Why “Big Spending Boro” Are Really Still Shrewd Shoppers

>KER-CHING! With million quid new boy Albert Adomah adding some bling to the Boro on his debut at Charlton, it seems we are in the big time again.
Meanwhile well-wadded boss Tony Mowbray is making noises about stepping up his bid for Leeds striker Ross McCormack who it may take close to £1.5m to prise away from Elland Road. And it is reported that a million euro bid for South African striker and headline writers Tokelo Rantie has been knocked back by Swedish side Malmo.
The gaffer is also looking at bringing in a couple of other signings, quality ‘core’ players who are Championship hardened – or from a higher level – and who, even if they come on frees, could command decent wages.
After years of belt-tightening and dipping into the slight seconds bargain bin, suddenly Mogga is splashing the cash like a drunk sailor on shore leave.
Has he found Steve Gibson’s lost wallet down the back of a sofa in the corporates? Did he get lucky on the Euromillions?Has he sold the fracking rights for the Riverside?


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It appears that Boro have found a decent wodge of money from somewhere and are for the first time in a long time actively flexing some market muscle. They even out-bid former deadline day nemesis Wigan to snap up flying flanker Adomah.
At last! Pay-back for the painful and embarrassing 11th hour hijackings of Ben Watson and Gary Caldwell, snubs that really stung at the time and marked a seismic shift in the status quo but turned out to be dodged bullets.
So can we expect the Steve Gibson cash-tap to be miraculously turned back on? Er…. no.
Are Boro walking with a Gucci clad money-no-object swagger again? Definitely not.
Will we be go on a deadline day spending spree? Are you crazy? Nurse! Nurse!
Boro are investing, yes, and it is a real luxury for the manager to have the resources to actively shape his own side – but he has not been handed an open cheque book or and old Bryan Robson-style transfer warchest. Tony Mowbray is now dipping into the savings squirrelled away through two years of careful cost-cutting.
Boro’s second successive summer cull of big-earners – Kevin Thomson, Stephen McManus, Nicky Bailey, Julio Arca and then belatedly Scott McDonald went in this bout of radical pruning – plus savings on cash committed to largely limp loanees last term has freed up close to £100,000 a week on the wage bill.
That’s staggering. Especially when you consider the complete failure of those players to deliver anything more than the ordinary from any of them (bar possibly McDonald) over the course of their collective 17 years at the club. And that’s being generous.
That hefty off-loaded money millstone adds up to a £5m saving or thereabouts over the course of the next year – and that is the headroom in the wage bill that the manager is working with. And realistically, Mogga won’t get all that to spend.
The club still need to trim some more off the budget to meet the tough targets imposed by the new Financial Fair Play system, the rules on debt and spending introduced into the Championship this year… the new regime that a survey this week showed has sharpened the minds of owners to the point where a third are considering selling up.
In short, clubs are only allowed to put in £8m on top of what they raise through gate money, television rights, sponsorship and merchandising. And Boro are among the paupers by that measure.
The bottom line is with the TV deal relative peanuts, the bulk of revenue for clubs in the Championship is what comes through the turnstiles – and in that respect Boro trail most of their peers.
While the Riverside have middling crowds that are about on a par or just below the likes of their rivals Ipswich, Forest, Watford, Derby and Leicester, the average matchday take at those grounds is far greater.
Teesside is a low wage economy and the club know that. Boro have pegged their prices for seven years now and, whatever the annual gripe, season ticket prices are among the lowest in the division while a sizeable chunk of the crowd are kids or concessions – especially after the summer reconfiguration created a family zone that is incredibly cheap. The harsh reality is that after taxes and costs the average take per head per game at the Riverside is below a tenner.
In contrast, the other clubs we are competing with charge far higher per game, have an older and more well off demographic paying generally steeper ticket prices. They have a far higher income per game through the gate but have a comparable or lower wage bill.
Over the course of a season Boro only raise £4m through the gate. In total. Advertsing, hospitality, merchandising and TV payments came to another £2m, give or take. There were no sales to generate transfer income.
But last year the wage bill was £16m.
That is a hell of big gap between the main income and the main out-goings. And Steve Gibson has personally funded that deficit. The last available accounts showed Gibson put in £12m to balance the books – and generally to the angry echo of people, many who don’t go to games, shouting at him to “put his hand in his pocket.”
In effect Gibson has been personally paying the wages (and the £2,5m costs of running the Academy) while the gate-money – and the shrinking streams from sponsorship, advertising, hospitality and merchandising – has paid for the running costs of the ground, the pitch, scouting, the team coach and hotels, the rates and utlilities, stewarding, police and safety cover and public liability insurance.
The new rules limit what owners, shareholders or outside investors can put in this year coming season to £5m in cash and £3m in equity or loans which add to the debt. Next season that is squeezed further still to £5m in total. And then £3m the year after.
Even if a Boro-supporting Arab billionaire with a big Transporter tattoo on his back rolled up at the Riverside riding a unicorn with Elvis in tow, those rules would remain.
And clubs that break the strict ceiling face stiff fines and a possible transfer embargo. Repeat offenders face points deduction. Some people haven’t got their head around the realities of FFP yet. Others think it won’t have much impact. Or that it is riddled with loopholes. It isn’t. It’s watertight. It has been a game-changer in this division.
The penalties don’t kick in this year – but the auditing process has started and any spending now if not carefully managed will bite clubs on the bum two years down the line.
