The State of Football Finance

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: Reach Data Unit

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2 Jul 2020

Credit: David Dubas-Fisher, Cullen Willis, Kelly Leung

Project description:

The State of Football Finance project takes key club financial data and makes them more accessible to fans. The project aims to democratise the information so fans can more easily see how their club is performing off the pitch and how it compares to others in the division.

Impact reached:

Football finances don’t get the hearts of many fans racing – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. In 2019, four historied clubs went into administration, two of which (Bury and Macclesfield) were eventually liquidated and no longer exist. Their plight showed that what happens in the boardroom can be as important as what happens on the pitch. Clubs publish their accounts every year to Companies House as PDF documents. But while these are technically publicly available to fans, the format and jargon means they’re not particularly accessible to the average fan. The State of Football Finance project was designed to make the account information more easily available to fans. The first step, carreid out by david D was to go through four years worth of accounts for every club to have played in the top two divisions of English football in that time, pulling out the profit/loss and revenue information from each. That worked out at over 200 sets of accounts. This data was then fed into a gadget created by the Data Unit’s developer, Cullen Willis. The gadget lets readers easily see their club’s key financial data and compares it to other clubs in the division. Financial data for English clubs has never been collated and made comparable in this way before. Having all this financial information available has allowed the Reach Data Unit to massively improve the scope of the sport stories we produce. Whenever a club releases its accounts we can use the data and the gadget to show how they compare to previous years ad to other clubs. The data also showed how second division clubs spend more than they earn on wages, and means we’ve also been able to use it to find out what the financial impact of covid-19 will be on

Techniques/technologies used:

The data was collected by manually reading 232 sets of club accounts from Companies House. This data was then added to Google Sheets.

The data was added to an SQL database for ease of use. The front end interactive used a combined set of languages and libraries, such as; – PHP, Javascript, JQuery, and Flotchart.

The design was created using photoshop. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

We had the idea to make financial data more available to fans, but no one within the Data Unit had any experience in reading company accounts. The first, and perhaps hardest step in the project was to learn how to read company accounts. There was then the task of reading through 232 sets of accounts in order to get all of the data. this wasn’t especially tricky, but it was very time consuming. 


What can others learn from this project?

That going through hundreds of records on Companies house takes a long time and is really, really boring. But sometimes it’s just got to be done. 

Project links: