Wigan Athletic’s future – can shrewdness outweigh cash?

swissprofitand loss2013-14

In the 2013-14 season of the Championship only three clubs made a profit. They were Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Yeovil Town. Each has since been relegated from the division.

At the time Queens Park Rangers had made the biggest loss of the promoted clubs (£70 million), with Leicester City losing £21 million and Burnley £8 million. Since then QPR’s loss has been cut to £10 million due to a write-off of shareholder debt of £60 million by chairman Tony Fernandes and his associates. Without that they would have faced a massive fine on their return to the Football League in 2015-16.

Many Wigan Athletic fans have written off the last two seasons in their minds, as a succession of bad decisions made by the club led to a slide into League 1.

Those decisions include the appointments of hapless managers in Owen Coyle and Malky Mackay and the departures of no less than thirteen players in the January transfer window of 2015. The result was a squad left short of quality that would have struggled to survive even if the manager had not been the seemingly oblivious Mackay.

In fact the 2013-14 season had turned out to be a relatively good one for Latics, despite a poor start under Coyle. It remains open to conjecture whether they could have challenged for an automatic promotion spot if they had made a different initial appointment.

The obvious choice would have been a manager who could have built upon the foundations left by Roberto Martinez, fine-tuning the playing style and philosophy as required. Ironically it did happen some 22 months later when Gary Caldwell was appointed, but sadly almost all of the players who had proved themselves under that philosophy of play had by then left the club.

It could be argued that apart from the appointment of Coyle, the season was a success in terms of a transition from the Premier League to the Championship. Shrewd financial management and the appointment of Uwe Rosler kept things on track. In comparison Blackburn Rovers were to make a loss of £42 million over a season in which they were to finish in 8th place. With a 5th place finish, a narrow playoff defeat and a valiant loss on penalties in an FA Cup semi-final, Rosler had made a very positive impression.

The 2014-15 season might well go down as the most memorable in the club’s history, albeit for the wrong reasons. Three managers, the selling off of the family silver, Dave Whelan’s awful happenings with the national media and his subsequent stepping down as chairman was to eventually lead an unhappy club to relegation to League 1.

In both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons Latics were able to be competitive in the transfer market. This was partly due to incoming transfer fees, but more significantly down to parachute payments of £24 million in the first season and £18 million in the second. That meant that they were able to cope with a player wage bill of around £30 million, drastically cut down to around £20 million (on an annual basis) in January 2015. The Europa League campaign in 2013-14 and the FA Cup runs in both seasons added to the coffers.

However, in 2013-14 Latics’ gate receipts of around £4 million were close to the median for the division, whereas a paltry £1 million from commercial revenue was the lowest.

According to the Swiss Rambler the club had a net debt at the time of £23 million, significant but dwarfed by those of Bolton (£195 million), QPR (£158 million), Brighton (£131 million) and Ipswich (£86 million).

Swissdebt

For the coming season Wigan Athletic will have the advantage of the £9 million parachute payment over the other clubs in League 1. However, under the SCMP version of FFP used in Leagues 1 and 2, there is considerable amount of freedom for an owner to make cash injections.

If David Sharpe adopts the approach of recent years at the club he will run it on a tight budget and will not spend the kind of money that his grandfather splashed out some thirteen years ago when Latics were in the third tier. Latics will now be competing with clubs like Sheffield United, with higher match day and commercial revenues, but also with those with wealthy benefactors.

However, Latics are now in the hands of a young brigade that is optimistic about the future. Sharpe has talked about getting in “the right kind of player” after the nightmare of the season recently passed, when so many of them just didn’t seem to want to put in an effort commensurate to their salaries. If Latics are going to have future ambitions of getting back up there with the big guns a lot is going to depend on the recruitment team’s ability. Recruiting the “right kind” of hungry, talented young player from the lower leagues or Scotland is going to be the order of the day. A few hardened and seasoned pros are likely to be added to find a suitable blend, mostly on short term contracts

When Latics were in the third tier in the 1980’s they made some inspired signings of young players. So many were sold to keep the club afloat: a reflection of the club’s circumstances at the time. Most made their mark in higher levels of football.