Some clubs are throwing cash around on transfer fees and supporting massive and unsustainable wage bills and gambling the whole shop on diving under the descending drawbridge going up this year – yes Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Leicester, I’m looking at you – but that is a massive risk. They can’t all fit through. Someone is going to get crushed by debt-laden failure. It won’t be pretty.
Having gone through three years of pain and prudence Boro are in no rush to follow suit.
Gibson has stressed that he will be putting in his money right up to the max – but even with his £8m, if gates stay the same or even if they nudge up a bit, you can see the figures still don’t add up. Only a significant upturn in crowds or a hell of a cup run will make any significant difference to Boro’s spending power.
Which means that Mowbray, while no longer shopping in a straitjacket, still has to be prudent. Mowbray outlined on the eve of the season the club’s transfer strategy. There is a finite amount of money to spend. It can either be used for wages or for fees and Mogga can shift and slide and alter the balance to swing a deal but the limit on the total remains.
Which is why so many transfer sagas this summer have ended in fruitless frustration.
Fans may have been left gnashing and wailing and bemoaning ‘typical Boro ineptitude’ but the summer shopping has been done with admirable discipline. They club have resisted the temptation to seal a deal by adding a zero here or there.
In a so far fruitless recruitment drive Boro have come close to signings several times. Players, agents and clubs have come to an broad agreement in principle and it has seemed as if a deal is close – but then someone, somewhere has demanded an additional extra payment and it has collapsed. Or drifted.
That may well be the traditional methodology in football retail but it is not one that Boro can afford to follow now. They have their valuation and they largely have to stick to it.
And that’s a good thing. The days when Boro had a reputation for being a transfer soft touch always ready to dump an extra bag of cash on the table to get their man are over. Agents take note. And had the same approach been adopted in the past then the club – and football as a whole – may not be in the state it is.
Mowbray understands the nuances of the situation and while at times it has left him exasperated, he knows that for a club with Boro’s finances there is no alternative.
If they pay a fee, that eats into the total budget for wages available to lure the quality free agents they are still courting and who they hope to get in as the deadline looms to sharpen players’ minds and the Countdown clock music kicks in.
That harsh financial landscape was also the background to the drawn out signing of Adomah. Boro agreed a fee with Bristol City, who, despite having a moneybags owner, having been relegated were plunged into the even harsher financial regime of League One. There clubs’ wage spend is limited to a proportion of turnover and with that and a loss of some £19m last year they ad no choice but engage in a cost cutting exercise, slash their squad and sell their main asset .
But having settled on a price Boro were then forced to haggle: They naturally wanted to pay as little up front as possible and stagger the rest over as long a term as possible so they still had muscle to bring in the rest of their targets while City naturally wanted as big a down-payment as possible to help balance their books.
The stand-off left some jittery fans sweating and cursing and obviously blaming Boro’s historic incompetence for the delay and fearing the vengeful shadow of Wigan Athletic.
Still wired up to the psychology of the old economic landscape they were urging Boro to just “give them what they want” or “pay a bit more to get the deal done” in shrill cyber-space panic. Should I ever sell my house, I hope these people want to buy it.
Poker-faced Boro stood firm long enough to demonstrate their determination then eventually bent a bit as it came to the crunch, just a little but enough, and they finally got their man on acceptable terms – and with plenty left in the tank for extra recruitment.
They now have another tough decision looming as they reach a crossroads in their pursuit of Leeds man Ross McCormack.
An initial bid believed to be around £1m was rejected but Boro clearly have had enough encouragement from either the player or the club to believe it was worth going back with a second offer of closer to £1.3m. That too was rejected and Boro appear to have gone back in with a little bit more. But is not cash up front. It is staggered in instalments and probably tied to productivity and performance triggers.
Should that be accepted then Mogga will have to tinker with his fee/wages sliders again. How much can Mogga afford to pay before it ties his hands in recruiting the second striker, commanding defender and attacking central midfielder he covets?
If Boro are to shell out another big fee, even with only half up-front, and attractive wages (McCormack is said to be on £14,000 a week at Leeds by the West Yorkshire press) it would probably mean at least one exit of either a relatively big earner at Boro or someone who would command a fee – and they are both very small groups.
The whispers coming out of the club appear to suggest Marvin Emnes future is uncertain. The enigmatic frontman signed a new deal last 18 months ago and is now Boro’s top earner. Fringe figure Faris Haroun has been told that he can’t be guaranteed a first team start and is Mowbray is relaxed if he decides to find a club who can offer him one. Justin Hoyte, who took a massive pay-cut to stay last summer but is still on well above the divisional average for a full-back, is said to be a target for Millwall, on a mission to boost their frequent buyer rankings – but only if they shift one out first.
So there is still potential for some more tinkering in the squad. But prudent tinkering. If Boro do pay a fee for McCormack it will need to be funded somehow within the existing budget – or Mogga can’t bring in his other two or three targets.
Incidentally McCormack almost joined Boro from Motherwell as a youngster in 2008 after being recommended by then Livingstone boss Mark Proctor. The groundwork was all but done on a £250,000 deal but it was never completed as Gareth Southgate didn’t think he was ready for the first team and had second thoughts.
McCormack joined Cardiff instead to become one of that select group who always have a blinder against Boro (see also A Adomah.)
Ah, I see now. The shape of a new transfer strategy is starting to emerge.
****
This is the Bling Spendaz ft Prudence 12 inch remix of this week’s Big Picture column.

