At What Cost Nahki Wells?

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Image available under Creative Commons © Image available under Creative Commons (c) Tim Green

Nahki Wells – prized asset of the Bradford City strike force – is the subject of much rumour and attention as the January 2014 transfer window opens but in these days before the start of business I’m given to ponder forthcoming events and the wisdom around them.

First on Wells, while he is a lively player capable – when confident – of scoring plentiful and exciting goals I would not suggest he was the club’s best striker. James Hanson is a more useful player to the team and if I were to lose one and not the other it would be Wells.

But Wells is the wanted man. He fits the profile of the exciting signing. He is a fast centre forward not from these isles and, looking through the YouTube of his goals, scorer of numerous spectacular strikes. Who would not want that from a signing in the transfer window?

Well, Premier League clubs it seems. The uniting factor of the teams linked to Wells is that they are all in the Championship. Last season’s League Cup final against Swansea City in which Wells and most of his team mates were as much spectators as the travelling Bantams support has perhaps has put off the top flight suitors who can afford to pay the type of money which took Dwight Gayle to Crystal Palace.

That Bradford City are traditionally very poor at getting good value for their players has prompted many in the club’s wider community to demand that Wells be kept in the absence of the kind of “silly money bid” which applied to Gayle’s move to Croydon.

However, setting that in a wider context, a figure of £3m-£4m should be incredibly attractive to a club which – for around £750,000 a year – is renting the ground it has played in for 110 years (having sold it for £2.5m) and who got to Wembley with a team costing £7,500. But few City fans are excited by the prospect of Wells leaving.

Consider that for a moment. The balance between the amount to be raised from selling Wells is disproportionately high considering the costs involved in creating the team he is a part of. Lest we forget that the entire recruitment and development system (including the first team squad) which produced Wells costs less to fund for an entire year than would be raised in selling him.

The logical extension of that thought process is that if a team can produce a player worth millions then reinvesting that money in addition to what has already been spent successfully would produce more success. That taking £3m for Nahki Wells and putting it back into the system would produce more Nahki Wellses.

But who believes that?

And this question is not about Bradford City. It goes from Ryan Gauld at Dundee United to Fleetwood Town’s Antoni Sarcevic to Jed Wallace at Portsmouth. When money comes into our clubs do we think that it will be used to recreate the success that has generated it effectively? If we did then why would supporters even think that “Ryan/Antoni/Jed/ Nahki must stay?”

We do not believe, as fans, that when our club sells a player it will start a chain of events where we will end up with two or three equally good replacements in the first team. We do not think that a transfer fee will do that or we would be welcoming them.

And let me draw a distinction here between the idea that money from transfer fees would be slipped into boardroom pockets or otherwise taken away from the football side of a football club. It strikes me that football fans generally believe that when the club sells a player the money will just – well – go.

Go as in be fritter away. Be spent. Be wasted.

That a club will use the money to fund a series of bad decisions. Signing poor players, sacking managers and paying them off, and then replacing the teams they had built. We’ve seen it all through our supporting lives. In 1988-89 Stuart McCall and John Hendrie left a City team which were on the edge of being promoted to the top flight for over a million pounds – then a football fortune – but the money just slid away and was spent on nothing players and sacking managers.

To be honest, one struggles to recall any incidents in football where the bounty received by a club although Peterborough United seem to be trying hard to do the right thing with the money raised for Gayle, and Seth Johnson’s exit from Crewe built a stand. But sometimes we need to do better than looking at Crewe as the example of a well run club.

The result of a club selling a player is – for supporters – that you simply do not see the player anymore and while I’ve always got no end of criticism for the people who run Bradford City I doubt that they want that situation either. The alternative – doggedly attempting to keep players – would after all probably result in a sulking player.

Which is what makes one pause for thought before the transfer window opens. Transfer fees are as ingrained in football as just about anything but do they best serve the selling teams in the situation such as that in which Bradford City find themselves in now? And do clubs who look to maximise their players’ values really have an idea of how to spend the money received to get anything like value?

Perhaps, in short, for months all we have heard at Bradford City are discussions about how much Wells will be sold for when he is sold. It would be nice to believe that the club had a plan for what to do with it that this possesses the potential of reproducing our recent success.

Michael Wood wrote Bradford City website Boy From Brazil from 1999 to 2011, and now tweets as @michaelwood. He works in advertising but has, so far, resisted Bill Hicks' instruction to kill himself.

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7 Comments on "At What Cost Nahki Wells?"

  1. John says:

    Thanks for an interesting article but I’m puzzled by the rent and sale costs quoted in the article.

    I thought the sale value to Gordon Gibbs pension fund was around £5m and rent is £370k p.a. – the higher figure included the old office block/shop which is now a Free School.

    Kind regards

    John

  2. Adam says:

    Some nice sentiments there, it would be good for us to have a long term plan about using any big transfer fee, but I can’t see it. I’m not sure recent statements to the press will help maximise any fee either.

