BORO fans have drawn up their summer transfer target wish list…
Blackburn Rovers prolific one-in-two £10m rated hitman Jordan Rhodes.
And, what the hell, why not his £7m rated strike partner Rudy Gestede as well? Either/or. They’ll do. And maybe Sako from Wolves – on a free but said to be asking his suitors for £50k a week. He’s good. Or Vydra from Watford.
And obviously, Jelle Vossen back on a real deal. Plus Pritchard. Bamford and Ake on loan. Reuben Loftus-Cheek? Maybe a keeper? And a centre-back? Let’s have a quick scan down the Premier League released list, there’s bound to be a few bargains in there…
Blimey did Boro win at Wembley? Where’s all the money coming from?
Cash to burn? We’ll need it to fulfill the fans’ summer wish list
Financial Fair Play rules don’t cease to apply just because you got close enough to touch and feel and smell the filthy lucre of the Premier League. Norwich only agreed to split the play-off final gate receipts on the day you know, not the whole £100m plus prize pot.
The bright lights and big stadium glitz of London seem to have blinded some people to the harsh landscape of Championship finances. Which is where we remain. Just because we got to Wembley Boro don’t suddenly have massive piles of cash to burn. Boro still have to operate within a tight budget. Yes, Steve Gibson will go to the max allowed under the FFP rules but there is still a limit. We have not quite cast off the shackles of austerity.
So how much have Boro got to spend this summer?
Only the chairman really knows because whatever the variables – ticket money, Wembley windfall, incoming fees – Boro are still in the red and ultimately he is the one writing the cheques and taking the hit in person. So the bottom line is that Boro can spend what he is willing to put in.
But we can do some back of a beer mat budgeting as what that might be. We can look at last year’s spending levels that were seen as affordable and factor in the financials that have changed in the past 12 months.
We can start by saying that Boro have more leeway than last year – but that doesn’t necessarily mean more actual money.
Last summer went right to the FFP ceiling. They spent £2.8m on KIke and an initial £1.5m on Adam Clayton plus shelled out a £1m loan fee for Jelle Vossen but – incredibly – got £1.2m for Marvin Emnes and an initial £1.5m for Lukas Jutkiewicz. The net spend was £2.7m, which apart from the relegated sides who had parachute payments was one of the larger outlays in the league and a figure that Tony Mowbray could only dream of.
The cash deals aside, the rest of last summers recruits came on frees – although they will all need paying. And Boro will also have made a contribution (often a substantial one) to the wages of the loans that came in too. Don’t forget that when you do your calculations.
That spend on fees and wages had Boro right up to the £8m FFP limit for allowable losses after all the adjustments, such as the cost of the Academy. Given the reported loss of £14m in the annual company accounts and relatively persistently low revenue through the gate and from sponsorship and commercial it really didn’t leave much wriggle room.
This season though things have improved in several ways.
The FFP limits are being raised as the Football League move towards a three year cycle so Boro can lose £13m next year before punishments kick in – and with three clubs placed under transfer embargo this term that is a very real threat. The raising of the ceiling gives some accounting breathing space if not providing actual money. Losses are still losses.
And this years Boro have been boosted as revenues have increased, if not dramatically.
The average Riverside gate has gone from bumping along just above the 14,000 mark to regularly nudging above 18,000 and with a late flurry of bumper crowds in the run in.
But after costs and taxes the club have an average take of just a tenner per head so even an increase of 4,000 through the gate only chips in £920,000. Useful but not a fortune.
Boro did enjoy a cup bonanza and took 45% of the big gates at Liverpool (41,827), Manchester City (44,836) and Arsenal (59,823) – which at an average of £20 a head works out at £1.74m – although tax would take £350,000 of that. Plus Boro will get a slice of the FA Cup prize fund, earning £157,5000 for reaching the fifth round.