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33 thoughts on “Why “Big Spending Boro” Are Really Still Shrewd Shoppers

  1. This sounds like some clubs are living like Greece and now they are told to live like Germany.
    But aren’t we all living according to what we earn? OK, we can take mortgage for house but we had to pay it back too. So finally football is entering a real world.
    AV, I am surprised you did not mention QPR. I am afraid that Harry is doing a ‘Pompey’ down there. Also Strachan tried to gamble at Boro with Gibbo’s approval and we certainly have paid for that during past three years.
    Up the Boro!

  2. So far this summer I would say Mogga has demonstrated that he can find and sign good quality players when he has the wriggle room to do so.
    What’s more he has gone about it the right way, starting off by making the team a stronger defensive unit and thus harder to beat and now he’s after the attacking players. We will need two forwards scoring around 30 goals between them to be in the top six come May I would think, finding players like that won’t be easy.

  3. Good article as ever Vic and a realistic appraisal of the financial landscape as it is, not as some of us wish it was.
    One question though, my understanding was that the McCormack deal fell through when Motherwell tried to get cute and play us off against Wigan (of course) to get a few quid more for a player who’s contract was about to expire. In a rare show of principle we both walked away and the lad left on a free.

  4. I personally hope that Boro do not up their bid for McCormack. He’s a good player, but will he be worth £1.5m? I don’t think he’s the man to score 20+ goals to make him worth that fee.
    Boro’s system of scouting the lower leagues for bargain talent is the route I hope the club continues to follow, even if it has proved fruitless this summer. The players may be a risk, but they’re never going to break the bank balance; a cheap risk is the one to take in this financial climate.
    There will be another Le Fondre, Holt or Lambert hiding underground in Leagues 1 and 2, it’s just a matter of detecting and unearthing them.

  5. I think what has largely been missed out in regards to all the cost-cutting as that FFP does not take into account anything spent on Youth Development in conjunction with the EPPP.
    I would imagine that the cost of this will be £1mil+ per season. Meaning that this can be written off the projections
    **AV writes: Yes, Academy and youth development is “free” in the FFP rules – but sales of the products is included in revenue so it is potentially a great way to raise the ceiling and generate extra money for wages or fees. One good sale a year could make a massive difference now.
    That is why Steve Gibson is so keen to pursue it and was so determined that Boro would be a Category 1 Academy with but just more and better caoching but also enhanced recruitment opportunities and increased protections from poaching.
    With extra staff and contact time plus all kinds of educational and vocational courses as add-ons, the cost of running a Category 1 Academy is £2.25m a year, although £750,000 of that is subsidised by the Premier League.
    Guess who pays the balance.

  6. On balance, I’m relieved and pleased about the prudent financial strategy, both for Boro and football in general.
    Of course, the free-spending days were great. Our first £1m player, closely followed by Barmby. Then the best player in the world and a recent European Cup winner not long after. Exhilarating times. For a while, it seemed that any player in the world could be a prospect.
    And yet … there was always the nagging doubt. We were buying artificial success (or not) and the sums never came close to adding up. From a business perspective, it made no sense at all. Unless SG had extremely deep pockets and was prepared to reach to the bottom of them for years to come, it surely was madness that couldn’t last. We revelled in it while we could but always wondered when the bubble would burst.
    Once it dawned on him that his financial blitzkrieg hadn’t worked and was unsustainable, it took SG a long time to retract and regroup. A decade later, we’re almost there.
    Greatly aided by the new economic reality being enforced by FFP, Boro are probably ahead of the race to reconfigure. Despite savage cuts, they are not too far from having a team that will see promotion in the next couple of years.
    It all feels vastly more sensible. Genuine, hard-earned, real, deserved, authentic. Ours.

  7. I agree with Nigel Reeve and Mike –
    The recruitment is slow but still going well overall, though I think at £1.5m McCormack is overpriced.
    I know we aren’t fond of “projects” at the Riverside, but I wonder if Carayol might be the strike partner Juke needs. Very quick, can go past a player and has shown he can finish. He ticks a lot of boxes and could be a sort of budget, Championship Thierry Henry type winger/striker convert.
    Are Reach, Park or L Williams, or even Ledesma able to fill in out wide and allow Carayol to go up front when we want to go with two? Of course, there’s Main too.
    Maybe, rather than spending risky money on McCormack, we could be looking closer to home. Just a thought, especially with even less financial input permitted from Gibbo next year.

