Financial prudence in FM – part 2

So following on from part one of this article, I’ll start looking at the non-contract aspects of the game which can affect your finances.

Visit any FM forum and there’ll be a thread about what people want to see in the next version of the game – amongst them there are players who want to introduce features such as control of ticket prices, investment in club shops and developing the design of your own stadium. Not for me, if you want that sort of game then dig out a copy of Ultimate Soccer Manager or perhaps even Theme Park and pump up those salt levels at the chip stand so you sell more drinks… with 50% ice of course.

It’s just not what I’m looking for from Football Manager and I also think there’s more than enough scope within the current game to allow you to improve your club finances. The first, and most obvious of these, is bread-and-butter to every FM player…

  • Transfers

One of your biggest outlays, particularly at the top end of the game, is likely to be your transfer budget. Investment in the playing squad is absolutely paramount, it would make for a massively difficult game simply to rely on the products of your youth academy although I have seen people do it and it makes for an interesting read. For most, however, we’ll look to take players in from other teams and much of the time this will involve a transfer fee. And the better the player, the higher the fee required to prize him away from his current team.

Having said that, there’s really no need to spend like a WAG in order to build a successful team. There are plenty of real-life managers such as David Moyes and Alan Pardew who are adept at finding value in the market; and there’s no reason why this can’t be replicated in-game. There are plenty of policies to keep your spending down, some of which I will just cover briefly and some I’ll go into more depth on.

1. Bosmans

Jean-Marc Bosman

Since the unremarkable Jean-Marc Bosman prompted the rather more remarkable ECJ case C-415/93, out of contract players within the European Union have been free to move to other clubs without requiring the permission of or compensation to their previous club. Bosman transfers, as they have become commonly known, can literally save your club millions. Consider just these 10 Bosman transfers and estimate how much money would have been required to secure those players – £50m? £100m? More?

Keep an eye on the player search screen and add a filter to include only those players whose contracts are expiring in the next 6 months. It’s worth noting that there are some UK-specific rules which apply: whilst the basic premise still stands, pre-contracts can now only be agreed with potentially out of contract players within one month of said contract’s expiry, if that player is based within the same individual nation of the UK.

So basically:

Shrew Naldo plays for Aberdeen. Having scored 812 goals in a single season he wishes to move to a bigger team. Arsenal, Barcelona and Celtic are all interested.

– Barcelona can open contract negotiations on a pre-contract agreement without Aberdeen’s permission 6 months before his contract expires as they are within the EU.
– Arsenal can open contract negotiations on a pre-contract agreement without Aberdeen’s permission 6 months before his contract expires are they are in a different country of the UK.
– However, Celtic, within the same football association as Aberdeen, will have to wait until 1 month before his contract expires before opening negotiations (and getting laughed out the room).

This rule applies to all of the Football Associations within the UK.

2. Undervalued attributes

So there’s this new Moneyball concept, introduced at the Oakland Athletics and the subject of many a football article – particularly with John W Henry’s involvement at Liverpool. The concept is far too complicated and diverse to cover in this article but the basic premise is that you can pick up players who are undervalued because the orthodox gauges of a player’s efficacy are wrong, or at least disproportionate. Slightly difficult to apply this in some cases to football but there are a few pieces across the scene which try to apply this to FM.

I remember Lee Scott (FM Analysis) writing a piece for The Dugout where he argued that anticipation was a vital attribute for a centre half that is undervalued in-game, something I’d tend to agree with.

3. Targeting specific attributes

The best players in the world tend to be very well-rounded, complete players who could quite conceivably perform any (outfield) role on the pitch. The best players in the world cost wads of cash though and aren’t realistic targets for many clubs and managers. A clever manager, however, will be able to identify the key attributes that he wants in a specific position and be able to find a cheaper option that, limited to a particular role, could perform just as effectively for £2m as the £40m alternative.

The result of targetted scouting

Let’s take a winger as an easy example. You’re playing a standard 4-2-3-1 with solidity and creativity through the middle, looking to create a team that is difficult to break down and utilise the wide players to introduce the flair and attacking intent in your team. So you could just search for a left-winger and sign the best available within your budget; OR you could target the key attributes you want. A left winger with purely attacking intentions – so let’s search for pace, dribbling, flair, technique and crossing all above 14. That leads me to the gentleman to the right, available for a paltry £2m.

This technique can be particularly useful at lower levels where you might decide to prioritise strength at the back and pace going forward, forsaking all else.

3. Undervalued markets

It’s a well-known fact that British players are massively over-priced, although recently there appears to be more value in the Scottish market than in days gone by. It stands to reason that a club which is on sound financial footing, within a rich league and/or a rich country, won’t be inclined to sell their star players on the cheap.

And so we go elsewhere seeking the ultimate bargain. Eastern Europe is still a fertile hunting ground for undervalued players but my personal favourites are South / Central America and Africa. There’s just no way that I can cover the numerous countries and clubs where great bargains can be found but I’m sure you can find tips elsewhere on the scene.

4. Merchandising signings

To be perfectly honest, this is not something I have ever had any degree of success with in Football Manager but there is supposedly a mechanic within the game that will bring your merchandising income a huge boost should you sign a high-profile player from one of the well-known money-spinning markets, i.e. America, Japan, China et al.

