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Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

Bargain basement football


The recent financial troubles of Hereford United raise questions about just how much it does cost to run a club in the lower divisions, interpreted here to mean League 2 and the Conference.

Consider wages first.   I have been told not that a not untypical wage in the Conference is £500 a week. Interestingly that is equivalent to the median gross (before tax) wage in the UK which was £501 a week in 2011 (and probably hasn't changed much since then).

However, Hereford United are typically paying £400 a week compared with £1,200 a week last year.  But an in depth BBC study of Dagenham & Redbridge show that some of their players are paid £200-£300 a week.

But then the club really is run on a shoestring.   For last Saturday's match at York City, the kit was driven up by a physio in a van the night before.   The players went up by train on the day and then had to walk from the station to the ground, it being argued that this would stretch their legs.  They then had advance purchase tickets on the 18.30 from York by which time they knew they had lost 3-2.

The club does manage to break even over a three year period.  The staff is limited to three full timers and a student and they all have to multi-task.    Last year average attendances were 2,090, but in an over provided London market that figure has fallen to 1,755 after six home league games.

The Daggers made £400,000 from season ticket sales and gate receipts last season and this amounts to about a third of their total income from football.  Some Premier League players earn as much in a fortnight.

At the end of the day, there are two ways of balancing the books: a good cup run or selling a player. Hereford United must be pleased to have reached the first round proper of the FA Cup: their win away at FC United wins them a useful £12,500, although their debts have been estimated at £200,000.

If a team progresses as far as the third round, the rewards can be really substantial.  Luton Town made £500,000 from their third round cup replay with Liverpool at a time when they faced real financial challenges and they are hoping for another cup run this season.