Same Old, Same Old
Thoughts After Another Poor Home Performance

For me Championship clubs tend to fall in one of 3 categories:

Category 1 These are clubs who are in receipt of PL parachute payments, or who have substantial gate receipts, or are breaching FFP, or are dabbling in innovative but potentially costly gambles with how player signings are funded. There will be some with more than of these elements.

Category 2 At the other end of the spectrum there are other clubs who have neither big gate receipts, nor parachute payments, who will stay within FFP (out of choice or because owner can’t afford not to) and take a traditional approach to how signings are funded.

Category 3 Then there are those in the middle who have decent gate receipts but no parachute money, who fund their own signings and who choose (rightly) to stay within FFP.

 It seems to me that our club falls into that latter group. When a club is in that group it can either try to keep up with first group by spending to the limit and expecting fans and commercial partners to fund the gap between what the owner can’t support. Or, the club finds a different but lower cost way to compete by having a great manager, making good signings, and punching above its weight. Huddersfield did this successfully last season and others are doing it in this.

We have made a choice to have a large squad, some of whom are on high wages, and we don’t sell players to raise money. We stay within FFP. The choices we have made result in high match day ticket prices, replica kits that are the 5th most expensive in the country, the club seeking to borrow from fans against potential future income (aka Club 1867) and losing long standing commercial partners due to high prices for hospitality. Oh, and being sponsored by a taxi firm that doesn’t appear to exist in any sense beyond its own adverts. The question for me is for how long can this model be sustained?

There are many fans that will say that attendances are up and that season ticket sales are up too. They will also say that season tickets present good value for money – particularly the 3 year season ticket.  Some also say they don’t care what away fans have to pay for tickets. Finally they will say that it’s DC’s club and he can do what he wants. Other fans will say that there will not be any more 3 year season tickets on offer and that not achieving promotion this season will lead some to question whether to renew, particularly in the context of inflation outstripping wages in what is a low wage Sheffield economy. The alternative view also says that we are football fans and we should recognise that those fans that travel to away games should not be exploited because they can’t have the benefits of a membership or a season ticket. The final point they would make is that DC is the custodian of our club and that there is a wider responsibility to our fans and fans of other clubs.

Whilst it was helpful for DC to put his views on the record in the recent statements for the club website it didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. It explained why we have ticket prices, why we have put up hospitality prices substantially, why we tried to extract more profit from replica shirt sales etc. What it didn’t do was engage in why we have adopted the model that we have rather than take an alternative approach that is more sustainable. There is another club not very far from us who have a lower wage bill than us, have more points and have retained local commercial sponsors that we have turned away due to our price demands. I think Derby and Forest are reasonable comparator clubs to ourselves, yet the BBC Price of Football research established that it was more expensive to watch us than either of them in 2016/17, and I suspect the same applies this season. Yes, we got to the play-offs and they didn’t, but a club where it was even cheaper to watch football in the same season beat us in the play-offs. So, our model is not the only one.

If the current model was designed to deliver promotion then it hasn’t worked so far and looks unlikely to work this season as things currently stand. Just like last season we can be brilliant at times but at others we look absolutely ordinary. The last 2 games have highlighted this particularly. At Villa we were excellent – just like at Newcastle last season – but on Saturday we couldn’t muster a shot on target at home. I recognise that Bristol City are in form and are well organised but we didn’t have the pace, tempo or drive to make anything happen. Bristol did come out and attack a bit and it did break down, but we never looked like being able to exploit the chances – tedious passing and moving allowed them to filter back behind the ball to snuff out any chance of danger. Yes, we had a good penalty shout, from the one occasion Bannan got forward into the box, but that shouldn’t mask what was another poor home performance. We have lost as many game as the Blunts, problem is they have won all the rest whilst we limp to draws.

I struggle to see where the consistency in our performance levels is going to come from after 17 games have so far displayed that the only consistency we have is inconsistency. The top two places are now well beyond our reach barring some major drive of improved form and results, but I recognise that the play-offs are not far away. However so many other fans will be saying exactly the same thing about their club and unless and until we can find consistency and translate more of the draws into wins we will lag behind the top 6. I suspect that things won’t change and we will continue to hover outside the top 6 – close enough for CC and DC to be convinced it’s still on but just far away enough for it to be illusory. I really do hope I am wrong but that’s how it feels at the moment.

Anyway we now have 2 tricky road trips and we’ll see what they produce.

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