It is that kind of expertise in picking out those young talents that is what Latics currently need. Sharpe might allow Caldwell a small number of players on higher salaries who have played in the upper echelons, but Latics will surely look to sign those up-and-coming players who can make the difference.

But even if Wigan Athletic can get promotion back to the Championship a year from now, what will be facing them?

The gap between the Premier League and the Championship continues to widen. Two of the three promoted teams were propelled back into the Championship, the third surviving with a “miraculous” end of season run, inaccurately paralleled with that of Latics in 2011-12 by the national media.

Moreover the massive increase in television money secured by the Premier League’s latest deal means that parachute payments will be much increased. It will be more difficult than ever for clubs without first or second year parachute payments to compete.

With shrewd management Latics can get promotion back to the Championship this season. Without it they are likely to be doomed to meandering in the lower leagues for years to come.

However, even if they are back in the Championship a year or so from now the picture will be vastly different than it was in 2013. They will be facing so many clubs with much bigger financial resources.

Can shrewdness outweigh cash?

It is the shrewdness that will make the difference.

Let’s hope that the young brigade currently running Wigan Athletic Football Club can show the kind of shrewdness that will be needed.

The jury is currently out.

 

 

 

 

A look at Latics’ eventful start to the season

Forshaw

With the Brentford game looming Billy theBee Grant @billythebee99 of the Beesotted fanzine asked us at Amigos to give his readers some background information about what has been happening with Latics. Here are our responses to his questions, to be found on the Beesotted site at http://bit.ly/1wc0nrC

BillytheBee catches up with JJ (@JJLos3Amigos) from father and son Wigan blog Los Three Amigos and discusses Uwe Rosler, Adam Forshaw, the Grant Holt beef, Wigan Pies and Kajagoogo.

So lets cut to the chase here … Wigan’s start to the season hasn’t been quite as expected hasn’t it?

The season has been like an uncomfortable rollercoaster ride for Wigan Athletic, with some ups but too many downs. The downs have been quite depressing, characterized by low tempo football with little creativity and defensive weaknesses.

In terms of performances there have been two “ups” – a resounding first half display in a 4-0 defeat of Birmingham City and a 0-0 draw against Nottingham Forest. The 1-0 win over a clueless Blackpool side could hardly be called an “up”. The performance against Forest was better than Latics have had in recent weeks.

It has been a rollercoaster ride for the fans above all. The disappointment of a draw and three losses in the first four games was tempered by two successive victories and promising activity in the transfer market. There was genuine optimism before the visit to Blackburn after the first international break, but that dissipated following three losses and a draw in the next four games.

But last season you lost in the playoff semi-final to QPR .. and reached the FA Cup semi-finals too. Are you just having a bit of ‘nearly made it hangover’?

The stats actually show that Latics have won only 6 in the last 26 matches, drawing 8 and losing 12. Moreover in their last 13 away games they have won one, drawn 3 and lost 9.

Rosler has talked about the FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal and the hangover the team has suffered ever since. To win away at Manchester City in the sixth round was a remarkable achievement. But Latics were 1-0 ahead until the 82nd minute at Wembley. To suffer that equalizer, but still make it through extra time after playing so many matches in a condensed period of time, was equally remarkable. But it clearly took a lot out of the players psychologically.

The promotion push stumbled at the playoffs. By then Latics had done the marathon, having already played 62 competitive games during the season.

Despite their tiredness they pushed Queens Park Rangers into extra time of the second match, although in reality they had all but lost their best chance of going through by being unable to find a way past Harry Redknapp’s parked bus at the DW Stadium. That match called for a moment of magic from the likes of Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman or Nick Powell which didn’t happen.

There was little to choose between Latics and QPR last season, but it was the Londoners who went up. Lots of teams came to park their buses at the DW last season and it is likely to be the same scenario this year.

Nowadays the “Little Wigan” tag we used to have has gone and the “FA Cup Winners” label applies. Managers of opposing teams know what quality Latics have in the squad and many will try to park their buses, as they did last year.

But once Rosler has his top players fully fit and firing on all cylinders that quality will show. Parking the bus will not be enough for visiting teams.

