Since the close of the January transfer window there has been a noticeable change in the fortunes of Swansea City. Garry Monk’s men are still grinding out results – including an impressive away win at Southampton – but with Wilfried Bony no longer in the side their offensive play looks more like a toil than the free-flowing football the Swans put on show in the early part of the season.
But this author is keen to banish any talk of impending doom and gloom at the Liberty Stadium – Swansea are certainly not in “freefall” as Phil Neville insisted last week – as the sale of the Ivorian striker will do plenty of long-term good for the club than the casual onlooker might realise.
The profit on Bony’s sale has already allowed Swansea to enter into the early stages of talks to purchase the Liberty Stadium from Swansea Council for somewhere between £20 and £25 million; something that will help the club consolidate its position in British football in the short-term and potentially establish the South Wales outfit as one of the big Premier League sides in decades to come.
The club have been tenants at the Liberty Stadium since Swansea Council opened the arena in 2005 and the 20,827 capacity helped the club fund its incredible soar up the Football League in the last decade. And shrewd transfer and managerial decisions in that time have put the Swans in the incredibly strong financial position that find themselves in now.
When you look some of the deals struck over player sales since 2003 the results are very impressive. Swansea’s top five record sales alone generated £38.475m worth of profit with Jason Scotland making £1.975m, Danny Graham £1.5m, Scott Sinclair £7.5m, Joe Allen £15m and of course Wilfried Bony’s recent departure earned the club a
profit of £12.5m on his arrival from Vitesse Arnem in 2013.
And the decision to promote a retiring player to the position of manager rather than
pay over the top to bring in proven managerial talent has turned out to be an inspired one too. Garry Monk has coped extremely well in his new position – one which has fazed previous young managers – and has even brought a fresh and honest approach to managing in the Premier League.
But more importantly, his long-term affiliation with the club – he has represented the club at all four levels of the Football League – has helped him get the team playing some great football this season. The model worked with Roberto Martinez so Huw Jenkins was more than happy to try it again with Garry Monk.
And it is decisions like these and the positive cash flow decision to sell Wilfried Bony that has put Swansea City AFC in the position to purchase the Liberty Stadium. Of
course, the fact that the Premier League will receive £5.1 billion in television rights payments from Sky and BT Sport over the next three seasons will have also influenced the decision too. But it should be seen as no coincidence that early estimated figures for Swansea’s stadium bid are in the same region as the amount paid for Bony.
And here’s why spending that money on owning the stadium will do a world of good for
Swansea City AFC. Once the debt on the deal is paid off – which shouldn’t be too long given Swansea’s healthy financial situation – the club will be in a pure profit situation. Monthly payments will dramatically fall with no rent left to pay enabling gate money and sponsorship deals to become infinitely more profitable to the organisation.
Much to gain
As has happened at Arsenal with their decision to fully own the Emirates Stadium, the
long-term effect that has is that more money can be spent on transfers and wages, attracting better and better players over time and better facilities and coaching staff can also be invested in too.
But there is another advantage for the Swans; one that Arsenal are not lucky to have
stumbled upon. Swansea City AFC are not the only current tenants of the Liberty Stadium as Guinness Pro 12 rugby union side The Ospreys also rent the stadium from Swansea Council.
It has yet to be confirmed what Swansea City AFC’s bid for the Liberty Stadium would mean for the Ospreys but in order to sustain their match-day income they will likely
continue to rent there rather than search for an alternative. The region format of Welsh rugby union restricts the Ospreys location to within the Glamorgan area – which would make the stadia of rivals Llanelli Scarlets and Cardiff Blues off-limits – and the next largest stadium within that catchment area is 6,000 capacity The Gnoll which they left in 2005 because it was too small.
And this plays right into the hands of Swansea City AFC who are likely to find themselves with a new steady source of income should their bid to buy the stadium go through. In fact they may be able to pay off any debts on their stadium bid just from the rent they might bring in from the Ospreys which would allow them to continue operating at a similar, if not better, financial standing in that time.
The next three months
So all things considered, all Garry Monk needs to do is keep the Swans ticking over until May and ensure that they are still amongst the top 17 teams in the country by then. But that is where we come back to the sale of Wilfried Bony – will his departure make it too hard for the Swans to maintain their Premier League status for the next three months? Well, there is an outside chance.
Bony was clearly the key player in Garry Monk’s system and any regular readers will know that I have a lot of time for the Ivorian’s game. He’s able to play the focal
point in a short passing system but also has enough about him to get in the right place at the right time to score the poacher’s goals too. He was integral to the way Swansea succeeded in their playing style and without him they do lack a focus going forward.
Bafetimbi Gomis had shown some signs of promise in 2014 but because of Bony’s dominance had never managed more than two starts before the January transfer window. And now his confidence is so low that he’s talking about leaving the club and is
offering little on the pitch. The only other alternatives up front are Benfica loanee Nelson Oliveira and Marvin Emnes; both of whom are untested at Premier League level.
So yes, perhaps Garry Monk should have lobbied a bit more for a direct replacement for Bony in order to minimise the risk of relegation. After all the Swans were hardly idle
in the January transfer window bringing in Kyle Naughton, Jack Cork and Matty Grimes at right-back, central midfield and centre-back respectively.
But if it’s one thing Swansea are not it is a panicking club. Garry Monk said of the January window that "[It's] a cattle market and everyone's selling all their cows and they're overpricing the cows - some of them are bad;” and you wouldn’t find many who would disagree with him there.
The club has been considering summer moves for Anderlecht striker Aleksandr Mitrovic and Blackburn Rovers’ Rudy Gestede for several months but refused to change their plans last minute in spite of Bony’s departure. Making rushed and panicked decisions is just not what Huw Jenkins and the club are about and as we’ve already seen that is what has made them successful.
Swansea are just six points off the standard safety point of 40 points and have managed to earn five points from a possible 12 since Bony left South Wales including an unexpected smash and grab win at Southampton. In that time the side has looked indifferent yes, and woeful at times, but they’re not exactly relegation fodder. All that matters in the next three months is staying up and that will be very easy for the Swans to do.
Once they reach that particular finish line they may have already agreed a deal with Swansea Council and they will certainly have time on their hands to find a permanent replacement for Bony. From that point onwards they will have the financial infrastructure in place to potentially go on to be one of the biggest and best Premier League sides of next couple of decades.