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So, after all that pontificating about an early access save I ignored all my own advice and ended up at ACR Messina in the Italian third tier.
Not entirely sure, I just wasn’t feeling my shortlist of options.
And then I was going through clubs in Serie C and stumbled across this lot – I wrongly read their Serie B title of years ago as a Serie A title, realised they had been in the top flight within the last 20 years and fancied a go.
This article isn’t going to be a massive long drone on the club history, the players, grand plans and all that – but more a quick diary entry around a couple of things I want to really experiment with properly (again) in FM.
I used to be big into the ‘balancing the books’ concept some years ago because I have always felt the financial management side of FM is massively f*cked and is often leading clubs to ruin. Mind you, that does sound a bit like the real world so maybe I am being a little hard on the game there.
I’ve noticed over the years that the wage budgets set are completely unrealistic compared to income – OK, again, maybe not that different to the real world.
I do like my clubs to be self-sustained – and by that I tend to follow some simple rules.
Player wages must be covered by gate receipts, matchday revenues and merchandise plus a very small contribution from TV money and sponsorship. Why? Well, I guess I hark back to the days where football clubs tried to live by their means and if fans weren’t coming in then they couldn’t afford big wages and big squads and kinda had to make do.
Why don’t I factor in TV money and sponsorship – in all honesty, in the leagues I usually dabble in, there isn’t much of it. That said, in Serie C, if I have done my maths correctly there is around €1.6m coming in from these two areas (€700K sponsorship already in the bank) and this towers over the revenues from GR, MR and merch.
So what does this actually mean?
By the looks of it, FM23 still sets a wage budget based on total revenue coming into the club and forgets all the other things we have to pay for each month – travel, staff wages, academies etc.
Messina’s 2022/23 wage budget is €24,300 a week which equals approx €1.26m a year.
If my projections are correct (I am trying to forecast the whole season in January, so these are forecasted numbers not the final budget which will be locked down in July once I have a full financial year) the club will do €2m in revenue, which in theory leaves €740K to pay for everything else.
The problem is – everything else comes in at double that.
Now, presuming that Messina stay in Serie C next season (we are currently 4th and I would expect a playoff campaign to follow but I would be surprised if we did go up – we were second-favourites to go down, by the way) I would expect GR, MR and Merch to stay around the same.
This means that by taking our annual forecast for these three revenue streams (€386,772) and adding a €100K contribution from TV and sponsorship that gives us an annual wage bill budget of €486,772. That’s €9,361 a week.
It’s also a big drop from €25K per week!
That said, €25K a week currently has our bank balance at -€300K in January with a projection of just under -€700K come the end of the season.
So things need to change.
But €9,361 a week is not much at all – especially when you factor in the minimum wage for a professional here is €525 a week.
If I go with a squad of 20 players next season, that’s an average of €468 p/w per player which is impossible.
If I plan for a squad of 15 players next season, that’s an average of €625 per player per week which is a lot more achievable.
15 players? Well, I mean 15 players that I am paying the wages on – if I use the loan market well, I could add at least another five (maybe more) on free loans.
Plus, we have the Academy – the intake looks promising for next season though we would be foolish to rely on that immediately.
Already committed to next season (2023/24) are five players.
Crea – winger/striker – 17 – €550 p/w
Anglieri – CB/RB – 21 – €550 p/w
Duga – GK – 23 – €650 p/w
Ekuban – striker – 23 – €650 p/w
Marino – CM – 24 – €625 p/w
Total real weekly wage budget committed = €3,000
Total real weekly wage budget remaining = €6,361
Average weekly wage per player = €636 p/w (+€11 against budget)
Each of these guys has bonuses in their contract which is something that I will have to work on removing as time goes by. All five are on deals until the summer of 2025 as well.
Why those five? I hold my hands up – I could have probably kept Crea on a youth deal for another season (and risked losing him) but a notification popped up saying get him on a pro before I realised the state of the club financially. Ekuban, I got lured into making a signing in January and I am regretting it already!
Anglieri has been solid all season and is versatile – a big plus for me. Duga has been excellent in goal – and the backup keepers next season will be loans or one loan and one Academy.
Marino is a strong midfield option and also on wages that were renewable I felt.
We have some issues to overcome.
As you can see above, everyone on this screenshot currently earns above the average weekly wage I want to offer next season.
Immediately, I will be writing off the big earners – Fofana, Fazzi, Curale, Balde (sadly, as he has been decent), Konate, Grillo will all go. Lewandowski and Camilleri are already lined up with moves. The loans will end. So, in effect, on that list only Iannone could play himself into a contract next season if he accepts a cheaper wage – and he has the bonus of being able to play wide left or down the middle.
Here, we have everyone earning below the average I want to spend.
Crea and Anglieri are already sorted – Spaticchia has only just come up from the Academy so I will have to give him minutes between now and the end of the season to see if he is worth a spot next campaign. The same with Mallamo. D’Amore we will keep on a youth contract as long as possible.
Interestingly, Piazza and Fili – if I could get them back next season on the same wage structure I would include them in my 15. Napoletano, if he remains free, would also be worth bringing back.
Then that brings us on to the next logical part of the challenge – who do we sign?
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it in terms of actual names – but this is the process I am likely to follow…
Different information sources
Data (download from FM, put into a funky spreadsheet, analyse)
Scout recommendations (non-data-based)
Agent recommendations (non-data-based)
Players offering themselves (non-data-based)
When recommendations come in where the player is clearly playing, they will be scouted and then a data check will be run near the time of decisions being made.
Free agents – if they’ve played the previous season (as in they are playing now and have been released at the end of the season), then a data due diligence can happen and a trial.
Ones from data, they’ll then have a scout sanity check them I expect.
It’ll be a lot of work and it all comes with the caveat of them having to fit into the wage structure. Yikes.