Auxerre: The Selling Club… Sometimes…

I’m sure there are many of you out there in Twitter/Blog-land managing teams just like Auxerre. Low on funds, low on investment, low on players to sell and.. well, they’re just in the doldrums a bit. Without a big sugar daddy pumping money into the club, you’ve got to be smart to get things ticking along on the financial side of things.

There are many teams out there that don’t make huge amounts of money from things such as gate receipts, sponsorship or competitions, but they are masters of the transfer market. Buying players cheap, or developing players through a successful youth scheme and selling them on for large sums of money.

In FM, it’s very tempting to not give in and sell players. Why sell your star player? He’s the star man, everything goes through him, he makes the team tick and without him you may as well not be there. Why sell your star youth player? He’s the future, build a squad around him.

The club isn’t making any money though. As you watch the finances slowly roll down to zero and then into the red, what’s the next move? Sell the players on the fringe of the first? That will be at best a short term fix. They’re probably not worth a whole lot of money and are likely earning very little in terms of wages.

An offer comes in for one of your important players. It’s good, but it’s not amazing. Slap a £20m price on his head, that’ll show them. They club pull out, but now the player is unhappy that you’ve stood in the way of his dream move to some Chinese club he’d never heard of until yesterday. So now your finances are still in trouble, your player is unhappy and to add insult to injury, the rest of the squad are on your back. Should you have sold?

I’m under no illusions that in my Auxerre save, we’re a selling club. At the moment anyway. In the future, with good financial management and clever recruitment, that will change. Right now we’ve got no money. We’re currently surviving season to season on sponsorship, Ligue 1 TV money, gate receipts and competition prize money.

In my first transfer window, I had decisions to make. Clubs were making offers for some of my better players. I could sell and hope to benefit from future transfers, or keep them and hope that things would work out. I went 50/50, selling my brightest prospect(Lamine Fomba) but keeping hold of another (Abdoulaye Sissako) to try and give us a chance of getting out of the division. The money from that one transfer pretty much secured our finances for the whole season.

Fast forward a couple of seasons and we’ve had a couple of rather excellent youth intakes. Teams realise that for young French talent, we’re your go-to guys as we’re not a very big club. We’re at present, not very exciting and not a very attractive club to be at long term. If an offer comes in, even from a mid-table top division club, heads are turning.

In the 2019 January transfer window, we were being approached almost daily about three or four of our most prized youth players. All 15/16 years old. I was knocking back bids at will. But I stopped and thought for a minute about the financial implications of selling one of those players. We were just into the red, a few hundred thousand in debt. We’d soon be back in the black if I let one of these guys go. Maybe selling one of these young guys was the right thing to do?

After some internal debate, I decided I’d go for it. I looked at the players that I was having bids on and elected to sell one. I chose Michaël Perret. He’s a 16 year old right winger, 5 star potential with good technique and acceleration. It was probably the position that I’d likely get an abundance of players playing in over the years, so I can sell this guy now and another one will likely come along in a season or two.

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Arsenal were interested and after a couple of miserable offers, I accepted a structured deal that would help the club. There were two main benefits to this deal, short term and long term gain.

The short term gain was obviously the up front fee of £525,000. That cleared us back into the black and would give us a little platform for the coming two months as we were currently operating at a slight loss. The monthly installments of £437,500 per month for the next year would also help us keep our heads above water and build up some money.

The long term gain was that should he reach his potential, and it is obviously a big if, then we’ll benefit from future him making appearances for Arsenal, appearing for France and if he leaves Arsenal, then we’ll get a massive 40% of any future fee.. not a cut of the profit. So if he sells for £10m, we collect £4m of that. No complicated maths to work out my cut of the deal.

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The financial side of this deal helped us build up a little bit of cash and by the time summer came round, our competition money wasn’t just clearing our cumulative seasonal debt, it was adding to a decent little sum of money in the bank. By the time the next season started and we’d done most of our transfer business, we had over £11m in the bank. We’ve never had more than £2m in the whole time I’ve been here.

What does that mean going forward? Well, we’ve lost a potential star player which some people may view as blasphemy. Is it the end of the world? Nah, if anything, it could be a great move for both parties. Players come and go in football, so we should get used to the idea of selling players and developing/bringing through new ones. Auxerre have been selling their youth products for a long time, so I’m sure we’ll cope with the loss of player who’s never made a first team appearance.

We’ll also be balancing the books on a monthly basis for at least 12months due to the income from his transfer and we now have real money for us to breath. Not only that. In terms of investment in facilities, in the next 12months, we could have enough money to convince the board to upgrade our Training and Youth Training Facilities. That upgrade alone makes the sale worthwhile as it will help players who are at the club reach their potential. Maybe some of the team mates he had in the U19’s will go on and be better players due to his sale. I guess it’s making a sacrifice to make progress.

Auxerre will never progress unless I sell players. I can’t magic money out of thin air, so we need to accept our position in football at the present time. We’re not selling out our stadium just now, but with players progressing through the youth ranks and with more money to buy better players, we can perhaps progress more and become a top level club. That would bring in more fans and thus, more money. Success on the pitch would also bring more games with competitions such as the Europa or Champions League and their financial benefits.

Selling one player isn’t going to achieve all of this, but selling one player for a good fee might just set you on the path to where you want to go. If you think sensibly about the long-term goals of your save and the financial stability of your club, selling your best players or potential best players makes sense.

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