    You are wildly wrong on the ground rent figure, though I expect you know this yourself given past coverage on BfB on the issue so I’m not sure why you’ve quoted 750k, that even exceeds the 700k figure stated by the club itself for the stadium and offices, before the deal for Rhodes and Lawn to buy the offices was done. I don’t have the information to hand but I recall the last verified rent figure for the stadium to be £318,000 while the highest quoted figure when Lawn was threatening us with Odsal was £370,000.

    • Michael Wood says:

      The old office block was not sold to The Gibb Family Pension Fund, that was only the ground, for £2.5m. Someone else bought the block (I forget who, who then sold it to the same people who own City, who then sold it to the school in a deal unconnected to the club)

      The rent paid to that fund was £370,000 but rose after five years (this was described as “peppercorn” I seem to recall, it is far from that) but the cost of playing at the ground is picked up by Bradford City increasingly the figure to the £750,000. The intricacies of how Bradford City’s outgoings are calculated are a little beyond the remit of what is a general football rather than a City specific website and so I bundled rent, insurance, maintenance and the other factors up into a single figure which was based on a discussion with Mark Lawn a few years ago – http://www.boyfrombrazil.co.uk/2011/01/talking-to-mark-lawn-part-one/ – Lawn quoted £1.3m “before a ball is kicked” and broke down the figures a little more. The £750,000 figure is an attempt to bundle up the costs which the club could control (although some they would still have to pay) to get a context for the transfer fee.

      Apologies if this was not clear.

  3. hovispride says:

    The very fact that Wells is a direct product of the RIASA programme, should be hailed as a very positive initiative that cost City very little in real financial terms. Perhaps more excitingly, the fact that there are 2 or 3 potential Nahki Wells’ a year or so off the action should be proof enough that City have their developmental house in order. Unless the spend. Good chunk of any transfer fee on a replacement, I will be a long haul to the end of the season.

    In terms of the Wells fee – i’d be surprised if anyone was prepared to pay more that 2m and even more surprised if it was to be paid in one go.

  4. Hovispride says:

    Following the deletion of my previous reply, here is the gist of it again;

    1. Wells was a product if the RIASA programme, a low cost investment for the club to produce such players
    2. There are a number of other RIASA players coming through the ranks who have the potential to emulate Wells
    3. Wells is not worth more than 2m with such a short contract, nor will clubs be likely to pay the whole lot in one go.
    4.The ground rent was halved since the sale of the club shop

  5. Michael Wood says:

    To take your points in reverse order.

    4, I have discussed above.

    3, I also doubt very much that the fee for Wells would be in one go but if you read the article it does suggest that £4m is a “silly money bid” indicating that I would expect the club to sell him for less. I am told the club have brought in someone to negotiate in order to get a better deal on Wells so we shall see what comes of that.

    2, The fact that the club have now started to have a closer relationship with RIASA is good but the 2 or 3 Next Nakhis would not have taken the same path as Wells did (see below) but they still could succeed at their first league club (unlike Wells).

    But then again the link up with the Belgian club which brought us Willy Topp and promised us more “could have succeeded”, the dropping into the lower leagues that brought us Hanson, Scott Neilsen and Steve Williams “could have succeeded” and so on. The point is not that City (or any club, for this is a wider point) have a development house but rather that they have a proven one.

    And City’s approach is changed as often as the shirt and often with the same random effect. RIASA is the way to go now, but will it be next year? If RIASA starts producing three Nakhi Wells’ every year are they all in any way attached to Bradford City? They are not. A good player emerging from RIASA may be prompted to look at City’s offer but they could go anywhere.

    It would be a nice idea but my thirty odd years of watching football (and not just Bradford City) suggests that most clubs that find a well of Wells like talent move on and that that had a cost attached to it that means that this type of transfer fee is frittered away.

    Broadening this to a wider football context clubs have ideas on how to get players and sometimes they work and sometimes they do not but my point is that most supporters of most clubs do not see a large transfer fee resulting in those two or three players of the ability of the one who has left coming though.

    1, Your contention that Wells a direct product of RIASA (Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy which, for those who do not know, is a football academy) is wrong. If he could be considered that then he was a direct product for for another club. In no way did he join City from RIASA having played for Echillshill United, he joined Carlisle United and left that club on a free transfer joining Bradford City and coming into our now defunct development squad signed by a Chief Scout who is no longer at the club and approved by a manager who is no longer at the club. I do not see where the institutional knowledge to suggest we can repeat the success of Wells’ recruitment is?

    (I believe that Jason McKeown’s Width of the Post established these facts in the public domain in an interview with Dave Baldwin http://widthofapost.com/2012/11/28/speaking-to-david-baldwin-part-two/ I just remember the events happening).

    So if your contention is that Bradford City will get the next Wells from RIASA because the last one came from RIASA you are wrong, because someone else got Wells from RIASA and we got him from them in the same way we got Stephen Darby from Liverpool. Claiming we can tap RIASA for players because we signed someone who had been there from another club is a logically invalid as saying we can take people from Liverpool because we signed Darby.

    All I can say is that if a footballer supporter were to consider that state of affairs – being able to perhaps sign someone from somewhere where someone else once signed and he was good – then that supporters would have t have low expectations of what football development is.

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