Bristol City fans shouldn’t be shocked by Nigel Pearson’s admission that the club won’t be spending

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Robins are precariously balanced as they abide by EFL financial rules but look to improve on the pitch at the same time.

It is a difficult time at Bristol City, both on and off the pitch.

The club has served up the second largest financial loss in the Championship as per their latest financial accounts announced last Christmas, and the pressure to abide by the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules is heavy.

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And while the club has avoided being dragged into a relegation battle this year, the financial footing makes it a tougher task to improve the squad and their fortunes in 2022/2 than it would be if there was money to spend.

Some supporters may wonder why a billionaire-backed football club are unable to spend their way up the league, but the league’s regulations stop just that (to safeguard club’s futures).

As manager Nigel Pearson will well know. His Leicester City side were fined for over-spending after they were promoted to the Premier League in 2014, eventually reaching a settlement of £3.1m payable to the EFL, though the accompanying statement clarified that the Foxes “did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the rules or to deceive”.

Bristol City must navigate Profitability and Sustainability rules for the coming summer window and have appealed to the EFL for leniency given that they missed out on some transfer income due to the pandemic and contraction of the transfer market.

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To be fair to the club, the Robins may have received a bigger fee for Niclas Eliasson and something for Famara Diedhiou in normal times. However, Derby County argued the same, that without Covid the Rams would have passed EFL rules, in mitigation of their much worse financial situation.

Bristol City’s chief decision makers include manager Nigel Pearson, CEO Richard Gould and chairman Jon LansdownBristol City’s chief decision makers include manager Nigel Pearson, CEO Richard Gould and chairman Jon Lansdown
Bristol City’s chief decision makers include manager Nigel Pearson, CEO Richard Gould and chairman Jon Lansdown | Getty Images

With clubs assessed over a rolling period, the Robins must now limit their losses and ideally return to booking a profit, like Bristol City did in 2018/19 (almost £11m then, helped by the sales of Bobby Reid, Joe Bryan, Aden Flint, Lloyd Kelly and even some money coming in from the sale of Jonathan Kodjia to Aston Villa previously).

Fortunately some headway has been made, as the club reduced their wage bill by a third last summer, and there may be further financial manoeuvring to come in the next window.

Remember that Andi Weimann and Nathan Baker both re-signed for the Robins on different financial terms to remain in BS3 before the start of the current campaign.

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Honest Nigel Pearson comments

So when Nigel Pearson announced at Thursday’s pre-Peterborough press conference that the club would not be spending anything at the end of the season, that was not as alien as some supporters may have taken it.

“We have intentions to strengthen the squad. We’re not going to be spending. As it stands at the moment, I can’t see us spending any money,” explained Pearson.

“We are still trying to keep our best players. What I’m not going to do is change players for the sake of it.”

A selection of comments on social media suggested Doomsday scenarios and questioned the timing of the manager’s comments, coming as they do in the midst of season ticket selling season.

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Some have interpreted the admission that there will be no spending as a lack of ambition. But really it is just further explanation that the club must operate in a different way in the transfer market currently.

Highlighted comments from fans on social media

- “Lots of clubs will be off-loading high earners, so plenty of free agents will be available in summer. Unless we’re in a complete mess (which we might be!) the club will know they’ll need to bring in some decent players to sell STs & we’ll get relegated if we don’t.

- “He said that months ago...what’s new!”

- “This is where a manager earns his stripes. Personally, in these circumstances, there’s not many managers I’d rather have”

- “Marketing campaign for season tickets should have had that on front cover - Needs to shift dead Wood before recruiting which is quite a task given some of the salaries they are on”

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- “He did say at this moment he can’t see us spending anything because at the moment we don’t have any money..... but come the pre season we will have freed up wages and probably have moved some on for fees.”

- “Going to be a long hard summer ahead, makes you wonder why you bother renewing your season ticket but did any of us really expect anything different. Just hope we can get 3-4 in that Nige wants but we will undoubtedly have to sell one or two of our prized assets to do that”

- “Use the loan market wisely then. Continuing with the ‘I don’t like the loan market’ line will limit our opportunity when we have no money to spend.”

- “No surprise to anyone surely. FFP + £38m loss doesn’t equal big spending. Always thought it would take some clever work to improve the squad.”

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- “Another season of trying to stay in the Championship then”

Bristol City transfer strategy

There is of course plenty that the club can do, without having to spend transfer fees. Free agents, possible loans, player swaps. None of these are free but can be balanced against outgoings.

Or more likely sell off players to then buy others. It was noticeable that the word ‘trade’ was used in Thursday’s press conference too. A term previously used by former CEO Mark Ashton and chairman Jon Lansdown regarding the club’s transfer strategy.

There will no doubt be some shedding of players too, with several out of contract such as Robbie Cundy, Andy King and Callum O’Dowda, to offset any arrivals.

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Getting high-earners off the wage bill has already been highlighted as a priority previously, by Pearson.

This is Bristol City’s battlefield as it stands. Finally the time has come to reign in the spending and become self-sustaining. Something Steve Lansdown has wanted for years but never got on top of.

Pearson’s occasionally abrasive comments are just the truth, although from the club’s point of view the timing may have been better. Supporters should be thankful that the manager is happy to tell it as it is however, as the boardroom may not look on so favourably.

A very interesting and key summer window lies ahead that the club must get right.

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