  8. A good piece, oddly I posted about squad building on the last thread.
    Now for something completely different – the most optimistic article in the Gazette since facelessbook took over… a request for us to post our memories of the Carling Cup Final.
    A question for the powers that be. How many posts do you think they will get? A quick look shows a handful at best for a days articles.
    AV –
    Is anybody at Gazette Towers concerned at the figures? They make the corners at the Riverside look packed.
    The luvvies at Trinity Mirror probably just think we are peasants up here.
    The biggest response received was early on from people saying they were not going to post anymore and they have been true to their words.
    Despite the fact many were dismissive of the contributions many contained valid points. Now they have voted with their fingers.
    It wont change their views, they just wont bother with the Gazette. It is bad enough fighting through the pop ups and shoddy advertising to stay posting on here, the many who think of us as pedestal polishers will just stay away.
    Well meaning, poorly thought out and counter productive.
    It reminds of a leading professor at Leeds who set an examination for first year Chemical Engineering students on Thermodynamics. Only 28% passed and he told the assembled group he could have answered the questions. Luckily I did it the year before.

  9. AV –
    what make you think we had encouragement from Leeds?
    We told Forest Leadbitter was not for sale yet they still pursued, I don’t think Leeds will sell, they don’t need too. Or they would be selling a Championship goal scorer and inheriting our problem. Trying to find a cheap striker who’ll score goals in this league.
    **AV writes: When Forest made their approach Mogga was very assertive and was widely and publicly quoted after unequivocally answering questions at press conferences on several occasions. Leeds rebuttal is based on a retweet of a single sentence a fortnight ago. Even the Leeds press haven’t really firmed it up. The player himself hasn’t really said anything although he did tweet a fortnight ago saying he was touched by some of the things fans had been saying about him.
    It is also worth noting that the Leeds manager is under pressure from above to sell to cut their wage-bill whereas Boro’s is not.
    We are lead to believe that Boro have had strong signals that the Leeds hierarchy are not averse to selling the player if the deal was right. We’ll see.

  10. Nice article, and some very good points. The people who complain about not spending really need to learn how a business runs and where money comes from.
    I certainly wouldnt fund a football club to the extent Gibson has over his tenure.
    UTB

  11. Ahh, maybe a take it or leave it offer will tempt the Leeds directors then, under FFP I can’t see many clubs being able to stump up the cash.
    Great article by the way AV, educating the fans on stuff we haven’t seen before. ‘Many who don’t go to games’ is a great phrase, it injects realism into it. There is nothing worse than coming home from a place like Crystal Palace or Ipswich after watching us get battered and you see fans saying ‘ we should have spent in January, why didn’t we spend that £5m on Danny Graham’
    However saying that there are some well educated fans that don’t go to the games for some reasons so I’m not having a pop at those.
    **AV writes: People don’t go to games for a lot of reasons – cash, work, family, other commitments, lack of atmosphere, disillusionment, a perceived lack of VFM, agoraphobia – and that’s fine. People have the right to shape their relationship with the club on any basis they choose. I’ve no problem with that.
    But my personal gripe is with those who don’t go to games but sanctimoniously portray themselves as noble and principled defenders of the club’s soul and who loudly tell people (even if they don’t want to listen): “I’m not putting any of my money into the club until Gibson puts his in/shows some ambition.”

  12. Spartakboro are you serious? Steve Gibson subsidises Boro to the tune of £12 million per year, that’s a huge amount of money, he will never get a return on that.
    For that alone we as fans should be eternally grateful.
    As for the ground ownership where did you dredge that rubbish up from? I think you’ll find the land, building of the stadium etc cost £16 million and that its owned by MFC.
    And as for the other shareholders from the original consortium, Gibson has bought them all out, again with his money. They didn’t just walk away and say its okay you can keep the cash. You need to do more research before writing such stuff in future.
    When I read posts like the one you’ve just written I shake my head in disbelief. Why does SG continue to subsidise our club to the tune of £12m a year when people like you continually slag him off? He deserves to be sanctified.

  13. Thanks for the reply AV.
    Here’s an extreme if not inflammatory rebuff for you in terms of accountability.
    Nero to the Romans ‘Yes, the city has burnt to the ground, but that was yesterday. Today we have the opportunity to build anew and create something that will be even greater and a testament to the glory of Rome from the ashes of the old.’
    I believe the Romans weren’t even willing for him to come up with such a statement but hastened his exit to a higher place.
    Yes, it’s extreme but the principle of accountability holds firm. If I kill someone and say ‘well that happened yesterday and today’s a new day!’ Then there is no accountability for my past actions and I can continue ad infinitum with the same behaviours.
    The same issue remains at the Boro. There is no accountability at the top. There is no dissemination of power. Therefore mistakes continue to be made without checks.
    **AV writes: I see your point. And I do like an historical analogy. However, it should be noted that in Nero’s case there were no shortage of potential replacement emperors and Rome’s economy was booming.