I can’t really say too much on this due to lack of personal experience, perhaps one of you can provide me with more info?

5. Transfer clauses

Ok, so we all know the old trick of breaking up your big purchases over 48 months. You have a £10m budget for the year but buy Lavezzi for £40m over 4 years. Problem – you’ve not only used up your entire budget for this year but you’ve also committed £10m of your budget for the next 3 seasons as well. What happens if you fail to qualify for the Champions League? What happens if the board decide to build a new stadium? You’re now left with nothing to spend and an outlay of £833k a month. Dangerous ground. Don’t get me wrong, spreading the cost over a longer period has it’s time and place but I wouldn’t ever consider it to be a default transfer policy.

Clubs will often try to negotiate future transfer clauses into the sale as well: 25% of any profit you make on the player, for example. Similar to my advise on contract clauses from part one, I’d try to steer clear of these as much as you can… with one clear exception. When you’re signing an older player with absolutely no intention of making a profit from him, why not offer his club a lower immediate fee but try to butter them up with a high future percentage? If his value is going to deteriorate by the time you sell him, or perhaps you’ll just let him see out his contract, you can save yourself a tidy sum.

Transfer history showing potential for future profit

In most other cases, I would only use transfer clauses when selling and I then do so heavily. When you’re forced into selling a young prospect, you know fine well that his next transfer is going to dwarf the fee you’re going to get. However, I will always remove the “x% of next transfer profit” and replace it with “x% of next transfer fee”. Common sense really the buying club rarely makes a big deal out of the difference. Using the transfer history of the left winger I found above, you can see how Guijuelo could have made themselves a tidy sum simply by inserting a “20% of future fee” clause into the sale. Rather than a £525k, they now receive just over £1.5m.

So I think I’ve talked enough about transfers and my apologies if some of that is teaching grannies how to suck eggs but hopefully there are some useful tips.

The final bit of this article will focus on the other bits and pieces that you can influence to increase your income.

  • Merchandising Feeder Clubs

Once your club has grown to gain sufficient reputation, you can ask your board to find you a feeder club which will raise your profile in a country with a profitable market, traditionally countries such as America, Japan, China et al although I haven’t seen the option given for what I would consider to be similar markets in India, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.

Merchandising income showing impact of new feeder clubs

The screenie above shows my Rapid Wien side’s merchandising income for the last 5 years. The two red lines indicate the beginning of merchandising affiliations with first Vancouver Whitecaps and then Rehne (Japan). Both have given me a consistent monthly increase in merchandising income which has, to date, given me an additional £3m a year. Be careful though, as you can end up simply paying out as much in the affiliation fee as you take in.

  • Money-spinning friendlies

Arsenal don’t play the Emirates Cup each season just for a laugh, you know. Pre-season tournaments can bring in huge sums, it’s just a case of how realistic you wish your game to be.

Sample friendly league

It is possible, for example, to start a game with a small team, let’s say Cowdenbeath, and arrange friendlies against 8 of the biggest clubs in the game – making yourself a million in the process. Not too realistic really.

However, it is more than conceivable that a team such as Lazio would host a pre-season tournament with some reputable teams. Running a quick experiment, I could set up the league to the right. Paying out £625k to the teams involved, we will make a profit of around £400k. I’d recommend running leagues rather than cups for these tournaments, simply because you get more games and therefore more gate receipts.

Another tip is, when managing a small club with a small stadium, to look to arrange individual friendlies against bigger sides with larger stadia. You’ll receive a fee for playing there which can often be higher than the profit you’ll make from hosting the game. FM will tell you the fees and projected intake for you, it’s just a case of trial and error.

  • New stadium

The final method for getting more money is to ask the board to build you a bigger stadium. If you’ve been filling out your ground for years and have the financial clout to justify the expense, then it’s certainly a possibility. Man Utd make a profit of circa £1m per home game, they simply wouldn’t manage this with a 20000 seater stadium or, of course, the corporate facilities that are available at Old Trafford.

Of course, new stadiums are expensive so think carefully before asking your board for one but if you’ve been following the tips above then you’ll have plenty of cash to spend 😀 If you’re a club legend you may even get the stadium named after you which would really be the pinnacle of any game.

So you’ll be glad to hear that that’s the end of my ramblings. Hopefully there are some items in there which you haven’t previously considered and some tips which will help you run your club on a sound financial basic, bringing in a regular profit and stacking up that cash for when you really need it. If you’ve got any tips I haven’t considered or simply disagree with me, then feel free to let me know using the comments box below. Not everyone is as stingy as a Scotsman…

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2 thoughts on “Financial prudence in FM – part 2”

  1. Have to admit I’m a bit disappointed with myself here. Rushed through it a bit and I think it shows. Will probably edit it here and there in the comming days.

    I’ve also thought of several things that I should have included which I didn’t. Might have to write a Part 3 to capture those.

  2. I’am currently playing with Benfica and at the begin of the game the wages expense was €610m.
    Currently after 5 season, the wage expense is €470m.
    I invest on young players with great potential and loan them to gain experience. Players like Aimar, Saviola, Capedevilla that earns high wages, end their career and I promote some young players.
    Benfica is keeping the good performance.
    I look to reserve team and sell all the players with 2,5 stars of rating or less, reducing the amount of players from 64 to to about 40 players.
    That’s how I control the finances of my club.

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