Accounting for Players Who Have been Promoted Internally

It is common for sporting franchises to create an internal system so that young players with high potential can be identified and groomed at an early stage.

Such players form the backbone of any successful football franchise since they are cost-effective. It is common for such players to help create a disproportionately high value in relation to the costs that are incurred on them.

It needs to be understood that the accounting for such players tends to be quite complex. This is because the general practice in the sporting industry is to capitalize on the players at cost.

This means that if a sporting franchise has spent $10 million in order to acquire a player, then they have the right to capitalize these $10 million as an intangible asset. This intangible asset is then amortized over the life of the player’s contract.

However, it is not necessary that the sporting franchise always buy players from the external market. There are several franchises that have lower-level leagues which they often call “nursery”.

The purpose of this nursery is to help identify young players with raw talent. These young players are then groomed so that they are able to perform well at the higher level. Hence, when such players play in the big league, the club is simply promoting its players with or without change in compensation. In such cases, it is very difficult to determine the book value of such players.

This is because when it comes to internally promoted players, there is no external acquisition that has happened. Hence, in such cases, there is no acquisition cost that needs to be capitalized and amortized. This is good for the franchise since they do not have to pay money to external parties. However, there is a notional value that has been spent towards the creation of such resources. This notional value needs to be objectively determined and capitalized. This creates a slight problem since various issues related to the accounting of such players end up being raised.

This article provides details about some of the common issues related to accounting for internally promoted players.

Accounting Issues Related to Internally Promoted Players

  1. Lack of Standard Regulation: The first and the most basic problem when it comes to accounting for internally promoted players is the fact that there is no international legislation that governs how accounting for such transactions should be done.

    There are various types of accounting treatments that are happening across the world for such transactions. This lack of uniformity makes it difficult to compare financial statements of sporting franchises belonging to different geographies.

    The European sporting franchises have started implementing IFRS-based reporting. However, this is not the case for many countries where local accounting standards are still being followed.

  2. Below Signing Age: There are some exceptional cases wherein young players have been provided the opportunity to play for a sporting franchise. For instance, Wayne Rooney, a famous English soccer player was 16 years old when he made his debut for Everton. Such cases, create a peculiar accounting problem for sporting franchises.

    Sporting franchises are supposed to capitalize and amortize the contract signed with the player. This is because the contract confers upon them a certain degree of control over the player’s actions. Hence, as per accounting norms, they can be considered to be an asset. However, when it comes to younger players, it is possible that they might not be legally capable of signing a contract because of their age.

    In such cases, it is not possible for the franchise to sign a legally binding contract with a minor. In different countries, there are different legal workarounds that are used to resolve this issue. As a result, the accounting treatment of such transactions also varies widely across different geographies.

  3. Intangible Asset Approach: In some parts of the world, sporting franchises try to capitalize on the entire expense that they spend towards the academy. This approach believes that the reason that the academy is being run is to help create professional players.

    Hence, all the amount spent towards such academies should be capitalized and then transferred to the players who get promoted from the lower echelons of the franchise in that year. This approach has been directly forbidden by certain sporting bodies such as UEFA and hence is not explicitly followed in many parts of the world.

  4. Research and Development Approach: Another possible mechanism to account for internally promoted players is to consider the amount spent on the academy as research and development expenses. This is because just like research and development is not always successful, similarly all the money spent in the academy does not create professional players. In fact, the number of players who end up playing professionally is quite low.

However, there are many other issues with this approach. For instance, the IFRS standards have a clear distinction between research and development costs. They allow for the capitalization of development expenses but not that of research expenses. However, when it comes to academies being run by sporting franchises, the segregation of research and development expenses is quite difficult. This is because there is a thin line segregating these expenses and it is quite difficult to practically implement this system.

Also, it is almost impossible to allocate costs on a per-player level. Hence, even if the accounting standards permit that the costs related to the development of a player be amortized, it is very difficult to estimate such costs.

The bottom line is that promoting players internally can be a complex accounting situation. It is necessary for the sporting franchise to clearly lay out the accounting treatment for such transactions in their policy and communicate the same to all the stakeholders.

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Sports Management