“Well that’s another fine mess you’ve got me into”

I know many fans are somewhat perplexed about Financial Fair Play (FFP), and that is being polite. There seems to be anger, resentment and a feeling of unfairness amongst Bluenoses; the sense that we are being picked on (while Villa get away with it). It’s also clear that the opacity about the process – from both club and EFL – makes this worse.

To me, this boils down to 2 elements. Firstly understanding the rules and how they work. Secondly understanding where we are and where we need to go. There is a third element to this for many people i.e. where other clubs stand – especially the Villa. I’m afraid I’m not going to cover this third element in any detail because I haven’t got time and being frank I don’t think it’s relevant – this is about us. What I will say is that from my background reading, Sheff Weds are in similar levels of hot water to us and Villa will be if they don’t sort their act out (although not until the end of this season at the earliest – remember they’ve had parachute payments).

So, element 1 – understanding the rules. There’s a series of tests, brilliantly explained here


In summary clubs can lose £15m over 3 seasons in “cash” or £39m if the owners fund the extra £24m of losses by buying shares. It looks to me like we’ve lost a total of around £37m over the last 3 seasons but with no shares having been purchased to cover any of the losses. So we’ve broken ALL the rules and COULD have the book thrown at us. That is the top and bottom of it.

@KieranMaguire (who’s a lecturer in Football Finance) posted a summary financial spreadsheet on Twitter which many of you will have seen (the brilliant @almajir has also covered this).





The last 2 years on the sheet are relevant. We lost c. £21M over 2 seasons (15/16 and 16/17). It appears that in 17/18 (based on my extrapolations of another @KieranMaguire tweet) we will have lost in the region of £25M, largely thanks to Redknapp and Dein. Add those 3 years together and we’ve lost £46M (although around £3M per annum of that comes off for “allowables” such as youth development, community schemes etc). Hence my estimate of a £37M FFP loss – or thereabouts.

But here’s the rub. Because our owners didn’t buy shares to fund any of the losses the 3 season limit is only £15M in total losses. If they had bought shares we might have been OK because it looks like we would have snuck under the £39M limit which applies when losses are covered by share purchases. I’ll leave you to judge whether or not those in charge did or didn’t fully understand the FFP rules but it does seem odd that we put the cheque book away in January and appear to have kept losses to just below the £39M limit, only to realise that that limit doesn’t apply to us because we didn’t buy any shares……

So, we’ve been naughty (or incompetent), got caught and will get done. What now? Element 2:

Well, the club appear to have a plan of sorts. The problem is (and there’s more guesswork in these numbers) that while things will get better financially as our losses going forward will be reduced, we’re reliant on the board to do something that so far they’ve been very reluctant or unable to do i.e. fund losses by buying shares.

This season the picture is better but still not good. I think (based on more guesswork) that the players who’ve already left – mainly returning loanees – will benefit us to the tune of about £5M savings in wages. The players slated to leave next (Stockdale, Grounds et al) should double that. Our income has been growing slowly but steadily due to higher crowds, a better TV deal and good performance by the commercial department but even if this continues it only makes a small dent – maybe £1-£2M. Finally the stadium naming rights will help by about half a million. Add that all up and our loss for this season might come down to £10M after allowables if we can shift Stockdale et al. This is still way above the £5M “cash” loss allowed per season. Looking even further ahead, only N’Doye is out of contract at the end of this season so the picture for next season (19/20) isn’t much better.

So what’s the solution – how can we get back to a situation where we can invest in better players and move the club forward? If I was running the club (ha!) this would be my plan:

  • Make sure Stockdale et al are gone by 31st August – easier said than done.
  • Get the best lawyer I can to defend us against EFL sanctions for our current transgression.
  • Tell the EFL I’m going to put in £40M in shares – 5 seasons worth.
  • This covers the last three seasons, this season and next season.
  • This would just about bring us back in line with FFP requirements for our transgression over the last 3 seasons.
  • It would give us a bit of extra cash (£2-3M?) this season.
  • This will cover the 2 or 3 loans we need to fill the squad out.
  • Most importantly it’d mean we’d have in the region of £4-5M extra available for 19/20.
  • Wait patiently for Butland and Gray to be sold.
  • Explain all the above to the fans. And Garry Monk. (Not in that order).
  • Focus on youth development.
  • Put even more effort into building better relationships with fans and local businesses.
  • Explore far-eastern brand building/marketing opportunities (in hope rather than expectation).

