The new Sunderland owners have put a lot of effort into meeting fans and telling them what they want to hear, including how much they despise Newcastle United.
The former owner of non-league Eastleigh, Stewart Donald, has taken a massive step up in taking over Sunderland, maybe not in terms of divisions, but certainly in terms of the financial repercussions if he gets it wrong.
Much derided Billionaire Ellis Short has done the Mackems a huge favour in terms of writing off as a personal loss to him, much of the money Sunderland owed, but there are still significant financial challenges facing the new owners.
They had promised a load of new signings were imminent but with only six weeks until the season kicks off, the Wearsiders have only signed one free transfer from the Turkish second tier. This is at the same time as selling a number of players, not giving new contracts to others, and continuing to put a lot of effort into shifting numerous big earners they are struggling to shift.
Friday morning has seen The Times reveal just how big a challenge immediately faces the new Directors and appears to explain why there have been no players bought in so far.
The newspaper states that ‘Sunderland are facing cash-flow problems only one month after Stewart Donald’s takeover of the club, with the new owner speaking to seven financiers about securing loans’, The Times say that they could be looking to loan £8m to try and get them through this immediate period, but that no agreement has been reached so far with any lender.
Despite Ellis Short’s generosity in wiping off so much of the debts, they still owe money on outstanding player fees as well as to numerous suppliers.
Sunderland also need the cash so they can reach negotiated settlements with players such as Jack Rodwell.
It has already been reported that Ellis Short has allowed the new owners to buy the club in instalments because they couldn’t afford to pay the £40m up front. The Times have revealed that the new owners paid only £15m up front and now have to pay the rest in two further instalments, one of those next summer but the other in only three months time (September 2018).
The Mackems are still due around £49m in parachute payments, with £34m this coming season and £15m in 2019/20 but around half of that cash is what the buying of the club is secured on AND The Times have revealed that another significant portion of this coming season’s parachute payment has already ‘been accounted for as it is required to pay off a previous bank loan agreed by Short.’
Sunderland are arguably the biggest club/name in this third tier and you could have imagined a scenario where they could have bounced back and showed themselves to be easily the best team in the division with instant promotion guaranteed.
However, you still need the players on the pitch for that to happen and worth pointing out that last season they were by far the worst team in the Championship and as it stands, they have, or are in the process of, losing loads of their better players, with as yet no credible signings added.
They are a million miles away from the Premier League now, and if they get this season wrong, even a return to the Championship could look a massive challenge in the next few years.
Newcastle fans have their own problems to worry about but the last two seasons have seen the club recover up to a point, with a top class manager in Rafa Benitez and the loyalty of 50,000 fans key to that, neither of which Sunderland have had on their side.
Ironically, this summer their season ticket sales (20,000) have been very good (for the third tier), but major trouble could be around the corner if the supporters then discover it wasn’t like it said in the new owners’ brochure.