  14. I for one think we are going in the right direction with regards the finances of the club. It had to be done and it had to hurt – but as mentioned earlier we are well in front with aligning ourselves to the new rules.
    Other clubs have other strategies which if and a big if in this league they do well it will pay off. But that means it can only work for three clubs and more than three are spending big.
    The only place where our the income can improve is through the gate and yes that all depends on what happens on the pitch. This is where TM comes in. Does he get two fairly expensive strikers and hope we score more than we let in? Or do we stick to our guns and only pay what we have budgeted for and strengthen in all areas.
    You have to say the latter is the best way to go due to the low gates,the amount of games to be played and the new restrictions.

  15. AV your reply to spartakboro is incisive as usual. You have been through this a few times,
    I think the frustration with Gibson is statements like he made after relegation when he said he” didn’t see it coming” still rings in the lug-holes.
    But one of my biggest concerns now is, as a club, we are now like many others basically ignored. What I mean by that is, as we know in today’s society it seems the media are at the forefront of most things especially in the entertainment industry,and football is one of them.
    The Premiership is rowing further and further away from grassroots football, everything now is geared towards it. Is the club now at this moment in time, apart from the local interest (fans,blogs,media). just the same as Whitby Town,or Blyth Spartans in the sense, unless your on a good cup run, or with four games to go and a chance of promotion,your insignificant?
    I believe that is the case and I hope Gibbo gets that,because the 5 to 8,000 who have disapeared have moved on and I think that’s one of the main problems.
    Can a middling championship club, although financially stable, expect to sustain itself when it becomes ignored?
    **AV writes: Boro won’t get any national media exposure unless they become “a story.” The last few years there has been a stench of decline and apathy around the club and that and cost cutting is not sexy. The TV doesn’t want to know. There was a brief flurry of interest last year when, as the only NE club still in the club, Boro played Chelsea and gave it a good crack. A promotion push will attract attention. If there’s “a story” the media will follow it. They are lazy like that.
    Locally the club face a big challenge to win back hearts and minds. Personally I think it’ll take as much work off the pitch with bridge building and fan engagement as on it to prepare the ground ready for a spark to ignite the club again.

  16. Spartakboro –
    Do you really believe that Gibson should be held accountable for Boro’s recent decline? Accountable for what, wasting his own money? How would you hold him to account, sack him? And then what, replace him with who? The owner of Blackburn or similar? He’s not perfect, but believe me when he’s gone you’ll miss him like you can’t imagine.
    I also think your Nero analogy is rubbish, Nero fiddled, Gibson acted. he’s re-structured the finances, he’s replaced the CEO, he’s eventually found the right manager and he now listens to the fans, hence the changes to the stadium configuration. I’m not sure what more you want from him?

  17. Well AV, you have stirred up a storm with this excellent article. I love ones that bring greatly opposing views, it makes for good reading and debate.
    I still believe SG has made many mistakes during the years, and said so just this week.
    HOWEVER, I also believe that it is probably time to draw a line in the sand. As long as MFC continue to improve their dialogue with all the fans,including the likes of yourself that sees a different reasoned picture from the bloggers on here. You cannot keep looking back, otherwise we will end up at Charles Amer, and that WOULD bring a heated debate.
    As for Mcdonald AV, I forgot he would get a signing on fee as well. A bit like the bankers, golden hellos and golden goodbyes.
    Would the likes of Frazier Richardson receive a signing on fee?
    **AV writes: Maybe. But if he did it would be a small one. Remember he was effectively unemployed and on a crowded market. But maybe.

  18. Interesting cat-among-the-pigeons post from Spartak. Something to debate whilst we wait for signings and Saturday.
    I’ll keep my thoughts brief:
    Have mistakes been made at the top? Yes.
    Was it worth it? Yes.
    What’s to be done? Crack on.

  19. On SG – the club made mistakes, he did, the managers have, the players do and never seem to learn from them! Not too surprisingly we all have.
    Any mistakes in direction were all in the best interests at the time, rose tinted, blinkered, hunger or just plain foolish. Hind sight and time travel simply makes Biff the richest man in the world, Mcfly.
    On the FFP has anyone spared a thought for poor old Bryan Robson? Should the TV show be believed, what about his Asia fund syndicates? How are these guys going to pool resources and gamble on buying Championship clubs, investing heavily, then bailing should the Prem honey pot not be reached? How will they feed their families under these new rules? I worry about this.
    The only downside to the rules (and im not 100% this is how it is) is that in the Prem I think you are only allowed a certain wage growth per year. This cuts off competition and disuades new buyers from entering the fray.
    Now if you look at a host of buyouts, very few have gone well and many went very badly. Even United’s debt based buyout is a dodgy one but carried by their success. Citeh (the second buyout) and Chelsea being the two successes. But should another team loving billionaire wish to buy a club and stick at it, it isn’t possible to buy out Stoke or Norwich or Boro and buy your way to the pinnacle.
    Some might say this is a good thing. But isnt the dream of being bought out (successfully and everything going well, sorry Pompey) part of being a football fan? The prospect that you might be whisked to the upper echelon in one transfer window?
    And on the flip side of that argument no club can ever join the elite without huge amounts of bargain basement transfer success based on the rules. The top boys have just drawn up a system where by they can never be challenged in terms of financial might or growth because every other team is capped at growing at the same rate. So unless your transfers, or cup winnings revenue, bloat your total revenues you can never catch them. This doesn’t seem right in a free and open market.
    In the championship I am all for it. The revenues are much lower and so is the common sense if you gamble all to go up.
    In the money league, is it right new entries are capped on the growth they can put into the clubs? The top boys can never be caught on the spending front. it makes the league a closed shop. I am not so sure that is the right way to handle it.

