CHARLIE METHVEN admits he has held discussions with outside investors looking to secure a stake in Sunderland, but the executive director is confident the Black Cats will able to compete whatever division they find themselves in next season.

Methven has been working alongside Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald for the last ten months, and the pair have successfully stabilised a club that was on the brink of financial meltdown prior to their arrival.

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Expenditure has almost halved, and while Sunderland are expected to incur a loss in the current financial year, their debts are manageable. However, with both Donald and Methven having been open about the limits of the funds at their disposal, the pair remain open to the possibility of outside investment.

Juan Sartori was appointed as a board member after putting money into the club last year, but the Uruguayan has been forced to limit his involvement as he mounts a run for the presidency of his homeland. A number of other parties have suggested they are willing to invest, and while talks remain at a formative stage, there is a chance a deal could be agreed before the start of next season.

“We’ve been approached by a number of people who want to put money into the club, and we’ve talked to them,” said Methven. “We’ve never hidden the fact that we’re potentially open to outside investment and that’s still the position. But the investment would have to be right for us, for the investors and for the football club.

“We see it as a massive positive that we’re getting these approaches – it shows we’ve made progress in terms of turning the club around.

“When we took over from Ellis (Short), the club was basically uninvestable. A lot of people looked at it, and decided there was no way they could invest.

“That’s not the case anymore. We’re having these discussions because people see the club as an investable asset again. They look at it as something they want to put their money into because it’s no longer just a vast black hole.

“We’re not getting these calls because the team is doing okay on the pitch, although that obviously helps. We’re getting them because the word is out there that the business is now back on a solid footing. That’s important when it comes to trying to move forward in the future.”

Sunderland’s immediate future will see them trying to win promotion from League One. The Black Cats sit five points adrift of the automatic promotion positions ahead of this weekend’s matches, but have two games in hand on the teams above them in the table.

Securing a top-two finish is going to be a close call, but whatever happens in the remainder of the campaign, plans are in place to ensure there will be no need for another summer of major upheaval.

“We’ve got a plan for being in League One next season, and another plan for being in the Championship,” said Methven. “The sums have all been done, and we know where we’re going to stand, both on and off the pitch.

“None of us want to be in League One next season, but the truth is if that happens, it will not be a great challenge now we’ve got the club stabilised. It was a problem this season because of the issues we inherited, but they’re not there now.

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“We’ve still got a few leftover commitments from the Premier League days, but they’ll pretty much be cancelled out by the parachute payments. If we stay in League One, we won’t have to stretch ourselves. We’d be able to stick with pretty much the budget we have now, and that would comfortably be the biggest salary budget in the division. We’d also have the biggest transfer budget.

“The value of the club and the assets we hold wouldn’t go up, but the finances would be pretty stable. If we get promoted, the opposite is true. The value of the club increases, and as owners that’s obviously something we’re pretty keen on, but the financial challenges of competing in the Championship are much more difficult. If you make it to the Championship, everything becomes that bit more expensive.”

There would be a pressure to invest to ensure Sunderland were competitive in the second tier, and that is where Methven hopes the Football League’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations could work in Sunderland’s favour.

The recent decision to dock Birmingham City nine points for breaching EFL spending rules proved the Football League are serious when it comes to limiting clubs’ losses, and Methven is confident Sunderland would benefit from a level playing field.

“If it’s enforced properly, FFP should be a help to Sunderland,” he said. “If the league are saying, ‘You can only spend what you raise’, then we should be in a strong position. Hopefully, what happened with Birmingham will make teams think twice about breaking the rules.

“If you look at the smaller clubs in the Championship, their annual revenue is probably between £14-15m. For what I’d call the mid-level clubs, that figure is probably £18-19m.

“Well, Sunderland’s revenue in League One is already bigger than for those smaller clubs. If we were in the Championship next season, then we’d probably be looking at an annual revenue target of about £30m.

“Even if you were really conservative and said about £20m, that would still be comfortably bigger than the majority of Championship clubs. That would make us extremely competitive if it was the figure that effectively dictated your annual budget.”

  • Charlie Methven discusses turning Sunderland around, the club’s current financial position and the thrill of competing at Wembley in an in-depth interview in the Checkatrade final supplement that will be published in Friday’s Northern Echo.