|LEAGUE CHAIRMAN ON FINANCES
(Wednesday 23rd July 2003)
Football League Chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney is calling on Football League clubs to be more "transparent" in their financial dealings and also aims to promote "good governance" amongst member clubs. Mawhinney, who sits alongside Wanderers' Chairman Ivor Beeks on the Football League Board, was quoted in the July 2003 Newsletter of Supporters-Direct as saying "I believe it is important that the League and clubs are seen to behave in an open and transparent way, taking decisions for the right reasons and being able to defend those decisions. The perception of football generally led me to believe that governance issues would be very important."
Mawhinney says that bringing a degree of financial stability to the game remains the biggest challenge but added that "A lot of the money which came into the game in recent years went straight out again in wages and agentsí fees. Such deals and transfer deals are unsustainable in present circumstances."
A first step at attempting to control costs at Football Clubs has been the introduction of "wage capping" in the Third Division. Mawhinney adds "We have defined income and expenditure and will now test rigorously but without sanctions, whether there are any loopholes. In theory this process will move on to the other divisions though it may be more difficult to do so." The trial scheme recommends overall staff wages at Third Division to be a maximum of 75% of turnover while the total players' salary bill for each club should not exceed 60%, with the intention to reduce the latter figure to 50%.
Wanderers own finances fell well within these guidelines when the accounts returned at the end of the 2001/2 season are analysed. The percentage of total staff wage bill to turnover was 64% (a slight increase from the 58% the previous season) while the total player wage bill to turnover is nearer 40% than the suggested Football League guideline of 60%. Mawhinney adds that the Football League are not shining a particular spotlight on players, commenting "There is a lot more expenditure at clubs than just what is expended on players, though players are the single biggest proportion of expenditure."
Wanderers spending has been self regulated by their "limited by guarantee" set-up and it leaves them amongst a small group of clubs that were able to boast a staff wage to turnover % of less than 60% during the 2000/2001 season. The Deloitte & Touche Football Finance report lists Wanderers alongside Walsall, Leyton Orient, Gillingham and Southend United as clubs who managed to balance their spending to income. In stark contrast the same report showed up fellow Division Two side Wigan Athletic with a massive 181% of their annual turnover being spent on their total staff wage bill with only Fulham (195%) and Wimbledon (188%) returning higher figures.
However, Wycombe's present financial situation still remains unclear after several contridicting statements issued over the last year by club officials. It's a point Mawhinney might care to discuss with his fellow Football League Board members, as he concludes "The average supporter wants to know that his or her club is going to be there to be watched in five or ten years time. So a balance has to be struck between excitement, flair, competitiveness and sustainability. It can be too easy in this business to forget about supporters. Do they want their team to do well? Of course. But do they want them to be there next year and the year after? Of course. Wanting both those things means that a balance has to be found."
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