The financial might facing Sheffield United now looming large as schedule revealed

After discovering their fixture schedule for the new Premier League season, Sheffield United have received a timely reminder of the financial opportunities and challenges membership of the competition brings.
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Deloitte’s annual review of football finance revealed that combined revenues among England’s 20 top-flight clubs rose by 12 percent to £5.5bn during the season before last, when Paul Heckingbottom’s team was adjusting to life back in the Championship.

Having now regained their top-flight status, after assuring themselves of a second placed finish behind Burnley two months ago, United will be encouraged by the accounting firm’s suggestion that more than half of the world’s leading clubs as identified by its researchers hail from England - which prompted them to ask “whether it will be long before we see all 20 Premier League clubs in the (report’s) top 30?”

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At Bramall Lane, where United are set to begin the campaign with a home game against Crystal Palace before visiting Nottingham Forest, Deloitte’s comments on Leeds’ financial performance will be of particular interest. Despite spending 16 seasons in the English Football League, the West Yorkshire outfit were ranked 18th on their money list. Although Leeds have just been relegated after three years in the PL, their position underlines how teams can quickly maximise the advantages PL status brings.

Manchester City, identified by Deloitte as the richest club on the planet, travel to United on August 26th. They generated £731m in revenues. Liverpool, in third with a figure of £701m, make the same journey in December before hosting United in April. Manchester United, in fourth, do likewise on October 21st and then entertain Heckingbottom’s men five months later. Eighth placed Chelsea, the PL’s next highest ranking team, face them in December and April.

However, cautioning against being blinded by the numbers, one campaigning group responded to Deloitte’s findings by claiming they confirm the Championship is on the road to ruin as clubs chase the rewards on offer in the PL.

Sheffield United are heading back to the Premier League: Darren Staples/SportimageSheffield United are heading back to the Premier League: Darren Staples/Sportimage
Sheffield United are heading back to the Premier League: Darren Staples/Sportimage

"The Siren Call of the Premier League has turned the Championship into a basket case of financial sustainability,” Fair Game’s chief executive officer Nial Couper said, noting Nottingham Forest spent almost 200 percent on wages than they generated in revenues when they were promoted via the play-offs, knocking out United in the semi-finals, two seasons ago. “If ever there was a case for a strong independent regulator these figures from Deloitte spell it out in stark detail. The parachute payments are ruining football. They encourage massive over spending from clubs not in receipt of them.”

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A press release, published by Couper’s organisation, noted one of the difficulties United will encounter as they attempt to establish a foothold at the highest level.

Heckingbottom’s squad finished second in the table after recovering from that defeat to Forest in emphatic fashion and, as the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief attempts to construct a squad capable of securing survival, Fair Game said: “Figures for the Premier League further underlined the growing divide. Wage spending in the Premier League in 2021-22 grew by £192m compared to the previous season, but this was outpaced by a £586m increase in revenue, meaning the top flight’s wages-to-revenue ratio fell for the second consecutive season from 71 per cent to 67 per cent.”