Club Budgets: What you need to know

Budgeting is a complex task but is always necessary at a football club. In this article, we look at how Directors of Coaching (DOC) can better manage the finances at their clubs.

Nov 19th 2021

Written by The Coaching Manual

A DOC has a broad role, in which matchday performance represents only one element. Football may ultimately be a results game, but the DOC also has a hand in everything from the club's culture and playing philosophy to how and when money should be spent.

The task of budgeting the club’s finances shouldn’t be underestimated, read on for our key tips on budgeting at youth football clubs, academies or programmes.

General considerations when planning your budget

While every club faces unique challenges, there are plenty of fundamental principles to keep in mind when working on a budget:

Keep it simple

DOCs don't need to be an accountant to deliver an appropriate and effective budget for a club. The chances are it won't be presented to shareholders. Don't be afraid to keep it simple. 

In fact, the more accessible and jargon-free, the better. This makes it far more likely that a DOC - and their coaches, if necessary - will refer back to it throughout the season.

Be realistic

Again, DOCs shouldn’t be attempting to lure potential investors in a stock market flotation, they are looking to create a budget that accurately reflects the financial position of their club. 

Overestimating income or underestimating costs is only likely to put people off actually using the budget, rendering the whole exercise a waste of time.

If it becomes clear that the budget is too conservative and that there is more money than expected, that's great news. The forecasts can then be updated from a position of strength.

Align the budget to the club's vision and long-term strategy

The budget should not be planned in isolation. Instead, it should be an accurate record of the financial steps required to deliver the club’s vision and strategy.

Example = If you know that a better training pitch is essential to achieving your objectives around improving the technical skills of your players, the necessary investment should be accounted for within your budget.

Get the necessary assistance

It's unrealistic to assume that a DOC can singlehandedly develop and oversee a club's budget over the course of a busy season.

The club treasurer is typically tasked with keeping track of the budget, but fellow directors - such as the Technical Director or Director of Football Operations - should also be kept in the loop.

It could also be useful to brief the senior coaches on the specifics of the budget. After all, there's little point in putting in place limits around what they can spend if they don't know about them.

Create monthly, quarterly and yearly budgets

It can be hard to build a single budget that offers sufficient detail about day-to-day operations, while also providing the information needed to aid long-term planning.

What's more, different people will want access to different levels of information. It's unlikely that the directors will need to know exactly how much is being spent from one week to the next; likewise, coaches probably don't require visibility over multiple years worth of financial data.

The budget shouldn’t be all things to all people. Instead, creating separate weekly, monthly and yearly budgets, and disseminating them to the relevant coaches and directors is better practice.

Football-specific elements to your club budget

While it's useful to have a grasp of general business principles when creating any budget, football is a very different environment to selling office supplies, building cars or running a restaurant. Some elements of the budget will be unique to the sporting realm, such as:

Coaching recruitment

Even if a DOC isn’t actively hiring they should always be looking to identify talented coaches who fit in with their playing system and cultural values.

Turnover of coaches is often higher than it would be in the business world. Most companies plan for 10% of staff leaving over the course of a financial year, but at most clubs, it's not unusual for this figure to double. 

The budget needs to account for the possibility of having to replace a significant proportion of the coaching staff in any given year.

Refereeing costs

Obvious but easily overlooked. Referees need to be paid for, although this sum may be accounted for in fees to the league. Either way, it needs to be reflected in the budget.

Travel and hotels

Depending on the geographic spread of teams in your league, there may be a significant amount of time spent on the road. This carries with it an array of associated costs, from hiring a bus and driver, to putting up players and coaches in a hotel. Food and drink  will also need to be considered whilst away from home.

League fees

An array of practical measures are covered by league fees, from insurance to prizes. Leagues typically carry out a range of administrative functions too, so their fees also go toward the salaries of staff required to perform these duties.

Equipment and kit

Without the necessary kit, training and playing equipment - from balls, goal posts and nets to bibs and cones - it’s impossible to even put a team on the pitch. 

It's a fact of sporting life that this equipment will need to be upgraded regularly, which can put a strain on club budgets - especially if these purchases haven't been properly accounted for in advance.

Facility maintenance 

Important repairs tend to crop up at the most inconvenient moments. If the heating in the changing room stops working, you can bet it won't happen at the height of summer. While a DOC can't see into the future, it's good practice to set aside a chunk of the budget at the start of the season for unexpected maintenance.

Tournament entry fees

Just as most clubs probably have to pay to enter their league, they may also have to account for the cost of competing in separate events. 

Budget constraints may dictate that the club simply can't afford to enter all the competitions available; it's obviously better to predict this in advance than to deal with it on the eve of the tournament.

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