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OPINION: The State Of Play

Roker Report's Danny Roberts attempts to analyse the club's transfer policy.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The transfer window + lack of expenditure + inept performances = panic.

Our start to the season has been, even for previous standards set on Wearside, abysmal.

Like previous seasons, our build up play is sluggish, predicative and slow. We've managed to, just, scrape by. However - and this is what makes this lacklustre start to the season incredibly alarming - we have no fight, effort and desire to do the simplest of tasks.

The squad is in desperate need of an extreme shake-up. That's nothing new. It has been needed for a considerable amount of time now, and replacing saleable assets with cheaper alternatives can only work for so long. As Sunderland fans go transfer window after transfer window watching clubs spend high, they are often left red faced and furious with the bargain basement approach.

Reports in the tabloid newspapers have suggested that the club is struggling financially, leaving fans in disbelief as to why, especially with the club bankrolled by a billionaire. The anger is fuelled further by the continued increase of TV revenue, which, season after season reaches astronomical figures. Sunderland fans, rightly or wrongly, are asking where does the funding go?

From this season's TV financial boom, only four million extra can be spent on player wages.

The club has been actively trying to reduce the fees heading out through wages for a number of seasons, however, only so much can be done with high contracts already in place, be it for first team starters or fringe rejects, happy to sit in the reserves and pick up a hefty monthly cheque. With these wage caps in place, clubs are now bringing in basic wage contracts, with players supplemented by performance based bonuses. This is why you will see newly promoted teams prosper financially. Without the previous high-waged contracts prior to FFP, they are able build squads with their entire playing staff on performance-based contracts.

In the past, the financial burden of wages were a big reason to club debts. Stoke City owner, Peter Coates, argued this as a reason to implement the rules of financial fair play.

He said, "In previous years every time the money came in, before you could blink it had all gone in players’ wages. We couldn’t have that happen this time. It is a difficult balancing act and we will now be criticised for making too much money and not investing it, but I didn’t believe we could continue being the world’s richest league while all losing money."

So, if all long-serving Premier League clubs have went through this transition, how are Sunderland so far behind?

As of the 13/14 accounts, the club debts were at a reported £93million, with a loss of £17million before tax over the year. Outside the top four, the only team who are still in the Premier League to make a loss were Aston Villa at £4million. However, as Randy Lerner put the club up for sale, he has since limited the funds available for wages and transfer fees. If you couple that with their recent major sales, the club find themselves in an healthy financial state.

Last season, current high-spending sides, such as Newcastle and Crystal Palace, banked a significant sum of money. Stoke City, with their financially prudent model abiding to the rules of FFP, have also saw an increase of profit allow for high spending. Alongside this, the newly promoted clubs are also allocated a wage-boom, whilst also a vast increase in commercial and TV money has giving those clubs extra funds to spend on transfer fees.

Add to this the recent news that has told us that we are still spending a considerable amount of income on transfer installments. Therefore, the money that other clubs are banking, is heading out on transfer fees and the rest is going to our misfiring players on high wages and the repayments of loans to both Ellis Short and the bank. You can also add to that the constant sacking and hiring of managers. Putting it plainly, the money that would allow for high spending has been spent on club debts.

Now this is not to say there's nothing left to spend, but what is available, it isn't substantial enough to bring in the quality we need. Understandably, loans are a frustrating concept. We bring in a player, develop him, he goes back to his parent club and they sell on for high fees. Unfortunately, this is the only way the club can add quality players to this side currently. For a lower than normal fee, the club can bring in a player that adds something to side, which hopefully helps create a squad compete and collect enough points to bring in another seasons premier league money.

As the club attempted to push on under Steve Bruce and Martin O'Neill regimes, reasonable contracts and fees at the time were sanctioned by Ellis Short as he funded the club in their bid to become a top-ten side. Unfortunately, those deals have bitten us in the arse and we're left with a squad derived of any extreme talent, unable to pay the high fees for a number of top quality acquisitions, which Dick Advocaat needs.

Ellis Short has made significant attempts to structure and build a Premier League side. He has ploughed millions of pounds of his own money into the club to do this. Money mismanagement and FFP has restricted our process, but hopefully, with the fans support, we can ride out this spell together, keeping the clubs Premier League status intact.

Fundamentally, the players need to show passion. The team itself isn't out of its depth in this league and with a couple of loan signings, where funds are available for, perhaps we can find the pieces needed to complete the squad, enabling the club to reach a tenth successive Premier League campaign.

It isn't pretty and it's particularly shit, but what else would you expect from Sunderland AFC?

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