No quick fix for Sunderland after bleak financial picture is laid bare

The bleak financial landscape facing Sunderland AFC was laid bare for all to see this week.

Thursday, 15th December 2016, 3:35 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 8:18 am
Sunderland CEO Martin Bain
Sunderland CEO Martin Bain

Martin Bain, the club’s chief executive, outlined the severe challenges facing the Black Cats ahead of the January transfer window.

Sunderland’s business next month will be ”very limited” given the constraints the club faces in terms of the £140million debt and the Premier League financial fair play restrictions around wages.

Rules introduced in the 2013-14 campaign restrict expenditure by clubs struggling to make an overall profit - a category Sunderland sadly fall into given they were £25million in the red for the 2014-15 financial year.

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And with Sunderland close to the financial fair play cap for wages, it leaves little room for manoeuvre next month with Sunderland rightly not willing to be the first to break the rules and face the consequences.

Those consequences are wide-ranging and could involve fines, points deductions and possible transfer embargoes.

In a nutshell, in order to turn the situation around, which won’t happen overnight, the club needs to generate more income.

A key failure of the past seven years has been the poor record when it comes to player trading.

Owner Ellis Short has pumped in £200million of his own money since taking charge and he continues to bankroll the club.

But he has seen very little in return on that investment.

Even if Sunderland were looking to splash out £50million on new signings next month, they couldn’t because of the restrictions around the wages.

Another standout line from Bain was that only three players out of 46 signings made since 2009 have been sold on for a profit.

Those three players being James McClean, Simon Mignolet and Darren Bent.

Years of paying out for players but getting little back in sales - this summer, alone, just £6.5million was recouped for more than a dozen players shipped out - management upheaval, instalments for previous signings and a high wage bill upwards of £70million contributing to the club’s losses.

Generating more income is key and the club simply must become better at player trading. Fans don’t like or want to see star players leave the club but in order to grow, that is often the reality.

On the pitch this season Sunderland are facing their annual season-long battle against the drop.

But off it there has been a significant sea change.

Former chief Margaret Byrne didn’t do interviews very often, if at all.

The Echo had one on-the-record chat back in 2013 but nothing aside from that.

It has all changed, though, with Bain keen to communicate the club’s situation with supporters this week.

Bleak it may be and while it wasn’t the news fans wanted to hear, at least the club have outlined the issues facing them.

They deserve credit for that. They didn’t have to. But it has managed expectations ahead of January and beyond.

The financial situation isn’t a problem of Bain or David Moyes’ making. Bain, appointed in July, has been brought in to help clear up the mess.

It’s good to talk so they say and Sunderland fans have at least been given the full picture.

A long and rocky road lies ahead but what is clear is that Sunderland could not keep going down the previous path.

As Bain was at pains to point out, they can no longer spend their way out of trouble.

That’s not to say there won’t be any new signings but in the main, Moyes will have to mastermind survival with the players at his disposal.

There is no quick fix on or off the pitch for Sunderland, that much is clear.