It feels like there has been a world of change since Blues last played at home in front of a crowd. Just under 20,000 of us watched Blues throw away a 1-0 half time lead to go down 3-1 to Reading back on March 7.
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the nation it could be as much as six months before we see an end to restrictions, it might end up being a whole calendar year of fans not being present at St Andrew’s.
Even with all the really good stuff happening around Blues right now, we have to acknowledge that there will be some financial consequences of that.
Unusually for Blues, I think the club are actually one of the clubs in a better position right now. Although Blues do owe a hefty wedge to the parent company Birmingham Sports Holdings, there are reasons to believe that Blues right now are somewhat secure.
Since the madness of the “Axis of Incompetence” summer back in 2017, Blues have done what they can to bring the club wage bill back to reasonable bounds. Cash has been raised with hefty figures for Che Adams and Jude Bellingham; and while some has been invested back in the team it’s obvious that there has been an attempt by the Blues board to be shrewder in doing so.
However, I think we have to understand where the club is at.
While everyone looks at headline transfer figures as an indicator of how much a club has spent, often the biggest commitment a team makes is wages. Unfortunately, getting accurate information on wages is very difficult, but there is a little bit we can go on.
This report from Reuters shows that in April of this year, the average wage of the top earner across 18 Championship clubs was £1.51million pa (a shade under £30k pw).
The last annual accounts for club for the season ending June 2019 show that Blues were forking out £32M in staff costs, across a staff of 233 people including 75 playing staff and 63 training staff.
I have no doubt those staff costs would have been somewhat reduced last season – but unfortunately I’m sure revenue will have also taken a massive hit.
The same accounts show that Blues turned over £23M, of which just over £5M came from match receipts, just under £8M came from broadcasting income and £10M came from commercial income.
We won’t see the 2019/2020 season accounts for a couple of months yet, but the BSH ones are due out next Wednesday and I’m morbidly interested to see how much the coronavirus outbreak has cost Blues in lost revenue.
This season is going to be even harder financially.
Blues will have received nothing so far in ticketing revenue as it has been impossible to sell any match tickets, let alone season tickets.
Commercial revenue will also be affected by a lack of matches at the stadium as sponsors will have been reluctant to stump up huge amounts for advertising that would not be seen. Not only that, but revenue earned from opening up St Andrew’s to corporate events in the week will also be reduced to zero.
From a financial perspective, Blues are lucky at least that the EFL are no longer requiring clubs to test their playing and training staff twice a week. At a cost of £150 per test, with 80-100 people needing testing each time the cost was mounting up to £25-30k per week; the cost of a top of the line squad player.
I get the impression EFL clubs have resisted that requirement due to the sheer costs involved; however, with issues like Leyton Orient apparently having 15 people testing positively for coronavirus prior to their Carabao Cup match with Spurs I do wonder how long it will be before the EFL changes their position.
All of this means that even though Blues have got some cash in from the Bellingham transfer, that they have to be careful not to commit to too much in salary etc for fear of hobbling themselves once again down the line.
I personally had hoped as cases of coronavirus reduced in the summer that we would see something of a return to normality over the autumn but the rapid increase in cases has somewhat put a dent into that right now and it’s difficult to see how quickly the pilot scheme to bring fans back could be reintroduced.
What’s important now for Blues is that not only they make progress on the pitch, but the BCFC board along with the powers that be at BSH work together to continue to secure the club’s future off of it.