  20. SG’s past sins? Heaven help me, I thought I’d finally, at last, got that bee out of my bonnet. Now, there it is buzzing around again.
    The schizophrenia medication is obviously not working because I can see both arguments and, in part, agree with both sides.
    Let me say from the outset that I’m a fan of both SG and TM. We would be unlikely to better them, above all in the current very difficult circumstances.
    I am delighted for Boro to follow the time-honoured tradition of a life-long supporter becoming the chairman who, having made a bob or two in business, puts his money into the club. None of your sheiks, who knew nothing about footer and never stood in the snow at Feethams, for us. The fact that our manager is also a local lad, lifelong supporter and ex-player fills me with pride.
    As for the financial management of Boro, I was relieved when SG didn’t jump ship when everything went pear shaped. I applaud him for taking responsibility and working on the profoundly painful and unpopular restructuring of the club.
    I firmly believe SG is finally on the right track. I, for one, am much more comfortable with the new stringency. It ain’t glamorous and I do miss the bling years – but it is sensible.
    Having said all that, I do partly agree with Spartak’s criticism of SG. He definitely got it wrong and big time.
    When defending the extortionate £65K per week for mercenary Boksic, he was the one who told us that you can’t expect elite players to leave exotic locales for depressed Teesside, without making it worth their while. Following that logic, huge amounts of cash were largely wasted on money-grabbers whose hearts weren’t in the club. Sensationalist, glamourous, newsworthy – but ineffective.
    SG also admitted, after relegation, that he didn’t see it coming. Really? Everybody else did. From the midway of GS1’s first season, the writing was on the wall. Southgate hadn’t got what it took and was far too inexperienced for that challenge. Once we saw many of our best players leaving, to be replaced by inferior players, it was only a matter of time. I’ve been there and done that in the 60s.
    As an overview, if Gibson has put £150m into the Boro on top of the vast riches received from Sky and others, he and we have had a very poor return. A League Cup and a UEFA final? I was ecstatic to achieve that and am grateful for finally winning something.
    However, taking a less emotional overview with the wisdom of hindsight – is that all, for all that money? In the same period, Leicester (two wins and a final) did better with far less. More recently, humble Wigan have done better (FA win and League final). Let’s not mention Swansea. Also, as Southgate reminded us, we had a relegation fight for at least part of every season in the PL.
    Furthermore, SG was slow to realise his mistake. When the big money had very limited success, SG was slow to react and continued to waste a lot. Even when he finally, belatedly saw the error of his ways, he was slow to change tack. It has taken him something like a decade.
    No, considering the hundreds of millions spent, we don’t have much to show for it. Fortunes have been frittered on bad policies, bad management, bad managers and bad players. Even worse, quarter of a century after SG joined the board, we came full circle and found ourselves almost back to where we were in ’86.
    Most of this is down to one man.
    However, having ripped him to shreds through the history, I must say I’m thankful he’s stayed and I will be eternally grateful for what he continues to put into the club. Without him, we would either have gone out of business long ago, or have carried on as a nondescript mediocre small-town club or, even worse, we would now be vying with Pompey.
    Thank you, Steve Gibson. You’ve got a hulluva lot wrong, but we enjoyed the ride, and you’ve stuck with it (and us) and are now getting it right. Let’s hope we’re in for another enjoyable ride.

  21. I think when assessing the reputation of Nero Claudius we need to allow for the fact that the historians were writing selectively from secondary sources and will have been living in a christianised empire. They will not necessarily have been sympathetic to a person who allegedly burned christians in his garden as a source of lighting, however eco-friendly that might have been.
    The story of him playing his lyre, (not fiddle) and singing during the great fire of Rome seems to have been only a rumour. I can see very few similarities with Steve Gibson except in the unfairness of the criticism he took.
    For me the decisive moment was the FA’s decision to offer the England managership to Steve Mclaren at precisely the wrong time. That in turn led to the ultimately fateful decision to appoint Gareth Southgate prematurely to the manager’s position.
    It’s so easy to criticise with hind-sight. If GS had succeeded like Jack Charlton had, it would have been seen as a visionary stroke of genius.
    The bottom line is like most people, Steve Gibson is constantly called upon to make decisions. Some will work better than others. However it would be terribly unjust to accuse him of singing and playing his Lyre while his football team went to the dogs.

