Darwen’s demise and the Premier League
Posted by John Beech on May 8, 2009
It’s always sad to see a football club fold, but the case of Darwen, which gave up yesterday (1), is a particularly sad one. It is another in a series of significant collapses in the Ribble Valley, arguably the birth place of professional football in England. Famous precursors include the original Accrington and the more famous disappearance of its successor club Accrington Stanley.
Darwen’s most recent financial troubles have been in the public domain with respect to winding up orders over a debt of approximately £9,000 (2). It is indicative of the extremes football finances have reached that a club which was once in the top flight, had once reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and which has been credited with being the first English club to employ professionals, should fold for a debt which is less than the wages for a day of a Premier League footballer. And this in a week when Manchester United are reported to be bidding £63,000,000 for Franck Ribéry (3).
The debt which was the subject of the winding up order is only part of Darwen’s recent history of problems – see (4) and (5) for example – and the club’s glory days were, of course, over a century ago. Nonetheless, anyone with a sense of football history will regret their departure. No doubt they will resurrect themselves Accrington-style in the fullness of time.
Just to the north of Darwen other football matters are top of the agenda today. Burnley and Preston North End are about to embark on the Championship play-offs. If either succeed in gaining promotion to the Premier League, it will struggle to stay up without the initial boost of rocket payments (see my posting of 14 April on Parachute payments, and rocket payments?). More’s the pity; the way the Premier League supports its drop-outs but does not support its new-comers tends to distort its competitive balance by seeking to maintain the status quo of its membership.
The case of Darwen once again emphasises the need for a better distribution of revenues across the whole spectrum of the professional and semi-professional game.