Behind the Scenes: The Sports Accountant

Time and again, we are reminded just how important the professional sports industry is to worldwide cultural. While the players, coaches and owners own most of the celebrity, there’s a whole other facet to professional sports that the average person never really hears about. Remembering that sports teams are major business enterprises, there is a large administrative function standing behind each organization. Aside from the agents and business managers who always seem to gain a bit of notice, the forgotten souls are the sports accounts.

Professional Sports as a Business

The masses are certainly aware of the extraordinarily high salaries paid to the front line people (players, coaches, etc.) and the scores of television and merchandise revenues that flow freely from customers to stadium and team owners. The reality is no one would have a clue what the figures actually are if it weren’t for sports accountants, who are charged with keep tracking of every penny that flows in any direction. That’s a huge task, given the billions of dollar generated from one sports franchise to the next with no regard for the actual sport involved.

The Sports Accountant

Much like a high level accountant with a S&P 500 company, professional sports franchise accountants have a huge responsibility to team owners, government agencies and sports fans. They are given the task of recording and managing the finances of professional sports teams. According the Forbes Magazine, the world’s wealthiest sports teams have an average valuation of $1.34 billion with an estimated 38 teams worth more than $1.0 billion. No matter how one cuts it, that creates a lot of money to be accounted for every year.

On the expense side, sports accounts have the primary responsibility for making sure the athletes get paid correctly on a regular basis. After all, there are no professional sports without the professional athletes. With no two contracts exactly the same, the process of getting athletes, and coaches in some cases, paid requires a great deal of creativity and attention to detail. Many professional athletes are high profile individuals with very complicated lives, especially when it comes to financial matters. Every aspect of their contracts have to be interpreted properly to assure the athlete has the resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities.

While the sports accountants who specialize in contracts and payroll are getting the athletes paid, there’s usually another group of accountants that are responsible for making sure the organization has the money to pay out. These accountants are responsible for tracking revenues that comes from tickets sales, television revenues and merchandising. Before an owner or general manager can sit down with an athlete and their agent for contract negotiations, sports revenue accountants must have developed a business plan that identifies exactly how much money is available for the athletes. Sports owners don’t operate their franchises as a charity. As such, the have a reasonable expectation for profits and franchise appreciation. The demand for accurate projections and expense tracking puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the accountants who are responsible to make sure everything is accounted for correctly.

Recent Trends in Sports Accounting

As is the case with most major industries, technology has changed how sports accountants play their trade. Because of technology, a virtual bookkeeper is now able to maintain closer ties to the organization and its employees, often times traveling with the team when necessary. This has made the sports accountant a more intricate part of each organization, which offers a nice variety of extra perks for the people keeping the books.

There should be little doubt that the sports accountant is somewhat of an unsung hero in any professional sports organization. They bear the responsibility of performing their jobs with absolute accuracy while adhering to a very strict policy of confidentiality. As they say, “it’s not an easy task, but somebody has to do it.”

Tags: , ,