Millwall suffer covid hit, but remain realistic

MILLWALL continued to be unprofitable in 2020-21, recording their biggest ever loss as the affects of the pandemic came to the fore. The Lions lost £ 13.8 million before tax, an increase on 2019-20’s £ 10.9 million deficit. However, because Millwall are generally a well-run club, the losses could have been worse in the circumstances.

Over the past decade, Millwall have accumulated pre-tax losses of £ 78 million, but the past two seasons have accounted for almost £ 25 million, largely due to covid-19. The club continues to make little from transfers and in 2020-21 the profit on player sales was just £ 0.7 million, arguably the lowest in the Championship. In the period between 2011-12 and 2020-21, Millwall spent £ 7.8 million and received £ 9.9 million, according to Transfermarkt. 

The club has tried to bring through young players into the first team, current first team players Danny McNamara and Billy Mitchell have come through the ranks at Millwall. They operate with a relatively small squad compared to most of their rivals and the overall market value of their players is estimated at £ 31.6 million. The squad has cost, in actual terms, less than £ 4 million.

While the club’s income went down by 24.4% to £ 12.5 million – the lowest since they returned to the Championship – the wage bill rose by just under £ 2 million to £ 20.8 million, a jump of 10%. This suggests Millwall’s wage bill is still too high for the amount of income they can generate. Thankfully, the club’s shortfall is covered by American owner John Berylson. Even though the loss for 2020-21 was bad by Millwall’s standards, Berylson commented that a number of clubs are likely to lose £ 20-30 million during the pandemic.

Even allowing for the difficulties of the past two seasons, Millwall’s wage-to-income ratio over the decade has been 110%, but in 2020-21, because of the near total absence of matchday revenues, the ratio soared to 167%. Income over 10 years has increased by 9% compared to a doubling of wages. Millwall were assisted by the league’s support loan, borrowing £ 8.3 million over a three-year period. These loans are in the name of the EFL, but secured against future solidarity payments from the Premier League.  

It’s easy to see where Millwall were hit hardest, their matchday income was just £ 1.4 million versus the £ 4.4 generated in 2019-20. Broadcasting monies were also down by £ 1 million to £ 8.4 million, while commercial revenues totalled £ 2.7 million, on par with the previous year, which was no mean feat in a challenging environment. Fortunately, the club is currently enjoying its best-ever sponsorship deal with Swedish company Huski Chocolate.

Millwall remain one of the most passionate clubs in English football and in normal times, they can call on close to 14,000 people at their home games. At present, retaining their Championship status has to be the priority and their performance this season suggests they should be secure for the 2022-23 season. But in the current climate, Millwall will need to maintain their realistic approach to financial management in order to get through the immediate challenges created by the pandemic.

Grey Neutral Weekly: The very mighty Müller

SAD news from Germany that the most famous footballer to remove England from the World Cup without cheating is no longer with us. Gerd Müller, a legendary figure in the Bayern Munich story, World Cup winner and goalscoring machine, has died aged 75. 

Born November 3, 1945 in Nördlingen, Müller is considered the greatest striker of all time by many pundits. Although he came to the attention of British fans in 1967 when he played a key role in his club, Bayern Munich, winning the European Cup Winners-Cup against Glasgow Rangers, it was the 1970 World Cup that earned him the reputation of one of the most feared forwards in the game.

Müller was the leading scorer in Mexico, scoring two hat-tricks in the group stage – against Peru and Bulgaria in the space of four days – and went on to become top marksman in the competition. England fans caught a glimpse of his ability to be quite athletic, despite being nicknamed “kleines dickes Müller” (short, fat Müller) by green-eyed coaches. Two years later, with the West German team in its pomp, Müller scored at Wembley against England to effectively knock the reigning World Champions out of the European Championship.