  22. It’s good ‘ere innit? On most footer blogs you get: we’re great, you’re crap. Here you get Roman history, observations on consultants, contract law and economics. I’m giving up the evening classes.

  23. In my opinion Gibbo only made one really big mistake… that was sacking Gareth Southgate.
    That was what got us into the mess we were in.
    Employing Tony Mowbray and sticking with him has stabilised the club, and gone some way towards laying the foundations to rectify the repercussions of that mistake.

  24. FFP has probably come as a huge relief to football club owners, since unless they pump in endless personal cash and operate on the margins of bankruptcy, then they are sneered at by their supporters for having no ambition.
    MFC have a modern stadium, state-of-the-art training facilities and operate a Category 1 academy – these are all the realisation of Steve Gibson’s ambition.
    OK mistakes have been made in the past (like with most clubs) and many have been acknowledged – but throwing money at the problem only gets you so far (or too far if the club goes out of business).
    Would people trust an overseas owner more if they bought out SG? No – Could a supporter’s trust cover the financial shortfall to keep paying competitive wages to attract decent players? No.
    Steve Gibson is not holding back the club – he is, believe it or not, actively trying to achieve success for it. The debate is really whether the people he employs to do that can finally deliver on the pitch.

  25. I think Nikeboro summed it up perfectly.
    It was clear that we were watching the implosion after the UEFA final and Macs sojourn with the FA. During Gareth’s tenure, his teams looked like frightened rabbits caught in headlamps. Relegation wasn’t a surprise to us on here, it was nailed on. Posters on here predicted and highlighted the future well in advance.
    Stricken was coined on this very board by the same enlightened individuals who could again see what the future held.
    Presently the jury is out, there have been warnings and grave concerns especially post Xmas. Hopefully lessons have been learnt and things have been addressed behind closed doors, I believe there has been a reality check but whatever happens it will be noted and highlighted on here way before anywhere else. I suspect SG realised that as well and was the main reason for his meeting with the select few fans at the end of last season.
    We all make mistakes, its just that most of us don’t have denizens of watchers waiting to point out the errors. I think SG is well aware of where he got it wrong, hanging on to Robbo too long, signing Gazza, Ray Parlour, WGS etc. etc. its easier with hindsight granted but SG is also a fan and on more than one occasion went with his heart instead of his head. Older and wiser I’m sure he has learnt from that and the new measures would indicate that maturity is winning the day.
    In balance and in fairness he also got many things right, Juninho, Cup Finals, the Steaua night, the Carling Cup and most importantly the most successful period in the club’s history.
    Lets hope that both he and Mogga have things sorted in their heads and have it correct now and we are on the brink of a Boro renaissance.

  26. Redcar Red –
    As one of the siren voices even during Macs reign it was unfortunate we went down. I understood that things had to change. I am baffled by the whole Mido/Alves plus throw away the midfield in August 2008.
    I remember Vic lauding the Smithy during the Strachanista revolution. I remember Vic lauding Robbo and Wlilo Flood as the way forward – it has been airbrushed out of history.
    I can remember stronger squad, weaker league being touted – and that includes by award winning journalist. I remember saying having players fit and available and better performances being dismissed by award winning journalists.
    What I have always said is Mogga needs time. What I have also said is that he can
    be his own worst enemy with his cleverness. Rangers fans love him to bits. But it is only a mickey mouse league that Celtic were dominating until Mogga went north.
    Gibbo and Mogga are doing their best and I totally accept the situation and the fact we are moving forward.
    I cannot and refuse to sweep under the carpet what has happened if people, including Vic, try to rewrite history. It isn’t all Mac’s fault, Gibbo/Lamb/Gate are not evil, Strachan wasn’t the devil in human form. Mogga isn’t the Messiah.
    Without insulting Mogga it is what it is.
    **AV writes: Explaining something is not ‘lauding it.” Explaining something is what journalists do. Or try to. And I have to try to explain things as they unfold and change and are impacted by circumstance and the actions of external forces. It’s hard to take fixed positions when the narrative is always unfolding. It’s great. I love that things develop for good or bad. Its what makes the club interesting.
    And nothing I do is airbrushed from history or rewritten. I don’t have that luxury. Everything I write is there to be shot at. It’s in print or parked in cyber-space.

  27. My Boro glass started 50% full but reduced to 25% after the Leicester game. Following success at Charlton, it is back to the 50% mark.
    Can we please have predictions as to whether the glass will be empty by the end of the season, or whether I will need to buy more glassware to accommodate the extra volume acquired during the year?
    I didn’t know what to think before the football season started, save that it was starting too early in the middle of the cricket season. After Leciester there was a dull sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. I felt like Douglas Adams’ falling bowl of petunias: “Oh no. Not again!”
    But after Charlton, hope has been rekindled. Maybe, maybe…with a couple of decent players in, and good luck on the fitness front…?
    Supporting a football team is a form of madness. There should be an increased type of Disability Living Allowance payable only to Boro fans.

