Saturday, 5 November 2011

Swansea City : Priorities for a Club promoted to the Premier League.

When our Club was promoted to the Premier League I thought I'd have a go at blogging on a regular basis.Some of you may have read those pieces on here. So via the fantastic scope of the net, I'd also contribute to various Swansea City fansites. My preferred choice was always scfc2

The host of scfc2, Jim White, was courteous enough to both allow me to post links to my blog when I messaged the Guest Book, and the opportunity to write a guest blog on there, my favourite of those Swansea City fan sites. This post is the result. Hopefully, people enjoy reading it. We've all got opinions and experiences through our support of Swansea City.
If anything I write can stimulate debate all the better. Thanks.

When a newly promoted club joins the Premier League, as my club did via the play-offs last May, the last thing on supporters' minds is likely to be the first thing the Board thinks about.....How the hell do we cope with this?

When the celebrations are over, and they can justifiably go on for a long time, the fans attention will be drawn to questions of "When do we play Liverpool/Man Utd/Chelsea/Arsenal" naturally- meanwhile, for a traditionally lesser or smaller Club, which ours is, the football life it's led for most of the recent years is about to change in the most dramatic fashion.

Joy, elation, pride, was unconfined, and deservedly so. Ours was a club that on May 3rd 2003, just 7 years previously, had won a last day fixture against Hull City, 4-2, to guarantee it's very survival.

I can't really put that point strongly enough. Were it not for James Thomas's goals and the performance of a team that included current stalwarts Leon Britton and Alan Tate, coupled with a storyline from the Roy of the Rovers handbook - one that told the tale of the back room and off-field efforts of Supporters (ex-players included) better detailed elsewhere -we might not be here now.

If things had gone differently the Club may not have survived, and we would NOT be where we are today, which is in "the best League in the world" (according to some), and part of a cartel of clubs that can attract sufficient revenue to ensure that very same survival in perpetuity. For ever. Amen to that.

From the day after the historic 4-2 win against the admirable Reading at Wembley on that May day , things got very, very different.

By the way, what is it about us and 4-2's? Our fans will tell you , we do like to do it the hard way.

Let's look briefly at simply the broad brush financial rewards.

For doing things the right way we stand to trade as follows.

The Prem's payment for placement means that should we finish 17th- one above the relegation slots, we will receive £3 million odd. Not bad.

Coupled with that if we've been on TV a lot (live more than recorded) we should stand to make at least £6 million from the Broadcasters.
This seems eminently fair to me, since we're a great deal more attractive to watch than some teams.
But then that's me, not you.

Then there's the Equal Share of £13.8 million for being a Premier League team.
Finally, as a reward to our Asian fans (sic) , we're due approximately £ 17.9.

That's a total of £40.7 million.

You may think I'm deluded and I'm just plucking figures from the air. I'm not. Wolves, who finished 17th last year, made £40.5 million pounds as you can see.

That's just the start. It has always been for me the case that you get what you give.
My side, I think, gives good value for money. We entertain, amongst other things, but then, I may be biased.
So, given the rewards freely offered, what could, or should, be the way we utilise this largesse.

The season, prior to opening, taught us a lesson. The response, from the City, was fantastic.
From a base of 11/12 thousand fans, including 9000 odd season tickets, which made some of us rather proud in the CCC - (Officially the hardest League in Europe to get out of)- going upwards - our Club tried to cope with selling out.
People queued, overnight, amongst other things, to get their hands on the equivalent of a Big Lottery win -a home season ticket - and that was only half of! - wait until we got to the Away allocation!!

Eventually, the club settled on an Away season ticket scheme with points for attendance on both this and home fixtures- a JackArmy scheme... modelled on, some said, the Villa and Chelsea templates.

So whilst the Club did it's darndest to cope, here we are enjoying/loving our first season in the Premier League.

That was only one small instance of the factors that a smaller club has to take into account on it's leap to the PL. Like many football supporters, I'm a regular reader/contributor to/of the Club's unofficial supporter sites.
A good example of one of the better ones is to be found as I've said at scfc2 .
To all who haven't been there before, welcome, and take a look around. It's always worth a read, and it might give you an inkling of the continuous stream of commitment from just one section of the Swansea faithful.