Brentford fans were slightly disappointed to see Rosler go before he had ‘finished the job’. Luckily Warburton picked up the baton seamlessly and no real damage was done. However, less that 12 months later quite unbelievably there has been much talk of #RoslerOut from Wigan fans. Surely one should give any new manager a chance to really get his feet under the table. Don’t you think your mob are being slightly ridiculous?

Following the achievements over the past decade expectations are high. There is a whole generation of younger supporters who until last year, were brought up on Premier League football. A return to the top flight is a ‘must’ for many of them.

Some nine months on from the departure of Coyle the keyboard warriors who may have contributed to his demise are lively again. This time their disgruntlement is aimed at Uwe Rosler. It might be hard to believe after what Rosler has already achieved at the club, but some are starting to question if he is the right man for the job.

Rumours were being bandied around the fan forums and social media of Rosler losing the dressing room, although none have since been substantiated. However, the intervention of Dave Whelan openly supporting Rosler has helped calm things down. There still remains a fringe of fans who want Rosler out.

The tale of Whelan’s eventful visit to the dressing room in the early days of Paul Jewell’s reign is etched in the minds of Latics supporters. Jewell was going through a hard time as a young manager, dealing with too many players who were not supporting him.

The story goes that Whelan let the players know in no uncertain terms that the manager was staying and that they could leave if they were not happy with that. It was to ultimately lead to Jewell taking Latics from League 2 to the Premier League and the League Cup final.

Whelan’s intervention this time around might well have sent a similar message to the players. The result was clear to see – a team putting in a real Wigan Athletic performance. Rosler was buoyed by not only the chairman’s support, but by that of the crowd.

The display against Forest was laden with the kind of physical endeavour that propelled Latics into the playoffs and cup semi-final some six months ago. It had been sadly lacking in previous games. Rumours about a divided dressing room and unprofessional behaviour from certain players were blown away by the chanting of “Uwe, Uwe” by the crowd at the end of the game.

Do you feel that Rosler has now seen there is a big difference between managing Brentford where there are less egos in the dressing room, and Wigan – where players are on big money .. and with many ex-premiership players to try and keep happy???

Whelan has backed Rosler by allowing him to assemble a large squad, with lots of quality. He has a strong backbone of players with oodles of Premier League experience. To maintain a squad like that costs money, with Latics having to offer commensurate salaries for those experienced players.

Interestingly James McClean took a significant salary cut when he joined Latics, but keeping players like him happy is clearly a challenge for Rosler. Perhaps the current squad is too big and Rosler is facing challenges in keeping those happy who don’t make the matchday squad.

Having a reputation as a serial rotator, the German continued in the same vein last season. From his first game in charge in December to the end of season playoffs he used 29 players. Faced with extreme fixture congestion, a degree of team rotation was certainly necessary. Moreover it meant that all players in the squad had a chance of getting on the pitch.

This in turn produced keen competition for places and raised the morale of those who might not have been involved. But it was not so much the rotation that fans questioned, but the way in which it was being done. Sometimes there would be wholesale changes, resulting in lineups lacking in cohesion.

Latics fans learned that Rosler’s team selections can be perplexing during his early days at the club. At times it might be easier to predict the winner of the Grand National than guess a Rosler starting lineup. Are his choices linked to a tactical approach or are they influenced by the players’ attitudes and their levels of commitment in training?

Critics say that Rosler has his favourites and his management style involves a “My way or the highway approach”. Fans have questioned his willingness to give all squad players a fair crack of the whip.

So what’s this beef with Grant Holt all about?

The case of Grant Holt has been extreme.

One of Rosler’s first moves when he arrived was to leave Holt out of the squad that travelled to Slovenia to play Maribor. Then in January the player was sent on loan to Aston Villa until the end of the season. When he came back he was consigned to training with the development squad and he was not given a squad number. Moreover his face was conspicuously absent from the squad photograph taken for club’s official site.

Holt has subsequently moved on to a short term loan at Huddersfield, where he seems to be regaining the form he was not able to show at Wigan.

How have your signings been? There was always a big question mark as to who was actually making the signings at Brentford. Manager Mark Warburton, who was the Sporting Director at the time, has very good links with academies around Europe and was thought to be the person to put forward many of the Brentford signings .. with all new players having to be ratified by both Rosler and owner Matthew Benham. Does Rosler have a team around him who he works together with to find and suggest new players to sign?

