The squad behind the squad
The focus at this time of year is often on investing in players who can help us win in the short-term. However, it is investment in non-playing staff that ultimately creates the processes and culture that drive sustainable success.
Investing in non-playing staff is rarely straightforward. Firstly, there’s the pressure to win the next game – and that’s mostly down to the players we’ve bought or developed. Secondly, talent in non-playing staff is less observable than talent in playing staff, so it can be hard to hire the right people.
What is apparent though is that leagues – and by extension clubs – who invest more in non-playing staff also tend to have more young players, who generally cost less (below).
The Netherlands and to a lesser extent Scandinavian countries are good examples of this. The clubs in these leagues could choose to tilt their wage bill towards their playing squad, taking from their non-playing budget to afford the salaries that peak-age players demand, Instead – and unlike clubs in Turkey, Russia or Greece – they keep their squads young and relative investment in non-playing staff high.
The benefits to this approach are clear; not only are clubs creating value by developing young players, they are also investing in people that can protect the long-term future of the club. What’s more, the return on investment from an extra member of non-playing staff can sometimes exceed that of an extra member of the playing squad, when we consider the limited amount of minutes some individuals play.
Of course, on-field circumstances vary, meaning some clubs need to increase spending on their playing squad for certain periods of time. After all, there’s no use having the world’s best backroom team if you have the world’s worst playing eleven! However, some clubs are spending over 40% of their wage budget on non-playing staff, and this seems to go hand-in-hand with a more sustainable approach to squad management.