The Challenge Ahead

Thursday, 17 April 2008, 15:06
3 mins read

  THE CHALLENGE AHEAD 

Swansea City FC  faces huge challenges next season in the Championship, possibly more so off the pitch than on.

Consider this – up to six clubs in each season (at present values) will have an approximate £10m head start  over us (parachute payments). 

There has been speculation about the prices of season tickets for the next campaign, and the need to achieve a  balance between being fair to our fans and raising sufficient revenue to make us as competitive as possible. 

We are lucky to be blessed with a manager who does not appear to need to outlay large sums to build his squad, but there is absolutely no doubt that we will need to make some player purchases, and our wage bill will inevitably rocket. 

A quick check shows that we are one of the cheapest in League One for admission prices, and even with a hike to £20 (East Stand) for next season, we will be one of , if not the, cheapest in the Championship. Can any of us begrudge a rise in prices to at least this level ?

I hear the arguments about us being a relatively “poor” area of the country, but I am sure that can be equally applied to other areas. 

I would also suggest that we need a significant investment in our Commercial and Marketing operations to step up to the level of  Championship clubs – I accept that we have come a long way in the last three years, but there is much ground to make up after years of wallowing in the lower divisions in an uninviting (however iconic), restrictive stadium. 

We now play in a rented stadium, so suffer the disadvantage of not being able to manage our operating costs, and make little profit from the revenues generated  by the bars, catering and hospitality throughout the stadium  –   a massive disadvantage against other clubs  –  this makes it even more vital for us to focus on, give resource to, and maximise, our Commercial and Marketing operations. 

We are extremely lucky to have a manager (and cohorts) who does not adopt the approach of throwing money at expensive buys, but is looking  to sensibly build a team. Which is to be particularly welcomed, as we cannot currently compete in financial terms with  

a)      the group of clubs in receipt of parachute payments

 – as a guide, for season 2005-06 (the latest for which the full Deloittes financial stats are available), the turnover of  parachute subsidised clubs Leicester, Norwich, Southampton and Wolves was each between £21 and £25m, as opposed to other Championship clubs Burnley, Cardiff, Plymouth, Preston and Stoke, who were in the range of £7 – £9m (which is where we will fit). 

b)      those clubs who operate their own stadia and have a well established Commercial/Marketing set up (almost everyone else in the division)    

Unfortunately, this would seem to give the bulk of the clubs in the Championship the advantage over us, but there is one huge plus that we have in our favour  –  we almost certainly have far less debt  than the majority of these clubs. 

So which way do we develop ?

The gamble of the big investor/sugar daddy route to achieve quick success and access the Premiership millions. 

Or, as the likes of the  Swans Trust would advocate, a strategy of steady, controlled growth that does not put us in hock, and not in the control of one or two major investors.

  The sugar daddy route

Do we accept major investment in the club by one or two investors (probably £5 – 10m to have any impact), which would almost certainly be invested in players, with the need for relatively short term success to fund the player investment and ongoing cost ?

A downside to acceptance of this is that these investors will seek shares for their investment, and the likelihood is that the club will (effectively) be controlled by these people, with the fans’ influence (through the Trust shareholding) being diluted to a position of not being able to act as a brake when needed.

Such a gamble could make us, if successful, into a Reading or Wigan. If unsuccessful, a Leeds or Luton !!!

 Long term, steady progress

The sensible approach – build up the fan base with season ticket incentives and a customer friendly, family focus, allied to investment in our Commercial and Marketing functions. 

Look to achieve a balance of maximising revenues and our fan base  –  on the basis that we have 8000 Season ticket/Premier holders, we really should be targeting 11000+  for our inaugural Championship season. The club also needs to increase its commercial and match day revenues.

Also, as a Championship club, should we be looking to expand on our city centre presence and also make match day ticket purchase available there ?

 WHAT’S IT TO  BE ? 

The points above do not even bring in to consideration the need for development of our youth and training facilities, a huge investment in themselves. Do we invest available monies in these areas, or divert them to the immediacy of first team strengthening in pursuit of the Premiership pot of gold ?  

Above all, we need to hold on to our current manager for as long as possible, and to achieve this I think we need to show him that we possess the professionalism and (controlled) ambition that matches his professionalism and integrity.    

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.
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