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on 8 November 2010
An outstanding piece of analysis which confirms what we've always suspected that, other things being equal, the more a team spends on players the greater it's chance of achieving success. The authors have used a methodology called Transfer Price Index (akin to the retail price index but using a "basket" of each player bought and sold each season since 1992) as the cornerstone of their analysis.

The book takes the last two decades of transfer data in the premiership and piece by piece, argument by argument, tries to answer two fundamental questions:
(a) has the way been structured in the last 20 years both in the English league and Europe caused too much disparity?; and
(b) is there now a lack of competitive balance in the Premier League and is the problem growing worse?

Along the way it shows the under and over achieving managers; the Newcastle effect (i bet you can guess what thats about) and makes other fascinating pitstops.

Whilst it will fascinate the inner Statos in all of us Paul Tomkins and his co-authors have done a remarkable job in explaining potentially difficult concepts in a straightforward and entertaining way. Anyone who has read previous Tomkins' books will recognise his witty, relaxed writing style which makes what could have been a very dry book un-put-downable.

It should be required reading for the powers that be at the FA. Perhaps it may help to introduce a system which returns some sense of equality and fair play amongst the 20 clubs competing in the premier league. Journalists and the lazy TV pundits could do as well to read through this outstanding, dare I say, seminal piece of work
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on 1 November 2010
As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of facts and figures. Anything with lots of numbers and statistics generally bore me to tears. However, this book manages to be that rare beast; one that provides hard facts and figures, but also manages to be both interesting and entertaining at the same time.

If you've ever tried to debate that the 'bigger' clubs are more predetermined to succeed because of the vast amount of money spent on their players, this book provides conclusive evidence to support your argument. It also shows which managers have underachieved and overachieved given the money at their disposal. But the most incredible part of this book is how they have managed to convert the money spent on players from the past into current monetary figures. Some people have far too much time on their hands!

If you have ever read the book Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (also available from Amazon and highly recommended), you will love this. And that is the best compliment I can pay it.
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on 8 November 2010
With the release of Inverting the Pyramid, Soccernomics: Why England Lose and now Pay as You Play, football has started to find a new reasoned and inquisitive voice. One that has been missing for far too long in an age of rushed, ill-conceived journalism and football pundits that appear to have come fresh from a lobotomy to the studio.

To quote Immanuel Kant in relation to a book that is essentially about football seems a little much, but authors Paul Tomkins, Graham Riley and Gary Fulcher pursue an approach the German would have recognised immediately. One that is grounded in empiricism, scientific rigour and a questioning of orthodoxy. Kant described this as simply the freedom to use one's own intelligence, coined in a phrase he used, "Sapere aude" (Dare to know). Anyone who has had the pleasure of baring witness to the analysis and discussion that takes place on the BBC and Sky weakly, or in the papers daily, will know that this approach is one that has been almost completely abandoned in the discourse surrounding football currently.

Pay as You Play uses the sharp impartial tools of economics and a large body of detailed research to shine a light on the last twenty years of the Premier League. Charting the effects of an unprecedented rise in investment that have come to define the upper echelons of the modern game. Perhaps its greatest achievement though, is to do so in a way that has the reader turning the page in curiosity, caught up in a well written combination of inquisition and passion for the sport that has become truly the world's game. Football deserves an approach that rewards the passion and love millions of people hold in it, an approach that questions those so desperate to peddle received wisdom and "common sense", it deserves an enlightened discourse and Tomkins, Riley and Fulcher deliver that in spades.
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on 25 November 2010
Although I am only mid-way through reading this book, I feel sufficiently impressed to give it a 5-star review already.

In the heavily congested world of football books, this one stands out for being completely unique in its subject area: there are a million player and club biographies, but as far as I'm aware, this is the only book that investigates the relationship between financial outlay and on-the-pitch success in such extraordinary detail.

After an interesting analysis of the book's findings, there are extensive sections devoted to every club which has featured in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, breakdowns of every individual season, and five of the most successful managers (in terms of number of points scored): Mourinho, Ferguson, Wenger, Benitez, and Ranieri. Statistics for all other Premier League managers are included, too. Then there are revealing lists, rankings and trends to mull over; fascinating for stats geeks like myself.

It must have taken a phenomenal amount of work to compile this book, and that is reflected in its quality. At no point does it feel too heavy, however, and the authors' enthusiasm for the project is clearly visible. One other thing about the book which I like is the way it is connected to the online community of amateur football experts: every club has a designated "expert", with their Twitter username and website given credit. It feels all the better for being a joint effort.
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on 23 November 2010
In short, this is a fantastic read that blows away the unsubstantiated punditry that accompanies the beautiful game.

