Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

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.
  • Histon
    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.]

7 Responses to “A fish rots from the head down”

  1. John Beech said

    Sittingbourne could have been included in the list above.

  2. Dave said

    Hi John would love to hear your views on this

    If the ruling is upheld would this not lead to lots of places showing or private homes watching tv games at 3pm Saturday.

    Oh for the days where the only live football was the FA Cup Final, the League Cup Final, the Home Internationals, England qualifiers and major tournaments. Oh, for a world where football could only be viewed as highlights on MOTD or the Big Match. Where we still receive punditry from Saint and Greavsie on a Saturday afternoon, where Cup Final shows started at 11am, where Jimmy Tarbuck and Freddie Starr were guests and Chas n Dave played piano and we had aerial shots of the coach leaving the team’s hotel en route to Wembley.

    And no, I’m not being sarcastic. I would love TV football to be just that. It made football special. Aaah, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be….

  3. Peter said

    You could also have mentioned St Albans, as this news from Friday seems to have evaded all of the mainstream media somehow – I only noticed they’d been deducted points from Twohundredpercent.

    Sounds like there’s some comparisons with my own team Luton’s ten point deduction a few years ago, with one of the main differences being the chairman responsible is still at the club. It appears that he has gotten off free in this instance.

  4. John Beech said

    A statement from Welling United here.

  5. Jim Webber said

    John, I’d say St Albans, my local team, are truly stuffed. Crowds are pathetic even at the best of times and ifthey go to the Ryman I can’t see how they will survive. There should perhaps be a health warning for teams when I move to a new area — when I was a kid my local team was the late lamented Walthamstow Avenue!

  6. Perhaps the trick is not to notice when teams are going under but to notice when a lowly team takes off…for example from where i was brought up, how have Parkgate gone from bottom of NEC 2 to top of NEC in 3 seasons? Truro City style investment perhaps?

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