Given the lack of connection with the previous board which accompanied the worst period in the club’s playing history, it is entirely understandable and predictable that we would grasp at any hope that things would change. Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven rode in on their white chargers and promised to shake things up. The piss take party stopped and the club became a community focussed club again.
These are admiral theories and beyond all of that we have seen evidence of Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven connecting with the fans and the local community. I wonder, however, if we are in danger of blowing the fanfare trumpets a little early. Much work needs to be done and many of the decisions that the new board need to make will be unpopular. There is nothing new there and provided there is absolute clarity around the reasons for those decisions then you would hope the early work in connecting with the fans will allow a bit of understanding.
Whilst I do not want to pour cold water on the work that has been done at whirlwind pace over the last few weeks, we probably need to take a step back and think about what is on the horizon. In my last piece I spoke of the work that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven had done to move things forward on very important issues. It was, of course, vital that they addressed the disconnect between boardroom and terraces and they have managed to do that very successfully in a relatively short space of time. Long may that continue.
At the end of the day though, selfies with fans and podcasts will only take you so far. It’s results and progress that matter. If we can see progression, then we will happily embrace Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven as our own. Before that happens though they have some very serious business to take care of.
Under EFL rules a club can spend a maximum of 60% of turnover on player wages. Per the latest accounts this would give Sunderland a maximum wage bill of around £75m. However, those accounts are in respect of our final season in the Premier League. Even with parachute payments there is a significant drop in turnover expected in the next set of accounts. Newcastle witnessed a £40m drop in turnover per their latest accounts covering their season in the Championship which gives an idea of the amount we could expect to see chipped off our turnover. In essence a similar drop in turnover would mean we would have to comply with a wage bill of less than £50m (given reduced parachute payments) if we were in the Championship. We are, however, in League One.
What this tells us is that players will need to move on in order for us to satisfy FFP rules. The uncomfortable truth which we have before us is that those players on high wages will have to go. It may be that we have to reduce expectations on fees in order to shift them from our books. Whilst supporters may yearn for a tough stance, it may not be practical. We cannot afford to let players rot in the reserves and we cannot afford to be too resolute in our insistence on big fees. This in itself may make people doubt that the piss take party has stopped and Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven will be aware of that.
The coaching staff and others employed by the club will all be subject to having their contracts analysed and their cost v benefit sums looked at. The club needs to be sustainable. 18,000 season tickets is a good start in boosting the turnover but it is a drop in the ocean compared to lost TV revenues. The board need to be alive to how all this will sit with the fans and perhaps think about that openness and honesty they promised. Failing to explain all of this may result in people doubting and we cannot afford for that to happen. If we are to roar back we need everyone pulling together.
The next few weeks are vital for the future of the club. Jack Ross will be finding out who is going, how much he has to spend and whether the return to the top flight is a three, five or ten-year plan. I am absolutely behind what Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven are doing, but perhaps I need to manage my expectations a little.