When the German was appointed in December, most of us expected him to bring in a swath of coaching and backroom staff from Brentford. Within a month he brought in Chris Haslam from his old club as Head of Performance – possibly because of concerns in the fitness levels of Latics’ players.

Alan Kernahan and Peter Farrell had left Brentford within a week of Rosler’s departure and it seemed a matter of time before they were installed at Wigan. It did not happen.The non-arrival of Rosler’s trusted lieutenants was put down to either budget issues or Dave Whelan’s loyalty towards staff previously appointed.

Veteran first team coach Graham Barrow was to continue and John Doolan (who left for Hibs in the summer) was brought up from coaching at youth level to help out with the senior squad.

Rosler has done well in his recruitment of players to be fair, bringing in a mixture of youth and experience. Delort, Forshaw, Huws, Tavernier, Taylor-Sinclair and Waghorn are in their early twenties and all are excellent prospects for the future. In Cowie, Kvist, Riera and Taylor he has players with proven experience.

Rosler’s recruitment contrasts with that of his predecessor, Coyle.

The Scot had a short-term approach, bringing in the kinds of seasoned professionals who could help secure promotion. Despite the pressure on him to get promotion this year, Rosler has stuck to his guns and shown a more long-term approach in signing that swath of younger players.

However, in Beausejour, Gomez and McArthur Latics have lost three key players with considerable technical ability.

Masters of the passing game.

There has been a considerable amount of debate among fans about the type of football Latics have been playing this season, which has alternated between the possession football typical of the Martinez era and the long ball of the Coyle reign.

It has been a difficult start to the season for Rosler. Not only has he had so many new players to settle in but also there have been serious fitness issues.

New players invariably need time to gel with their teammates, but the lack of a clearly defined style of play has made it even more difficult for them. Goals have been too often been given away by sloppy defending and goal opportunities have so often been wasted.

But more than anything else it is the lack of creativity that has stood out.

Rosler really went out on a limb signing Adam Forshaw. Im saying that not because I think Forshaw is a bad player who would let Rosler down .. he’s not .. he’s a great player. I say that because from what I can gather, your fans have been calling for a striker and not another midfielder.

When the hullabaloo started over the Adam Forshaw transfer there were fans who thought transfer funds available would be better spent on a central striker than a midfielder who had not proven himself beyond League 1. Latics had already signed Oriel Riera from Osasuna, whose settling into the team was hardly helped by woeful service from midfield.

The number one priority for the fans was another striker, even if there were concerns about the lack of creativity in midfield.

Despondency had crept in with the impending departure of that great Latics stalwart and FA Cup winner, James McArthur. It looked like Rosler was not going to get the extra striker he desperately needed with the Andy Delort situation continuing to be uncertain.

Moreover the Forshaw saga was dragging on. The creative midfielder was clearly within Rosler’s sights, but was it going to happen?

Then on the Monday we were to find out that Dave Whelan had splashed the cash after all. Leicester City had dropped out of the race to sign James McArthur, but Crystal Palace had moved in and made the acquisition.

By the transfer deadline we had confirmed the Delort and Forshaw transfers, plus the surprise signing of experienced midfield enforcer William Kvist from VfB Stuttgart.

The three signings signaled a statement of intent from Whelan and Rosler that they really wanted to finalise a squad capable of achieving promotion.

But there was another signing that was unexpected – that of young talent Emyr Huws from Manchester City on a permanent contract.

So where does Forshaw fit into your current side?

Rosler clearly has faith in Forshaw being able to provide a creative spark in midfield. He did it at Brentford and Rosler will be banking on him doing the same at Wigan. In recent matches Huws has provided some spark. But he is young and needs time.

However, if you were to ask a room full of Latics fans who is the best bet for a creative midfield role, the name of Shaun Maloney would surely be their typical response.

Without doubt the best football Wigan Athletic have ever played was in the final part of the 2012-13 season and in the FA Cup triumph in 2013-14. Sometimes Maloney would be played wide on the left. But he was most effective when playing an advanced midfield role in the “hole” behind the centre forward. If anybody made the side tick it was he.

Maloney proved himself as a top quality Premier League player. But questions remain, if at 31 years of age and after a major hip operation, he will ever get back to where he was. However, he comes off the back of two good performances for Scotland.

