Counting the cost

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THE days of high profile signings at Bramall Lane are long gone.

The annual report and accounts published last night were another reality check for a club who were dining at Britain’s top table just four and a half years ago.

The facts are Sheffield United lost £13.6m between June 2010-11. They have to start getting their house in order and living within their means to survive in the harsh economic climate.

With UEFA’s financial fair play system looming on the horizon, more cutbacks will have to be made. By the 2012-13 season, United and the rest of the clubs in League One will not be permitted to spend more than 55 per cent of their turnover on player wages. Although United have sold Mark Yeates, Darius Henderson and talented youngster Jordan Slew in the last six months to reduce the mounting debt, their wage bill remains in the region of £10m, a figure way too high for a club in the third tier of English football. It seems inevitable there will be more departures, possibly when the transfer window re-opens on January 1.

Ched Evans, Nick Montgomery, Stephen Quinn and Lee Williamson have their admirers and could be the next players to head out of the exit door.

If he didn’t know it before, chief executive Julian Winter, who arrived in September, has got a big job on his hands, along with plc chairman Kevin McCabe, to turn around United’s precarious financial situation.

“No club could have tried harder to immediately reclaim top flight status,” said Winter, who signed for the Blades in 1989 but never played due to injury. “Strong support from the parent company meant United long maintained a wage bill far in excess of the revenues generated.

“Unfortunately, that approach has not worked and it has coincided with a decline in our league status. The club is no longer in a position to fund the higher player wages at the levels of the previous years. We are now taking all necessary steps to bring the club back to the point where it is financially self-sustaining.”

Winter stated the search for external investment remains on-going but he stressed it has to be “in the best long term interest of the club”.

McCabe, who has ploughed more than £50m into the club, added: “Our immediate target is promotion. Beyond that, the medium term objective remains to establish Sheffield United as a financially self-sufficient Premier League club, with a regular core of young players built around the successful 2011 FA Youth Cup final squad.”

United will face Torquay on December 3 in the FA Cup.