Book Review: Pay as You Play

Pay as You Play, Book Review

As billionaire ‘super-benefactors’ fight for the right to own English Football clubs, Pay As You Play takes a detailed look at the correlation between success and transfer spending. 

This book boils down to answering one simple question – can success be bought in the English Premier League? Blackburn Rovers probably started this discussion in the early nineties, Chelsea kept it going int the oo’s and now Manchester City are the latest club to ‘attempt’ to spend their way to the top.  The authors of Pay As You Play attempt to answer, with facts and figures rather than bar room stories, whether this is true or not.

In a way that makes much of this book fascinating is how they have converted ‘old’ transfers in to present-day money. Interestingly they don’t just use a simple inflation figure as clearly there is more money in the game now than ever before. They go into more detail in the book about how they work this out and while they readily admit that it is not without some flaws, it is hard to imagine a better system.

One of the stats I really liked in this book was the ability to compare managers in terms of points gained as a result of the average squad cost. For example Sam Allerdyce comes close to the top of this list. His average cost per point was £410,781 compared to Jose Mourinho who’s average cost per point was £2.5m

The Newcastle Effect

One thing that become immediately apparent from the numerous tables and graphs that this book has is The Newcastle Effect. The even dedicate an entire chapter to it. For whatever reasons it seems that Newcastle have truly underachieved throughout their Premier League career. Even managers who have had good transfer records before joining Newcastle seem to come unstuck at St James Park.

Does Money Buy Success?

While spending millions or even billions might not guarantee you the title, one thing is for sure spending money moves you into a different group of teams. It is evident throughout the book that teams often don’t break outside their ‘group’. We have champions league teams and mid table teams and relegation teams and the best way it seems to move from one group to the other is to spend money. There are obviously exceptions – Big Sam is a positive exception and Newcastle are a not!


Overall I really enjoyed this book, the analysis used allowed for some great historical comparisons and gives a good indication of what managers really do stretch their pounds further. The one negative I would have is that although this book is over 300 pages long, much of it is made of a huge amount of detail about individual clubs and managers. While I found it interesting to look at figures for my own club (Blackburn Rovers) I didn’t look through many others, but maybe real stato’s would love that. For me this book was all about the first 70 pages and is well worth the read.

Sample Chapter

Why not take a look at their website and have a read of the sample chapter: The Newcastle Effect.


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