At his best and playing in his favourite position in the centre of midfield, he can be an outstanding performer in the Championship.

The dilemma for Rosler will be in deciding if there is room for both Maloney and Forshaw in the same team. If so will Maloney be consigned to wide position?

He’s made a few cameo appearances for you so far. I guess that he is still working on his fitness. How has he been?

Forshaw made his Wigan debut in the last ten minutes against Blackburn, but it was his first competitive football since May.

He made his first start against Ipswich. He looked out of touch in the first half, but rallied in the second when he switched to a more central role. In the closing minutes he put through a couple of exquisitely timed passes to split a stubborn Ipswich rearguard. He looked the part in those closing minutes.

Forshaw made his second start in the next match – a 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth. He did not come off the bench in the Forest game that followed, but came on in the 57th minute in the 2-2 draw at Wolves before the international break.

Forshaw has shown some promise. But like several other players at the club, match fitness has been the issue.

Your parachute money surely runs out very soon. Surely if you don’t get back into the Premier League, you will be in a financial pickle

Last season Latics were due to receive £23m in parachute payments from the Premier League. With an historic Europa League campaign coming up the club decided to largely invest the parachute payments into maintaining a large squad. It is believed that the club had previously written into players’ contracts that their salaries would drop if they were to be relegated from the Premier League.

Moreover a number of players left the club. Several at the ends of their contracts. Others for significant transfer fees.

Latics actually performed relatively well last season in using their parachute payments to assemble a squad good enough to reach 5th place in the Championship. In the previous season the clubs who came down from the Premier League – Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves – finished in 17th, 7th and 23rd positions, despite parachute payments of £16m.

With the parachute payment and funds gained from the Europa League campaign, together with prudent financial management, it is likely that Wigan Athletic at least broke even financially last season.

The challenge is whether they can secure promotion back to the Premier League against clubs who are spending millions on new players.

Last season both Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers flouted FFP rules in gaining promotion. The London team is reported to have had a budget of £70m last year, losing £23m over the season. Fulham’s investment of £11m on Ross McCormack was staggering, especially for a player who has never played in the Premier League.

Wigan expects to open a new training facility at Charnock Richard by August 2016. This will then allow us to attract players of all ages and also develop future professionals. Were that to become a reality they would then need to apply for Category 1 status.

The main priority for Latics this season is promotion to the Premier League. However, in terms of long term sustainability the club needs to produce young players who can graduate to senior level. The Academy project is an indication that Latics are trying to secure long-term viability as a club in the upper echelons of English football.

So who should Brentford be looking out for on the pitch??

Callum McManaman is the man in form this season. Let’s see if Brentford resort to the kind of foul tactics against him that other teams have done so often.

And here’s our “Made in Wigan” section …

Bolton Wanderers or Wigan Rugby League?

Are you showing a red rag to a bull? Latics fans are not too distressed at seeing Bolton at the foot of the table. After decades of being treated with condescension by the followers of the egg-chasing game, Latics are in the ascendency in the town. Just look out for the blue, not the red.

Richard Ashcroft from The Verve or Limahl from Kajagoogo?

Both brilliant, but how about Starsailor ?

Roberto Martinez or Andy Liddell?

Both spent six years playing for Latics. Icons from different eras as players, not to mention Roberto’s achievements as a manager.

Chris Kirkland or Nigel Adkins?

Kirkland spent 6 years at Latics, producing so many heroic performances despite constant struggles with injury.

Adkins was Latics’ goalkeeper pre-Whelan, from 1986-93. Will he ever return to them as manager?

Wigan Casino or The Hacienda

Don’t ask a Wiganer a question like that! The Casino was from an earlier era but both were something very special.

Georgie Fame or George Formby Jnr

Both legends in Wigan, even if Georgie was from Leigh.

Kay Burley, Sky News or Ruth Liptrott, Channel 5 News

The more Wiganers on the news the better!

Head to head, Wigan are smashing it winning 18 games to the Bees’ 6 with 7 games drawn. Do you think the Bees will make inroads interning that record around??

A win for Latics by at least a two goal margin.

Do you think you can still get promoted?

