28 April ~ Barring a miracle, Hull will join Burnley and Portsmouth in the Championship when the new season kicks off in August. Assuming, that is, they still have a club, given that their liabilities are believed to be as much as £35 million. Meanwhile, if you measure success, as most of us should, by still having a club to support, Burnley are a magnificent example. For a start, they have a salary cap of £15,000 a week. And while those wages don't necessarily get you a squad of internationals, it removes the likelihood of a post-relegation firesale. And it certainly doesn't mean that you end up spending 80 per cent of your turnover merely on paying players, like Hull City.
The differences in the running of the two clubs are staggering and Hull's reappointment of Adam Pearson may have come too late to save them this time. Unfortunately, he wasn't present last summer when they made a slew of signings on lucrative contracts. This led to the accumulation of seven strikers, collecting a total of £200,000 a week in wages while returning only nine goals. Burnley's club-record signing, Steven Fletcher, scored eight in the league and has 12 in all competitions. He cost £3m and, remember, collects no more than £15,000 a week. Meanwhile, Hull signed Amr Zaki, and continue to pay injury-prone and therefore unsaleable asset Jimmy Bullard £45,000 a week, with no relegation clause to reduce his wage. Phil Brown still has a year on his equally lucrative contract and all he's doing is sitting in his garden topping up that implausible tan. Iain Dowie was rumoured to be on a £1m bonus if he kept Hull up. Ludicrous figures, especially from a club that came so close to extinction in 2001.
But while Burnley are to be applauded, it now seems to be the case that promoted or smaller clubs will never be able to compete if they run a tight ship. In theory, a year of top-flight football with the insurance of two years' parachute payments should enable clubs like Burnley to fund more lucrative contracts and build a better squad. In practice, there is too much money elsewhere in the Premier League for the parachute payments to be enough to tempt players into signing. The only club in recent times that has made the journey from lower-league football to the Premier League and survived is Fulham, who have done so because Mohamed Fayed has spent a fortune on them. Even then, they've been perilously close to going down a few times. Birmingham appear to have a trough of money from an investor to spend in the summer but they, West Brom and Wolves have been serial relegation fodder following promotion.
So Burnley seem to have been destined to go down from the start, all because they are run responsibly. They have been able to invest in a £15m redevelopment of Turf Moor, whose new features – upon completion in 2011 – will net the club an extra £1m a year. A solid foundation but again, one suspects, not enough to make waves in the Premier League. In football nowadays, you can't succeed if you're just using your own money. The more catastrophic effects, as we should expect to see in the next few years, will come as clubs continue to gamble on success using someone else's. Rob MacDonald