Subbing the club or the owner?
Posted by John Beech on July 7, 2009
In a comment to a posting yesterday (1) I referred to what I call ‘subbing the club’. At Aldershot Town fans have set up a player fund to aid the club (2) and have raised £40,000, which manager Gary Waddock has available to spend as he likes on transfer fees or wages.
At Stafford Rangers fans have also been ‘subbing the club’, but in a small but significantly different way. They have raised £50,000 to pay a debt in order to avoid the club going into Administration (3). Unlike at Aldershot Town, the money is in the form of loans.
Another variant happened earlier in the season at Weymouth, where the club offered a million shares at 50p each (4).
If a fan is in the position of being asked to sub the club, I would suggest they need to think about the following issues before they rush to empty their wallets:
- Is the money to be used to make a one-off payment (for example, repay a debt or pay a transfer fee) or will it be used to temporarily support the club’s usual cashflow problems (for example, to pay wages)?
The former may be something that a loyal fan is happy to do, but the latter is just propping up an unsustainable business model; it is only putting off the inevitable financial crash.
- Is it a gift, a loan, or buying a share?
The last two can make sense, but is gifting the right way of helping a club to learn to live within its means?
- Who owns the club? What are their motives?
Recently I have been looking at the range of people who might be termed ‘benefactors’ (5). It is worrying how ‘benefactors’ tend in the long run to be either ‘heroes’ or ‘zeroes’ – both their ability and their willingness to support the club financially can vary over time, rarely in either case increasingly. Bolstering a benefactor who is ‘on the turn’ can result in a delayed but bigger crash.
The role of the Supporters Trust in this is interesting, and the case of Merthyr Tydfil especially so. With wages not being paid and players having to pay their own travel expenses (6), the Supporters Trust raised and donated £30,000 (7). Enough was enough when the owner, Wyn Holloway, could not agree terms with the Trust over buying shares. In effect, this contributed in a small part to the club being forced into Administration (or at least the timing of it), and it is from Administration that the Trust plan to resurrect the club. (See  and ).
This pragmatic approach of being more concerned with the club’s mid- to long-term future rather than with fire-fighting in the short term is to be commended – it must have been emotionally a hard decision to make, and I admire their resolve . ‘Subbing the club’ should not be done as a knee-jerk reaction – long term survival under a sustainable business model is what really counts.