BURNLEY bosses have hailed their gamble on promotion to the Premier League as one of the best decisions in the club’s history after announcing losses of £8.9m for last season.

The Clarets suffered record losses for the financial year ending June 30, with a total deficit of £11.7m before taxation.

But the club said it was confident the losses would be recouped this year after gaining promotion to the Premier League in May, a prize that has been estimated to be worth £60m.

Burnley were not one of the Championship’s wealthiest clubs but opted to bring in players rather than selling their stars last season, as they have often done in the past.

Clarets chief executive Paul Fletcher admitted that decision gave chairman Barry Kilby and operations director Brendan Flood ‘sleepless nights’.

The club’s financial future was ultimately decided in a one-off match as they beat Sheffield United in the play-off final at Wembley.

“It was the gamble that paid off,” said Mr Fletcher.

“It’s probably one of the best decisions that has been ever made in the boardroom at Burnley Football Club.

“We could have sold players to make the books look more balanced but the chairman and Brendan Flood made a very brave decision, which wasn’t taken lightly.

“When I came to the club last year I realised this was a club that didn’t want to stand still.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take one step back to go two steps forward, and in this case we’ve taken one step back to move 50 steps forward.”

Twelve months ago the club announced an operating loss of £6.7m, although that was offset by £5m in player sales.

The latest accounts show that the club’s wage bill rose from £9.76m in 2008 to £13.42m, which includes significant bonuses paid to players as a result of promotion.

Burnley also made a number of signings during the financial year, including Steven Fletcher for £3m following promotion, and Chris Eagles in the previous summer for a fee in excess of £1m.

Turnover increased from £8.57m to £11.192m, however, while match income and television rights rose from just under £5m to £7.3m.

The accounts also revealed that catering sales dropped by £200,000, although club shop sales rose from £824,000 to £1.12m.

Mr Fletcher insisted that Burnley’s existence as a football club would not have been in doubt had they not returned to the top flight for the first time in 33 years.

“There would have been tough times but it wouldn’t have been like at Leeds, Sheffield United and Portsmouth,” he said.

“We didn’t put all the house on red. We wanted to make sure we would still have a club for the next 20 years “Would we have had to break that team up? Not at all.

“It would have been uncomfortable for us but it is quite uncomfortable at a lot of clubs. It was a calculated risk.

“We’re very pleased with the figures announced.”

Last year’s promotion rivals, Preston North End, recently announced an operating loss of £5.94m and a wage bill of £11.24m.

Burnley will now hold its annual general meeting at Turf Moor next month.

Mr Kilby said: “Last season saw us achieve our dream of reaching the Premier League and I was delighted that after 10 years as chairman of the club we finally achieved our goal in the best circumstances possible.

“If you are going to earn promotion, then winning in a Wembley final is the best way for it to happen.

“To do so in conjunction with two stunning cup runs makes the achievement even greater and I believe that helped to endear us to the public at large.

“It has been a long hard road since the Orient game in 1987 but all of us, shareholders, fans and management of the club, have all done it together.

“Immense credit must go to Owen Coyle and his team. Appointing Owen as manager in November 2007 was probably one of the best management decisions the board of directors have ever made.

“That decision had already been vindicated had we not achieved promotion, but to do so showed the leadership skills Owen clearly possesses in abundance.

“Now we are here, it is the intention of the directors to do all we can to stay in the elevated company in which we find ourselves.

“The promotion was gained at a cost in a financial year that saw the club suffer a record loss of £11.7m, although this figure was inflated by bonuses paid on achieving promotion.

“However, the increase in turnover from being in the Premier League this season should more than compensate for the losses incurred over the past few years and I expect to report a significant profit for this financial year to bring our balance sheet back into a healthy position.”