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?

Football statues – don’t devalue the currency

DAVID SILVA and Vincent Kompany are both excellent footballers and performed outstandingly well for Manchester City (they didn’t serve them, they were paid enormous sums of money). Doubtless, they are already being referred to as “legends”. Both have now left the club and Silva is heading for Real Sociedad in his home country. When any new history of City is written, Silva and Kompany will feature prominently in the club’s golden period.

City have no shortage of players who merit recognition from their history, but a statue should be reserved for the truly great individuals who helped make the club. Such monuments arguably belong to the past. Paintings and monuments, or naming ceremonies were the only way a grateful public or institution could show appreciation for a life of contribution. Today we have Youtube!

In today’s attention-grabbing football landscape, clubs seem over-zealous in their pursuit of looking good and making grand statements. Take Birmingham City’s “retirement” of Jude Bellingham’s number 22 shirt after he was sold to Borussia Dortmund. The 17 year-old (yes 17!) had played just 44 games for the club. Admittedly, the fee the Blues received for Bellingham, around £ 25 million, probably got the Brummies out of a hole, but isn’t this a case of premature adulation?

It really backfired on them as they were criticised for a PR stunt that didn’t work, but it really sums up the over-enthusiasm to make landmarks out of almost anything.

The act of commemoration should be rare, if it is a commonplace event, it is no longer “special” or worthy of widespread celebration. It is possible that nobody will remember who Bellingham is in five years’ time. David Silva, a World Cup winner, will certainly be remembered, but is a statue the right way to remember a hired gun among hired guns, one whose career is still running? Or is it just a case of nice idea but the wrong time?

It does seem as though no club forecourt these days is complete without a statue. Arsenal have been statue-happy since they moved to the Emirates, Chapman, Henry, Bergkamp, Adams and even little Ken Friar. It’s likely that Wenger will join that list at some point and maybe even a member of the 1971 double team.

It was good to see Johan Cruyff has been commemorated by a decent piece of art outside the Ajax stadium. The Dutch master already had a somewhat abstract statue at the Amsterdam Olympic arena, but this new one more accurately reflects what Cruyff was all about.

Cruyff is no longer with us and perhaps this is the most appropriate qualifier for a statue, they should be created and erected to mark achievement and the passing of time. It is part memorial, part reminder and, above all, the glorification of achievement. Similarly, the use of the term “legend” is overused and often a mistake. Legend has become part of the everyday lexicon, used to describe somebody who is highly regarded by others. But even the most run-of-the-mill footballer is called a “legend” if he has simply donned the club’s shirt. I have seen very average players given that tag when their playing record includes less than 100 appearances.

We have seen what happens when history changes course, statues get pushed into the water, icons get daubed in graffiti and defaced. A statue should be a sign of appreciation and great deeds, but in our troubled times, those deeds that will have to stand the test of time and avoid scrutiny.

City can do what they like, it is their call, but will they be erecting statues for other members of their current squad? There’s no denying some people will be delighted that Silva and Kompany will be cast in resin, stone or bronze, but who will be next – will this become a new trend to start sculpting contemporary players to appeal to today’s audience? City may be setting a new precedent.



Photo: PA Images