The debate over our playing strengths continues to this day, and is guaranteed to raise hot air. For me it seems that the Club has continued its principles of steady, cumulative, affordable investment in the playing staff, with further development of our footballing philosophy, to play in a manner that is both attractive and effective.
Long may that be the case, please, and at the end of the season I'll be surprised if that's not enough to keep us in this division.
But hey, I may be wrong, but it won't be from lack of effort from both the staff and players and the majority of supporters.

I say majority because there will always be some who know that Brendan Rodgers and his team have got it wrong,wrong and wrong again. Ask Mick McCarthy at Wolves as we've seen recently.
I really do wonder how those who do object violently (metaphorically speaking) would feel if in their day job a whole posse of people (some of whom might be slightly tipsy) were gathered at their workplace to chant in unison "you don't know what you're doing". Really ??

Anyway,let's move on.

Is it fair to speculate on what might be the longer term outcome of our Premiership adventure, be it fleeting visit or something longer term. You know I'm going to anyway, or I wouldn't be writing this.

Let me start with a contentious word - Legacy.

Ah, Legacy. Now there's a thing.
Ask Lord Seb Coe whether it's that straight forward a concept.
West Ham and Tottenham, not to mention Leyton Orient, might be arguing about this even after the Olympic Games of 2012 have come and gone.
The battle for Premier League status, and any Club's Home stadium, amongst other things, is complex.
Especially when you consider the rewards, and whether that club makes a profit, or loss. Remember the word loss.
We have experience of this.

Here's an interesting quote from a writer discussing Derby County, a club that has seen the trauma of overspending, and was not one of the three promoted clubs in 2011-

" By the way, the size of the loss appears to have little bearing on a team’s chances of success, as the three promoted clubs in 2011 represented all points on the spectrum: QPR made a large loss, but Norwich City only had a small loss, while Swansea City were actually profitable."

Incidentally, I've not mentioned the "£48 million parachute payments over the next four years (£16 million in each of the first two years, and £8 million in each of years three and four " that would come our way were we relegated. Same source.

I'd say that the whole point of being in the Premier League is both to participate in the "World's most exciting League" and to profit from it.
In every sense.
What I mean by this is what follows, and you may, or may not, agree.

A) The Team.

As I've hinted both earlier and elsewhere, Swansea's player acquisitions over the Summer and beyond were done within a structure and pattern that was, amongst other things, affordable.
Never forget that this is a club that was taken to the brink of extinction by financial excess allied with administrative and managerial incompetence.
So in the signing of Danny Graham, Leroy Lita, Wayne Routledge,Steven Caulker (albeit on loan) amongst others, despite again breaking the club's transfer record fee paid for a player, the total outlay came to no more than £ 9 million pounds (reported).
It was also in line with Manager Brendan Rodgers' stated ethos that the club will live within its means.

If you want to delve deeper into Swansea's numbers, I advise a read of the estimable Swiss Ramble.

This seems eminently good sense to me,especially so in a week where Plymouth Argyle stepped back from the brink of oblivion by exiting Administration.
A collection of clubs are still capable of testifying to the foolishness of overspending on playing staff to try to match both some Fan and Director desires/expectations.
Recent and pertinent examples arguably include a list that it's easier to see by just looking at the CCC and League 1 Tables.

Confirmation is given by David O'Leary,the Manager of Leeds at the time of their fall from grace ,a man caught up in an early example of the type of spending spree that's dangerous and has pertinence for us all.
It can be found in this article = "O'Leary hopes lessons can be learned from decline of Leeds "

Despite these numerous examples of how NOT to do it, and positive patterns in the success of Stoke City, Wolves, Wigan, West Brom - who could all argue Premier League status on a semi-permanent basis, this isn't good enough for a vocal minority of our own supporters.
In this camp the argument starts from (reasonably enough they would say) that old saw that one MUST "speculate to accumulate".
In other words, bet to win.
Or lose. Big time.
Notice that nobody ever puts it that way though, and a moments reflection will tell you why.
Roman Abramovich, Sheik Mansour and their ilk are few and far between, and tend not to look outside a very very small circle of opportunity.

Take Everton FC, a long established Premiership Club that has been on the market for some years and still has major financial issues -
"Everton have effectively been on the market for many years, but the chairman Bill Kenwright has so far failed to attract the new investment that the club so badly needs."

Huw Jenkins, our Chairman, and his Board, think differently.

