Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More Money Needed in the Lower Divisions

Last night there was a special Five Live programme which contained interviews with several managers, owners and others about the finances of clubs in the lower leagues. Whilst there were no interviews with anyone from Hereford United, several comments could apply to the Bulls in one way or another.

Much was made of the vast amounts of money in the Premiership compared with League Two and there were the usual calls to distribute more TV money to the smaller clubs. At present Championship clubs get 80%, League One clubs 12% and League Two 8% which equates to about £250,000 each.

The problems at Rotherham were mentioned.

It was said that the club had a wage bill at the start of this season of about £1.2M which they couldn't sustain. Efforts had been made to cut it to around £900,000. Last week they were deducted ten points for going into administration.

Another contributer spoke about Darlington and their problems with average gates of 3,700.

"We reckon we need around 6,000 through the gates to break even, clearly we are a long way short of that. Even with off the field activities you got to go an awful long way to bring that gap in revenue into the football club.

"So redistribution of revenue is absolutely critical to clubs at our level."

The chairman of Walsall, Jeff Bonser, took the view that each club had to work hard and spend only what it could earn. He told listeners what had happened with his club.

"We had a million pound of debt, dilapidated stadium, no chance of earning money from non-football activity.

"So we did a deal where we built Bescott Stadium which is on a fifteen acre site, very close to the motorway. The location is very important for obvious reasons. Close to Birmingham and the NEC.

"I always knew we could get a hotel on here. We've got a successful Sunday market on here. We've got two of the biggest banqueting conference rooms in the Midlands with air-conditioning which are used most days of the year. Boxing nights, cabaret nights, sporting evenings. We have had live music here for ten years.

"A lot of clubs haven't got the income coming from other than football and they can't survive on it.

"They chase a dream and the results are there for all to be seen.

"I got no sympathy at all for clubs that go into administration. I think it's down to total gross mis-management. I think chairmen and boards of directors have got to learn to say no if they can't afford something."

Then a few words from respected Guardian journalist David Conn.

"I've always been a savage critic of the Premier League breakaway which was about the big clubs keeping all the money that pours into football - that money should have made football a healthier game. It should have kept ticket prices cheap, it should have gone all around.

"The money should have been distributed throughout English football much more evenly."

Conn spell out his view for smaller clubs.

"They should be community clubs. They need to have their markets and their functions. But they need to inspire the local people, the local town around them, around football, the magic of football, but until all that utopia happens they must not spend money they haven't got and end up up the creek without a paddle."

(David Conn is the author of the Football Business.)