Updated: Sep 10
Not a single Championship club made a profit in 2017-18 and total losses were around £400m.
In front of nearly 40,000 of their fans at Wembley, Charlton Athletic gained promotion to the English Championship via the Play-Offs last May with a thrilling last-minute winner over Sunderland. Charlton celebrations were unbounded but it soon became clear that the Addicks, by common consent, would have the smallest budget in a division which is Premier League Division Two in all but name.
Such budgetary constraints don’t make life any easier for Charlton manager Lee Bowyer in a twenty-four team division where around one third of its clubs (eight at present) are in receipt of generous parachute payments. “It’s tough because people are laughing at us,” Bowyer was quoted as saying after Charlton’s final pre-season friendly. “An agent will ask ‘what do have to offer this player?’ and when told will respond with ‘how are you meant to compete if that’s what you’re offering?’.
In addition to those clubs with the benefit of parachute payments, there’s an obvious willingness by other owners to pour substantial funds into their clubs in the hope of beating the odds and gaining one of the three precious promotion places into the Premier League. Consequently, the most recently available figures show that the Championship’s twenty-four clubs have collectively been losing on average £1.5 million per day. £1.5 million per day!
Not a single Championship club made a profit in 2017-18 and total losses were around £400m. Football finance analyst Kieran Maguire of www.priceoffootball.com has reported: “In the last five years, Championship clubs’ income was up 53%, wages were up 55% and losses up 106%.”
Charlton are now playing in the third most-watched league in European football, regularly ranking higher than the attendance figures for Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. Championship players’ pay packets now average £15,000 per week as the wages/income ratio reached 107.5% in 2018. These losses may not be the concern of mocking football agents, but they are not sustainable.
Charlton Athletic gained their unexpected promotion from League One thanks in the main to the unanticipated managerial skills of former football bad-boy Lee Bowyer. The club's elevation did not stop promising graduates from Charlton’s famed Academy being lost to bigger clubs during the summer but Bowyer’s judicious use of the loan system has provided Addicks’ fans with an encouraging start to life in Tier Two.
The Championship choice is stark. Join the scramble to get into the Premier League, irrespective of the cost, or keep a tight control of the wage bill and face a likely battle for survival in tier two. After five years of doing his best to wreck Charlton Athletic, the club's much criticised and widely loathed owner Roland Duchatelet has opted for the latter strategy. It remains to be seen if he has finally got something right.