Bricks and Mortar Help to Lock In a Premier League Future

What is most striking about Burnley is not that the club conceived a plan to use its newfound wealth to improve its infrastructure, but that it has stuck to it. Few teams promoted to the Premier League manage the first step; barely any find that the courage of their convictions survives once they have taken their seat in the casino.

There is a stark contrast, certainly, with Burnley’s visitor this weekend. Bournemouth’s recent history tracks neatly with Burnley: It was promoted in 2015, a year before Burnley’s most recent return, and has spent the last five seasons in the Premier League. There remains, though, a risk that this will be Bournemouth’s last season in the top flight. It sits only two points clear of a relegation battle that is convoluted, and unpredictable, even by English standards.

Bournemouth is a prime example of a far more common approach for young Premier League teams: It has used a considerable proportion of its eye-watering broadcast revenues to sign, and pay, players. Since arriving in the top flight, Bournemouth has spent $175 million on players — a net, rather than gross, figure. In 2018, its salary sheet accounted for three-quarters of its income.

That year, its wage bill, on a slightly smaller revenues, was $25 million higher than Burnley’s. Maxim Demin, Bournemouth’s Russian owner, has invested around $155 million of his own money to prop up the club.

Its infrastructure spending, in comparison, is negligible. Bournemouth has, by some distance, the smallest stadium in the Premier League, and the club has expanded it only a little. Bournemouth has been planning a new training facility for some time, in the village of Canford Magna, but work has just started. The delays, in part, explain why Bournemouth’s academy remains only a third-class facility, meaning the club has long had problems producing its own players.

Instead, the club has spent millions on the squad. That is not devoid of merit, according to Maguire. “Bournemouth has more sale-able assets within its squad,” he said. “The cost of expanding a stadium is high, and the return is both slow and, compared to staying in the Premier League, quite small. So why not invest in the playing staff, if it increases the chances of staying up?”