequiel Schelotto. In this type of situation, when remembering Kane’s record since August 2016 is no goals from 22 attempts, you wonder whether Spurs would be better off loading up the box with their aerial targets — including Kane — to tower over Brighton’s smaller players. Teams should surely make more of situations where the opposition defence is unable to actually defend.

Larger walls than that aren’t unusual. For the most famous free kick of recent years, Dimitri Payet’s astonishing dipping effort for West Ham, Crystal Palace constructed an incredible seven-man (arguably eight-man) wall.

 

Payet clearly justified his decision to shoot — and it was his reputation as free-kick master which meant Palace put so many players in front of him. But in similar situations, it’s surely worth teams playing quick combinations from free kicks to exploit the space elsewhere, a la Javier Zanetti against England in World Cup 1998. That’s an isolated example, of course — you can’t use that piece of brilliance to say teams shouldn’t shoot from free kicks any more than you can use Roberto Carlos’ goal against France to say they definitely should.

But when only one of 18 attempts results in a goal, however, you can’t help feeling it’s worth teams trying something different.

And it seems that, increasingly, they are. The most intriguing statistic is the fact, over the past three seasons, the number of attempts at goal from direct free kicks has roughly halved since its peak in 2008-09.

There are other contributing factors here: teams are more disciplined, which means they’re conceding fewer fouls, and they’ve become particularly adept at protecting the “red zone” between the lines, just in front of the centre-backs. But the simpler explanation is that statistical analysts have seen the numbers and realised that, actually, shooting from a free kick isn’t a particularly reliable method of scoring a goal.

 

Also a great article today on the Athletic about the legend that is Gunnersaurus.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, dr_manhattan^ said:

Champions of FIFA Quarenteam, you’ll never sing that!

 

We certainly will not :D

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This from the Athletic really highlights the fucked nature of football finances, even at the top level, plus it starts with the brilliant Warren Buffet line “it's only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked” which always makes me smile.

 

I don't know if football will learn anything from this at all, and as the article says it's not the only business suffering at present. 

 

Spoiler

Famed investor Warren Buffett once said it was “only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked” and the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic has dragged football’s tide way out beyond the pier, forcing lots of embarrassed bathers to scurry back to their beach huts.

Since the Premier League was suspended, the news cycle has been dominated by talk of bail-outs, pay-cuts and potential lawsuits, as the professional game has struggled with the greatest financial threat it has faced in peacetime.

Football is far from alone in this regard: construction, retail, travel… any sector that depends on people being able to go out, congregate and spend freely is in a fight for survival.

Getting through this will depend on a combination of luck, nimble management and what state you were in when it started. To paraphrase former British prime minister David Cameron’s favourite criticism of his predecessor, did you fix the roof while the sun was shining?

The Athletic has analysed all the Premier League club accounts filed at Companies House over the last few months and the answer for the majority of them would appear to be there has been very little DIY done ahead of this storm.

“The accounts are awful,” says John Purcell, the co-founder of financial analysis firm Vysyble. “The numbers had fallen off a cliff for some of the clubs long before this crisis.”

While Dr Dan Plumley, a sports finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University, says the financial shock of COVID-19 has “brought to light just how stretched the industry is and how many clubs live from hand to mouth”. 

Crystal Palace and Newcastle United have taken advantage of an emergency measure that gives businesses three extra months to publish their year-end figures, so we do not yet know for sure what impact the 2018-19 season had on their books.

But we do know what happened at the other 18 clubs and it is the stuff of accountants’ nightmares.

If we use the 2017-18 figures for Palace and Newcastle, the league’s total income last season was £4.8 billion, with most clubs reporting rises, albeit mainly small ones, in all three revenue streams: broadcast, commercial and matchday. Unfortunately, as that other great business sage and former Tottenham owner Alan Sugar memorably pointed out, this money goes through clubs like prune juice.

Of the 18 teams for which we have up-to-date numbers, only Watford reduced their wage bill year-on-year. If we include the old figures for Palace and Newcastle, which are almost certainly lower than last season’s, the league’s overall staff costs topped £3 billion. This means they spent 64 per cent of their income on wages.