Müller won the Ballon d’Or in 1970, fending off the challenge of Bobby Moore and Luigi Riva. From 1967 to 1976, he featured in the top 20 of the award and also made the top three in 1969 and 1973. Furthermore, he won the European Golden Shoe as Europe’s top scorer in 1969-70 and 1971-72. He was West German footballer of the year in 1967 and 1969.

After 1970, Helmut Schön’s West Germany arrived, winning the European crown in 1972, the calendar year in which Müller netted an astonishing 85 goals. Bayern Munich, too, were coming to the boil and in 1974, were European Champions for the first time. Muller was still the kingpin in a team that included Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier and when West Germany hosted the World Cup, it was Müller who won the new trophy for his country, swivelling his hips to score the winner in Munich after the Dutch had earlier threatened to embarrass their hosts. It was Müller’s last game for his country and his 68th goal in 62 games, a remarkable statistic. He later admitted that he had been a little hasty in retiring from the national team. West Germany certainly struggled to replace him.

With Bayern Munich, Müller won a total of three European Cups (1974 to 1976), four Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokals and the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, and accumulated 398 goals in 453 games, a phenomenal record. As good and as lethal as he was, his post-playing career was something of an anti-climax and he experienced great problems with depression and alcohol. Thankfully, his former team-mates and old club, Bayern, rallied round “Der Bomber” – they realised the debt of gratitude they owed to the little (5ft 9 inches) front man.

Down to Millwall

AS EVER, a trip to Millwall leaves you with mixed emotions. There’s scarcely a stadium in Britain where the atmosphere is more raucous and intimidating. Against Blackburn Rovers, it was no different, there was a sense of “we’re back” about the afternoon. It started with a free-for-all in the stand where our seats had been taken by a group of regulars who clearly didn’t fancy Row E and we were not going to argue. Inevitably, they only sat in our Row B seats for about half the game, the rest of the time, they were either topping-up at the bar or expelling what they had already consumed. Never mind, we still had a decent view, when they were not standing up. Why do we go to Millwall, you might ask? It’s such an interesting place to watch a match, a throwback to more robust times and a good example of how influential a passionate and full-on crowd can be. They didn’t like the “taking the knee” at the Den, the gesture was roundly jeered by the fans and, the Millwall team didn’t take part. The game itself was unexceptional, ending 1-1. Both goals, by Millwall’s Jed Wallace and Blackburn’s born-again Chilean Ben Brereton-Diaz, were decent efforts, but the 12,490 crowd won’t remember the contest for too long. Millwall need more punch up front and Blackburn need more ambition.

The Kane game

NOW that Lionel Messi has found a home for the next two years, the emphasis is switching to Harry Kane and the game of “will-he, won’t-he” for the next couple of weeks. Kane was not at the Tottenham stadium for their deserved and eye-catching 1-0 win over Manchester City. You could read this in many ways, but our take at GOTP towers is the deal has probably been done and it’s a little embarrassing for Kane to be rubbing shoulders with City on the opening day of the season. Fans are fickle, as we have saw at Tottenham – at the end of the 90 minutes, they were chanting, “are you watching, Harry Kane?”, which suggests the bond has been broken. Kane has been idolised by the Spurs faithful, but how quickly the sentiment can change. It will be a surprise if Kane doesn’t leave, and judging by City’s lack-lustre performance, they need him.

Payback time for Lille?

LILLE’s Ligue 1 success in 2020-21 was marvellous for the French club, but it has all gone horribly wrong for them since. The club lost their coach, Christoph Galtier in the summer and he returned this weekend with his new club to win 4-0 in Lille. The club already had financial problems when Callisto Sporting bought them in December 2020, with debts around € 150 million and rising. Lille’s wage bill in 2019-20 was just over 20% of the total paid by Paris Saint-Germain, so their achievement in 2020-21 was considerable. Their revenues for 2019-20 were just € 96 million, as it is unlikely last season will be better than that, what will the impact be of trying to keep pace with more affluent clubs? Lille may yet lose the core of their title-winning team, which might swell their bank balance, but how damaging will that be for their on-pitch performances?

Photo: Alamy

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