Dr Daniel Plumley, of Sheffield Hallam University, says the Black Cats’ income would increase by around £10million per year if they beat Wycombe in next week’s League One play-off final, which would end a four-year spell in the third tier.
Sunderland’s ownership structure remains complicated, though, with majority shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus owning just 41 per cent of the club.
Supporters were quick to voice their dissatisfaction when it was revealed earlier this year that former chairman Stewart Donald has retained a 34 per cent stake, with Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven holding 20 per cent and five per cent respectively.
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Donald and Methven have said they are prepared to sell their combined 39 per cent shareholding for £11.7million, equating to a club valuation of £30 million.
Yet if Sunderland were to win promotion to the Championship the club’s value would also increase.
What is Sunderland worth?
“I think that’s pretty much there or thereabouts for Sunderland,” Plumley told the Echo when asked about the estimated £30million figure. “It’s not an exact science which is another thing to add.
“If they are in the Championship I would probably add another £15-20million on that valuation.
“Obviously if you jump into the Championship and your revenue boosts by £10million and you’ve got extra commercial leverage and more exposure, you should be setting that price a little bit higher as well.
“Of course if you get further up you can add another £100million (in the Premier League) onto that again so it does scale up with the leagues that they are in.”
Sunderland’s financial accounts for the 2020/21 season were released last month and revealed the club made an operating loss of £11.7million during the last campaign.
While this season’s figures won’t be released for another 12 months, revenue streams have improved due to the return of fans in stadiums, while promotion to the Championship would also result in more income.
How much is promotion to the Championship worth?
“It’s nowhere near as much as the jump from the Championship to the Premier League unfortunately,” explains Plumley. “That is driven by TV money whichever way you cut it.
“With the Premier League TV money even if you finish bottom you are going to get £100million minimum and you can probably add on a bit of that from comercial deals and parachute payments.
“The jump from League One into the Championship also has a TV link but it is nowhere near as much. Estimates would be around £8million total for promotion from League One to the Championship and that is linked to the Premier League TV deal.
“As things currently stand each Championship club, not in receipt of parachute payments, receives about £5-6million from the TV pot. The equivalent in League One is like £800,000 to £1million.”
Last month’s accounts revealed that Sunderland’s television and media revenue for the 2020/21 season was £5.4million, following the end of the club’s Premier League parachute payments, with that figure expected to fall again this campaign.
“It’s tough to get a read on that because obviously the landscape was different with games being played behind closed doors,” adds Plumley.
“The deal at the minute means each Championship club will get around £6million from the TV pot, obviously you can top that up a little bit with the number of times teams are on TV because each individual match has a fee for the club which you can add on.
“Going on a conservative estimate you are just looking at a guaranteed amount and then you can add a little bit on from there.”
How else can Sunderland make money?
The other area where Sunderland could make financial gains in the Championship is through comercial deals and increased matchday attendances.
“You’d anticipate some extra comercial deals or potentially being able to leverage commercial activity a little bit more because you are in a league that is higher up and will get more exposure," explains Plumley. ”You could add a couple of million on there conservatively, especially for a club like Sunderland.
“Matchday is obviously a tricky one because Sunderland have had big crowds in League One, so you’d normally see an uplift in matchday attendance but we already know Sunderland are well supported so that might not be as huge as for other clubs.
“Around a £8-10million difference would be a realistic benchmark for a club like Sunderland to get out of League One and into the Championship.”
What about wage costs?
Promotion to the Championship would also provide challenges, with clubs spending more money to try and reach the Premier League.
Sunderland spent around £11.9million on wages during the 2020/21 campaign, yet many clubs in the second tier, especially those with parachute payments, are paying significantly more.
“It’s the other side of the coin,” adds Plumley. “How much do you need to invest to compete in the Championship and what are your aspirations?
“Obviously Sunderland will have very high aspirations given where they’ve been but they will have to adjust to that league and set their targets accordingly.
“Do wages go up because of the type of player you are attracting and type of player you maybe want to keep hold of and maybe offer them better terms?
“Increased revenue as you go through the leagues goes hand in hand with increase in cost, trying to balance that is obviously key.
“It’s massively distorted in the Championship because you have clubs with parachute payments which are a big issue in that league.
“It’s not unusual in that league to have clubs spending £40-50million on wages in a year whereas some clubs will be a lot lower in the region of £5-10million.
“You have a problem in that league with parachute payments distorting the wage bills and that obviously is a problem for clubs coming up.”