But that is the average. Bournemouth, Everton and Leicester all spent more than 80 per cent of their turnover on staff. In fact, exactly half the league spent more than 70 per cent of their income on wages, a level that automatically raises red flags for European football’s governing body UEFA.

According to Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance last May, the wage/turnover ratio was rising across Europe’s “big five” leagues — England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — with the Premier League’s figure rising from 55 per cent in 2016-17 to 59 per cent 12 months later.

The wage/turnover figures for three promoted teams, Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United, are even worse at 175 per cent, 161 per cent and 195 per cent, respectively, but that is par for the course in the Championship, which is a disaster zone for those who like balanced books and tidy profits. Just to underline what those figures mean, Sheffield United spend £1.95p on wages for every £1 that came in.

Travel costs, utility bills, repairs, insurance, paper clips…they all add up and pretty soon they started nibbling into the overdraft. The cumulative pre-tax loss for the 18 clubs to have filed their accounts is nearly £300 million.

“Lots of the clubs are in a terrible state,” says Purcell. “I’m not picking on them but I was not surprised to see reports this week that West Ham are looking for extra financing of £30 million. It’s so predictable.”

The use of averages and totals also irons out perhaps the most obvious point to make about the state of the industry before the pandemic struck: the Premier League is not a collection of equals.

The six richest clubs account for nearly £3 billion, or 61 per cent, of that total turnover. Arsenal, who have slid in recent seasons to sixth in the big-six mini-league, earned £367.5 million in 2017-18 — £176.8 million more than West Ham’s best-of-the-rest total of £190.7 million. That deficit is about the same as Bournemouth and Aston Villa brought in between them, as you can see below.

Manchester United, the league’s biggest earner, turns over more than three times as much as West Ham and exactly four times as much as Crystal Palace and Southampton. Manchester City and Liverpool, second and third in the money list and as competitive off the pitch as they were on the pitch that season, earn four times the amount Bournemouth bring in.

The only way the clubs further down the economic ladder can even hope to compete with the big-earners on the pitch is to spend a higher percentage of their income on salaries and ask their owners to keep topping up the shortfalls. These clubs also tend to be more reliant on the league’s main source of income: broadcast rights.

If there was one economic marker that tells the story of English football’s rise from the ignominy and tragedy of the Bradford City fire and Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 and Hillsborough in 1989, it would be the incredible amounts companies around the world have been willing to pay to televise it.

When the Premier League split from the English Football League in 1992, the top flight’s domestic rights were worth less than £40 million a season. Nobody even noticed what the international rights were worth.

This season, the clubs will share about £2.5 billion in broadcasting rights between them, with the rest going in parachute and solidarity payments to the EFL, assorted good causes and central costs. These rights deals have been negotiated centrally, usually on a three-year basis, and distributed more evenly than any other big league in Europe. The best clubs still get more than the worst but the margin is tighter than in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, creating the idea the Premier League is more competitive.

The key landmarks are the back-to-back increases of 70 per cent the Premier League managed to persuade domestic rivals BT and Sky Sports to cough up in 2012 and 2015. The two broadcasters declared a truce before the 2018 rights auction, resulting in a slightly reduced return for the league, but nobody really minded as the appetite for English football abroad means the international rights are now nearly as valuable as the domestic ones. With a 30 per cent increase from overseas deals, the overall 2019-22 broadcast pot is eight per cent up on 2016-19.

Before the current crisis, Deloitte estimated that Premier League clubs would earn £5.25 billion this season, £2 billion clear of the totals in the Bundesliga and La Liga. But English clubs spend twice as much on wages as German clubs do and 50 per cent more than Spanish sides.

Kieran Maguire teaches the Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool and is the man behind the popular “Price of Football” blog and podcast. He sees an industry that did not believe the cheques would ever stop arriving.

“Broadcast income accounts for about 60 per cent of Premier League clubs’ turnover but if you are that reliant on a single income source and don’t have contingency plans, you will always be at risk,” he explains.

“Football is a part of the entertainment industry and like all other businesses in this sector it will be hit hard by a lockdown. The difference is football has higher fixed costs than most and these are the wages and transfer installments.

“As of last June, the clubs owed £1.6 billion in installments and had £700 million coming in. Some of this money is circulating within the division and some will be flowing downwards to the EFL, but there is a £900 million deficit. The concern is that financial problems in one league could spread throughout the industry just like the pandemic.”

