The Cost Of Waging War On The Championship
Huddersfield Town were promoted into a different league in the summer of 2012. Not just in footballing terms, but in terms of the finances involved. This is my first financial post, but recent development have made me push forward probably a little sooner than I'd have liked to with it, just so I can make the points I wish to make.
The last complete set of financial figures for clubs we have available are those for the 2010/11 season, when some 9 of the current Championship teams were at a different level in league terms. Its pretty instructive, though, as to the ballpark figures of wages clubs have been paying in the recent past. I do not want to talk about the sustainability of those wages in this post (think of a swear word, add the word 'ludicrous' after it).
The gaps in the table represent the gap between the divisions teams were in at that time. That isn't so obvious as to exactly what we're looking at, because the figures are so skewed towards the Premiership. Huddersfield Town's wage bill is that little black line.
In deference to that, I've represented those figures balanced as a percentage against the average for those who are in the Championship now that were then; just so you can see the gap between the haves and have nots more clearly. Aside from Barnsley, the lowest payers, by a distance, were the teams who have been in League One. That's to be expected, but it's a huge gap. Huddersfield Town, that season, were paying £7,000,000 in wages. It sounds a lot (and by jove, in League One it is a lot. Its completely different - here's the same season's graph for some of that division - not all, but some. I've highlighted the teams who have been promoted out of it....funny that, ain't it? Southampton have got a special bar because they were promoted again. Again, funny that!)
but in Championship terms, it's a tiny amount. So many clubs are being supported by parachute payments from the Premier League (Time for a Carlos Costly joke?), and so many teams are throwing money at it, that £7,000,000 is a drop in the ocean - Sheffield Wednesday were paying £9,000,000 back then - that's an extra £38,000 PER WEEK; given that we are told that an 'average' (well, the average figure) player earns £4,059 per week in the Championship, that would pay for 9 average players (or, presumably, three or four pretty good ones). Leeds' £16,500,000 and more from that season would be a difference of £181,000 PER WEEK (or 1 x Fernando Torres or, for fractionally better value, 1 x Eden Hazard). Going back two years, then, Town were 'quite' a big fish in 'quite' a small pond.
Some clubs - and this is why I wanted to wait until later in the season, because all will do - have filed their financial reports from last season, too. Bristol City's are my favourite. They make the distinction between playing staff wages and general wages (I used the general figure here, because nobody else did, but fair play to Bristol City for that). From the figures we can see for LAST season (obviously, you can't report on the season that's on-going) there's some significant changes. I wasn't sure how to represent this, given that the figures are from different years (or rough projections in some cases of what clubs said their wage will be), so this graph takes a little explaining.
It refers to LAST season's wages, so these are the figures that were released towards the end of 2012 or early 2013. Where those figures are published already, the bars are in full red. Middlesbrough spent a lot of the season detailing their wage bill being cut by 40%, so I've tentatively done applied that to their wages (it seems a little low to me, but I've taken them on trust) and put them in grey, whereas the other bars are those from the season before - hence their ghostly appearance.
Certainly, I would expect Leicester's to be higher than we see, and Cardiff are not only under new ownership, but also had Craig Bellamy on their wage bill, but other clubs have mentioned cost cutting (those who are coming away from parachute payments, particularly). It is quite apparent, though, that Huddersfield Town are not high in the wage league. Here are those teams who HAVE declared (in league table order), with their exact figures.
Wages are linked to performance (90% accurately, we've seen) and, looking at it openly, Bristol City are badly underperforming. Beyond that; Hull are doing pretty well, but those three big Bs really need to pull their finger out. Birmingham's wages are huge, and their parachute payment will reduce in the summer. Blackburn Rovers and Bolton W have another season (and Bolton's intention was to be paying less than 50% of last season's wages this year) before that, but the basic level of the 'successful' Championship teams is about £5,000,000 more than Huddersfield were paying last season, or £96,000 per week. To increase a wage budget by £100,000 a week over one summer is unrealistic. The progress will have to be slow - in line with development of commercial aspects of the club, in line with funds coming in from all sources (one would anticipate an increased TV figure this season - games against Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Blackpool so far; probably more to come - for example) and most of all, a gradual increase in line with what the club can afford.
In this pond, without parachute payments, Huddersfield Town are a very small fish and, to expect the chairman to fund them into the upper eschelons of the wages league would be a monumental folly. Growth has to be slow and progression slow, and the fact the players are probably the 20th or so best set of players in the division is being reflected in recent results - and not a close 20th, either - Watford who were on the next step last season, were 10% ahead; heaven only knows how far they'll be with their advantages now. Next year, with a little more money coming in to Huddersfield's coffers, a little more may well be paid on wages; so the players may well improve. Players are a fluctuating market, of course. If FFP hits clubs hard enough, wages will have to drop and a £10,000 a week player might only be able to demand £8,000 a week. In other words, patience is required. Not short-term patience. Not 'wait until March' patience, but 'wait until 2015 or later' patience.
Dean Hoyle is not building a team, he's building a club. It isn't glamorous, it isn't quick, and it isn't spectacular, but it is necessary. Stick with him; he's doing alright so far.
Addendum. If anybody notices any clubs bringing out financial statements, or has any concrete information, let me know either as a comment here or @Marco4J on Twitter; I'm more than willing to tweak graphs, figures and generally get closer to the truth however possible. This subject will run on and on, particularly with FFP coming in in the summer.