By Graham Thomas
Swansea City head coach Russell Martin says the financial impact from playing behind closed doors has already hit his January recruitment plans.
Martin – who had held discussions with chief executive Julian Winter and the club’s American owners about new recruits in the January transfer window – says the fall in income from the Welsh Government’s closure of stadia to fans has affected his ability to bring in new players.
The Swans will play at least three matches behind closed doors because of the new restrictions to combat rising Covid rates and the Welsh Government has given no end date for the policy, which does not apply in England.
Martin said: “The next three games at home, we are going to have no-one there. After that, who knows?
“That is affecting us already. There is no doubt it. Speaking to Julian (Winter) and to Mark (Allen, sporting director), and speaking to the owners, it will be a case of seeing when those restrictions ease up or whether they get extended.
“We will have to see what it is. But it is affecting us already – by how much, I’m not sure yet. It will take a few more conversations and a bit more working out from the people back at the stadium, who are brilliant.
“Once they work all that out, we will pretty much know what we have to work with. But the landscape has already changed and I expect it will change again at some point.”
Understandable reaction to Welsh sport going back behind closed doors but I’d prefer to have Mark Drakeford calling the shots than the PM, any day of the week. And I say that as one whose entire working life has revolved around sport.
— Peter Jackson (@JackoRugby) December 21, 2021
Martin has admitted his club, as well as Cardiff City, are now at a competitive disadvantage compared to their Championship rivals, who can still play in front of fans and generate income.
The Swans will have to make do without fans’ backing – or their turnstile and hospitality revenue – for games at home to Luton on December 29, against Fulham on January 3, and against Southampton in the third round of the FA Cup on January 8.
The Welsh Government have promised a review of the restrictions at that point, when the Swans will have 10 home Championship matches remaining.
Martin added: “I am not convinced the whole competition has been compromised but I think it puts us at a slight disadvantage by not having fans at home, for sure.
“It means a lot of fans will travel in their numbers to go and get their fix of football and watch their team play. But financially it definitely affects us and we’ll have to see whether it affects us in terms of performance.
“Football is nothing without the supporters, the tribal aspect, the noise, the feeling you get. As professionals, you have to try and replicate that in some way. So, these games will feel very different.
The EFL has confirmed Swansea City supporters will be able to access home games via SwansTV Live for the period that access to the https://t.co/3tesyKVBTV Stadium is prohibited.
👉 https://t.co/eOxvNK8Ydd pic.twitter.com/iDYlXPUsJT
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) December 22, 2021
“The biggest challenge will be that last time it was every game behind closed doors, but this time it will be one behind closed doors and then the next with supporters.
“We will see what happens, but we have to make sure we are ready for every eventuality. I think we’ve got a brilliant group of players who will be okay with that. It’s not the same, but that can’t be an excuse.”
Martin admits he is also bewildered by rules which allow Swansea fans to travel to away games but not to attend home matches.
“I am sad about it and the supporters. To be able to go to London – where I would imagine there are a lot more cases than we have here – with fans, but not have them at our own ground does not make a lot of sense to me.
“But we will get on with it and we look forward to having our supporters back when that is allowed. We have no choice, we have to comply.
“We are not feeling sorry for ourselves, we will get on with it and get ready for the game.
“It will be difficult for a lot of clubs but there are a lot of industries being effected and it is a really tough time. We hope it’s a short period and we can get back to some form of normality.”