In summary – and we all know this anyway – we are paying the price for last summer’s excesses. The best we can hope for is a continuation of form and results under Monk (and the rejuvenated St Andrews which has gone with it), mid-table safety and owners who’ve learned from their mistakes. In the longer-term we probably have to accept that with average gates of just over 20,000 qualifying for the play-offs or promotion would be a very big achievement indeed. In Garry we trust………


Alex Hurley


  1. Davidjames


  2. Andy Nash

    The explanation is an excellent one but also a bit depressing as it clearly shows that in a number of areas we have failed to manage our situation correctly. The main crux of this for me is the terrible decision to allow Redknapp to spend as he did, you cannot blame him personally surely there must have been some form of approval given?? The key now is to look forward and quickly address the financial situation; the plan in the article is actually an excellent and common sense approach….they key is we must back Monk and his team. The club needs to ensure they do all they can to keep him here and give him what he needs, we have a manager now who could get us back up to the Premiership in the next 2-3 years

    • alex hurley

      Good point about it not being all down to Redknapp. Dien, Vetere and the powers that be who signed off the deals are all culpable. I should have made this clearer.

  3. David McCaffrey

    Do we trust in Gary? We travel in hope but closer examination reveal three things on the debit side of Gary Monk and his Orchestra:-
    1) So far, since arriving he has got 14 points from 11 matches, and his team of “chosen “ players threw away two points on Saturday. Now maths isn’t my strongest point but extrapolating that through to the coming season we would finish on 58 points or 15 th place this season.
    2) His treatment of senior players such as Stockdale, Grounds and Kuszczak is nothing short of a disgrace and by excluding them through his obdurance because of some psychometric crystal ball.passed to him by the likes of Mystic Meg he is risking what the coming season may have to offer, particularly if injuries in key positions occur, which is the norm.
    If they aren’t sold by the weekend then he willl have a pool of disgruntled player, on massive wages, playing for the youth team. In any other profession they would have a case for constructive dismissal and probably the PFA are looking into this now.
    Just in passing Rowett and Cotterill have received dogs abuse from fans in the past for naming and shaming players in public, but somehow their poison pens don’t seem to work for our Gary.
    3) Pederson looks like an accident waiting to happen with elements of his play and Monk was sacked by Middlesbrough for wasting big money on rubbish players.

    • alex hurley

      It’s all about opinions…

      I think most would disagree with yours.

      1. Monk’s record. 16 from 11 actually. 5 wins, a draw & 5 defeats (3 of which were against top 6 teams). Nigh-on 1.5 points per game and a 70% improvement on the 30 points from 35 games achieved previously. Equates to 67 PTS over a season which is easily top half. If that’s not good enough for you after the last 2 seasons fair enough but I think most fans would be happy.

      2. Treatment of players. Direct consequence of FFP. We need to shift some out & Monk’s had to make tough decisions. He’s chosen the players, they know the situation, it happens everywhere. He’s been consistent, open & honest. I call that good leadership.

      It can’t be constructive dismissal because they didn’t resign their posts straightaway. Why? because playing in the u23s and picking up their money is a pretty cushy number. They’ll be perfectly fine. And there’s be no ‘public shaming”. A total non-issue.

      3. Pederson. Judging a player on one game – especially when it’s a new league in a different country – is ridiculous.

      3. Middlesbrough’s squad was so bad it finished 5th. Rightly Pulis gets the credit not Monk, but the team he assembled contributed massively to it.

      To be clear, I am not suggesting Monk is some kind of footballing Messiah. You are right to play devil’s advocate and challenge people’s perceptions. But on the evidence so far he’s a good manager who deserves our support in my view.

  4. cliff

    Alex – what a fantastic explanation and realistic plan – Thanks so much for this article. Maybe the club could employ you to help implement the plan !

  5. Eric Jones

    Good work. The key may be the owners buying shares…are the owners committed or not? We will find this out soon!

  6. Sausage n egg

    Good one Alex…. Clearly put and outlined well ….strange when Carson was banged up and the club was pleading for the EFL to look into it they didn’t give a flying wotsit …we really haven’t learnt anything from those days of shite and the club and fans have to suck it up again. Everything Blues does is half arsed be it the stadium development ,the catering ,club shop ticketing or Blues TV nothing will change until the owners realise they need football club people with a proven track record or better still sell us but then who would want us ? Other clubs seem to find mega rich owners ( not far you can smell them from our place) I have had years of consistant shite and it does wear thin with only a glimpse of something occasionally good and I don’t buy into this “it’s blues way ” it is because we have come to expect mediocre or less and are happy with survival ? My sphincter can not take another relegation battle but we have to trust Monk and let him mould what we have and give him time

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