Bounce-back Burnley look ahead to the Premier

BURNLEY’s tremendous campaign in 2022-23 means the club will surely overcome any hardships from suffering relegation a year earlier, although the accounts for the season just ended will reveal an inevitable drop in revenues. 

The club has just published its financial report for 2021-22 and, despite falling through the trapdoor into the Championship, Burnley made a pre-tax profit of £ 36.1 million, bettered only by Manchester City, on turnover of £ 123.4 million. It is likely the club’s income will be less than £ 100 million and probably closer to £ 80 million in 2022-23.

Now that the EFL’s transfer embargo has been lifted, Burnley will go into the Premier with no small amount of optimism; they were worthy and impressive winners of the Championship, losing only three games and running-up a staggering 101 points. Vincent Kompany, their manager, won the hearts of the fans in his first season and has now signed a contract that takes him to 2028. This may seem a bold gesture on the part of the club, but the way Burnley played suggests they could acclimatise quite well in 2023-24 and Kompany is, after all, a sought-after asset. 

Burnley’s last Premier League season underlines the importance of TV and media income to the clubs. Burnley’s £ 123 million (an increase of 7.2%) included £ 105 million from broadcasting, representing 89% of overall revenues. Matchday earnings totalled £ 7 million, a relatively small figure compared to many Premier members but one of the highest recorded by the club, while commercial activity raised £ 11.5 million, better than 2020-21 but some way below pre-pandemic figures.

Burnley were relegated with a wage bill of £ 91.9 million, slightly lower than 2020-21 but still 75% of income, a ratio that was at the higher end of the Premier League. Two seasons earlier, the club’s wages totalled £ 100 million. Burnley’s player wages remained among the lowest in the division in 2021-22.

A number of players were signed in 2021-22, notably Maxwel Cornet (Lyon £12.8 million), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg £ 12 million) and Nathan Collins (Stoke City £ 12 million), but with relegation, Collins was sold to Wolves for £ 20 million, Dwight McNeil moved to Everton for £ 20 million and Cornet went to West Ham for £ 17.5 million. Burnley made a profit of £ 54.7 million on player sales, only marginally less than the four previous seasons combined.

Burnley’s net debt increased from £ 14.8 million to £ 53.2 million. They were taken over in 2020 via a leveraged buyout, which loaded £ 65 million of debt onto the club. This method, while undoubtedly convenient for investors, is an unpopular strategy with supporters. Some of the club’s debt had to be repaid after relegation, hence the club offloaded some players to bring down costs.

Kompany was hired in June 2022, two months after the iconic Sean Dyche was sacked. In the summer, Burnley signed no less than nine players from Belgium clubs including Anderlecht, Standard Liege, Cercle Brugge, Antwerp, Union Saint-Gilloise, Charleroi and Westerlo. In total, around 25 players joined Kompany’s revolution. The new-look side drew a few games at the start of the season, but then settled down to show their pedigree, sending a signal to their rivals with a 5-1 win at Wigan. At Turf Moor, Burnley won 16 of their 23 games and lost once in their penultimate home fixture against QPR. 

Kompany’s Burnley, who could be an attractive away team, will face their real challenge next season. Can they adjust to life in the Premier and avoid the relegation battle that often comes after promotion? Does the former Belgium international have what it takes to manage successfully in the top flight? He has been smart enough to resist any would-be employer, perhaps aware that the step-up can be a steep one. Last time around, they had a couple of good years before struggling and even tasted European football. With that experience in mind, will Burnley, with their modest financial profile, be adequately resourced for the return to the Premier?

No shortage of excitement at level two in Europe

BURNLEY have secured their place in next season’s Premier League, scoring plenty of goals and building the reputation of their manager, Vincent Kompany. Who joins them remains to be seen, but Sheffield United are looking good and then it is any one from half a dozen teams. Burnley have become, to some degree, too big for the Championship but not quite big enough for the Premier, although they did remarkably well for a while in their previous spell. 

Kompany is being billed as Manchester City’s next manager and receives praise on a daily basis, but it is far too early to judge whether the Belgian is a Guardiola in the making. However, Burnley will be welcomed back to the top flight, not least because their Turf Moor home is a “proper football ground” and they are, after all, a club that is part of the game’s rich heritage.

Across Europe, some big name clubs are playing in the second division of their domestic league – in Germany, there seems to be a multitude of under-achievers such as Hamburg, Hannover, Nürnberg, Kaiserslautern and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Bundesliga 2 is the best supported second tier league in the world, with an average crowd of 21,694. It does fluctuate in accordance with who comes down from the Bundesliga and in recent years, there have been some sizeable casualties.

But the teams at the top this season are Darmstadt and Heidenheim, hardly big fish in the German game but nevertheless, well-run clubs on the up once more. Darmstadt were in the top flight fairly recently, but Heidenheim have never flown so high and only reached Bundesliga 2 in 2014 for the first time. They come from a town of less than 50,000 people in southern Germany and their crowds are generally less than 10,000. On Easter Saturday, Heidenheim meet another promotion-chasing club in St. Pauli, just a few weeks after beating leaders Darmstadt 1-0 at the Voith Arena in front of 12,000. Darmstadt, meanwhile, host another pretender in Paderborn and Hamburg, currently in third place, are at home to Hannover 96.

In France, Le Havre are looking likely Ligue 2 champions with a nine point lead over Bordeaux, who are drawing the best crowds in the division, an average of 19,500. Of the three relegated sides from last season, Bordeaux are faring better than Metz and Saint-Étienne, although the former are in the battle for promotion while Les Verts are below mid-table and have also had a three-point deduction for crowd trouble at their home ground in 2021-22.

Frosinone and Genoa are at the top of Serie B in Italy, but among the play-off chasers is Südtirol from Bolzano, who are in their first season at that level. The 2021-22 campaign was the most successful in the history of a club that at plays at the Stadio Druso, which was named after a Roman general. Interestingly, the bottom five of Serie B includes teams who have recently tasted Serie A football: Venezia, Benevento, SPAL and Brescia.

Spain’s Segunda Division is a close-run contest this season with Eibar and Las Palmas currently at the top, but a cluster of clubs behind them, notably Granada, Alavés and Levante. Some lesser-known sides such as Cartagena from Murcia and Burgos still have slim hopes of making the play-offs. Further down the table, you can find Zaragoza, a name from the past, and Sporting Gijon.

Scottish football received a boost recently with the national team’s win over Spain, but it is also good to see Queens Park heading the Scottish Championship, although Dundee, Partick Thistle and Ayr United are close behind. With so many league title races a foregone conclusion and all too predictable, the second level can often become more exciting than its big brother. In Scotland that could be the case.