Burnley (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, Burnley are battling for survival on and off the field as they prepare for the visit of Manchester United to Turf Moor on Tuesday.
An American-backed takeover just over a year ago has so far failed to live up to hopes it would give manager Sean Dyche a more competitive budget to work with.
Dyche is the longest serving manager in England’s top flight and has kept Burnley in the richest league in the world for six consecutive seasons.
However, beating the drop this season may be beyond even the 50-year-old as a lack of resources catches up with the Clarets.
For fans there are fears that Burnley are following the example set by United for the wrong reasons.
A controversial leveraged takeover in 2005 by the Glazer family saddled the Red Devils with debt running into hundreds of millions of pounds they have had to service ever since.
Burnley’s own £170 million ($230 million) takeover by US investment group ALK Capital has similarly burdened the previously debt-free club with huge loan repayments.
US tech magnate Michael Dell reportedly provided £60 million of financing for the takeover at an interest rate of around nine percent.
However, a Daily Mail report last month claimed that relegation could trigger early repayment of that loan.
Despite Burnley’s perilous position in the table, the club still made a profit in the January transfer window.
Relegation rivals Newcastle poached Chris Wood for £25 million and he was replaced by Dutch striker Wout Weghorst for half the price, with no other incomings.
“January is a notoriously difficult window and as a club we did, and in future windows will continue to do, everything we can to get the right players through the door,” said chairman Alan Pace ahead of Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Watford.
That point left Burnley three points adrift of safety with just one win from 19 league games this season.
But they do have multiple games in hand to come on the three sides above them in the table.
Dyche has refused to publicly criticise his bosses despite rumours of Pace becoming involved in the process of pinpointing targets in the transfer market.
“Alan has been trying to be open-minded and trying to help with those details where possible. The over-riding fact though is still money,” said Dyche this week.
United’s visit is a timely reminder that money does not buy everything.
The club’s debt has not prevented the Glazers furnishing a series of managers with the money to compete at the top end of the table since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
However, under interim boss Ralf Rangnick their ambition for the latter stages of the season is just to make it into the Premier League’s top four to secure a return to the lucrative Champions League next season.
Even a club of United’s size can ill afford to miss out on Europe’s premier club competition.
Burnley’s fall would be even greater if they cannot escape the trap door of a drop into the Championship.
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