CEO Mark Jenkins has demanded a return to sound business management as the cornerstone of Albion’s recovery from the difficulties of the current campaign.
In his first major briefing since his return to the Chief Executive’s chair last month, Mark admits the Club’s slump to 20th and the growing threat of relegation has made it a “painful” return to duty.
Mark has been speaking as Albion filed the Club’s annual accounts up to June 2017, admitting a year of record-breaking figures has been followed by investments which have left him needing to organise the Club’s first overdraft for more than 10 years.
- CEO Mark Jenkins discusses his plans following release of latest Club accounts
- New Premier League deal and 10th place performance sees record figures for 2016-17
- Turnover increased by £39.6m (40.3%) to £137.9m with profits before tax jumping to £39.7m from £1.0m;
- Profit includes the sale of Saido Berahino
- Player assets increased to £38.3m from £24.9m at 2016
- Cash at bank rose to £39.6m at 30 June 2017, from £15.9m
- But Jenkins warns of need for “overdraft facility” following spending of the last year
Baggies fans should not be alarmed, he says, as the overdraft is not sizeable in Premier League terms but it is an indication of how the Club has been blown off course in the last 12 months and helps underscore his view that a strong business performance must be the foundation stone to Albion’s recovery on the pitch.
“The annual accounts shows what really has happened over the last 24 months if you look in detail,” Mark told WBA TV.
“The accounts cover the 2016-17 season which saw us placed 10th in what we must consider a successful season despite a slightly disappointing finish. It was the first year of the new TV deal and normally in that situation the Club performs well financially. We had record turnover, a profit of just under £40m which included the sale of Saido Berahino …. but still, £40m in the bank which is a substantial resource.
“But if we look further, the auditors have insisted that I do make note that we are going to have to have a small overdraft in the near future which just goes to emphasise the activities of the year which has followed. I want to emphasise that it is a small overdraft but this Club has not had an overdraft for over 10 years now which makes it new territory for West Bromwich Albion in this era.
“Clearly, it has not been as successful a season. There is going to be a significant loss in next year’s accounts, not to the level of profit recorded in these accounts of course, but it demonstrates how the board have used the resources - and a little bit more besides - investing in the squad and the infrastructure of the stadium. We have wages, transfer fees and loan fees running at record levels and yet we find ourselves in this position.
“I’ll be honest I’ve come back and I’m shocked at what I have found in some of the decisions that have been made.
“When I was on the outside looking in, for example, I read the reports about the Club operating at the limit of its short term cost control. Knowing the business as I did, I thought that was a negotiating position but I’ve come back and can assure you that we are right at our limit on STCC. There is no more money for wages.
“I would like to think that the supporters would trust me. They know I have run the Club successfully before and they will expect me to do so again. I think it will be wise to go back to Jeremy’s principles. But we must change too. What worked eight years ago won’t work now. There are new regulations in place for a start. We have to adapt and evolve if we are going to make progress. We have to recognise the changes and evolve.
“I talk about this being a business and I make no apology for that because if you are as strong as a business you will have success on the pitch.”
Mark, who left the Club at the end of 2016 following 10 Premier League campaigns in a 14 year stint, admitted that the exhaustive sale process which eventually saw former owner Jeremy Peace hand over control to Guochuan Lai, had taken its toll.
Mark said: “I was tired. I had been trying to sell the Club for two years and I genuinely also felt that I was stale and the Club needed someone new to take it to new levels, with new ideas and a fresh way of thinking.
“On a personal level, my father had also been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away in May and I wanted to spend some time with him. If I had stayed I certainly would have challenged` the new executive team far more than has happened and some of the decisions taken would have been different.
“It’s been painful looking in and seeing the Club that I and many, many other people - friends such as Dan Ashworth, Darren Eales - had built up to be an established Premier League club….it has all unravelled in the 12 months or more since I’ve been away. I’m determined to get it back to where it should be.”
Mark confirms that communication between the Club’s Chinese ownership and The Hawthorns will be improved going forward with much more regular contact. He emphasises that Lai remains wholly committed to Albion for the “long term” and supportive of the need to rebuild a structure which will sustain the Club at Premier League level.
He knows, too, this has been a tough year for the fans to endure.
He added: “I can understand the supporters frustrations. It has been useful for me to step outside the bubble and experience it from their viewpoint. My wife is a big fan and wanted to go to games and so I went to the ticket office, bought my tickets, got to the ground, watched the match and went home thinking…’have I had value for money?’ And I have to say I didn’t think I had. That’s one of the reasons why we shall be looking at ticket prices and what we can do there.
“How do we engage the fans again? We’ve got to win football matches but if you are strong as a business you will have success on the pitch. But we’re a football club and we need to win matches, especially at home. We’ve hardly won at The Hawthorns in the last 18 months and that has got to change.”