Given the bad start to the season it is unlikely that Latics can reach an automatic promotion spot. But with the squad that Rosler has put together promotion through the playoffs remains a distinct possibility.

Blackpool are the obvious certs for relegation, but despite their owner they are a fine old club. Let’s hope they can stay up.

Where do you recommend away fans hang out out pre-match?

The Anvil, in the town centre just behind the Parish Church,is an excellent real ale pub. The Raven, just up the street from the station, is an old style Wigan pub well worth a visit. Don’t forget to try the pies while in the town centre.

 

BillytheBee
@billythebee99

FFP and Latics – should Whelan splash the cash?

2012-moneyball

Bournemouth has never had a team playing in the top tier of English football. They entered the Football League in 1923 and AFC Bournemouth play in a stadium that holds 11,700. They had 91% occupancy last season when they challenged for a playoff place, eventually finishing 10th in the Championship.

Owned by Maxim Demin, a Russian petrochemicals billionaire, they would like to see the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules changed. They claim that less than half of the clubs playing in the Championship now were present when current FFP regulations were agreed. In May their chairman, Jeremy Mostyn, said that “What we have is an ambitious owner who has a desire to take this club as far forward as he possibly can…….but what is wrong with having an owner who is determined to put his own money into a football club and take it as far as he can?

Demin wants to see his club in the Premier League. In gaining promotion from League 1 in 2012-13 they lost £15.3m. He is clearly prepared to put in the funds to launch them up another division.

Wigan Athletic fans know what it is like to have an owner who wanted to get his club into the Premier League. It cost Dave Whelan an awful lot of money not just to get Latics into the elite circles, but also to keep them there. If FFP had existed a decade ago it is highly unlikely that Wigan Athletic would have been able to climb up to the Premier League.

In their final two seasons in the Premier League Latics were among a small minority of clubs that actually made a profit. After years of Whelan pumping money into the club it was starting to look like it could become self-sufficient. But relegation meant that the parameters changed – breaking even in the Championship was to be a very different proposition to doing the same in the Premier League.

Last season Latics were due to receive £23m in parachute payments from the Premier League. With an historic Europa League campaign coming up the club decided to largely invest the parachute payments into maintaining a large squad. It is believed that the club had previously written into players’ contracts that their salaries would drop if they were to be relegated from the Premier League. Moreover a number of players left the club, several at the ends of their contracts, others for significant transfer fees.

The proceeds from the sales of Arouna Kone and James McCarthy to Everton probably amounted to around £18m, although the payments were to be staggered over a time period. Most fans expected a sizeable chunk of that money to be reinvested in signing players who could help get the club back into the Premier League. Owen Coyle came in and did a remarkable job in bringing in 10 new players in the space of a couple of months, some having been at the ends of their contracts, some loan signings and others for what appeared to be bargain prices.

With hindsight Coyle was to make one major blunder, paying around £2m for the 32 year old Grant Holt and giving him a 3 year contract. At the time Holt looked like a good signing, given his proven goal scoring record, although the length of the contract raised eyebrows at the time. However, Coyle paid modest fees to acquire Leon Barnett, Scott Carson and James Perch, who have proved to be good signings. He paid a little more to sign James McClean, who took a drop in pay to join Latics from Sunderland. Although the Irishman remains enigmatic he might well become a key player in the future. Coyle’s acquisition of Chris McCann, who had reached the end of his contract at Burnley, was by no means lauded at the time, but the Irishman was to prove a quality signing. Seven of Coyle’s signings remain Latics players, although Juan Carlos Garcia has gone to Tenerife on loan.

The sum total of the transfer fees paid by Coyle would approximate to that received through the sale of Kone. It is assumed that the sum roughly equivalent to that due to be received through McCarthy’s transfer will be allocated towards the development of the new training and youth development facility at Charnock Richard.

Latics actually performed relatively well last season in using their parachute payments to assemble a squad good enough to reach 5th place in the Championship. In the previous season the clubs who came down from the Premier League – Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves – finished in 13th, 16th and 18th positions, despite parachute payments of £16m.

With the parachute payment and funds gained from the Europa League campaign, together with prudent financial management, it is likely that Wigan Athletic at least broke even financially last season. The projected cost of the Charnock Richard facility has not been announced by the club, although Latics clearly made a bargain in buying the site, which was auctioned at a guide price of £650,000.

