They say money talks.
This term is usually used when, in sporting terms, a club manages to sign a highly rated player, but have to pay over the odds to snare their signature. It is also used when a player decides to leave a club he has been successful at for a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
Rarely is the term used in relation to clubs tightening their belts financially. Yet if many looked at their accounting ledger the monetary figures are not talking, they are yelling that changes need to happen.
There are many around the local sporting circles who are very concerned about the current state of affairs. Quite simply clubs are paying out money that they cannot afford, yet continue to do so despite the long term risk. Will they only sit up and take notice when one or two are forced to close their doors?
The facts are clearly there for all to see. Very few of the governing bodies of sport in the local competitions feed down sponsorship dollars to the clubs. Prize money for successful clubs has not grown in relation to the costs to the clubs fielding a team each week, and in some cases the money has in fact decreased. One organisation actually kept the prize money and told the Championship winning club that the amount would be taken off their fees in the forthcoming season! So they presumably earned interest on that sum rather than the club.
It used to be that clubs could make money over the bar on a match day, and still some will make some profit, but nowhere near the money they used to. The reasons are many, drink driving laws have changed in the past 15-20 years, less people are attending games and the standard is not what it used to be.
Clubs are now required to have more qualified people involved, which has also pushed up the costs. Coaches, Physios, and the like who once they have a certified qualification often put out their hand for payment, as they feel that qualification entitles them to be paid. Who can blame these people who have had to shell out their personal finances to obtain that qualification it is hard to argue with their point of view.
However the most costly area for any of these clubs in a number of sports is the payment of players. The hard truth is if clubs continue to go down the path of paying players they are walking a tightrope and one that may lead to extinction.
Some clubs have been smart. In Rugby there are clubs who do not pay their players, they help find them work, and accommodation. Some subsidise their fees, believing that all players should pay something towards their fees so they have a commitment to the club. Some help them, via a sponsor, to have transport.
There are other clubs who have gone with a system similar to one that was raised on this very website a number of years ago, whereby all first team players are paid a set fee of let’s say $100, but only when they win. If they draw they receive half the agreed amount. If they lose they receive nothing. Which from a club’s perspective is fair. Why should part- time players be paid simply for turning up?
As one ex professional player who played in a State League competition said ‘if you are playing at this level for the money, you are playing for the wrong reasons.’
At the moment the clubs in a number of sports are struggling. Some have tireless workers, experienced businessmen at the helm, but even they are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
What is the solution?
Certainly across the board many of these sports need better marketing. They need to sit down with the governing body of their sport and actually nut out a marketing plan. One that promotes their competition and brings people to the games. There are so many options out there today, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and a number of social media outlets but how many of the sports have a clear media strategy outlining how much social media will be used, old fashioned community newspaper advertising and the like. It appears that many are dabbling in all with a very ineffective outcome.
If the sport is promoted properly and that in turn grows spectator numbers and overall interest, then suddenly the clubs and the competition as a whole become more attractive to sponsors. Many at present are not sponsors, as they would see negligible return on their investment, many are donors who love the sport and the various clubs. They are already supporting the various sports, but with bigger crowds they may actually see a slight return on their investment, and that could see them stay onboard longer or even increase their level of support. Bigger crowds and better exposure would also pull in new sponsors.
Then it comes down to fixing the product on the pitch and courts around the state. The standard has to be raised. There is one school of thought that says stop paying the money currently on offer and see how many players stay involved. The mercenaries will walk away. Those with a passion for the sport will stay, and if those that take the place of those who have left share that commitment and are prepared to work hard the standard may well rise. Suddenly places in the senior side will be based on merit and not just to keep the recruit on the highest salary happy.
Talking to clubs in a number of sports, these are worrying times. They are saying the money isn’t there, and survival is on a month to month or season to season basis. Sadly peer pressure prevents some from making a bold move and going against the grain and tightening up their spending, as they feel then they will cease to be competitive. Yet it needs one strong leader to lead the way and necessity will see others follow.
The last thing we want to see is any established club with decades of history behind it disappear. The money is talking, its time clubs started listening.