The fees clubs pay for players are actually spread across the length of those players’ contracts in their annual accounts, a process known as amortisation.Maguire points out that if you take amortisation and staff costs together, they amount to 86 per cent of Premier League turnover.

“That does not leave much over for anything else and the number will be much worse for the Championship, where this crisis will cause havoc,” he adds.

A good example of how these fixed costs can cause an explosion of red ink at even the richest of clubs can be seen in Chelsea’s accounts for 2018-19. A high wage bill, a net transfer spend and a season outside the Champions League left them with a £101.8 million pre-tax loss. They at least can point to the Europa League trophy in their cabinet and return of Champions League cash to their accounts this season. Everton, on the other hand, only have an eighth-place finish in the league to show for their record £107 million loss, as you can see below.

And for proof of Maguire’s point about the reliance on broadcast money, you need look no further than the response of every major league and governing body to the suspension of play: every possible avenue must be explored for completing season and honouring the various contracts associated with this season.

The Premier League has already spelled this out to its clubs, saying their broadcast partners could ask for £762 million back if the remaining games they have paid to broadcast are not played. And if that sounded too theoretical when that message was delivered two weeks ago, streaming service DAZN, which has the live rights in Brazil, Canada, Japan and Spain, has since confirmed it will not be sending any more money until the action resumes. BeIN Sports and Canal+ have made similar moves in France.

The good news for the Premier League, however, is the final year of a three-year broadcast cycle usually results in losses, and most clubs return to profit when the cycle starts again.

“We’ve been tracking the data since 2009 and you can see these three-year cycles in the accounts are tied to the new TV deals,” says Purcell. “So, in 2014 and 2017, there are these walls of money that arrive in year one but by year three, most of them are losing lots of money again.”

The bad news is that there has been a deterioration over time.

“This set of accounts is a real shocker,” explains Purcell. “The tail-off over the previous two cycles wasn’t as bad as this time.”

Unlike most other analysts, Purcell’s firm uses a measure called economic profit, which is all the usual things analysts measure plus the cost of equity or, in other words, the cost of investing in this particular business as opposed to any other.

“We think it is a better reflection of how much money the owners are putting into these clubs every year to keep them afloat,” he says. “If we look at the previous three-year cycle, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, there was a league-wide deficit of £380 million. But with 18 of the 20 accounts now in, the deficit from 2016-17 to 2018-19 is £624 million. We’ve never seen anything like that before.

“Of the 18, only five have posted an economic profit. Since 2009, we believe the Premier League has made an economic loss of £35.7 billion.”

Sheffield Hallam’s Plumley also ties the league’s cost-control issues to the revolving door of bumper broadcast deals and the players’ demands for their fair share of that booty.

“Costs have been the issue for football for more than 20 years: you can trace it right back to the start of the Premier League era,” he says. “Whenever a new broadcast deal has been announced, most of the clubs have immediately pushed the envelope in terms of what they can afford.”

Ramon Vega enjoyed a 13-year career as a professional footballer in his native Switzerland, Italy, England, Scotland and France, playing for sides such as Celtic, Spurs and Watford, before retiring in 2003 and becoming an asset manager and sports business consultant.

“Ten years ago many of the Premier League clubs were bankrupt from a balance sheet point of view but then they got those two big TV deals in a row and it lifted them all out of the red,” says Vega.

“Those huge increases really saved them. OK, nearly all of that money has gone to the players but, as an ex-player myself, I don’t blame them at all. If you’re offered it, you take it. You’d do it, too, that’s human nature. But as a businessman, I’d worry about the wage to turnover ratio. Were the clubs prepared for this crisis? No. Was any other industry? No.

“The strange thing is most of these guys are very good businessmen away from football but very few of them run their clubs like their other businesses. I think Mike Ashley at Newcastle is the exception but even he does haven’t lots of money in reserve.”

Purcell agrees. “Who signs these contracts on behalf of the clubs? It’s not the players or their agents. It’s the owners,” he says.

“You’ll never find a bricklayer who refuses a wage because it’s morally reprehensible. This isn’t the players’ fault. Good luck to them. This about the ambitions and agendas of the owners.

