It has been known in England that Birmingham has endured a rocky road financially for several years. Selling its most valuable player, Jack Butland, at a fire-sale price, however, appears to be an act of desperation.
Butland declined an offer to join Chelsea after he was given permission on Monday to speak with club officials. It was a logical decision; Butland certainly would be no better than a second goalkeeper to Petr Cech for the rest of the season. Reports came out, after the fact, that this action followed the Premier League club’s offer of £3.5 million ($5.5 million) to Birmingham. This offer was for a goalkeeper who played in all five matches for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics and became the youngest keeper to play for the English national team. This offer came after a £6 million ($9.5 million) offer by Southampton was rejected in August.
Birmingham reportedly sought £6 million, and asked agents who were working on a transfer to seek at least half as a down payment. Once it appeared clubs would not bite at the amount, the demand pretty much became a request: name the price.
Butland’s agent, Gary Mellor, told BBC Sport that if Butland were to go to a club where he would be the second keeper, he would want to be loaned back to Birmingham. The club, however, would be unlikely to afford the increased wages he would receive with another club.
How troubled is Birmingham financially? Even after it turned a £15.7 million ($24.8 million) profit last season, through the sale of players after the club was relegated to the Championship and parachute payments, it still lost £4 million ($6.3 million), according to the club’s accounts report, which was released earlier this month. It still owed £14 million ($22.1 million) to one director, Carson Yeung, who is awaiting trial in Hong Kong on money-laundering charges (none of Birmingham’s revenue appears to be related to them), and another £7 million ($11.1 million) to the holding company that is its majority owner.
The auditor’s report stated the club needed more money to continue to the end of the season. How important is it for Birmingham to remain solvent, at least through the end of the season? There is the threat of bankruptcy, which carries a 10-point deduction. Such a penalty would put the Blues from 17th in the Championship, six points clear of the relegation zone, to last place with 17 matches remaining.
Television money from the Football League has historically been split on an 80-12-8 share among its three divisions — Relegation would mean a drastic reduction in revenue, an 85-percent drop from the Championship to League One.
While the need to raise money is understandable, off-loading someone is worth much more, and certainly will be during the summer, appears stupid. It is best for Birmingham to bite the bullet, look elsewhere for the money, and ensure its place in the Championship next season — the latter which selling Butland could endanger.