By translating the cost of every side to play in the Premier League era into today's money, Tomkins et al have produced a fascinating analysis of how much it really costs to win the league, and the relative performance of each side compared to their available budget. But its not just about the comparing the numbers, not content with simply identifying which managers under/over perform relative to the budget available (for example), the book explores questions such as why managers that excel at smaller clubs frequently fail at the top level.

A huge amount of research underpins the work, but the reader is presented with an easily understood comparison based on the relative cost of each sides first XI based on today's money. This is not a stat heavy book, the real meat is in the quality of the analysis.

With additional contributions and analysis from supporters of every club to feature in the Premier League this is a an essential read for anyone interested in the modern game.
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on 12 November 2010
The issues of club ownership and debt have had profound effects on even the country's biggest top flight sides recently. The release of this book is perfectly timed, then, as it gives the reader an insight into how every Premier League manager since 1992 has spent the television money, foreign investment, and borrowed cash at his disposal.

Using a unique model for reconciling transfer fees from 1992 to the present, which the authors have dubbed the Transfer Price Index (TPI), "Pay As You Play" (PAYP) can assess which player moves from throughout Premier League history represented good value and which most certainly did not. Taking into account a player's transfer fee, how much did each of their appearances effectively cost the club? The club's success in relation to its manager's spending can then be evaluated too. From these statistical beginnings, the book sets out a fascinating alternative narrative on Premier League history. Using the TPI as the medium through which to analyse, amongst other things, the turnover of managers at high-spending Newcastle United and the gross financial mismanagement at Leeds, allows fresh perspectives on both to emerge. The expensively assembled squad that Sir Bobby Robson inherited on Tyneside leads to him surprisingly finishing bottom of a points-to-squad-cost table, but only two places above him as an underachiever in this sense is Jose Mourinho. In Leeds' case, for a few years their squad was actually overachieving under David O'Leary for what the players were worth, until their spectacular decline towards relegation.

I write this review as a Manchester United fan who is, for obvious reasons, currently keenly interested in the finances of the game. Paul Tomkins, who wrote PAYP in collaboration with Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher, is a Liverpool fan who has previously written a series of very well-received books about the club he supports - a club that has been no stranger to the business pages lately either. Football fans have a shared interest in the issue of money in football, even United and Liverpool supporters at the moment, and PAYP gives us a collective and unbiased understanding of how much success really costs - and whether it's worth the risk.
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on 9 December 2010
Pay As You Play is simply the best football book that I have ever read. The detail with which Paul Tomkins,Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher delve into is amazing. This is the kind of analysis that football fans need to be hearing about and reading, instead of listening to lazy cliched analysis from the various football pundits regularly seen on our TV screens. The book itself shows a clear correlation between spending and success since the inception of the Premier League, and how the gap between the bigger and smaller clubs has widened considerably in recent times. Various perceptions that people have about managers are dispelled in relation to their records/spend etc. Overall, a great read, and a book that should be on the shopping list of every football fan around the world this Christmas!!!
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on 5 December 2010
I live in the States and had two copies shipped to me as soon as this book became available. I am admittedly biased in that I have previously read several of Paul Tomkins's books, and they are all outstanding. However, in his latest output here, he, Graeme Riley, and Gary Fulcher have outdone themselves. The meticulous data and research the authors have poured over leads to analysis of the past twenty years in the BPL that is simply unmatched.

I imagine that their method to evaluating transfers will quickly become the de facto standard for all European leagues as the sporting world moves toward objective, statistical analysis of a player and his worth. Combined with better processes to evaluate on-field performance, a forward-thinking club will be able to combine the research and find players who are undervalued but play above their supposed price tag. The book has been compared to a British version of "Moneyball" and Billy Beane - for now, this book just focuses on mostly the financial aspect of that entire process.

In the meantime, this book is a joy to read for some of the findings it provides. Even though Tomkins is a Liverpool supporter, he gives credit where credit is due...even Alex Ferguson gets some praise! For any fan of the game, this book should be sitting in your library at home.
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on 12 November 2010
Interesting and thought-provoking statistical analysis detailed in a way that is both in-depth and easy to understand. So much of football interpretation and punditry is based on gut feelings and common assumptions. This book turns that on its head. I expect this will change the future of how managers, clubs and players are evaluated. Outstanding information presented by a fantastic writer. This is a must-read for any fan of football and the Premier League.
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on 3 December 2010
Absolutely cracking analysis of the premier league era. A must for all those who want to back up those Saturday night pub discussions with hard facts. Which manager spent more, how much would ..... cost in today's money, what is the cost of each squad etc.
The book contains a detailed statistical breakdown of each premier league club and each of the 18 seasons, it is easy to follow the trends and conclusions made. Although there is a lot of data to process this is not just a reference book but an interesting take on why money is so important in modern football.
Very insightful and would make a great stocking filler this Christmas
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