A LEADING football finance expert has hailed the recruitment model of Huddersfield Town as being the template to follow for all aspiring Championship clubs – as the Terriers eye a further £150m windfall for securing a second season of Premier League football.
Sixth-from-bottom Town massively boosted their hopes of top-flight survival with a priceless late victory over Watford at the weekend to move seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Safety will move a step closer if third-from-bottom Southampton fail to win at Leicester City in their game in hand this evening, with Rob Wilson – an expert in football finance at Sheffield Hallam University – estimating that Huddersfield will earn an additional £150m on top of what they have already accrued if they retain their top-flight status.
For the second season running, it has all the portents of being another stand-out season, on and off the pitch, for Town, with Wilson believing their rise has been underpinned by a shrewd and sustainable recruitment policy which has seen them spend strategically and within their means.
Town’s latest set of accounts revealed that the club spent only £7m on players in the 2016-17 promotion season – with it being the first time in five years that they also registered a net spend on players, of around £2m.
Boosted by a significant amount of TV money earned by promotion – with Town guaranteed a minimum windfall of around £92m in 2017-18 – the club broke their transfer record three times last summer, bringing in Steve Mounié, Tom Ince and Aaron Mooy as part of a major signings programme which totalled a net spend of around £39m.
Town followed up with a £10m- plus deal to sign Alex Pritchard in the January transfer window.
Despite the major transfer investment, Huddersfield have steadfastly refused to fall into the trap of paying over the odds regarding wages, with Wilson believing that the strict wage structure successfully operated by the likes of Town and Burnley should serve as a role model for promoted sides from the second-tier.
Wilson told The Yorkshire Post: “What I am really encouraged about in regards to Huddersfield Town – and I have spoken to some on the recruitment side there – is the way they are doing their recruitment and limiting what they are prepared to pay on players’ wages and the types of contract they are prepared to give out.
“They seem to be happy to walk away from a deal which they feel is not right for the football club, which is quite refreshing to hear and something that the rest of league should sit up and take notice of. It means players are going out and playing ‘for the shirt’ and it really matters to them and there is a better team ethic.
They seem to be happy to walk away from a deal which they feel is not right for the football club, which is quite refreshing to hear and something that the rest of league should sit up and take notice of.Football finance expert, Rob Wilson
“Huddersfield and Burnley are the ones who are doing it right for me.”
Wilson added: “If you look at the last 10 years and the clubs who have had the ‘internal wage cap’, if you like and only signed players for not a penny over of what they are prepared to pay in terms of their budget, they end up with players who seem to give that 10 per cent extra.
“If you look at the likes of QPR and even Leeds United when they went down years ago, they were signing players on big money who were not all playing for the shirt.
“There is no finer examples of how things have not worked recently than Stoke City. People used to ask me which model teams should follow and I would say Stoke City every time. But that was until they signed Kenwyne Jones, which for me was the signing which signalled the downfall of where Stoke went in terms of paying big money and wages for him. That set a new ceiling for everybody else coming in.
“You then end up getting that band of players who are probably better than the Championship, but not really good enough for the Premier League – but who think they are. They are the clubs who probably end up struggling. You look at Sunderland for example and Aston Villa last year too.”
Depending on where they finish in the table, Wilson estimates that Town could recoup between £100m and £108m in total from TV money this season, with the financial prize for a second successive campaign in the big time being an additional £150m.
Given that Town’s turnover in their last set of financial figures stood at £15.8m, it represents an eye-wateringly high figure.
“Through the TV revenue, Huddersfield will guarantee themselves an extra £120m if they stay up. What we will have also seen is a fuller stadium with a bigger match-day spend, more money spent on merchandise and so on and so forth,” Wilson added.
“A second year in the Premier League is probably worth another £150m when we add in those extras on top of the TV deal. It is ‘mega money’ when you think that the average turnover of a Championship team is £16m or £17m, depending on which teams are in there. You are talking about 10 times the revenue budget without kicking a football.
“That accumulated income can help them (Town) perform even better next season.”