Rule one: blame the previous people! This works with anything; governments will always blame the state the country is in on the previous government, I have lost track of the amount of new pub owners who have told me that the previous owners ran it down (had to scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush is a common one) and our Swansea City owners are blaming mistakes of the previous regime. I can’t comment on your local, I have my opinion on the current government, but you will be more interested in the current owners of Swansea City F.C.
It is hard to really work out just how messy the finances are right now. Player purchases (and sales) can take years for the full amount to go from one club to another and so the owners are right in saying that we are still paying payments for the likes of Bony (but assumingly we will still be receiving money from the Siggy deal for example).
I’m going to once again try and get my head (and yours) around what is going on because it doesn’t all seem to make much sense. *The player transfer fees are taken from Transferkt and the wages/media/turnover from the Guardian. Below is a graph of player sales and purchases since we entered the crazy world of the Premier League.
There aren’t any glaring issues here at all. A £41.5 million profit over the nine seasons is incredibly healthy for a transfer market where Premier League clubs generally lose as against make money. Over the last five years the Premier League has a net loss of over £2.7 billion. Only newly promoted Sheffield United and Norwich have made a profit (before a no doubt summer splash). The average net transfer loss of the bottom 14 clubs (minus the top 6 obviously!!!!!!) is over £100 million (over £20 million per season per club). Bournemouth have lost £168 million over these five years, Brighton £169 million, Watford nearly £110 and even shrewd Burney over £54 million.
Making a £41 million profit over nine years is incredible. We really can’t in any way suggest that the club have overspent or poorly managed the transfer market.
Generally the signings were good too. Between 2015 and 2017 there were some shockers, Baston the pick of the bunch but you’d expect this over a nine year period. The only issue you would state here is that we didn’t invest enough.
Wages is where we are told there has been a massive issue and it ballooned somewhat. What is worth noting is that the owners came in in the summer of 2016. This is what I really struggle to understand with what they are saying. Did they genuinely not know what the accounts looked like before buying the club or even when they owned it
The wages up to the date when they took over were creeping to an unhealthy level but got severely worst after their first financial year. 88% of a business’s turnover spent on wages is a shocking way to run a business but this happened on their watch.
In credit to them, the following season saw a decent reduction in the wage bill and the Swans were in no worst situation than anyone else, they sat 16th in the league table for both wage bill and turnover.
The club have made no secret of the determination to get the likes of Jordon Ayew, Wilfried Bony, Borja Baston, Andre Ayew, Leroy Fer, Luciano Narsingh, Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson off the wage bill this season. This after the departures of Roque Mesa and Sam Clucas last summer.
Every single one of these players joined the club and signed their contracts AFTER the owners took over the club. In fact of the ‘higher earners’ that have plagued the club, only Fabianski, Fernandez and Montero were at the club when the owners took over and these players brought in £13 million in player sales when they departed.
*It is worth noting that the biggest jump in real terms was from 13/14 season to the 14/15 campaign. You feel this is when the club went from a Championship club enjoying the Premier League but set-up for the fall to a club which now needed and fully committed to the topflight and all its financial benefits. The Swans deal with the first potential American owners broke down in the winter of 13/14 and for me this was a crucial point. The 2014/15 summer saw a large profit of £18 million in the transfer market but the wage bill increased nearly 33%. Signings like Gomis on a free transfer were good short-term for the club whilst finding a buyer but broke a previously sensible wage limit and it spiralled since.
COMMERCIAL & MATCHDAY INCOME
There has been a belief from the American owners that the way they can improve the club’s finances is through its Commercial and Matchday income. And in fairness, we have seen an impressive improvement. In the 15/16 season, (before they took over the club) Swansea City earned a combined £18 million from the match day, commercial and ‘other’ incomes. This rose to £23 million two years later.
Comparing this to other clubs is worth looking at (stadium capacity):-
Stoke enjoy £26 million (30,000+)
Southampton £36 million £32,000)
Leicester £35 million (32,000)
Crystal Palace £29 million (26,000+)
Burnley £18 million (21,000)
Brighton £30 million £30,000+)
WBA £23 million (26,000+)
Watford £20 million (21,000)
There is an obvious coloration between the stadium size and its income and Swansea’s £23 million on a 20,500 stadium is a fair showing in this list. The owners dream has always been to increase the stadium and if the Liberty could be increased by ten or twelve thousand then we could enjoy an extra £4 million a year plus (matchday figures for 17/18 were £7 million based on 20,500 attendance).
But the impressive increase over the two years since the new owners is under 5% of what the club took from its media rights from being in the Premier League. In the relegation season the club brought in £128 million without player transfers. £105 million of this was from media rights. In the Premier League, with the exception of the top clubs, the immense bulk of the turnover is from the Premier League and the £10 million a year that Southamption earn more than Swansea in other fields is merely an 8% overall difference.
In the season just gone (18/19) the Swans received their first parachute payments which equates to 55% of what they would have received in the Premier League. This campaign it will be 45% and the following campaign will be 20%. After that the Swans are simply just another club out of the Premier League living within its means.
The appointment of Stephen Cooper is pleasing on some levels but bizarre on others. We are all glad to see he wishes to play an attractive brand of football with youth at its core but I just don’t get the logic of the three year plan.
Swansea finished 13th in the league of average attendances in the Championship last season, the financial figures for last season won’t be released until next spring but the Swans turnover will almost certainly be in the top 3 because of the parachute payments.
This campaign we can hope to be in the top 6 for turnover, the following year we should survive in the top 10 but after that then we will be relying on gate receipts and I think its realistic to expect attendances to drop over this period.
In the promotion season, Swansea took in just £11.7m from all avenues over the year. This is less than a quarter of what the club received this season from its first parachute payment alone, Cardiff took nearly 50% more that season.
Why would the owners decide that the best chance of promotion is when the club will have its least amount of money? Even the season where the club gets 20% of the parachute payment, this figure is likely to dwarf other avenues.
In the Premier League, Southampton selling 50% more seats equates to only 8% more money, in the Championship (without parachute payments) it will equate to closer to 40%. There were 10 teams in the Championship last season with a ground bigger or around the same size as Southampton.
Twelve teams sold more matchday tickets than Swansea. Below is my estimation on turnover based on the percentages that I understand the Swans will receive in parachute payments plus £18 million a year elsewhere:-
I have said this line at least twenty times in this magazine but I really do not believe for a second that the owners are taking money out of the club in an underhand way. There isn’t a way. Not to the level where it would be in any way worth doing anyway.
The only way that they can realistically take any money out of the club is through dividends and for them to do that would require them giving the supporters Trust 21% of everything they take, and I think we would have known about that one!
So this is being run as a business and this is where I am completely lost. I’m quite happy with the plan to be honest. I grew tired of the corporate Premier League, the players coming and going through the club without any real care for the fans or city. I enjoy the Championship, I loved League one and first fell in love with the club in League Two.
I could quite happily potter around the leagues playing attractive football with young Swansea footballers fighting for the badge. But I’m a fan. As a business, and one which the owners paid £100 million for then surely that makes no sense at all.
The club’s finances aren’t that bad but shrinking the club, both in income and expenditure makes absolutely no sense at all. Fast-forward three years, our turnover is likely to be under £20 million. Ipswich Town finished just below Swansea in the average attendance league this season and their turnover for the previous financial year was £17 million.
Stating that survival is the aim this season is barking mad. The only way that the owners can recoup their investment is for the club to return to the Premier League and the sooner they do that the easier it becomes. In three years time, I’d be really surprised if Swansea’s turnover was in the top 14 in the Championship and there seems no genuine plan to avoid this but instead a blind optimism that the club will somehow miraculously be better than the others.
To answer the initial question, no, we aren’t in the complete financial mess that we are being led to believe; we simply can’t be. The three year plan is so incredibly incompetent that I can’t even fathom it and you just feel that the owners are obsessed with the wrong parts of the football club; both in a financial and the romantic way.