The Money AFL Clubs Spend Is Getting More Closely Linked To Winning

Researchers have found a growing link between AFL team performance and the amount they spend on coaching, player recruitment, fitness and medical staff, and travel costs, sparking calls for spending to be capped across clubs.

Economists Jeff Borland from the University of Melbourne and Ross Booth from Monash University studied the spending and performance of individual AFL teams between 1994 and 2011.

They found a “weak and statistically insignificant” link between spending and performance – defined by – in the mid-1990s and early-2000s, but the correlation grew stronger over time.

In 2009-2011, a club that spent 10 per cent more than average effectively increased its winning percentage by about 10 percentage points, according to the study. By 2011, spending $1.15 million more had the effect of the club winning one more match.

From the report:

Clubs spent an average of $5.9 million in 1994, but that grew to $17.2 million by 2011. The richest four clubs spent about 25 per cent more than the lowest-spending clubs throughout that time.

“Spending currently explains only a relatively small proportion of the variation in AFL teams’ performances,” Borland said. “We don’t want this trend to continue. So the AFL needs to strengthen its equalisation policies.

“Equalisation policies also need to make sure that clubs are managed well and are spending their money wisely.”

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