Sheffield United financial state of play: Player sales stance and transfer payments explained

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: A general view inside the ground during the pre-season friendly match between Sheffield United and VfB Stuttgart at Bramall Lane on August 05, 2023 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Graham Chadwick/Getty Images)

Sheffield United’s off-field health has been greatly improved by promotion to the Premier League, with chief executive Stephen Bettis describing the club’s financial picture as “fine”. The money worries that saw the club enter a transfer embargo last season, and led to a number of creditors going unpaid, have been alleviated by top-flight funds, with billions of broadcast revenue shared between the 20 Premier League clubs.

United have been prudent in their summer transfer business, with boss Paul Heckingbottom initially handed a £20m budget for permanent signings after guiding the Blades to the top flight. The late sales of Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge, to Marseille and Burnley respectively, changed the financial picture and led to the arrivals of Gustavo Hamer and Cameron Archer, but the Blades’ net transfer spend spoke for itself in terms of how the hierarchy were determined to learn the lessons of their last top-flight adventure.

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Even in the worst-case scenario of an instant return to the Championship, United would benefit from two seasons worth of multi-million parachute payments and if they can survive this season, will earn an extra year’s worth if and when they drop into the second tier again. That top-flight gold-mine, plus their prudent transfer spend and tight control on the wage structure, has seen United ‘clean house’ and get the club back on an even financial footing for the future.

“We are fine,” said chief executive Stephen Bettis, when asked about United’s financial picture. “If we don’t get relegated, there are no issues at all. If we get relegated under the current ownership, we would need to sell one player.” That echoes United’s previous approach following their last relegation, when Aaron Ramsdale was the only significant departure - until Ndiaye and Berge left, just over a week apart, following promotion, after both had entered the final year of their Bramall Lane deals.

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Further instalments of the transfer fees of both those players will offset money owed to rival clubs for players signed in the summer, including the likes of Auston Trusty, Benie Traore and Anis Slimane. United are fully up-to-date with their outstanding transfer payments, with one amount not yet due - avoiding any chance of a repeat of the transfer embargo which was placed on them by the EFL in January for non-payment of transfer funds.

United owner Prince Abdullah is still open to selling the club but has not yet found a suitable buyer, despite agreeing deals with American businessman Henry Mauriss and Nigerian Dozy Mmobuosi. “The model is broken,” added Bettis on the struggle to compete in the Premier League, with fellow promoted sides Luton Town and Burnley also struggling this season. “We all know that, unless you have a really wealthy owner pumping the money in. That’s the reality of it.”