Martin Bain believes the work done at Sunderland this summer will help to put the club on ‘an even keel’ in the future – and says Ellis Short continues to invest heavily in the club.
Bain has overseen a turbulent period following the club’s relegation, which began with David Moyes’ resignation, saw takeover talks with an interested party conclude and ended with a dramatic squad overhaul led by new manager Simon Grayson.
An indifferent start to the season has seen unrest escalate, with many frustrated that the money raised by Jordan Pickford’s sale has not been reinvested in the first team squad.
Bain and owner Ellis Short have been accused of ‘asset-stripping’ ahead of a potential sale by some fans, but the chief executive says the owner continues to fund the club and says the money raised by Pickford’s sale was needed to ensure the ongoing running of the club.
Bain also opened up to the Echo on the onerous financial obligations the Black Cats are still faced with when it comes to transfers concluded in previous years.
Specifically, Bain says the £30million raised by the sale of one of Sunderland’s finest ever homegrown talents has been used in part to pay money owed to other clubs for previous transfers, including the near £10million owed to Inter Milan after the club lost their case regarding the loan of Ricky Alvarez in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Bain said: “The income drop after relegation, from £100million to around £40million, has to be considered and so does the wage bill, which is still significant for this level even though we have taken steps to reduce it.
“We’ve brought in £30million for Jordan Pickford, but that is needed for the running of the club. Yes, that money comes in, but then you have to consider the money that went out on legacy transfer payments at the start of the summer.
“Added to that we lose some of it when you consider Ricky Alvarez. A player we don’t have, a mistake from the past.”
Bain rejected claims that Short has stopped funding the club, and says his role is to allow the investment made by the American to support long-term growth at Sunderland, rather than continue to fund debts and shortfalls.
He added: “You may not see big transfer fees and I understand why supporters would question that. To put it simply, you take the shortfall from the Premier League to the Championship in terms of revenue, which is huge. Ellis funds that, which allows us, as an example, to sustain a competitive wage bill for this division.
“Moving forward he’s not saying ‘I won’t write the cheques’, he’s saying ‘I don’t want to continue to fund losses, I want to fund growth and improvement’.
“I think that’s where I come in, to turn the club around over a sustained period of time. Football and financial stability is my remit. Not within 12 months but hopefully not too long and then we can see Sunderland climb.
“I know its repetition but I do genuinely believe the work we’ve done over the summer, everything we’ve done, not just transfers, if we had managed to get the results in recent weeks the mindset would be different.”
That Sunderland have spent just over £1million in the market has been a source of contention, and the pervading feeling among the fanbase is that only a change of ownership can help restore the club’s fortunes.
Bain says a new approach was needed under the current ownership after years of toil and financial losses. He acknowledges that investment is needed in the playing squad but says it must be under the backdrop of improved financial health.
He said: “I’m sure that Ellis looks at the football club now and recognises that he’s made mistakes.
“He spent an awful lot and now wants to do things differently. We have to do things in a way where we can get steady growth and be more sustainable, so that we’re not being kneejerk in what we do.
“We couldn’t continue the way things have been in recent years but he is absolutely, categorically, still funding the club.
“Looking at getting steadier growth – to change some of the identity issues that we’ve had and invest in different areas of the club – is so important for us to move forward.
“When you’re in the situation which we’ve been in the past, you’re making last minute signings, you’re not doing what you set out to do, I can see why mistakes have been mad.
“We made some last season and I hold my hands up to that. I just think we need to get things on an even keel so we can get it right and avoid those mistakes.”
Despite some on-field struggles in the early part of the season, Bain remains confident that fortunes will turn and says the club is in a better place for a transformative summer.
Sunderland’s previously onerous wage bill is understood to now be running at under half of the figure revealed in the club’s last set of accounts, covering the 2015/16 season.
Bain said: “In terms of the governance of this club, we’ve brought in £40million, the wage bill has been brought down considerably, the operation costs have been brought down which is something that’s very important for the club.
“When you look at it from that perspective, there is an impact being made. I really do believe it will turn, I know fans can’t see it at present because of the recent results but with some positive results we can say we’ve made progress.
“There’s 10 new players out on that pitch, and they’ll be thinking, wow. They’ll have heard about the atmosphere, what a big club it is, and that’s why they’ve come here.
“Fifteen players have left since we kicked the last ball last season, and 10 have come in. Youngsters have come through the system. That’s a huge transition and it will take time.
“It’s been difficult in recent weeks, understandably, but I do believe it will turn in our favour.”
*Martin Bain reflects on and explains Sunderland's summer transfer strategy in tomorrow's Sunderland Echo