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Report breaks down Sheffield United wage bill and why perhaps 'the club played it too safe'

A new report breaking down the finances at Sheffield United says “arguably, the club played it too safe” with their wage bill.

The excellent Swiss Ramble, who blogs about the business of football, has taken an in-depth view of the Blades’ 2019/20 accounts.

In a Twitter thread, they look extensively at the financial incomings and outgoings last season.

It was United’s first in the Premier League in 12 years and as a result, their income greatly increased.

Yet so did their outgoings, with their wage bill almost doubling from £41m in 2018/19 to £78m.

Wages were £19m in 2017/18, which means that they grew by £59m in just two years.

On the face of it, wages increased significantly as the club rose through the divisions. So, why are they being accused of playing it “too safe”?

Sheffield United wage bill still very low

Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

While doubling wages in 12 months may seem like a bold financial move from the Blades board, it doesn’t when taking into account increased broadcasting revenue.

During their promotion campaign from the Championship, United made £8m in TV rights. That jumped by a whopping £109m to £117m last term.

While their wage bill was 195 percent of their annual turnover (taking into account “sizable promotion bonuses”) in 2018/19, it fell to 54 percent a year later. That would have been 50 percent if the impact of COVID-19 was excluded.

Only Tottenham Hotspur had a lower percentage last year.

The Blades were the lowest spenders when it came to wages in 2019/20. Norwich City – who are next on the list – spent £11m more at £89m.

Over the past two years, only Huddersfield Town have had a lower wage bill at £64m.

Which makes the achievement of finishing ninth even greater. But it also perhaps shows why Chris Wilder became increasingly frustrated with the lack of spending.

Last summer, Wilder wanted the likes of Ross Barkley, Ollie Watkins and Callum Wilson. All three moved elsewhere after their wage demands were deemed too high.

There was only so long the club could keep fighting while those around them spent so much more.

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