In a similar vein to the General Election debate – which has mercifully ended – and Brexit which preceded it, there’s a great deal of misinformation shared amongst football fans.
The following are all genuine questions I’ve seen asked on various internet platforms. I’ve tried to answer them as best I can. Some responses will seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t take the time to check their facts or look for logical answers. Here goes…
‘Where has the money gone? We spent four of the last six years in the Premier League – we should be minted!’
It’s all gone. The club has always been honest about the fact they’d spend every penny each season. It’s been spent on (deep breath…) player and staff wages, transfer fees, agent fees, bonuses, paying-off managers, bringing managers in, stadium improvements, new pitches, training facility upgrades, Category One youth development, chief executives, big screens… not to mention clearing a £23million debt. It’s an expensive business trying (and failing) to stay in the Premier League.
‘I thought all wages were halved when we were relegated. How come we still have so many high earners one year on?’
They weren’t halved but all players had clauses allowing wage drops when relegated – at least according to ex-CEO David McNally – although there is some dispute as to whether one certain player did or did not have such a clause upon signing. However, as a percentage of our turnover, our wage bill was considerable and will be again going into next season, despite releasing seven players, many of whom were high earners.
Though that will have eased our financial concerns, we still pay high wages for this level of football. We haven’t seen the financial results yet but I would guess only Aston Villa and Newcastle United had larger wage bills in the Championship last season and we’ll probably be in the top dozen payers again next time around, despite the large-scale cuts.
‘We get two years’ worth of parachute payments. Why aren’t we spending some of that this summer?’
We are. The misconception with parachute payments is that they are there to blow on transfer fees. They are not. They are there to stop clubs plunging into financial ruin the moment they are relegated. It would be an astonishing drop in income suffered without them. People often forget that we get around £10million less this season than we did last in parachute payments, so no wonder the wage budget is being slashed. And then it stops completely next summer. That shortfall in income cannot be ignored. Promotion is never guaranteed.
‘Why are we selling key players like Howson and Dorrans?’
As far as I’m aware, neither have been sold… yet. Howson is 29 and a very good player but if we hold on to him this season his value will drop significantly. He will never be more valuable and the fee demanded could help bring in two or three new, younger players for our rebuild.
Meanwhile, Dorrans is now in his 30s and only ever played a bit-part role in proceedings. Nobody is safe from the cull. Of course, selling players relies on them being in demand and it’s always likely the better players will attract the interest. This is without taking into account the likelihood both players may have their hearts set on moving.
‘Doesn’t ‘selling to buy’ confirm the club has no ambition?’
Sell to buy is a legitimate tactic for a club without a wealthy benefactor – and even for those who do. Southampton have done it to brilliant effect and are a model we can follow. If we didn’t do it, we’d really struggle to bring anyone of quality in – and we all wanted to see the squad freshened up. As Stuart Webber said, he will need to be ‘creative’ in the transfer market – this almost certainly means selling one or two crowd favourites to help finance the rebuild.
‘How will we afford to replace all those players who have left?’
We probably won’t. Our squad was ridiculously large last season and featured numerous players on large wages who barely featured. The whole squad will be streamlined and any gaps filled with youngsters.
‘We sell out every home game. Surely that gives us a financial advantage in this division?’
25,000+ every other week is certainly helpful in the Championship – and probably the difference between selling another first-team player or not – but the income received from ticket sales, estimated at £10million, is dwarfed by the Premier League revenue we’ve lost. TV revenue equated to around 70 per cent of the club’s turnover in the top flight. We also found ourselves in a division of large fan bases. We only had the seventh largest gate last season.
‘Why don’t we ever spend any money on players? We should have pushed the boat out to sign Mitchell Dijks.’
It’s a complete myth that we don’t spend money – indeed, spending large sums of money is the reason we now find ourselves having to cut back. In our final Premier League campaign we spent an estimated £35million on transfer fees alone. We recouped an estimated £19million. That’s a £16million net spend. Last season, despite relegation, we had another net spend during the summer. Dijks is a good left back but the figures being bandied around for the total package were near the £4million mark. We can’t afford him. Simple.
‘But we are debt free – can’t we just get a loan from the bank? We need to gamble!’
We probably could, but surely we don’t want to go back to a time where we relied on the banks for survival? It’s about taking calculated gambles. The club took a calculated gamble in January 2016 in an attempt to survive. Unfortunately it didn’t pay off and neither did our attempt to bounce straight back, so we have to cut our cloth accordingly. That’s the reality. Being debt free is, of course, a remarkable achievement in this day and age but it doesn’t help us spend money on players. It just means the banks aren’t chasing us for payments owed.
‘Why do we take so long to sign players?’
This has always amused me. We take no longer than any other club. We signed Alex Pritchard in an opportunist manoeuvre and nobody batted an eyelid. Every transfer is different but in our current financial position, we have to try and get the best deal possible – it could be the difference between signing one player or two. You don’t just throw an extra million or two in for the sake of it – that’s poor business and certainly won’t be happening under the new regime. Just because we fans aren’t privy to what goes on behind the scenes doesn’t mean nothing is happening – the wheel is constantly turning.
‘Why bring in a manager who doesn’t understand English football?’
Okay, first of all he’s the head coach – completely different role to that of an old-school manager. Stuart Webber understands English football. Secondly, since when has having an understanding of English football become a necessity? Antonio Conte didn’t exactly struggle.
‘Why are we signing a forward (Marley Watkins) when we clearly need defenders?’
There doesn’t need to be an order to which players we bring in first. Imagine Webber is doing a jigsaw. The order in which you complete the puzzle is irrelevant – you still get the same picture at the end.
‘Why don’t the club ever tell us what is happening with transfers?’
If they alert you, they alert everybody!
‘Isn’t signing loan players a return to the dark days of Roeder?’
Well, it might be if we loan dross like David Carney and Alan Gow. I think it’s more likely we’ll bring in two or three exciting young players on loan to add competition to a thinner, more streamlined squad.
‘Angus Gunn is a pointless acquisition. Why not give Declan Rudd a chance?’
Declan is 27 next season and has barely played 20 games for the club. I think it’s fair to say he probably isn’t going to make it here. He didn’t pull up any tress last year with Charlton. Angus is a current England Under 21 international who knows the club and is highly regarded by Pep Guardiola. He’s here to play and hopefully he’ll have a similar impact to previous loanee Fraser Forster.
‘Why did we spend money on a big screen if we can’t afford players now?’
The big screen cost peanuts compared to the cost of a player who’d be able to improve us. It isn’t an issue. And it’s pretty cool! I think it’s added a little to the match-day experience.
‘Why doesn’t Delia just sell the club?’
Because there is nobody there to buy it! If you know any billionaires, perhaps you could point them towards NR1. In the meantime, let’s assume that’s not possible and concentrate on what we can do in our current make up.
‘If we don’t go up this season a long spell in the Championship is assured, isn’t it?’
That’s definitely possible, although I reckon a trip to Dragon’s Den would prove useful because those crystal balls obviously help you see the future. You might become a billionaire – problem solved!
If I’ve missed any, please let me know!