A fish rots from the head down
Posted by John Beech on February 4, 2011
Watching the transfer window lurch to its conclusion has not been an edifying experience – I didn’t have high expectations mind you, and my thoughts were possibly coloured by the constantly breaking internet connection at the hotel in Central Europe where I am staying.
Certainly I was slightly surprised to read last Friday, from my position of intermittent ignorance, that Premier League spending had been “restrained” (1) according to Deloitte. This of course was before the surreal outbreak of activity which saw Torres transferred to Chelsea for some opaque figure, possibly with as high a valuation as £70m (2), and Carroll transferred to Liverpool for £35m (3). These transfers certainly helped to restore the inflationary trend of the past few years (4). While an argument can be made in defence of Liverpool’s position, it is not encouraging to find Alan Pardew ‘vowing’ (I hate the word, but am clearly out of line with most journalists) to spend all the money on new players (5). Much less encouraging was the report in The Times of India that the Torres transfer had been personally funded by Roman Abramovich (6), this at a club that is ‘strong’ despite losses of £70m (7).
Where does all this leave Financial Fair Play and an end to financial doping? Well, UEFA apparently seem unconcerned, stating that they have “full confidence that the clubs are increasingly aware of the nature of the financial fair play rules, which aim to encourage clubs to balance their incomes and expenses over a period of time covering 4-6 transfer windows” (8). I can’t honestly say that I share that level of confidence. It seems to me that some clubs are pushing spending to the limit and are making no attempt to keep the spirit of financial fair play.
The continuing lack of restraint the top of the pyramid simply continues to stretch the vertical integrity of the football pyramid. The guaranteed payments by the respective leagues show the increasing distortion. A Premier League club is guaranteed a payment of at least £41m, a Championship club receives just under £5m, and a League 1 club £1m. No wonder that ‘ambition’ pushes lower level clubs to unsustainable levels of expenditure. Breaking point has been reached in some cases and is nearby in others. A cull through my intermittent bookmarks of the last ten days highlights a few cases:
- Clevedon Town
The club is facing a mass exodus of players because of their worrying financial situation (9), exacerbated by Jack Frost.
The club was recently visited by the bailiffs, although was apparently “all just a misunderstanding” (10).
- Kidderminster Harriers
An on/off deal to save the club is, as I write, off, and players are unpaid (11).
- Leyton FC
The club has been forced to withdraw from the Isthmian League Division 1 North mid-season (12).
- Plymouth Argyle
The club is now dependent on survival on funding finally turning up from its absentee Japanese investors (13). Under threat from HMRC and with other debts, the future of the club is by no means certain.
- Welling United
The club has faced allegations that players wages have not been paid on time (14).
- Windsor and Eton
A sad case this – the club was in no position to contest a winding up petition from HMRC (15) and is now no more (although there is talk already of a resurrection club). Whatever criticism may be levelled at the club’s directors, it is difficult to disagree with President Barry Davies’s assertion that “Not enough money in football these days filters down.“
It’s the minnows that are really suffering, and will continue to suffer until the highest level of football gets itself in order.
[Normal service should be resumed when I return to the comfort zone of my own wifi system in the early hours of Sunday morning. This posting is thanks to the University of Applied Sciences in Kufstein, Tirol, Austria.]