Nathan Dyer: Southampton & The Politics Of The Fire Sale

7 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 29, 2009  |     11

A couple of months ago, Southampton Leisure Holdings, the holding company which owns Southampton Football Club went into administration. There was a brief and ineffectual protest from Southampton FC based upon the argument that this particular holding company wasn’t the same as the football club, and that they shouldn’t, therefore, face any sanctions from the Football League. The League, to their credit, decided that they would be the ones to make this decision and, after an independent audit, they confirmed that the two organisations were “inextricably linked”. Their relegation from the Championship was managed of their own accord, meaning that they will start next season ten points behind everyone else in League One.

Any last vestiges of their being no link between the two organisations was confirmed today, when the company’s administrator confirmed that neither the players nor the staff had been paid for the month of May. With the administrators already having confirmed – morally correctly, at least – that no season tickets are to be sold until a resolution to their period in administration has been agreed, it’s starting to look difficult to see how Southampton FC will even be able to start next season unless new buyers for the club can be found. There will be a further meeting on the 5th of June, but we can expect to see redundancies and players leaving the club if there is no change in the next couple of weeks or so.

The adminsitrator confirmed that the club are negotiating a price for the sale of young winger Nathan Dyer to Swansea City for £400,000 in the near future, but the fact that the club will be spending this money on merely surviving for the next few weeks is an indicator of how desperate their position is at present. The story of the negotiations over the sale of Dyer, however, is symptomatic of one of the aspects of what makes life for a clubs in financial trouble so difficult. Southampton aren’t the first club to fall victim of it, and they probably be the last. The sale of Nathan Dyer to Swansea City looks like it will be the start of a Southampton fire sale.

Nathan Dyer is a reasonably highly rated young player. He ran into personal difficulties last year when he was charged with – and plead guilty to – theft charges after an incident in a Southampton night club last year. The result of the same youth system that brought Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale, he lost an FA Youth Cup final for Southampton to Ipswich Town in 2005. In 2007, Steve Claridge’s “Scouting Report” in The Guardian valued him at £1m and, after a loan period at Sheffield United, The Blades had a £1.2m offer for him turned down by Southampton.

His value has dropped somewhat of late. Swansea’s initial bid for Dyer was a mere £200,000, but Southampton held out for £750,000. The final price – if agreed – of £400,000 would mean that Southampton would be losing out by two-thirds on the fee that they rejected from Sheffield United a couple of years ago. This isn’t because he is a worse player than he was then, in spite of his personal problems. He scored four times in twenty-one matches for Swansea this season, and there is a good chance that this Swansea side will feature in at least the Championship play-offs next season. Southampton, however, are not currently a club in a strong negotiation position at present.

This is a fundamental problem for football clubs in financial difficulty, and should be a cautionary tale for others – in particular Newcastle United supporters. The “transfer market” as we know it is best considered in the same respect as a market of constant haggling, like the housing market or the stock market. If a club is known to be in financial trouble, the bare fact of the matter is that the value of their players – which is obviously notional to start with – will start to plummet. The fact that the administrator, whose responsibility is not to the club except in so far as that his job is to pass it on as a going concern if possible, is in charge at the moment only makes Southampton’s plight even more severe.

The biggest irony of all is that Portsmouth have managed to line up another millionaire owner to take them over. There will be more on whether that will work out in the next few days, but these two rivals have not felt this far apart since the early 1980s, when Portsmouth were in the lower divisions and Southampton were competing in the UEFA Cup. It’s difficult to envisage Southampton reaching such lofty heights in the forseeable future. At the moment, they will have achieved something significant if they manage to even start next season.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 29, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Ralfred Wintertotem

    Minor correction (in an interesting article) but Dyer (and Bradley Wright-Phillips) were arrested for theft in a Portsmouth nightclub, just to somehow compound their shame.

    You would have to wonder if Swansea will just wait it out with Dyer. Southampton look to be on the very brink with a meeting scheduled with staff for one weeks time to tell them if they will get paid this month (already one week late.) In one week’s time, Dyer’s value could have dropped from £1.2M plus to absolutely nothing as he would become a free agent.

  • May 29, 2009 at 8:01 am


    Reminds me of the fire sale at Leeds at the end of the Risdale, O’leary era when several players were sold at well below markrt values, Viduka and his Aussie side kick who negotited himself a transfer with Liverpool where he pocketed the entire transfer fee for himself, leaving Leeds with nowt.

  • May 29, 2009 at 9:38 am


    Leeds got £3m of the £5m for Kewell IIRC. Unlicensed agent Bernie Mandic got £2m.

    I don’t think Leeds actually finished paying for Viduka – I reckon Middlesbrough simply paid Leeds’ outstanding balance on him from the Ray Ranson operation.

  • May 29, 2009 at 1:19 pm


    Sheffield United’s £1.2m was actually a cash plus player deal involving Jordan Robertson (who was valued around £600,000 in the package).

    This deal was rejected as a) Roberston wasn’t very good, b) He was arrested after a crash which killed a man over Christmas towards the end of his loan deal at Southampton c) Saints would have still had to pay his wages.

  • May 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm


    Competitive football has always been dog-eat-dog. The sensible course is to make sure your kennel is well-run and financially stable in the first place.

    We lost Nigel Reo-Coker to West Ham for a song in 2003 in our fire sale.

  • May 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Gervillian Swike

    It’s very difficult as a Swans fan of a certain age to feel too much guilt for trying to get Nathan Dyer for a song – firstly because it is a dog eat dog world; secondly because we have always smarted at the offer to become Southampton’s feeder club a couple of years ago; and thirdly because when Swans were on the brink of collapse in 1983, Southampton bought the jewel in our crown – Alan Curtis – for a shocking £75,000. Even though I’ve never been a Liverpool fan, the generosity they showed the Swans in the early 80’s in writing off a much larger debt was admirable. But I digress. Walfred Wintertotem makes a point above about Nathan Dyer perhaps being a free agent in a week or two. Perhaps someone else would be tempted by that too; perhaps Swans should just resist the brinksmanship option and realise the bargain they’d already have at £400k. We’ll see.

  • June 21, 2009 at 10:34 am


    The sensible course is to make sure your kennel is well-run and financially stable in the first place.

    The sensible course is not to be run by people like Rupert Lowe.

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