Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Budget or bust

On a day that’s seen Conference North side Ilkeston Town wound up for good and League One’s Sheffield Wednesday face a narrow escape from the same fate, a new debate over football club finances is likely to erupt.

AFC Bournemouth, Southend, Crystal Palace and Portsmouth (to name but a few) all faced severe financial difficulties and either entered administration or survived winding up orders last season alone.

No longer is it just the odd club here and there with over enthusiastic or downright dodgy owners spending money that doesn’t balance with the income. It’s getting to the stage where it will soon be the majority of sides not just in the red, but covered head to toe in it.

Threats of point deductions for entering administration just don’t cut it. All that achieves is to punish the paying fans and the management and players who have worked day in day out on the training pitch to get the club into whatever league position they’re in. Should a club sustain such a heavy points deduction that their season is concluded with relegation, it’s automatically a downward spiral. Players leave for a better standard of football, the team degenerates and followers (not fans who would stick with their club through thick and thin) turn away and spend their money elsewhere.

But what can be done? It’s not easy to find the right balance of deterring clubs from spending beyond their means whilst also not landing them in more trouble.

Should a blanket law come into place covering all English and Welsh clubs, preventing their expenditure from surpassing their income, it will only serve to stop our teams competing with others across the globe. No longer will our teams be able to sign the best foreign talent ahead of the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan. It may even cause our home grown talent to seek pastures new in foreign leagues, where they would have no spending restrictions.

And if the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal can’t continue the relative English dominance in the Champions League, the number of spots for English teams in Europe will decrease, having a negative effect on tv deals. This means the top sides will not only have less money, but there will be less to filter through the pyramid – causing even more financial problems for lower league clubs in particular.

The only real way for football as a whole to move into the black is for FIFA to step in and put similar expenditure laws as outlined above across all of the sport’s governing bodies, keeping clubs from different nations on an even keel.

Whether they take a stand or not, one thing’s for certain, something has to be done to save our beloved game from itself.

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