José Mourinho began his football management career as an interpreter and translator for Sir Bobby Robson in Portugal (Sporting Clube and Porto) and Spain (FC Barcelona).

23 May 2015

Book Review: Money And Soccer by Professor Stefan Szymanski


Image credit: Nation Books.
Synopsis:

Professor Stefan Szymanski writes the definitive guide to the financial aspect of world football in this detailed analysis about a difficult topic for laymen to grasp.

Discussion Items:

1. Organized Format
2. Writing Style
3. Notable Quotes
4. My Ratings
5. About the Author






"Clubs perform in line with the amount of money spent on players. Sometimes clubs are above average, sometimes below average. The fact that a team contains eleven players already diversifies the choices of the manager---he should not be overexposed to the weaknesses of any one player.

Then the number of games played in the league over a season diversifies the risk yet further---the rotation of the squad enhances the diversity of choice---and so the team performs in close correlation with what is spent on the players."

--- Professor Stefan Szymanski, Money And Soccer: A Soccernomics Guide, page 41, published by Nation Books in June 2015 with a list price of $16.99.

As my university finance professor used to preach, "the larger your risk, the higher your anticipated return must be." As Professor Szymanski noted so concisely above, both factors perhaps are illuminated greatly in the cutthroat nature of professional sport. In this case, world football finance that is similar to a stock market in many facets.

Let's take a look at the contents of this intriguing book that reads more like a university course in Soccer Finance.

1. Organized Format



There is a foreword by Simon Kuper, ten chapters, a conclusion, a detailed notes section and an index. The page count for the hardcover version is 281 pages before the index. There were no pictures although the author used many charts, tables and graphics to illustrate and reinforce key data.

2. Writing Style

Image credit: AndhikaMPPP.














The level of detail (which is significantly displayed) in this book should come as no surprise given the author's profession as a noted academic. One facet that intrigued me was the author's expertise not only in soccer-related financial matters but correspondingly in global business finance itself. He writes in an engaging and informative style even about a fairly dry topic such as sporting finance.

Since many readers of this book will not be financial experts, translating business concepts/terms into easily understood English is integral. Professor Szymanski achieved this task to good effect.

For example:

"The big difference between soccer and soft drinks is that the pattern of dominance looks the same in small markets (Faroe Islands) as in the big markets (Spain). The reasons for this is that soft drinks industry, and most other big markets, small firms trying to keep up with the dominant firms go out of business." Pages 22 to 23

"Depending on how grand you want it to be you can work from a basic figure of between $1,600 and $3,200 per seat---so a stadium with a 20,000 capacity might cost between $32 million and $64 million. At the luxury end of the market, Arsenal's Emirates Stadium cost around $10,400 per seat." Page 64

A Critique: Too Much Financial Detail for Average Readers
My only critique in the author's and publisher's presentation is some readers, especially non-financial experts, might become bogged down due to the voluminous amount of financial data that is presented on nearly every page. Although readers who appreciate soccer financial metrics will be in Nirvana due to the same level of acute detail.

3. Notable Quotes



On Louis Edwards of Manchester United:

"Louis Edwards was a successful Manchester butcher in austerity Britain---not the version Britain is going through sixty years later. Butchers do well in hard times. People like red meat and will pay to get it even when they have to economize elsewhere... Edwards wanted status, so he decided to buy it by acquiring the second most popular soccer club in Manchester." Page 13

On a formula for success:

"Higher wage spending doesn't cause you to have a big stadium, and having a big stadium doesn't cause you to pay high wages. Rather, a club has to be in a position where it can successfully fund the maintenance of both a big stadium and high quality squad...

You need two things to have a successful team: good players and a large stadium." Page 59

On the power of stadia as a special focal point for fans:

"As the soccer sociologist Rogan Taylor famously said, no one ever asked for their ashes to be scattered in a supermarket. Soccer grounds are hallowed grounds, and religion trumps economics." Page 66

On the declining influence of match day revenues:

"According to analysis by Deloitte, only 23 percent of revenue in the German Bundesliga and English Premier League comes on match day. In Spain's La Liga, the figure is 22 percent, and in Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1 the figure is a mere 11 percent." Page 94

On club ownership trends:

"UEFA reported in 2008 that more than half of the teams in the top divisions of European leagues were controlled by a single person. A simple but compelling explanation of this trend is as follows. First, soccer clubs are not enterprises whose ultimate goal is to make money. They only exist for the pursuit of winning, and the only benefit to be derived from owning a soccer club is being a winner. Second, the pleasure of owning the winning club is greatest when the ownership is not shared..." Page 149

On the impact of managers:

"Generally speaking, the people who matter most in soccer aren't managers but players. The club that pays the highest wages typically comes out on top; the club that paid least finished last...

Most managers are not very relevant. In the long run, they will achieve almost exactly the league positions that their players' wages would predict. But just a few are able to do significantly better than that." Page 192

On the special nature of professional sports in a competitive environment:

"Teams competing against each other in a league are clearly sporting competitors, but are they economic competitors?

If a team is to play games and sell tickets to watch those games, then it needs an opponent. Commercial sport is unique in that it is the only product or service supplied in the market that cannot be produced without the cooperation of a rival." Page 235

On the hypocrisy of FFP:

"The real problem with Financial Fair Play is that it does not offer 'Fair Play' at all. It is an abuse of language. Rather, it imposes some very specific  restrictions on competition." Page 259

On promotion and relegation:

"Promotion and relegation is the cause of dominance and distress, and all the stress and anxiety that is borne by soccer fans across the world. But it is also the source of never-ending hope. I think the reason that every fan and every club benefits from this system is that there is always hope, no matter how small, no matter how fanciful, that one day you, too, could rise to rank alongside the high and might." Page 266

4.  My Ratings


Image credit: Hobnobia.net.
Content: 10/10
Editorial:  8/10
Research: 10/10
Writing Style: 9/10
Overall: 37/40 = Five Stars.

There are equal amounts of brilliantly researched detail in this book as well as copious amounts of common sense explanations. "Money And Soccer" is not the type of book that we will read only once and file it away in our library. It will become our definitive reference source on the intricacies of football finance for many years to come.

5. About the Author


Photo credit: Nation Books.















Stefan Szymanski (@sszy) is the Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan's School of Kinesiology in Ann Arbor. He is also the co-author of Soccernomics and author of Winners and Losers: The Business Strategy of Football.

Please Note:

I have received a complimentary review copy of this book from a representative of the publisher, Nation Books. I was not financially compensated by the publisher, author or any party who would benefit from a positive analysis.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter.

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