ON publication of Burnley Football Club’s annual financial report, it wasn’t just a £3.16million profit that stood out. It was the reasons for it.
A statement from joint chairmen Mike Garlick and John Banaszkiewicz read: "This player trading remains a cornerstone of how the club balances its books.”
These are disappointing words for any Clarets fan to read, particularly with the January transfer window fast approaching and a who’s who of Premier League scouts, among others, turning up every week to cast a curious eye over in-form striker Charlie Austin.
For after recording an operating loss of £4.4m, the £7m record sale of striker Jay Rodriguez to Premier League new boys Southampton negated further annual losses being recorded.
The message from the chairmen is clear.
While on the one hand it is widely deemed a frustrating approach, it is not unsurprising.
It is a sign of the times. It is the hallmark of how a club like Burnley has survived in the top two divisions for so long – not just in recent times but even in the halcyon days of the 1960s.
Almost three years after winning the English Championship with the Clarets at the end of the 1959/60 season, and later helping them reach the FA Cup final, Jimmy McIlroy was sold to Stoke City. There was uproar, but the club carried on.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, of course, but Burnley has continued to operate largely within its means and get back from the brink to a level where they are challenging in the top two divisions.
But that battle is becoming increasingly difficult in the modern game, particularly when situated virtually on the doorstep of such footballing giants as Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, and with the beautiful game becoming a more expensive – and therefore less attractive – hobby.
Crowds are dwindling.
People are spending less when they do go to games.
It all adds up – or, rather, it doesn’t.
Within the financial report there is a further warning about the consequences of not conforming to the Football League Financial Fair Play regulations that are coming into force, whereby clubs cannot spend more than they earn. Transfer embargoes and substantial fines are among the punishments dished out to those who don’t fall in line, which is a worry considering that match income, television rights, catering sales and retail sales are all down on the previous financial year at Turf Moor.
The next home game will boost the average attendance dramatically. The gate will be the biggest of the season, but Burnley cannot play Blackburn every week.
A damp Tuesday night at home to Barnsley does not get the pulses racing, nor the turnstiles turning, unless the team is turning teams over.
The biggest boost to the gates, and therefore income, is success.
The best way to do that, is keeping your best players.