90 Minutes and Counting

December 9, 2009


It is often said that football is more than a game. In its annual review of football finance, June 2009, the Deloitte Sports Business Group used the heading 90 Minutes and Counting to illustrate, by snapshot, the wide ranging impact of football in England.

Deloitte maintain that the impact of football extends far beyond the action on the pitch that we all enjoy week by week during the football season. The view is that the game has an extraordinary widespread appeal that touches the lives of millions of people across the world. In my opinion football is very much a world sport like no other and does much to bring people together like nothing else can.

Last month we were thinking of the fallen from the First World War and since. In these times, flights into Lyneham are often and the townspeople of Wooten Bassett do much to bring the events to the nation’s attention. The air base and the town is not much of a stretch along the M4 from where we play our football. Bristol Rovers and Bristol Rugby remembered once again as is the custom each November 11th at the memorial gate situated at the entrance to our stadium. I well remember my Gramp telling me of Christmas 1917 when he and a few mates from the Glosters laid down their arms for an hour or three to take on their German counterparts in a game of football. It seems football can bring people together even in extreme circumstances.

The football industry and the game itself has developed enormously over the years and as much so since the Deloitte Annual Review was first published in 1992. I have been particularly interested to learn of the key statistics published in the latest review document. The review looks at the power of football in terms of its popularity, economic interest, investment in facilities, global reach and social contribution.

In economic terms, a revenue of £2.5 billion was generated by the 92 professional clubs in 2008/09. The cost of funning a full time professional football club is another issue of course. Football is a large employer too with over 16,000 direct full-time employees within English professional game. Tax is often given as the main reason behind clubs entering Administration. It was very interesting to read that no less than £860 million pounds is currently contributed by English professional football to Government each season in taxes. The big one for me was the financial prize for the winners of The Football League Championship Play-Off Final; reckoned to be in the order of £60 million and considered the most valuable match in the world.

It’s a job to imagine a football match, in what some people refer to as the old Division Two, as being so valuable but it does make sense when it is reported along side that the cumulative global Television audience for English Premier League matches for 2007-08 drew as much as £4.8 billion and the number of territories in which the Premier League is broadcast numbers 211. England’s current position of 1st in the UEFA’s Club Competitions Association’s Coefficient Ranking for the first time since 1984-85 is also well worthy of noting.

Participation in football in our country is massive. A figure of 18.6 million adults in the United Kingdom is given to those who follow the game. That’s a sizable percentage of the total population and bears no comparison. Seven million adults and children are known to be playing football each month of which 3.9 million are children including 1.1 million girls. In turn Professional Football does invest in local facilities and does involve itself in local activities. Up to 1.4 million participate in the Creating Chances programme each year and the Football Foundation invests £32 million over the same period. At Bristol Rovers the Community Department has worked very hard to achieve the Silver Award standard for its work. The Bronze level was reached in April and at the time of going to press the announcement of Silver success was imminent.

The number of volunteers working in our game is quite extraordinary. Every week at Bristol Rovers we benefit. On matchdays especially people give of their time to sell programmes, 50/50 tickets, help out on the ground and so on and so on. Deloitte well recognise this contribution in their Review of Football Finance and not just on matchdays. As with a lot of clubs up and down the country, Bristol Rovers benefit from the work volunteers in the offices and shops for example and also on the youth side of the game and much more.

It all looks very positive and good but as there is with all such reviews and financial opinions there is always a sting in the tail. Looking forward, Deloitte say, “The greatest challenge may come in maintaining commercial revenues and higher priced corporate hospitality ticketing, while also addressing wage and other cost inflation.” So there is the clear message. Revenues and costs go hand in hand and if you get it wrong , as some clubs do, it has been already proved that points deductions can lead to dire consequences from which there can be no return.



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