Prediction: Stoke City to win promotion - based on wage bills
26 June 2019
Stoke City should win the Championship next season, based on the size of the club’s wage bill.
Wage spend remains the most reliable indicator of league position.
Stoke City will be crowned Championship winners next season, or so the size of wage bills across the division would indicate.
According to the latest available accounts, covering the 2017/18 season, Stoke City had the biggest wage bill in the Championship at £94.2 million.
WBA boasted the second largest wage bill at £92.2 million, while Swansea had the third largest wage bill at £90.7 million.
Research by offthepitch.com has highlighted the gap between the top three clubs and the rest - coming in at fourth, Huddersfield have a wage bill of £62.6 million, almost £30 million less.
A degree of uncertainty
Analysts agree there is a connection between the amount a club spends on wages and the number of points they can expect to accumulate.
There is a degree of uncertainty with the predictions, as clubs don't publish up-to-the-minute wage spend.
The predictions have relied on 2017/18 wage bills, and a number of events, such as player sales and wage bill reductions, haven’t been taken into account.
Since the latest club accounts were released, Stoke City have offloaded players earning Premier League wages, such as Xherdan Shaqiri, who transferred to Liverpool
Nonetheless, the figures tend to be reasonably accurate - last season, eight Championship and 14 Premier League clubs finished within three places of where they were predicted.
Stoke intend to lower wage bill
Stoke City under their new manager, Nathan Jones, are known to be implementing surgery on a squad that underperformed under Gary Rowett last season, following relegation from the Premier League in 2018.
Since the latest club accounts were released, Stoke City have offloaded players earning Premier League wages, such as Xherdan Shaqiri, who transferred to Liverpool.
The club have stated their intention to continue to lower their wage bill and could offload some of the club’s most sellable assets.
Jack Butland may leave the club for a large fee this summer, while Saido Berahino, Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam have already left.
As a result, the club’s wage bill will fall considerably in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 accounts, but the club are still expected to have one of the largest wage bills in the league next season.
WBA players saw their wages reduced by 50 per cent after relegation in 2018, so, as with Stoke, the club’s next set of accounts will reveal a reduced wage bill.
Huddersfield and Fulham protected salary levels after relegation from the Premier League, by inserting relegation clauses into player contracts.
Cardiff’s wage bill remained broadly at Championship levels last season, with the club refusing to pay inflated salaries.
The wage bill statistics suggest that all six clubs promoted or relegated to the Championship may be in for a tough season
Drop back down to League One
None of the clubs relegated from the Premier League are predicted to finish in the automatic promotion places, with only Cardiff City reaching the play-offs.
The three promoted clubs from League One are all expected to drop back down.
The club’s failure to publish accounts - they were due by the end of April - suggests further financial issues remain ongoing at the club
Leeds United and Derby County, having missed out on promotion through the play-offs, may not get the opportunity again this season. Neither club are predicted to finish in the top six.
In addition to Stoke City, clubs, including Birmingham, Swansea, Reading and QPR, have been predicted to improve their final standings next season.
Hoping for a repeat
Bristol City, Forest and Leeds exceeded expectations last season and will be hoping for a repeat performance this year.
Sheffield Wednesday have failed to disclose their accounts for the 2017/18 season to date, so the research has used their latest available accounts covering the 2016/17 season.
The club’s failure to publish accounts - they were due by the end of April - suggests further financial issues remain ongoing at the club.
Wednesday spent much of last summer's transfer window operating under an embargo imposed for breaching the English Football League's Profitability and Sustainability rules - a situation their manager, Steve Bruce, recently insisted has not repeated itself this time around.