News and Views from the Football League – Look after your money

The issue of financial difficulties at football clubs seems to be a topic that simply cannot be sidestepped in the news today. At present, Portsmouth are the side most in the news, with a fresh story or development seemingly finding it’s way out of Fratton Park on a near daily basis. Of course, the problems the south coast club are facing are not entirely unique to them, with clubs lower down the football ladder facing similar hardships.

Tuesday saw both Championship playoff hopefuls Cardiff and League One strugglers Southend facing winding up orders, owing to outstanding debts to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Both clubs have now been granted a stay of execution, after their cases were adjourned for 28 days. Clearly these are two sides with a long and rich history in the football league. They may not have achieved in the way that our Premier League giants have done, but their value and contribution to English football is just as great. It would be criminal to see these sides wiped from the face of the Saturday afternoon fixture card, never to be seen again. It is with this thought in mind that everything must be done to ensure that the clubs remain with us for a long time to come.

Of course, this sentiment then presents us with a new dilemma. To go so far as to say everything must be done to save them, sets a precedent of sorts. If we allow a club to spend beyond it’s means, only to be saved at the last minute by an external organisation, what’s to stop another club doing likewise? It would not be fair on those clubs who stick to their budgets, spending only within their means.

Now it is easy to say that a club should only spend money that they have and not over-stretch themselves. However, this leads on to the question of ambition. Without wishing to generalise too much, us football fans are a demanding bunch and will easily tire and become frustrated if our club isn’t performing to a level we would expect, or striving to take the next step. Spare a thought for Rochdale fans. Dale have played in England’s bottom division ever since 1974. Many would suggest at first glance that this is a club who lack ambition, but conversely, has anybody heard anything about the club facing financial uncertainty? Because they haven’t overspent, they are able to be competitive at their level, and look well set to finally make the push out of the bottom tier this season.

From this example, we can see that it is possible to be competitive without spending wildly. It’s only a shame that not all football fans are as patient as those in Rochdale. It would seem therefore, that a balance needs to be struck. Nobody wants to see any football club wound up, and ejected from the football league and so careful financial planning is a necessity. Of course times are hard at the moment, but some perspective is needed here. It is the same for every club across the country. It is up to each club as an individual to find a manageable budget and work within this. Nothing is guaranteed in football, the collapse of the ITV Digital deal is indicative of that. This should serve as a warning, a lesson if you will, of the imperative that is good housekeeping.

As was expected, Bradford City parted company with manager Stuart McCall on Monday, following a disappointing tenure at the Valley Parade helm. The former City midfielder had suggested that he would leave after his side failed to make it into the playoffs last season, but was ultimately persuaded to stay on for another season. However, with the Bantams lying in 16th place and with only 3 home league victories to their name, McCall knew it was time for a change. Showing his honesty and integrity as a professional, he has stated that the fans deserve better, and with much promise from the side but little to show for his efforts, this decision seems to be in the best interests of all parties concerned. He leaves the club 13 points shy of the playoff positions, certainly not an insurmountable target, but it looks to be a tall order. It seems that another season in the basement division can be expected.

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