A mid-table budget should reflect the season’s objectives


By Jason McKeown

The Bradford City chairman, Mark Lawn, is rarely dull when he speaks out, and today’s comments urging supporters not to panic about next season, in the wake of concerns over the growing number of players leaving the club this summer, were certainly very revealing.

The budget reduction has become the talking point of the close season so far. When judged against a playing budget said to have been just over £2 million in 2012/13, the £500k cut represents a significant proportion of the resources manager Phil Parkinson was previously able to call upon. There has been talk that some of the players let go this summer were partially because of their high wages. It would be great to think that everyone who the club has chosen to release have departed entirely due to footballing reasons; but without clarification from the club, speculation has been allowed to grow.

Still, as Mark Lawn told the T&A, new signings will be made to strengthen the squad, “We’ve got a competitive budget so we’ll have a competitive squad – it’s as simple as that. I don’t understand why everyone is panicking over something which will be sorted out before the season gets underway. Obviously we are going to bring more players in because we’ve not got enough at present.”

Although no one likes the idea of the playing budget being slashed, the prudent approach of the club should be congratulated. It is almost 10 years to the day since the Bantams were hours away from going out of business forever; in the midst of a second spell in administration, less than 18 months since the first one. For the past decade, the club has undertaken and maintained a route of living with its means, taking what Chief Executive David Baldwin describes as “calculated risks”. Setting playing budgets higher than the business can afford, with variants in place to recoup these losses later, if needed.

Bradford City must continue to live within its means, and if that means a reduced budget for the upcoming season then so be it. There is a separate debate raging about whether the club should abandon its principled policy of cheap season tickets in order to give the manager more funds (for what it’s worth, I’m against pricing supporters out of buying season tickets), but in the immediate term that cannot be changed. This is what Bradford City can afford, so this is the budget Phil Parkinson must work with.

Which brings us to the most interesting aspect of Lawn’s T&A comments. “We have a competitive budget this year which is higher than at least ten other clubs in League One this coming season.” Accepting that the chairman is unlikely to have an accurate picture of every other League One club’s 2014/15 budget, by his reckoning City’s wage budget is going to be around the 14th highest in the division. In other words, Phil Parkinson has a mid-table budget to work from.

It can be easy to become overhung on budgets and assume they will dictate the divisional outcome – when in fact, year-on-year, there will be clubs with large budgets who don’t perform and others on low budgets who overachieve – but they are clearly important. And it must be a key point in the expectation levels set for next season. Can we, in the Boardroom and in the stands, justifiably expect Phil Parkinson to achieve promotion in 2014/15? Do we have a right to be disappointed if City are not in the top six? Is a mid-table finish considered acceptable?

Because the worry remains that, if City’s league position is judged against unreasonable expectations, it will prove to be a bumpy ride. Parkinson is tasked with making more from less, and improving a squad which, over the previous two years, had lifted the club 30 places up the ladder. It will not be easy and patience is going to be needed. As a club we cannot stand still and tread water, but slow progress shouldn’t be judged as failure against the true backdrop of the budget constraints.

Instead, it should be made loud and clear: Bradford City 2014/15, a mid-table budget, but a realistic objective to perform better. It might not set the pulses racing, but it is a sensible next step for a club that should have a sound, long-term plan to ultimately get back into the Championship.

Categories: Opinion

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7 replies

  1. Ultimately I agree with the point made. However, we have to be careful not to go too far into making excuses before the season starts. We at Bradford City should know more than anyone else that budget size does not always transpire directly to success on the pitch. We were often told that we had one of the biggest budgets in L2 but it didn’t really get us very far.
    I’d be interested to know how Parkinson’s available budget correlated to our final league placings in the previous three seasons.
    Like i say, ultimately I agree with your point. I think its always important to rein in expectations and if midtable is the expectation for this coming season then I for one am happy with that. If we can’t have a top six budget then we should not overstretch ourselves. Let’s perhaps use this season as one in which to lay the foundations and building blocks on the pitch for a possible promotion push the year after. This is meant to be a three year plan after all and come May 2015 we will still only be two thirds of the way through it.

    • The Board of Directors do there very best to give Phil Parkinson the best playing budget possible. I can’t see us threatening promotion next season with so many new player’s coming into the club it’s going to take time for the team to gel.
      Mid-Table would be excellent building block for the following season.
      As Phil Parkinson makes it clear another 6 player’s are needed to bolster the squad I wonder how many will be loan’s?
      I seriously think our scouting of non league football needs to be far better.
      Over the year’s I could mention lots of player’s the club haven’t picked up & other club’s have benefited from this in our area.

  2. Wouldn’t say there is panic but I know I’m looking at who other teams have already signed in League 1 and League 2 and thought they’d be great additions to our squad, we are in real need of a decent wide man and Jennison Myrie-Williams has gone from Port Vale to Scunny, he has always looked a threat against us. I know we have signed a couple of central midfielders, jury very much out for me on Dolan, I’d have liked to see James Wesolowski from Oldham who had two cracking games against us last season, very surprised he’s dropped down to League 2 to join Shrewsbury, his wages may have been too much given our budget from what a Latics supporting friend said. Likewise Calvin Zola who’s gone to Stevenage, at 29 he’s a decent age, very mobile and would have provided good competition for Hanson and Maclean. With the large turnover we need to get bodies in sooner for me to avoid the old “needing time to gel” excuse, I trust Parky knows what he’s doing and has targets that he is working on. I’d be happy with a mid table finish, there doesn’t appear to be a stand out team for me so expect it to be a tight division this season.

  3. here we go again! the season hasn’t even begun and already City fans are saying that they will be happy with a mid table finish and are already looking to the season after “to mount a promotion push”. I seem to be hearing that refrain every pre-season. Come on Lads! when is it going to be “This Season”?
    the manager was given a three years contract with the aim that by it’s end we would be in the championship. we’re already one year in. do we really want to be putting all our eggs in the year three basket of the three year plan?
    It’s time that City fans threw off their habitual “Season after” mentality and started thinking of this coming season. football men far more knowledgeable than me are all agreed….the best time to get promoted is This Season!

    • Paul – we don’t have a budget to get promoted. Simple.

      We can aspire to better and we should, but if we don’t achieve that and people lose their jobs (eg Phil Parkinson) how is that a way to run a football club.

      I would love to get promoted this season, but paying for that to happen is another matter.

    • There are 24 teams in League One. Two go up automatically, one through the play-offs. That means, with all other things being equal, we would have a 1 in 8 chance of being promoted. That would suggest promotion is really quite unlikely.

      But of course..all other things are not equal. If you believe Mr Lawn’s comments 14 other clubs have higher wage budgets than we do. Bristol City have just paid a six figure fee for Luke Freeman.

      We should hope, aspire and drive for promotion – but we shouldn’t start being disappointed if we finish where our financial resources dictate.

      The race isn’t always to the big and the strong – but that’s sure the way to bet….!

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