“Of course, nobody predicted this particular crisis but good businesses can and do predict a crisis. Football should have been able to model some kind of shock to the system that would have an impact on broadcast income because they’re all on such a fine tightrope. Any shock would see some of them tip off that tightrope.”

Dr Dan Parnell is a senior lecturer in sports business at the University of Liverpool’s Management School and the chief executive of the Association of Sporting Directors. For him, football’s cost-control problems could be sorted out at a stroke if the big calls were left to the experts.

“There are lots of good, well-intentioned people in the game who desperately want to make good decisions for their clubs but all too often those people are either not making the final decisions or those intentions go out of the window when the owners get involved,” Parnell explains.

“You can see it in the Sunderland ‘Til I Die documentary (on Netflix), where you have the manager and head of recruitment saying, ‘don’t pay any more than this for that player’ but then go ahead and do it anyway. It’s like they’re playing with a new toy.

“This is where a really good sporting director can help. Look at Stuart Webber at Norwich. OK, it looks like they’re going down but nobody can say they are not in better shape as a club than when he started.

“He’s overseen the new training ground, he’s changed the way they recruit and develop players and he’s got them on a secure footing financially. Any player he will have signed this season will have been signed with the thought that they might go down and his contract will have to work in the Championship. It’s a more honest and sensible approach than lots of other clubs.”

Maguire, Parnell, Plumley and Purcell all told The Athletic they hope the Premier League will learn something from the current crisis, either bringing in a salary cap, increasing the amount it shares with the EFL or simply persuading the owners to let their staff get on with it.

But Vega is not so sure this will be the “enormous wake-up call” the industry needs. “I don’t think football people ever learn,” he says. “The game is so geared up around today. Nobody thinks about tomorrow.

“That’s why they’re panicking now. You can see that they’re not thinking straight with these decisions to furlough non-playing staff. How much money is that really saving them? But with no Champions League income, no matchday, maybe they have to repay some of the broadcast money…they’re thinking, ‘shit, what do I do?'”

Not everyone is quite so sure football has arrived at this point in such terrible shape. Not compared to any business sector, anyway.

Dr Stefan Szymanski teaches sports management at the University of Michigan and is the author of the best-seller Soccernomics.

In an exchange with The Athletic this week, he said: “The problem is that all this analysis is in a vacuum. If you’re going to say that everything that ever goes wrong is due to incompetence without considering any other benchmarks or comparators, then there’s no defence.

“The Premier League is not perfect. But why are they held to a standard of perfection? Who else are we holding to that standard? Is there any business not in a state of panic right now? What other sport is faring better in this crisis than the Premier League?

“This is one of the most successful organisations in the world, measured by year-on-year growth over 30 years. They deliver an outstanding product for consumers. Who cares if they can’t control their costs?”

Szymanski is right. The Premier League has been giving people around the world what they want for nearly 30 years. But now, for reasons beyond its control, it cannot. And because it has perhaps been a little too generous with its players (and their representatives), it is not in as robust a position as a business of its stature should be.

You do not need to be an accountant to know that Bournemouth, who get 88 per cent of their revenue from broadcasters and spend almost all of that on wages, are in a tough spot. Even frugal Burnley, with their balanced books, lean very heavily on the league’s biggest backers. Getting football back on fans’ screens is of paramount importance to them.

But nobody is immune. Manchester City, perhaps, with the almost limitless wealth of Abu Dhabi behind them, will emerge relatively unscathed and Manchester United’s many mattress and noodles partners do not look so stupid now everyone is looking for other sources of income. But they, and the other big clubs, need the exposure the Premier League and Champions League give them to make their numbers add up.

 

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Burnley chairman came out and said that should the season not be completed and the TV money not be paid, that wipes out the clubs reserves built up over the last few years and puts us at a £0 bank balance.

 

(This was reported as "could be going bust" by the more excitable twats.)

 

They've committed to paying all playing and non-playing staff, including matchday casual staff in full for the foreseeable future and aren't asking the players for pay cuts.  (Their contracts are heavily incentive based anyway.)  But it just goes to show how easy even a well run club can end up screwed.  If we hadn't done this, we'd be in deep shit.  As it is, if the season is cancelled we'd need another two or three seasons to get back to where we are right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. Use of this website is subject to our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Guidelines.