Sustainable model to continue at Burnley, admits chairman Mike Garlick

Mike Garlick with Gareth Southgate
Mike Garlick with Gareth Southgate

Clarets chairman Mike Garlick admits if he was Burnley manager, he would want more money from the coffers to spend.

But the sustainable model at Turf Moor, which sees the club in the Premier League for a fifth season in six, isn’t going to change any time soon.

At a time when clubs down the road have endured financial problems, which have pushed one to expulsion from the Football League, and the other to the brink of extinction, prudence remains a watchword.

Owen Coyle said, after leaving Turf Moor for Bolton in 2010, that the club was “probably five or 10 years ahead of what we were trying to achieve at Burnley”.

A decade on, and Burnley are held up as an example of how to run a football club.

Fans invariably want to see more money spent, to have the excitement of expensive new signings.

But as manager Sean Dyche said this time last year: “It’s a double-edged sword. I think it is important to have a well-run club in these parts because they nearly lost it a couple of times, but my football head says, ‘Give me the money and I’ll go and spend it’.”

While there were no major ‘marquee’ signings this summer - indeed, Burnley only had a net spend of around £5.5m - Garlick is at pains, however, to point out that the club remain more than competitive in terms of wages, and in attracting exciting young talent.

The figures released in March showed that wages during the financial year ending in June 2018 grew from £61m to £81m.

Garlick also underlines that the net spend, since boss Sean Dyche guided the club to the Premier League in 2014, is a not insignificant £87.5m.

Burnley’s record transfer fee remains the £15m paid for Chris Wood in 2017 and Ben Gibson last summer, but the club were prepared to smash that during the transfer window, only to find clubs unwilling to part with their assets.

Asked whether the club will spend more money moving forward, Garlick admitted: “I think we’ll maintain the pattern.

“When we go into a window, we don’t have a pot of money and say ‘we must spend this’.

“We have a pot of money and might spend it if the right opportunities arise.

“We’re looking for value on players, and if we can find that, we spend it, if we don’t, we leave it.

“We keep a flexible model, and when opportunities present themselves, we try and grab them.

“But this summer, younger players, up and coming players, everyone was chasing them.

“We went in for a lad, straight offer for £20m, including add ons.

“They didn’t want to sell, but there were a lot of clubs in for him, and I think we put the highest offer in.

“It’s not like we’re not competing at that level for top young talent, but it’s still a lot of money for someone who isn’t proven.”

And Burnley’s spending in the transfer market has to be measured, with no billionaire backer happy to soak up the cost of any big money signings that don’t work out.

Garlick added: “You look at clubs like Bournemouth who spend a lot of money on up and coming young talent, and some of it makes it, but some doesn’t.

“We’ve signed a few older players - everyone wants to sign younger talent, and develop it, it’s obvious why because there’s a resale value, they’re hopefully going to improve with time, but it’s not always practical.

“Your main aim is to stay in the division, are you going to stay there with a group of young lads, or do you want a balance? Probably a balance.

”So that’s where you go.”

Dyche said last summer: “The market will probably outrun us at some point.

“The challenge is how far you stretch it, to allow us to continue moving forward.”

Bolton are an example of how it can go sour, and fast.

Garlick said: “It’s very sad, Bolton is slightly different to Bury as they’ve been in the Premier League, and if you look at them, really, their demise was already starting when they were in the Premier League, when they were spending more than they were bringing in.

“That pressure continued to build over the years, and the result of that you see today.

“We have to be sustainable in our actions financially, so something like that never happens to Burnley.

“We do make a profit. Profits will be slightly lower from where they were in previous years because we have had higher net spends on players.

“We’ve always spent a little bit more than we’ve brought in, whereas the last declared profits had the Andre Gray and Michael Keane sales, last year we didn’t have as much of that, sold Vokesy in the end, and finished lower.

“Since we got promoted to the Premier League, under Sean, in 2014, we’ve had a net spend of £87.5m.

”I don’t know if people realise that, some people might think we’ve broken even, we haven’t.

“When you add it up, it’s a lot of money.”

As is the wage bill.

Burnley have had to be creative to incentivise players, as Garlick explained: “We budget to finish fourth bottom every year, to be around the bottom end, but to survive.

“That’s what we do our plan on.

“Anything above survival is a fantastic bonus for us, from a financial perspective.

“We’re near the bottom in terms of the wages we pay, but we do have a very aggressive bonus structure, probably the most aggressive in the division, that incentivises the players and the management team to keep the team in the Premier League.

“We think that works very well for us, but there’s a lot of mid-table clubs who have a lot more money than us.

“When you combine the bonus structure with our wages, we’re probably operating around where we should be.

“Wages have gone up from where we were one, two, three years ago, but there’s probably not much scope to push it any further overall.

“Obviously, you always have individual cases, but overall, it’s probably going to stay where it is now.”

He added: “We’re at the low end in terms of wages, not the lowest, but the gap between us and the bigger clubs, it’s not as big as it used to be.

“If you look at a player’s structure here, they might be on a certain amount, but if he does well and has a good season, it can go up, and if we get relegated, his wage will go down.

“What were they thinking in January? ‘Come on lads, we’ve got to get this sorted out and stay in this division?’

“We’re more competitive than 10 years ago, when we had that big jump in the last cycle of bonus payments, from £60m to £100m, I looked at that and said ‘We’ve got to go for it, we can push it out a lot stronger’, and thankfully it worked.”

The nature of the Premier League means that rainy day planning could be required any season, if you are not Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or Spurs.

West Brom and Stoke City were considered “established” two years ago, only for both to crash out of the top flight that season.

Garlick, like Dyche, doesn’t get carried away thinking Burnley are a permanent fixture, as last season’s brush with relegation trouble showed, on the back of their Europa League exploits: “It’s difficult, this word established, in my mind, the real established clubs are the Big Six, once you strip that out, any otf the other 14, if they’re having a bad run, could go down.

“So we don’t want to get too carried away and think we’re established, we’ve got to be competitive every year to stay in this division, that’s for sure.

“Every year is a challenge and brings new challenges, new players arrive, old ones go, you throw that in the mix and we get out on the pitch and do the best we can.

“We managed to marginally strengthen over the summer with the players we brought in, so I think we’ve got a decent squad, and after a good start, we can push on and keep going.”

Meanwhile, despite the remarkable job Dyche has performed in nigh-on seven years in charge at Turf Moor, Garlick is surprisingly yet to receive an approach for his services.

Garlick has described Dyche – who he appointed in October 2012, along with then fellow-co-chairman John Banaszkiewicz – as “one of our best managers in history.”

Early last year, en route to guiding Burnley to seventh in the Premier League – their best top-flight finish in 44 years – Garlick handed Dyche a contract to the end of the 2021/22 season, taking him to almost 10 years at the helm.

And last summer he said: “There will always be interest in him as long as we continue to punch above our weight. That is normal. We get used to that, it is just a fact of life.”

That interest has never turned into a full-blown approach, however, despite speculation linking him with the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Everton over the last couple of years.

Garlick, asked whether he has had an approach for Dyche, admitted: “Not one. Maybe he’s happy here!”

And he added: “I think other clubs have looked at him, but we give him a fairly free rein to organise things as he pleases on the pitch, and around the coaching set up.

“I think at a lot of bigger clubs, that scrutiny would be a lot greater, and if things started to go not particularly well, managers would find themselves at those clubs under a lot of pressure.

“For us, we’re in the Premier League, we’re happy with that, as long as people are dough their best, then we support them and we really do support them.”