The accounts will make interesting reading when they are announced in a few months’ time.

Under the current financial regime at the club, Wigan Athletic are highly unlikely to incur penalties under FFP rules. The challenge is whether they can secure promotion back to the Premier League against clubs who are spending millions on new players. Fulham’s investment of £13m on Ross McCormack was staggering, especially for a player who has never played in the Premier League. Last season both Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers flouted FFP rules in gaining promotion. The London team is reported to have had a budget of £70m last year, exceeding that of Atletico Madrid, La Liga winners and Champions League finalists. They lost £23.4m over the season.

The rules for FFP for the Championship division differ from those of the Premier League and Leagues 1 and 2. For the 2013-14 season clubs were required to restrict any losses to £3m. However, it gave the owner of the club the option of converting up to £5m of any loss into equity, putting in cash to buy shares in the club. It cannot be done by borrowing money. However, if these were to be met and the losses did not exceed £8m there would be no penalty.

Clubs are required to submit their accounts for the 2013-14 season on December 1st. Any club that exceeds the limit will have a transfer embargo imposed until it turns itself around to reach FFP rules.

One club that appears certain to have a transfer embargo placed on it in January is Blackburn Rovers. They lost an incredible £36m in the 2013-14 season, wages alone accounting for 115% of revenue. The transfer of Jordan Rhodes for big money would help them to balance their books for the 2014-2015 season, but they face at least a year of transfer embargoes until the accounts are once more submitted in December 2015.

The Football League has a “Fair Play” tax in the case of clubs who overspend, but are promoted to the Premier League. The tax is on a sliding scale, but QPR are due to pay over £17m on their overspending last year. The Championship clubs voted overwhelmingly to impose the Fair Play tax, but the implementation of the scheme relied on the support of the Premier League, which has not materialized. At this stage it looks like QPR have got away with it, but it remains to be seen what will happen if they get relegated and return to the Championship.

Championship clubs continue to overspend in their ambitions to reach the Premier League, not only in transfer fees, but also in salaries. In the 2012-13 season only five clubs in the Championship made a profit. Leicester City lost £34m that season and if FFP rules had been in effect there is no way they would have avoided a transfer embargo, making it unlikely they would have been able to build up a squad strong enough for promotion the following season. It will be interesting to see if clubs fared any better last season, knowing that FFP was coming into effect.

Almost half of the clubs in the Championship are receiving parachute payments. This gives them a considerable financial advantage over the others who receive a “solidarity payment“of £2.3 million from the Premier League, one tenth of that of a club in its first year of parachute payments. The imbalance among the clubs has led to suggestions that clubs with parachute payments should have TV money withheld and that a salary cap be introduced for clubs.

Because of the financial support through the second parachute payment now is the time for Latics to really push for promotion. Over the next two years the payments will decrease and after that Latics would receive only the meagre consolidation payment that teams like Bournemouth are receiving. However, they are now competing against clubs who have just come down with bigger parachute payments plus other clubs who do not seem to be afraid to splash money on transfers despite FFP.

Latics desperately need another striker who can win matches by scoring goals. The question is how far is Whelan willing to go in the bidding wars that start up as the transfer window deadline day draws closer? Brentford sources are suggesting that Latics are going to have to pay more for Adam Forshaw than we previously thought. Moreover a good central striker is going to cost money.

Whelan will want to squeeze as much as he can out of any deal for James McArthur in order to finance the other two purchases. The hold-up in the Forshaw transfer might well be because Latics need to get the McArthur deal finalized first. There has been no news about other Latics players being sought by other clubs, but it remains a possibility at this late stage.

Whelan, Jonathan Jackson and Uwe Rosler deserve credit for the way the club is being run on a sound financial basis. Looking at the plight of near neighbours Bolton and Blackburn highlights the fact. Latics are likely to be one of the leaders in the division in terms of meeting FFP conditions.

However, whether Whelan will allow potential outgoings on transfers to exceed the incomings is a moot point. If he does not do so it will almost certainly jeopardise Latics’ chances of going up this year.

Dave Whelan is first and foremost a businessman. He will have some key business decisions to make over the next few days.

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