Capital and competencies: The road to championships and medals

Capital and competencies, both on and off the pitch, are the two crucial factors in winning championships and medals in professional sport. Analyzes of Danish and international football have shown that in recent decades there is a clear connection between the professional clubs’ sporting results and finances – the ability and willingness to attract and retain skilled players, head coach, sports manager, assistant coaches, health staff and administrative staff. However, it is far from all professional clubs that are equally skilled and efficient in managing their financial resources – not even in the Danish Super League. In a few days a new season will start and optimism is high in all 12 professional clubs. But even before the first match is played, everything indicates that the Danish championship 2022/2023 (again) will be won by either FC Copenhagen (FCK) or FC Midtjylland (FCM) with the clearly largest expenses for players, coaches, experts and administration.

FCK with great success in European club football over two decades

FCK has since the turn of the millennium been absolutely superb in Danish club football with a total of 13 Danish championships, 6 cup titles and only one season (2017-2018) the club has not won medals. In addition, FCK is also the only Danish club with success in European club football with repeated group stages in the Champions League (CL) and Europa League (EL). It will also happen in the coming autumn, where FCK is already sure of group stage in either CL or EL and thus net income of DKK 60-100 million. FCK’s European success is also reflected in UEFA’s club ranking, where the club is currently is placed as No. 41 – in front of top clubs such as AC Milan, Feyenoord and Valencia CF. It is estimated that FCK’s annual expenditure on salaries and bonuses for players and coaches, sign-on fees and amortization of transfers amounts to DKK 170 million. In the last 5 seasons, FCK has won 2 Danish championships and 2 silver medals. And at the same time, FCK has achieved revenues of more DKK ½ billion by the sale of players such as Mohamed Daramy (AFC Ajax), Jonas Wind (VfL Wolfsburg), Robin Olsen (AS Roma), Robert Skov (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) and Jens Stage (Werder Bremen).

FCM with the best Super League results in the last 5 seasons

FCM has had better sporting results than FCK in the Danish Super League’s last 5 seasons despite a smaller annual expense – DKK 12o million – for salaries and bonuses for players and coaches, sign-on fees and depreciation on transfers. 3 Danish championships, 2 silver medals and 2 cup titles in 5 years are very impressive, but the ambitious club from “Heden” lacks a decisive breakthrough in European club football. Currently, FCM occupies a position as No. 87 on UEFA’s club rankings – very far from the goal of the top-50 by 2025. In a few weeks, FCM will once again have the chance to qualify for CL or EL group stages, but the qualification is both long and very difficult.

Brøndby is – sportingly and financially – back on track

Brøndby struggled for a number of years with very poor sporting results and poor finances, which were financed solely by financial “donations” of DKK 50-80 million annually from the main shareholder Jan Bech Andersen. However, in the last 5 seasons Brøndby has not been worse placed than No. 4 and not least the Danish championship in 2020/2021 and the silver medal in 2017/2018 has placed Brøndby stable as Denmark’s 3’rd best club with DKK 65 million in annual expenses for salaries and bonuses for players and coaches, sign-on fees and depreciation on transfers. An amount that is “only” approx. ½ of FCM’s and slightly more than 1/3 of FCK’s corresponding costs. Brøndby has also in recent years revised their sporting strategy, so that the development of young talents via the club’s academy has been prioritized rather than the purchase of “older” foreign players from “2’nd or 3’rd shelf”. The sale of 21-year-old Jesper Lindstrøm last summer to EL-winner Eintracht Frankfurt for more than 50 million DKK hopefully heralds new and better times for Brøndby’s financial strategy.

FCN is extremely adept at developing and selling young players

Several Danish Super League clubs have in recent years largely focused on FC Nordsjælland (FCN), which in my opinion has performed best in sporting results in recent seasons based on the club’s financial conditions. With the exception of last season, FCN has been stably placed in the top-6 with annual salary and bonus costs for players and coaches, sign-on fees and amortization of transfers of DKK 35 million. In addition, FCN – through the academy “Right to Dream” – has had great success with the sale of young players, such as national team players Mathias Jensen (Brentford F.C.), Andreas Skov Olsen (Club Brugge KV) and Mikkel Damsgaard (U.C. Sampdoria) and foreign profiles like Emre Mor (Borussia Dortmund) and Kamaldeen Sulemana (Stade Rennais F.C.). A total transfer income, which is probably greater than FCK’s DKK ½ billion in the last 5 years.

Aarhus GF has improved its finances – but still poor sporting results

In recent years, AGF has undergone a financial turnaround with significant reductions in the club’s costs and a doubling of sponsorship income from DKK 40 million to DKK 70 million. It is estimated that AGF today with DKK 65 million has the Super League’s 4’th largest annual expense for salaries and bonuses for players and coaches, sign-on fees and depreciation on transfers. But unfortunately, AGF from the country’s second largest city only manages to qualify for the top-6 playoffs twice in the last 5 seasons. The bronze medal in 2019/2020 – AGF’s first medal in 23 years – created great optimism among AGF’s sponsors and fans, but 4 points in the relegation game’s 10 matches in the spring of 2022 brought the club very close to the fourth relegation from the Super League since the turn of the millennium. A new head coach – the experienced German Uwe Rösler – must now develop a new style of play and put together a competent team. In my opinion, this will not happen without the purchase of many new players in the coming transfer windows.

AaB and OB underperform significantly from the clubs’ finances

Proud traditional clubs such as Aalborg BK (AaB) and Odense (OB) from Denmark’s 3’rd and 4’th largest cities have – like Aarhus GF – underperformed significantly in recent seasons based on their annual financial costs of DKK 44 and DKK 40 million for salary and bonus for players and coaches, sign-on fees and depreciation on transfers. Despite good results by the club’s youth team (U17 and U19), OB has only managed to qualify once (season 2018/2019) among the Super League’s 6 best teams in the last 5 seasons. North Jutland’s football pride – AaB – has only achieved marginally better sporting results than OB with three places as No. 5 in the last five seasons.

Silkeborg IF and Viborg FF – good results with modest costs

Last season’s big positive surprises in the Danish Super League were the two promotions: Silkeborg IF, who won bronze medals with strong passing playing style and Viborg FF, who qualified for European club football (Conference League). The sporting results of the two clubs were particularly impressive in light of the very modest annual cost of salaries and bonuses for players and coaches, sign-on fees and amortization of transfers on DKK 23 million and DKK 18 million – or only 10-15% of FCK’s and less than ½ of AGF’s corresponding costs. Season no. 2 after a promotion is always difficult, so it will be very exciting if SIF and VFF can achieve the same sporting success in the coming season, where many of the two clubs’ most talented players have become attractive “sales objects” for both Danish and foreign clubs.

Money will mean (even) more for future results

All indications are that capital will have an even greater impact on sporting results in Danish and international club football in the coming years. But competencies – or perhaps more precisely – lack of competencies in the form of weak talent development, poor purchases and sales of Danish and foreign players, lack of quality and continuity among players, coaches, sports directors, board and owners, changing style of play, lousy communication, declining spectators and sponsorship interest and much, much more will also – fortunately – continue to have an impact on one of the football’s most important DNA’s – the unpredictable result.

You can get further information about finances in Danish Super League clubs and international top clubs on the following website: