Club owners, football supporters & professional players set objectives. Whether mental, personal, public or contractual, every single person with an involvement in the sport will find themselves at one time or another, setting an objective to achieve in a given period.
At Blackburn Rovers Football Club. it’s been made no secret by those aforementioned parties that promotion to the Premier League is the long term aim of the football club. The key question is why? Is promotion to the Premier League an aim of the clubs owners for the sake of the supporters emotions? Most likely not. Is promotion to the Premier League an aim of the manager for his own personal career gain? Maybe. Or is it something much more sinister than that, something harsh and bitter, something that shouldn’t belong in a sport at all? I think promotion to the Premier League is an aim of this football club down to one simple factor. Money.
A promotion to the top division in England isn’t just great fun & an overwhelming feeling for the fans – it’s hundreds of millions of Great British Pounds. The current debt that the club owes to its owners stands at nearly £200,000,000. This is simply untenable long term. One day, the Venky group will no longer want to own this club & there’s bound to be difficult times ahead unless we can achieve the financial gain of a promotion. But perhaps there’s another solution. The title of this piece is rather provocative, it’s bound to draw questionsa nd those that don’t read the whole thing may jump to conclusions. Hear me out.
Each year, the club loses just over £20,000,000. The Venkys pump in funds to cover that loss. Our income simply doesn’t equate to our expenditure. So every year until this seemingly impossible target is achieved, the club is heading further and further down the rabbit hole. Next season’s Championship could feature the following clubs: Sheffield United, Fulham, AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City, Reading, Brentford – and perhaps even Newcastle United or Watford. Managing to grasp a top six spot in a division so full of teams receiving such high parachute payments is nigh on impossible, but even if you could do it, actually getting into the Premier League from 6th is an even bigger up hill battle. In-fact, I’d go as far to say that Rovers odds of getting into the big time in 2021/22 are probably sitting at under 5%. Now with a 95% chance of failure to achieve an objective, any competent businessperson would suggest a change in approach.
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It’s naive to continue to fail when every flag indicates its going to happen anyway. We could change this process, pick new aims and become a club that isn’t financially unstable, desperate & unable to make sensible decisions. So here’s my step by step guide to creating a different ethos:
Forget the Premier League. Imagine it doesn’t exist. It’s difficult I know, because we all want to be there. But take it out of focus and put it in a box somewhere. The owners, the manager, the players, the fans, we all have to get past step one before you can move forwards.
Sell any majorly saleable assets. Adam Armstrong, Lewis Travis – players worth significantly more than we paid for them – sell them on for a profit. During this process, weed out players earning Premier League worthy wages. Anyone earning over £10,000 a week needs to go. Whether they’re sold for a fee, released or loaned so their wages aren’t eating at our income.
Recruit players from Europe, Scotland & lower EFL leagues at cheap prices. Maximum budget per player – £500,000. Maximum wage per player – £10,000. Find gems like Thomas Kaminski. If they don’t exist, don’t keep pushing and end up paying £7m for a striker with potential. Wait until the moment is right, sell the process and the stepping stone method. Patience is key.
Promote academy prospects. Anybody capable of competing within the 18-man squad of the first team should be promoted. Dan Pike’s, Scott Wharton’s, John Buckley’s, Joe Rankin-Costello’s. They are the rockbed of this new team. Mixed in with older experienced Thomas Kaminski’s.
Play pragmatic football, accepting you’re not the best team in the division and trying to lump four past every side you play. Go into the season with an aim of finishing in the top half of the table, avoiding a relegation dogfight. Remember, there’s no financial benefit to finishing 7th over 21st. Try and draw your away games, win your home games & be patient with the manager who’s attempting to accrue points with a lesser experienced side. You may go on a good run, you may go on a bad run, but so long as you stay in the Championship – you’ve achieved the aim of this process.
The end of the season. You’ve finished 14th. Sell anyone who’s now got value as per Step Two. Anyone who is now worth a significant amount more than was paid for them in the first place. Move on your best young talents for £10m if there’s someone worth that. Repeat steps three & four & go again for the new season.
What you’ll find after completing this 6 Step programme each season for a few years is that you’ve suddenly become a financially stable club. You’re not losing £22,000,000 per season, in-fact you’re starting to break even, perhaps even turn a tidy profit. You’ve stopped the rot.
What’s the point? I hear you asking. We’re not any closer to the Premier League, that’s where we want to be. Absolutely, for sure. You’re right. We’re not any closer. But right now in 2020/21 Rovers sit in 15th place in the league table. We’ve got players earning over £20,000pw, we’re losing over £22,000,000 a season, our most valuable assets aren’t tied down to contracts. The club isn’t anywhere near a promotion to the Premier League, but we’ve got players like Daniel Ayala on financially crippling 3-year contracts, players like Nyambe and Joe Rankin-Costello on deals that are running out fast and our biggest asset in Adam Armstrong could leave on a free in a years time.
Sure, my methods wouldn’t make us any more of a Premier League club than we are now, but achieving 15th in the Championship shouldn’t cost the club over £20m of debt each season. 15th can be achieved with a small budget, a profitable system & a stable financial environment.