Mark Catlin: This is why Portsmouth would've been ready for the Championship - and will be in future

The figures are nothing short of disturbing.

Monday, 3rd June 2019, 6:00 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd June 2019, 10:00 pm

It’s a land where wage bills reach £73m - yet fail to deliver success.

It’s a terrain where your competitor’s wages-to-income ratio tops 200 per cent, and 12 of your rivals spend more on their wage bill than they earn.

According to the latest financial figures, for the 2017-18 season, Football League clubs are in debt to the tune of £388m.

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And that has everything to do with the lunatics’ asylum the Championship has become - the prison Pompey are trying to break into.

Yet, Blues chief executive Mark Catlin is adamant it’s a place his football club would’ve been ready ascend to this season.

And, crucially, that will be the case moving forward.

‘Yes, I'm 100-per-cent convinced we would've been ready for the Championship,' said Catlin.

‘That's because of the way our financial director/chief operating officer, Tony Brown, has constructed our player contracts and salaries.

‘Because of the clever way he's gone about things in previous years we would've had a huge margin for bringing in good players.

‘Would we have been ready in year one? Yes. Would it have been a huge challenge in years two to five? Yes.

‘But that's not just applicable to Portsmouth. That's the case for every team who get promoted. Look at Millwall, for example, a great example.

‘They had a brilliant first-year bounce (after promotion) and just missed out on the play-offs. Then the year after that they just avoided relegation.

‘After that first year you struggle to keep hold of your better players and they get cherry-picked.

‘Then before you know it you're in a spiral trying to attract players to replicate those players, the wages go up but your flexibility diminishes.

‘You can see that in the likes of Burton, while Rotherham went straight back down. Bolton was similar and Millwall just survived.’

At look at the wage bills of clubs in the Championship highlights the leap Pompey will be making when the day hopefully arrives to leave League One in the right direction.

The available figures show wage bills spread from £10m to £73m, with the two clubs at the lower end of the scale, in Burton (£10m) and Barnsley (£11m), suffering relegation.

Even those bottom-end figures far, far exceed where Pompey’s wage bill currently sits.

‘Unfortunately there's becoming a league within the Championship,’ Catlin added.

‘There's seven or eight clubs who've become yo-yo clubs between the top end of League One and bottom end of the Championship.

‘If you look at it now it's the biggest leap in all four divisions, in terms of the disparity between the income and the jump you have to make financially in terms of playing budgets.

‘You get a few million extra but not tens of millions extra.

‘Yet it needs tens of millions extra now to compete at the top end of the Championship.

'If you go from the Champ to the Prem your playing budget has to go from tens of millions to hundreds of millions.

‘But you're getting hundreds of millions extra just by being in the Prem.

‘So the leap is not such a big one to make. The biggest jump is between League One and the Championship.’

The model of clubs having huge debts plugged by rich benefactors, increasingly prevalent in the second tier, is not one Pompey wish to replicate.

So how do they begin to attempt to bridge the gaping chasm between income and outgoings now so evident there.

‘How can we plug that gap?,’ Catlin asked. ‘By doing what we're doing - that’s how.

‘We do it by becoming self-sustainable, having a robust transfer policy of bringing in players, developing them and moving them on when the time is right for the club and the player. Then it's re-investing that back into the squad.

‘The investment we've made has been in our scouting networks. Both at academy and first-team level.

‘The investment has been in our infrastructure, in regards to being able to generate more money from the club shop and big screen.

‘We have a very good wage structure internally.

‘(Tornante president and Pompey director) Andy Redman specifically has said he loves the way we work.

‘We are the hardest-working group of staff in the country. I really believe we are.

‘I was in at 7am the day of this interview. I wasn't the only one here. I will go home at 7pm or 8pm tonight and it's not just me.

‘That's our staff generally. Our staff do the jobs of two people.

‘If I look at some clubs of a similar size to us I see the volume of staff they have and the numbers associated with it.

‘There's a good few million being saved there. It's all these different aspects which can make us competitive.’