On Saturday the 5th of August, Norwich travels to the Cottage to open the 17-18 season. With the recent year-long loan signings of Tomas Kalas and Oliver Norwood the pieces are starting to come together for another promotion push for the Premier League. Kalas is the bedrock of our backline and the front office by luring him away from Hull is fantastic signing; although they did not really need to do much as he wanted to return to Fulham. Norwood was instrumental in Brighton’s second place finish in the Championship and promotion to the Premier League and will add depth, to arguably, the best midfield in the league.
We are entering the 4th year of life in the Championship after relegation and otherwise ineptitude in 13/14. With stability in management and the core of last season’s squad returning, things are looking up for another push towards promotion in the Premier League. As always many supporters are dismayed by the lack of action in the transfer market and Chairman Khan failing to open the purse.
The Swiss Ramble goes into great detail explaining the debt Fulham had accrued under Al-Fayed and how his decision to pay off most of Fulham’s debt kept things afloat for Khan. The club’s financial woes were noted in their Annual Report at the conclusion of the 12/13 season
For 13/14 Fulham netted a profit of £2m, an increase of 125.3% when compared to the previous year. Regardless of the profit, the club increased spending in all areas and were relegated in May. The warning bells were sounded and the club did not reduce spending leaving the club in a poor financial standing moving into the Championship.
Revenue fell by £48.8m in Fulham’s impotent attempt to bounce back into the Premier League and lost £7.1m for their first year in the Championship. This number is significant when looking at Financial Fair Play because clubs in 14/15 were not allowed to accrue a loss of > £6m. Fulham exceeded the amount and were hit with a transfer embargo beginning on Christmas Eve 2015. This announcement left new manager, Slaviša Jokanović, with limited options to upgrade our non-existent defence with the following loans:
After finishing 20th, the ban was lifted on May 16th following rule changes for the maximum amount, £13m, clubs can lose starting with the 15/16 season. The net operating loss for the previous 2 seasons was £18.4m and led to many players being sold in the off-season including Ross McCormack to Aston Villa for £12m helped to reduce operating losses. Without financial information from Fulham’s 16/17 season, it is not possible to know if the club became profitable or not. However, it can be reasoned the club continued to lower their expenses as it has the previous 3 years.
Returning to the current transfer market and the perceived lack of movement from Fulham to fill needed areas: striker, midfield depth, defensive depth and keeper is causing a lot of unrest and negativity towards the front office and Khan. Per Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance 2017, Fulham is carrying a debt of £117m and is the only club in the Championship to record the largest increase in net debt year-on-year of £29m. All clubs are predicted to spend more on player wages than revenue generated continuing to increase debt.
With the information about Fulham’s continuing annual debt and the expectation of more money needed to spend on wages, the club needs to be aware of the money it spends to win promotion. With the current FFP rules in place, Fulham cannot accrue more than £39m debt over 3 years as they will face penalties. This may have changed the policy of buying players outright without using analytics created by Tony Khan and Craig Kline to find hidden value in players other clubs may have overlooked. While this initially irritated Jokanović, his silence on the issue indicates he may be buying into the philosophy and still giving his input on other players.
Fulham’s lack of movement in the transfer market is most likely due to increasing debt and attempting to make the club sustainable. Fulham can not afford to buy Kalas from Chelsea, instead he accepted the loan offer to return to the Cottage over moving to Hull on a permanent deal. Allowing Newcastle to outbid on Diego Rolan is another indicator of not overpaying for a player yet to prove himself in a physically demanding league. Fulham is a week out from the season opener and still have time to flesh out additional loans or purchase players. It takes the patience of supporters to trust the front office and board room in making positive decisions for the club at present and for the future. Finances are a big part of how Fulham operate and Khan wants to ensure players will improve the team. The counter evidence is to remember signing Kostas Mitroglu.