Budget News: It’s Not Exactly As It Seems

Credit Graham Burrell

I know, I have a game to write up first, but ‘we were good but got beat’ is too common this season. I think you could probably write the things I’ll say about our defeat at Pompey.

The issue I want to address, for those not familiar with it already, is the news about the playing budget. Before yesterday’s program on BBC Radio Lincolnshire, an interview with Liam Scully was played that seemed to suggest our playing budget would be lower this coming season than last. “Yes absolutely [the budget will be smaller] because we invested significantly in January, which was around protecting League One status,” he said. “That wouldn’t be sustainable in the long-term. Those numbers would be outside of our reach.”

Cue hand-wringing and an outpouring of ‘no ambition’ from some sections. However, as I suggested in the video below (and has since been confirmed by the club’s media manager), the interpretation of the headline was not quite as it seemed.

The truth is the club’s playing budget from July to July will be broadly the same as the previous season. The difference will be in the overall budget at the end of this season, which takes into account signings such as John Marquis, Ben House and the three loan deals (Whittaker, Cullen and Brooke Norton-Cuffy), amongst others. You see, in January, when relegation was first classed as a genuine threat by some (me included, perhaps a little too late), the club acted, and funded a January spend that hoped to ensure our safety. I know that’s still in the balance, but it gave us a fighting chance whereas with the forwards we had, and the injuries, we were weak.

If you’re struggling to get your head around it, then look at it like this. Let’s say your household budget is £100 per week for shopping, essentials, all that sort of thing. You get to Wednesday, there’s a bit of a cold snap and you need to buy some logs for the fire. Money is tight, but you find an old scratchcard and it’s got a £30 win on it! Bonus, you’re in the shop, cash it in, and as well as logs you buy firefighters, matches and an extra blanket. Your budget, at the start of that week, was £100, but fortune delivered you £130 in total. You do not go into the next week thinking ‘my budget this week is £130’, because it isn’t, it’s £100, just as it was before. Who knows, you might find a scratchcard, or a benevolent South African man, or an American family, who helps you pay for heating the next week, but you won’t budget for it.

Goals to help keep us up – Credit Graham Burrell

Our budget ‘drop’ is the same. Let’s say we started the season with a £2m playing budget (guesstimate, nothing more), but when relegation looked highly possible (rather than mathematically possible now), our board of investors popped another figure, for illustrative purposes let’s say £350,000 in, just to get us over the line. Our budget would have been £2.35m for the season, but only £2m in the summer. This summer, our budget will (again this isn’t the figure, it is for illustrative purposes) be the same £2m as last summer, not the overall £2.35. Who knows, we might find some football fortune with a cup run, we might sell a player for £750,000, we might not. They are the sort of variables that affect our overall season budget, just as scratchcards or a crumpled tenner in jeans back pocket affects yours.

The problem with yesterday’s interpreted narrative is it adds to a week where a stand remodel has been scaled back, and a news piece where Michael admitted we might not be able to afford John Marquis in the summer. Overall, just reading the headlines, it looks like a cash crisis at Lincoln City, but that’s not true. It’s three unrelated issues, all lumped together in one message of fear. The SW plans were scaled back because we didn’t wish to add money from the playing budget, instead, we seek to improve the facilities with the existing grant and bond money. The John Marquis story was no different to us not being able to afford Joe Morrell when he moved, or Tyler Walker; there are simply bigger clubs with more money.

We are one of a few clubs in our division who spend less money on wages than the total income, the figure eludes me now but it’s around £95 for every £100 that comes in. Too many clubs spend more, much more, and they’re the ones to worry about. Here, we might not be able to buy success, but we’re run in such a manner that whatever division we’re in next season (and it’ll likely be League One), we are living within our means, and that doesn’t mean a lower starting budget for the manager.