Wolverhampton’s economy and reputation will suffer if Wolves are relegated for the second successive season tomorrow, business leaders said today.
And jobs could go at the club if it cannot pull off a sporting miracle tomorrow, with the cost of dropping to League One estimated to be around £5 million.
A football finance expert in the University of Wolverhampton’s Business School said Wolves’ economic problems would be partly driven by the high costs of maintaining the playing squad.
Wolves fan and PhD student Andrew Jones said: “This currently stands at £25million with many players on long-term contracts until the summer of 2015 or 2016.
“With 300 employees, Wolves are one of the larger private sector employers in Wolverhampton.
“The loss in income may force the club to make a number of staff redundant.”
The club has refused to comment on the effects of the huge drop in revenue.
Wolves recently revealed an all-time low number of supporters had bought season tickets for 2013/14 via the Early Bird scheme.
Just 9,036 signed up to buy tickets – and they have already been promised an undisclosed rebate from the club should Wolves be relegated.
It is expected that relegation would also have a wider impact on the city with fewer fans coming into Wolverhampton on a match day.
Paul Bennett, president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said even reduced productivity among the city’s employees would have an effect.
“The city would have far less of a profile,” he said.
“And general productivity levels would suffer – people would be that little bit more pessimistic about life and spend less.
“There would also be a lower footfall from both home and away fans on match days.
“Of course when people go into the city to watch the match invariably they’re going to have a few drinks or do a bit of shopping.
“This would have an impact in a number of areas.”
Wolves last played in English football’s third tier back in the 1988/89 season, just three years after nearly being put into liquidation due to mounting debts.
Prominent Wolves supporter Albert Bates, who is chairman of Wolves’ official supporters’ club, questioned whether the current budget was enough to succeed, let alone a reduced one next season.
He said: “To start with Steve Morgan’s put all that money into the (Stan Cullis) stand so where’s the following going to come from to help sustain that?
“The players are on thousands of pounds a week and they’ve only got 9,000 season ticket holders.
“Maybe they won’t go out of business, but what are they going to dish up in terms of quality?”