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Football clubs can’t buy success: Study

Piling cash into Australian Football League (AFL) clubs only has a modest impact on team success, University of Melbourne research has found.

According to a recent study, which analyzed football department spending and the on-field success of AFL clubs between 1994 and 2011, the clubs that spent 10 percent above average enjoyed a 9.5 percent increase in their winning ratio.

The chance of winning a premiership was 7 percent higher for the clubs that spent 10 percent more.

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"Spending currently explains only a relatively small proportion of the variation in AFL teams' performances," according to lead researcher Professor Jeff Borland, from the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Business and Economics.

Josh Gibson of the Hawks marks the ball against Tom McDonald of the Demons during the AFL practice match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at Casey Fields on March 8, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
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Josh Gibson of the Hawks marks the ball against Tom McDonald of the Demons during the AFL practice match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at Casey Fields on March 8, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.

However, the researchers said that although the impact of money on AFL teams' success has been modest so far, it was likely to become stronger in years to come.

"In the mid-1990s and early 2000s the relation between clubs' spending and their performances was too small to be accurately measured," Professor Borland said. "But by the late 2000s the relation was stronger and had become statistically significant."

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Borland said the growing trend was not a welcome one for the AFL, in his opinion, and said the AFL needed to take further action to address differences in spending between clubs was the correct path.

"We don't want this trend to continue. So the AFL needs to strengthen its equalization policies," he added.

CNBC contacted the AFL who said the issue of clubs being able to compete on a level playing field, in terms of their ability to spend in their football department, has been a major item on their competition's agenda for some years.

"Our work with the clubs on this subject has been in place for nearly a year and at our meeting in Adelaide last week to coincide with the Annual General Meeting, broad agreement was reached across the competition to further ensure all teams have the chance to compete," said Patrick Keane, media manager at the AFL.

In a statement released following the meeting, the AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said achieving greater competitive balance amongst the 18 teams had dominated the thinking of the Commission in 2013 and that progress was continuing in formulating a model to enable all fans to have a reasonable expectation that their team has a good chance of winning on any given day or night, regardless of the club's financial strength.

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The University of Melbourne's Borland added other factors including club management and coaching are likely to be just as important for a team's performance.

"So equalization policies also need to make sure that clubs are managed well and are spending their money wisely," he added.

— By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie

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