That's why I hope to see the club continue it's planned, phased development of the team.
It may, or may not, be good enough to keep us in this division and help us move into the bracket of a more secure residency in the EPL (sic).
In the meantime we get to watch a brand of football and opponent that at least 72 other professional teams would die for.
As do, and would, we.
So what else can we hope for?

B) Training Ground/Club Complex

This is the Guardian's David Conn on the plans of Manchester City..........

" The 80-acre, £100m-plus training "campus", plans for which City unveiled in September, represents more than England's most extravagant facilities. The complex is a statement of Mansour's commitment, central to City's ambitions, and key to complying with Uefa's rules, by aiming to develop young talent, rather than buy it.
The plans, developed after City's project managers travelled to Europe and the US to scout the facilities of other top clubs such as the LA Lakers, New York Giants and Barcelona, include training surfaces with turf to match those at the stadiums at City's opponents, 15 full-size pitches and a 7,000-capacity stadium for junior teams."

Now I know that whilst we're in the same division as the Eastlands Emirates-offshoot , we're not in the same financial league. However, if any club means to develop/expand it seems to me that this is key.
Swansea City currently train at Llandarcy, at a facility that's both public and not owned by the club. The board has shown its willingness to advance by its stated desire to go down a similar(if lesser) route, maybe purchasing a site in Landore to develop along these lines. I think that's a wonderful idea, and I hope to see it pursued in the next few years. If not Landore, then elsewhere.
The bonuses and results might see more home grown players emerge, as did Joey Allen and Lee Lucas recently. There are more to come. Gwion Edwards, Kurtis March, Daniel Alfei, Jazz Richards, Casey Thomas, Joe Walsh anybody ? And that's the key, surely, for clubs like us.
If we've not got the ability to compete in the muscular money market we must develop our own talent.
Home grown skills are honed on the fields of Carrington, London Colney, Cobham and all of the Training complexes that are the heart of modern football clubs.
It's like growing your own plants. It helps if you have a garden in which to do it.

C) The Liberty Stadium

The Swans play at the Liberty Stadium, newly opened in 2005, a purpose built 20,000 capacity arena, owned by Swansea City Council and leased to the Club as a shared Tenancy with the Ospreys Rugby Union franchise and run by a triumvirate of SCFC,SCC and Stadco.To quote the Official Site.............
"The council invited a developer-led consortia to submit a proposal for a sustainable 'bowl' venue for 20,520 seats on a site to the west of the river, funded by 355,000ft retail park on land to the east of the river. The final value of the development being in excess of £50m. Construction commenced in the autumn of 2003 with the opening game taking place in the stadium between Swansea and Fulham on 23rd July, 2005."

With it's pristine playing surface (a winner of Awards) and it's modern, satisfactory environs and facilities, it has suited perfectly and helped our rise through the FL Divisions.
However, given the world wide interest in the Premier League, as mentioned above, it now sells out every week and it's capacity limits the opportunity to maximise revenue, given that more people would come if the capacity were greater.

Within limits.

The Board has recognised this, and has phased, progressive plans to expand to a suitable size and timescale.

This matches, I think, what's both realistic and achievable in that the PL opportunity again gives a tangible,long term, concrete (sic) outcome.
It's Legacy innit', or at least what I believe is important.
25,000 seems to me to be achievable.

D) Social and Local Prosperity

It feels good to be a part of a generally good news story.
Here we are, one of the 3 newest members of the Premier League and performing with no lack of style and substance, in front of almost always full houses and on national TV with a regularity that can in all likelihood lead to increased admiration.

Moreover, both the Club and the City and district of Swansea are coming to the attention of a far wider audience. Local Hotels and Guest Houses recently reported an upturn in occupancy that they themselves put down to Swansea City's elevation.

So, here's a brief conclusion.

Having watched my team both Home and Away this season, I've been satisfied, excited, frustrated and a whole lot more.
I know, because like you, I talk to my friends both near and far.
They have been too.
And this is all because of the efforts of the people on and around the field of play: they have, and are, succeeding.
On OUR behalf. And we LOVE it.

The whole point of this piece is simply to voice my opinion that that much-maligned term "Legacy", really does have relevance for us Swans.
It can only be satisfied if our Club uses it's current justly earned prosperity to lay down something that makes all of us proud to be a Swan.
Not just for the team, which is wonderful, but for being partners and contibutors to something so special.
Swansea City F.C. Onwards.

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