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Jan 3, 2012

Financial efficiency, Spurs' capital gains

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to asknorman@hotmail.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

I'd like to know which team is the most financially efficient in the Premier League. What I mean is the ratio of wages v points gained. For example, are Everton, with a lower wage bill, more efficient than Manchester City, who have more points? Ardy Xiao asked.

At the moment, it is impossible to say precisely who is getting most value for money this season. Indeed, we have to go back to the 2009-10 campaign, when football finance experts Deloitte compiled details of each club's average wage bill (while some clubs' wage bill for the 2010-11 season is known, not all are). However, there is an exception: because Portsmouth were in administration, they have not filed accounts in the way other clubs have. The £50 million figure quoted is estimated, rather than confirmed.

2009-10 financial year:

*Reduced to 19 because they entered administration

Portsmouth provide confusion in another sense: because they went into administration and were deducted nine points, their total is either 28 or 19. I have used the former figure, as it is actually the number of points won on the field. With the eventual total of 19, however, Portsmouth would finish bottom of this particular table, too. Instead, that honour falls to the champions that season, Chelsea, whose 86 points were acquired with the aid of a £174 million wage bill.

Indeed, it is notable that only one side that finished in the division's top seven, Tottenham, who qualified for the Champions League with a £67 million wage bill, are near the top of the value-for-money table. And there is an unlikely winner: Burnley were relegated by five points, but, by getting 30 points with much the lowest wage bill in the division, they can be deemed overachievers nonetheless. Others who made the most of what they had were Birmingham, Wolves and Everton, who often perform better than their resources suggest they should. It is also pertinent, surely, that Burnley, Birmingham and Wolves were in their first season in the division, meaning they still had players signed on Championship wages.

However, the equation alters at the top of the league, not least because the statistics would suggest it is all but impossible to break into the top six with a mid-table wage bill now - though Everton have done it comparatively recently. In addition, the elite clubs have greater sources of income, whether from the Champions League, matchday revenue or merchandising. The other element to remember is that there is no one simple formula of calculating value for money: for instance, two clubs with an identical wage bill and the same number of points may have a large loss and a healthy profit in the transfer market respectively, while one may have concentrated more attention on cup competitions than the other. For instance, Fulham reached the Europa League final, meaning their wage bill brought more than the 0.94 points per million pounds the figures above indicate.

While final figures for all 20 Premier League clubs have not been released for the last campaign, there has been some analysis and educated guesswork from the excellent Sporting Intelligence, who are normally very accurate. Like them, I'd say it is a certainty Blackpool will top the table for last season, although my guess is that Chelsea, not Liverpool, may prop it up.

My wife asked me: "What is the fewest number of players you can have on the pitch to still finish a match?" She was wondering, and I didn't know the answer, if at some point is the match called off if you are down to say, four players left on the pitch? Jim Turchyn from Urbana, Illinois asked.

FIFA rules state: "Although a match may not start if either team consists of fewer than seven players, the minimum number of players in a team required for a match to continue is left to the discretion of member associations. However, it is the opinion of the International Football Association Board that a match should not continue if there are fewer than seven players in either team." There are isolated examples of matches being abandoned when a team has fewer than that.

There was a famous case in English football a decade ago: in 2002, promotion-chasing West Brom were 3-0 ahead at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United, who had lost goalkeeper Simon Tracey and substitutes Georges Santos and Patrick Suffo to red cards and made all three changes took Michael Brown and Rob Ullathorne off because each was injured. The match was abandoned with the West Brom manager, Gary Megson, accusing the Blades players of faking injury. The 3-0 scoreline stood.

When is the last time that Spurs stood above all other London clubs at this stage of the season? And when was the last time Tottenham finished a season as the highest-placed London club? Jacob Geiger from Virginia asked.

It was the first time Tottenham were London's leading club on Christmas Day and New Year's Day since the 1995-96 season, although Arsenal went on to overhaul them in the second half of the season. The last time Tottenham ended a campaign as the capital's top club was 1994-95, although they only came seventh that season in a year dominated by northern clubs. The last time they ended in the top four and as the leading London club, by the way, was 1989-90 when they came third.

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