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The motivation equation

With the transfer window now closed, attention now turns to maximising the potential of the existing playing squad.

One of the ways clubs can do this is by paying bonuses – for appearances, for wins and for league or cup performance. On paper these bonuses are incentives, designed to encourage the player to perform even better than he normally would.

This is combined with the primary incentive to perform – the competition stakes – to create the motivation equation for a footballer:

Copy of motivation_eq

But consider the situation where, in a limp end-of-season performance, commentators and managers bemoan that the players “had nothing to play for” or “no motivation to win the game”.

If the players “had no motivation” in any given match, it stands to reason that both the league situation and the monetary incentive had no effect on a player’s urgency to perform. 0 = 0 + 0.

And if monetary incentives have no effect in meaningless end of season games – when they should be the only thing on a player’s mind – are we to believe they have an effect at the start or middle of the season?

Of course, bonuses are also used to attract players and mitigate risk, but their primary purpose should surely be to change behaviour and affect in-season performance.

Whilst team-level bonuses must be agreed before the season, there is still time to reconsider player contract structures and ask ourselves: are the bonuses we’re paying our players helping us win?

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