On a day when Burnley were celebrating their return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1976, and the £60m bonanza that their promotion brings, Mike Ashley's Newcastle United were assessing the alarming cost of dropping into the Championship. Even taking into account so-called parachute payments, Newcastle's income is estimated to fall £50m in the first year alone.
Such is the economic disparity between the Premier and Football Leagues, the price of success and failure is vast. The £35m minimum per season awarded to top-division clubs from television revenues is in itself huge, but the top-heavy nature of the squad at Newcastle means the club are expected to feel the financial loss even more than Burnley the benefit. The newly promoted club can plan this summer for their enhanced recruitment but Newcastle did not budget for relegation – there are no relegation clauses in the contract of players, even those bought as recently as January.
Newcastle's annual wage bill is £70m and owner Mike Ashley has said that is the fifth highest in the top division. But one of Newcastle's biggest problems is that this is now a devalued playing staff earning the same wages. Losing Michael Owen and Mark Viduka – both are out of contract – will ease the burden a little, but Newcastle need to cull many others. It was said yesterday that the club had 15 players earning more than £50,000 per week.
If this is correct then it could come to be known as Newcastle's goldfish moment. The Leeds scenario terrifies Tyneside. Possible financial implosion would affect managerial plans as well, but the figures show that even without economic instability, it is difficult for relegated Premier League clubs to bounce back within the two seasons of parachute payments. Five clubs in the last five years alone have dropped from Premier League to League One. Eight ex-Premier League clubs will start next season below Championship level. For that reason perhaps Burnley chairman Barry Kilby was not getting carried away with the prospect of sudden riches, although he believed the club would, understandably, be stronger for it.
He said: "We've got to get used to having that money. I will sit down this week. We're going to do our damnedest to stay up. We've got to manage our budget. I don't think it'll change. Our character is what it is.
Owen Coyle, the Burnley manager, said: "I've spent £2.75m on players. Now we need to add to the squad and we have a terrific spirit, but if we finish fourth bottom next year it will be better than where we are now. It's a challenge we'll relish."