THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

Comments (14)
Comment by owlzat? 2010-04-28 10:42:13

God only knows what Hull were thinking spending that kind of money on wages. It's not as if they've managed to assemble a squad full of high quality players!

Comment by ian.64 2010-04-28 13:26:31

Well, there you go. Is the phrase 'double-edged sword' applicable here? The answer to this problem is, inevitably, to yearn for a benefactor with large pockets to come in, so you may enjoy that individual's largesse to the full with little worry of what you have to owe in the following years. So what exactly is the right way of entering the top flight, then? It seems you're a loser either way if the scheme is either to splash the cash that you haven't got, or to proudly look after the pounds and pennies while knowing it won't buy you survival, never mind success.

That said, there may be an answer in being shrewd with what you've been given in terms of wherewithal and the attitude you're prepared to have when in the Premiership. It's interesting that both Birmingham and Wolves have survived (the former more so) with what appears to be the same modest funds. They've adapted and it hasn't been pretty to watch at times, but pure, basic need of survival has paid off by using unlovely methods. A shrewdness to buy only the players you need rather than any highly-paid has-been or extravagant 'name' has been the trump card, and, in terms of attitude, a robust and purposeful approach (no florid footie here) which may alienate but does the trick, has paid dividends.

Now that may only get you so far, but there's a feeling that just having a large wallet may also not be enough. It's not how much you're willing to spend, but it's a matter of who you buy. Burnley may have dropped with finances intact, but they went adrift by having indifferent players with no seeming focus or intent, and a change of manager that was almost farcical in process and produced a man well out of his depth and with a 'rabbit-trapped-in-headlights' persona.

Hull just had a cheque that wasn't as blank as they thought it was, and brought in Iain Dowie. Which ought to have the words 'enough said' tacked onto it.

Money in football solves a lot of things, but sometimes it's a matter of the people involved and the way they think. And that can be just as much value as a transfer kitty.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-04-28 13:31:58

Wigan are another club for a lower level to stay up, but again that is due to rent a mouth DW. However it may have all been very different for Burnley had Bolton not lost their manager. Wolves managed to stay up which is not small part due to keeping their manager.

Comment by kbmac 2010-04-28 13:50:30

It is very difficult but better to taste the big time and go down club intact than to gamble all and more on survival and potentially lose the club in the process.

Comment by Gratius Falsius 2010-04-28 13:51:17

Pommie readers may be mildy interested in this radio doco : "What is Football For?"

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/stories/2010/2877837.htm

Comment by blurred 2010-04-28 14:06:43

"The only club in recent times that has made the journey from lower-league football to the Premier League and survived is Fulham"

What about Man City? ;)

Comment by Plissken 2010-04-28 15:58:07

" However it may have all been very different for Burnley had Bolton not lost their manager."

Except Bolton were able to pull Euan Boyle away with the promise of a bigger budget, despite being £60m in debt and losing £10m a year.

Bolton were panicking that they would head the same way Hull are now, and threw money they didn't have at a new management team in the hope of staying on the gravy train.

The sad thing is, it worked, and the responsible club was the one that had to suffer the consequences.

Comment by shamottle 2010-04-28 17:33:23

What about Stoke? Our chairman, Peter Coates, has plenty of money but we've never spent more than we can reasonably expect to recoup, are effectively debt-free, own our stadium and are comfortable in mid-table, if a bit shaken by the 7-0 at the weekend.

If you look at the last 10 years or so it's been steady progress. League 1 (as it is now) play-offs for 3 years with eventual victory in Cardiff, survival in the Championship, 4 seasons in mid-table, just miss the play-offs, automatic promotion, survive in the Premiership, consolidate in the Premiership. 12 years, no debt, relative success.

Comment by Red Jaff 2010-04-28 23:16:44

Perhaps the best way to achieve a long term Premier league status nowadays is to be 'yo-yo' club for a number of years. Strengthen with financial responsibility and fight it out every year for survival. If relegated the improvements made will hopefully leave you with a strong footing in the Championship for another promotion push. The idea being that eventually you'll improve to the point were the team is good enough to maintain top flight status in the long term.

That or you need a great manager who can get players playing beyond themselves, as a team and is sound tactically. Tony Pulis being a prime example.

Without a sugar daddy at the helm, throwing non-existent money around and signing the usual bunch of premier league mercenaries will only leave you in the unfortunate position Hull find themselves in.

Comment by phnompenhandy 2010-04-29 06:44:03

I'm glad Stoke's finally got a mention - they seem to have an exceptionally sensible chairman. I'd like to think that Burnley will take the BPL cash and regroup, doing a 'West Brom' next season. There's every chance that a well-run 'limited' promotee will survive their first season by default, given that there's every chance of further BPL financial basketcases imploding until the suits put some proper regulation in place.

Comment by ian.64 2010-04-29 08:36:08

That's what bugs me about the article above, bearing in mind the posts on here that suggest other ways to build teams via modest finances or shrewd outlook, it outlines the problems but gives no solid answers as to what ways clubs with modest financial frameworks can survive if they happen to find themselves in the top flight. It pretty much says 'no money? Tough sh*t'. Even worse, if you're run on sensible lines, same thing.

In my opinion, a strange and somewhat redundant piece to put on a website connected to a magazine that has the financial and social well-being of clubs in the lower leagues at heart.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-04-29 17:31:52

That "injury-prone and therefore unsaleable asset" Jimmy Bullard, looks like he going to end up at Newcastle...
And as already pointed out there are quite a few clubs who have made the journey from the lower leagues to the PL and survived in recent times...
Finally Could i ask phnompenhandy what is this "BPL" thing please ?

Comment by kevin cosgrave 2010-04-29 22:18:00

Phil Brown has his faults, but he did really well to get Hull up and they were a joy on their arrival in the top flight, i really am sick of hearing comments about his tan, and i would expect better
Phil Brown was one of the best players at Hartlepool in my formative years (early 80's) of going to the Victoria Ground, and he was the same colour then, there are small number people if that colour in a lot of NE towns, some say its the influence of foreign sailors from the past, why is it acceptable to make comments on the colour of Phils skin when he has said so many times he doesnt use tanning etc

Comment by phnompenhandy 2010-04-30 06:36:29

Daleff65 - BPL = Barclay's Premier League. That's what it's called out here in Cambodia. What is it these days - Premiership, English Premier League?

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