The success or failure of any football club is entirely down to what happens on the pitch.
Employing the greatest commercial minds of our age is pointless if the team can’t pass the ball to each other. The revenue, stability, attractiveness and morale of a club are mere symptoms of match results.
A surplus of bad football has seen Sunderland achieve nothing except the retention of Premier League status for some years now.
Mixed with spectacularly incompetent transfer activity, ludicrously lucrative players’ contracts and some misfortune, the club’s alarming debt is perhaps no surprise and the most worrying symptom of all.
They are officially £139m in the red. But this figure is only to July 31, 2015. Since that date another £60m or thereabouts has been spent on transfer fees, with very few players being sold for what qualifies as money these days. The most recently reported annual wage bill was almost £70m.
But have heart. The club is tackling the issue head-on. They have told the 90 employees who do things like cut the grass, make the lunches and clean the bogs, that about half of them can sling their hook.
About time too. We’ve waited years for these bloodsuckers to get their comeuppance. Hurrah. Crisis over. However, certain questions arise.
Exactly how many will be dispensed with? Reports say that 40 roles are for the chop. If this figure is accurate (it isn’t confirmed), what is the combined salary of the 40?
Of course that last question will never be answered. So let us assume (pretend?) that the 40 earn the UK national average of £26,364 per annum. We inevitably have to place that figure beside the enormous debt and the incredible wages of the players, then ask the most obvious question of all.
What is the point of making such a miniscule saving?
Chief executive Martin Bain gave the following management-speak “explanation.”
Martin reckons: “In recent months we have undertaken a detailed review of the club’s entire operation. It is clear that the business had lost its focus and we now have to ensure that we are better equipped to be able to concentrate on the areas that are key to taking Sunderland AFC forward.
“Our infrastructure provides a tremendous platform and it is important that we capitalise on this by channelling our efforts into those areas that will have an impact. We want to ensure that the football club is in the best possible position to grow stronger, both on and off the field.”
“The decisions have not been taken lightly.”
Yes, but why are all those people losing their jobs?
Picking through that, there are parts that can actually be understood. One is the bit about making the club stronger. But how the club will become “stronger” when it has sent a few dozen bods of nugatory cost down to the dole queue is not obvious.
It may well be that “the decisions have not been taken lightly,” but the effect will be felt even less lightly. Worse is that the human beings the club is ridding itself of can’t have any concrete idea as to why it is happening, unless they can somehow decipher something from the “information” given by Mr Bain to the media.
After these people have been “consolidated” (head first), who is going to do the work, by which I mean the real and essential work that goes on behind the scenes?
Surely the club isn’t going to shoo workers, who in some cases have been there for decades, then outsource their jobs to save a piddling few quid; because that would be contemptible. Wouldn’t it?
The club isn’t a charity and the likes of me can’t know whether or not current staffing levels are too high (or low). But this is more drastic than mere trimming.
It’s yet another PR triumph for SAFC. I said last week that I didn’t give a hoot about the recent jolly to New York. I still don’t. The club will not stand or fall by that.
But others are furious. Local anger might have dissipated had the holiday makers avoided defeat at Everton, but they didn’t. So the NY trip was, to be polite, unpropitiously timed.
There was a time when Sunderland AFC branded themselves as “The caring club.” But they abandoned the slogan many years ago.
It was an uncharacteristically wise decision.