Throw in the extra gate money for the sold out play-off semi-final clash with Brentford: the gate over the two games is pooled and split and Bor should have taken around £350,000 there. And then there is the Wembley cash: both sides agreed that the loser would take all the gate money which after taxes, Wembley facility fee and Football League levy works out at £3m. So on paper Boro have taken in the region of £5.7m more income than last summer… but …. there’s always a but.
Boro’s transfer kitty… or Steve GIbson as we call him
That isn’t “extra cash” to be spent of course. In reality it just mitigates the deficit. It just means that Boro have made a smaller loss. It just means that Steve Gibson is not taking such a direct hit in his own pocket.
It does however help when it comes to calculating the FFP limits and the extra income plus change in the system will raise the ceiling and give the chairman room for manouvere.
And there are still massive costs that have to be factored in before you can splash the cash on fees, not least the wage bill. Last year Boro’s wage bill went up markedly. After three tough years of prudent belt tightening under Mowbray and finally clearing the toxic legacy of Strachan’s Great Tartanisation, Karanka had more leeway in his playing staff budget.
That funded not just the wages of signings but also paid for a far better calibre of loanee.
Having been trimmed back to £16m, the wage bill nudged back up to £20m last year – and then Boro spentan extra £2m in January on Adam Forshaw which will pop up in this year’s accounts. So that is probably the increase of the FFP limits already used up.
Leaving what exactly to spend without busting the ceiling? The increased revenues? Maybe £5m? Plus whatever Steve Gibson is ready to risk in straying over the line?
Boro could maybe take a punt and push the limit a bit knowing they could sell to recoup the investment if they didn’t get promoted. Or could go right up to the line and prepare to throw a bit more in come January if they are close but the squad is fraying.
Or, if a coveted target suddenly became available at a price too good to turn down and the kitty falls short or some has been spent, then that may be funded by selling.
Don’t panic! There is no intention or any pressure to sell the crown jewels – Boro have a good framework and won’t want to damage that – but sometimes opportunities to improve the squad present themselves and decisions have to be made for the long term.
My instinct is that Gibson will do whatever he can to support Karanka in a concerted now-or-never push for promotion. This squad went close last term leaving the chairman frustrated at exactly how narrow the gap was – but the fire still burns and having talked to him it is clear that he is totally convinced that gap can be bridged.
My instinct is that as a fan he will go out on a limb to bring in the quality players needed to get Boro over the line – and especially to bring in the crucial added firepower.
But the club don’t have an unlimited budget. Many of the “targets” now setting the cyber-space rumour mill alight are not realistic. Many are bedroom fiction by “ITK” mischief makers. Most are wishful thinking and election style uncosted aspirations.
Could Boro afford Jordan Rhodes? Probably not. Certainly not at the mooted £10m pricetag and in the face of Premier League competition and the wages they can offer. Palace are interested. Hull are interested. Other are monitoring the situation. And if it comes to a transfer fee arms race with can’t compete.
Maybe given a clear run Boro could structure a deal creatively with, say, £5m down and all kind of clauses say – but it would blow the whole budget on one player and run the risk of falling short in other key positions. And why would Blackburn accept such an offer when Rhodes has a queue of suitors with ready cash? And it is Rovers’ interest to wait as long as possible to push the price up whereas Boro want to do business as early as possible.
Boro’s key objective this summer is to add the vital firepower that could have seen them over the line. But they can’t compromise the integrity of the team as a whole. And there are other gaps to be filled as well – right-back, cover in central defence, a creative midfielder – and that will take a chunk out of the budget.
Boro need to get the maximum bang for their buck on the pitch. That will take shrewd shopping: a keen eye for talent based on detailed scouting and data analysis; a couple of well placed phone calls to make strategic use of the loan market; the chairman’s market muscle to compete on fees and wages if needed; and luck. you can’t put a price on that.
This is 12 inch Numba Crunchaz remix of a bit I did on the Gazette website
Incidentally, this is the 998th post on the blog over nine years and various platforms. What shall we do to celebrate the 1,000th? Shall we do a “Best of” clip show? Requests? Shall we have a party? A quiz? A day out at the cricket?*