Depressingly, they still call it the SPL...
And frustratingly, there appears to be a two year gap without data. Previously these surveys were published around May and June, and would be a year out. Thus the May 2015 survey used data from the 2013/14 season. However, delaying this one to November has allowed them to use data from the current campaign - which is great because we get a snapshot of what things are like right now, but not so much because they've skipped 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Or maybe not. Nick Harris, editor of Sporting Intelligence, explained to me, "the short answer is there is a one-year gap due to change in timing of the survey. And the missing season is 2015-16. The latest survey, GSSS 2015, had numbers at summer 2014, deliberately so. They were numbers, in effect, ahead of the 2014-15 season, and a good indication of 2014-15. But they used the 2013-14 teams and were described as summer 2014 because we didn't at the time of compilation for GSSS 2015 have access to full sets of accounts for 14-15 to 'backstop' the data we'd compiled."
Coincidentally (and I'm sure it's a coincidence as the other leagues are using 2016/17 data) it means the Scottish data includes Rangers, who haven't been in a survey since liquidation.
Anyway, here's a crude table showing where things are apparently at.
|Average first team player wage (£/week)|
And here's what we can extrapolate from it...
Celtic continue to cut costs
The average wage of a first teamer at Celtic has dropped by 38% in just over three years. The effect of consecutive failures to make the Champions League, or a case of resting on their laurels as a result of the lack of competition? It's not new for them to rank behind every single English Premier League club - even Burnley this time round - but actually their average wage would put them mid-table in Italy, Spain and Germany, and in the top six in France.
Still a massive imbalance
In 2012/14 and 2013/14, Celtic's wage bill was greater than all the other sides put together; that is no longer true because of Rangers' presence in the top flight. Celtic and Rangers together pay more than twice the other ten clubs combined. Note that Rangers' average wage is still less than half what it was in the Oldco era.
Very little between the bottom eight
The report notes that "It is a quirk of the season that Ross County had a particularly small first-team squad during the survey period (21 players) and Hamilton a large one (34). Ross County’s total bill, we reckon, will be smaller due to fewer players - but all things being equal, slightly better players earning a bit more each". Given that Dundee, Inverness and St. Johnstone have relatively compact squads as well, there's probably little or nothing to choose between the eight diddiest clubs in terms of budget.
I've often claimed the Dark Blues are punching below their weight, based on an awful lot of hearsay that they are paying better wages than other sides at the wrong end of the table. Whilst the point I made above still stands, this data supports the belief that the club's American owners aren't getting value for money.
How accurate is this?
It's hard to say. 'Average first team player wage' is obviously not the same as 'annual wage budget', which might be a better parameter to work with. But nearly all Scottish clubs are coy about this. In addition, we don't know who counts as a first team player at each club - if Accies have 34, it includes several youngsters who are likely to be on buttons. I also wonder if Hearts' figures are skewed by a similar issue. But it's better than nothing. This was what Nick Harris had to say:
"Numbers are sourced from various places including unions, clubs, agents, leagues and administrative bodies. As you know, nobody publishes this stuff. Nobody will confirm any of it, on the record at least.
But of course the Company House accounts will only get you total company salary bills and generally no breakdown of where that money goes. (Although Rangers, interestingly, have started declaring the total first-team bill in their accounts). And there is the issue of account-lag, which is why until this time we've had 'historic' seasons in the report, ie completed ones for which we can backstop.
However, after seven years and better sources all the time, we feel able to produce good reliable numbers for all the leagues we cover; so for that reason as well as a general scheduling one, we've moved to 'live' seasons for the current report for all the football leagues that up to now have been account-lagged.
I'm pretty confident that our numbers are a better reflection of salary bills at the teams featured than you'll get anywhere else. I'd also be pretty confident that I'd be able to predict, now, the total club wage bills, based on our data, that will be appearing at Companies House for the 2016-17 season .... when they drop at some point as late as Spring 2018.
The only other caveat to using the new method and numbers is mentioned in the introductory essay of the new report you can download today - and that is that successful clubs will in all probability be paying a good few percentage points higher than the figures we've got, because of bonuses. At some clubs these could have really dramatic effect."
So, in conclusion, you don't have to take this with a big pinch of salt.
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.
(With thanks to Nick Harris for taking so much time to reply to my queries, and in so much detail!)