  28. AV’s excellent piece begs the question – what is a sustainable wage bill for a club like Boro in an FFP environment both now and in the future ?
    I’d have thought in the current climate we would be looking to pay full backs £3-4k per week, keepers and centre backs £4-£5k, midfielders £5-7k and strikers £8-10k. Taking an average of say £6.5k and a squad of 25 gets you to a figure of just shy of £8.5 million.
    Add on other staff costs; manager, coaches, CEO, loan fees etc and you can pencil in a figure of £10m.
    Gate money is £4m but given the cost of running the stadium that’s down to £2m or so. The remainder is covered by Gibson’s £8m FFP “investment”. I know there’s other commercial income and Premier League consolidation payments but let’s keep it simple.
    The current wage bill is probably not too far off those figures, certainly we’re getting there. There are a few anomalies. Emnes ( £15k a week?) is the obvious one and probably Woodgate ( £12k a week ?) but a lot of commendable progress has been made.
    What happens though in subsequent seasons assuming were still in the Championship? FFP means what can be invested drop to £5m next year and are phased out entirely in a few seasons.
    On the figures above that means a total wage bill of £2m! Full backs will be looking at £600 to £800 a week, not that the ones we’ve seen in recent years deserve any more. Midfielders will be retraining as electricians, strapping centre backs moonlighting as nightclub doormen.
    The figures also emphasise how crucial profitable transfer sales are in the new regime. For example, take the figures above and add in £10 million for the sale of a Zaha. What a huge difference that would make to a club’s prospects at Championship level. That’s why our Academy is so important and why Gibson is right to continue his commitment to it.
    It’s a harsh new reality and many clubs are sleepwalking into oblivion. We should give Gibson credit that we aren’t one of them.
    **AV writes: In two years time in the Championship (parachute payment powered teams excepted) the wage bill of any given club will mirror almost exactly the revenue generated at the gate. Boro’s most pressing problem then will be how to raise crowds (an extra 5,000 would add £50k per game to the bottom line).
    I hope they choose to take the supporter engagement route and foster a new relationship with fans. We are a deprived area (and things look like getting worse before they get better) and price rises – the obvious answer – won’t work.

  29. Forever Dormo –
    knowing you the glass will be empty most of the time. Luckily you fill it up regularly at your local.
    I have had the priviledge to join Dormo a few times in his local after a Boro game. Great place with a fire.
    I think we need to sign a striker before the window closes. Then another can be signed on loan from the PL as well as a centre back can be loaned. We have Gibson there, and then two expierienced pros in Woody and Rhys. Also Richarson can play in centre.
    I predict a 2-0 victory against Blackpool tomorrow. Up the Boro!

  30. Forever Dormo:
    Where will we finish?
    I’ve always thought that one must beat the teams one wants to finish above. Discounting the cup game, we’ve beaten Charlton who finished 9th last year and been beaten by Leicester who finished 6th. On this reckoning we should be finishing 7th or 8th which is probably where a few of us would have predicted anyway. But with a few fine margins, we might just creep into the play-offs.
    The grounds for optimism from the Charlton game were the organisation and the commitment shown. (especially Varga, have I mentioned how good Varga was?)
    Plus no-one was square-pegged. A welcome departure from the previous couple of seasons. There’s one fine margin right there.
    I suspect the away fans may have a better season than the home fans as with two wingers we’re more likely to catch teams on the break, whereas teams will once again come to our place, park a bus and wait for us to concede. A situation that may have unwelcome consequences for the Riverside attendances.
    My only advice is to strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. It’s just a ride.

  31. Great post and response from Paulista Park and AV.
    What a conundrum. We need to get raise the take on the gate but can’t lower or raise prices.
    We’re got the ground but the club needs to get creative. A very good start has been made on that with the ground recongifuration and new family zone but clearly more needs to be done.
    Our average attendance last season is reported online as 17,223. At a take of £10 per head I make that a total take, and therefore future annual wage bill of around £4m, or £76k per week, if things stay roughly the same.
    If there are, say, 30 players and coaches who need paying then that averages at about £2.5k per week per employee. That’s scarily low and worse still is that a full stadium would only double that to £5k per week. Can that be right? Luckily it’s the same for everyone.
    In the meantime I think Gibson would be wise to send out a candid letter to every lapsed supporter, explaining in as much detail as he can why we are where we are and we’re doing about it.
    Boro need Gibson but, increasingly, Gibson needs Boro fans.

  32. For tomorrow’s match, it’s arguable that keeping a clean sheet will be the most important requirement. Boring though it would be, in the long run a 0-0 draw could be better than a 3-2 win. 3-0 would be better – but let’s not get carried away. Avoiding home defeat will be a start.
    The current Blackpool get a lot of balls into the box, especially via long throw-ins, which has been a distinct Boro weakness in recent seasons. If we can show defensive mastery of that, it will represent significant progress and will contibute to confidence going forward.
    Furthermore, with the same team likely to play, there will be the rare opportunity for defensive partnerships and understanding to start to be forged. If we can develop a tight rearguard, that will form a sound foundation for the rest of the season.
    The attack can come later. Good teams have nearly always been developed from the back. If and when we bring in a new goal-getter, our attacking prowess can flow from that.

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