The past few weeks have turned the financial spotlight directly back on to the state of clubs in the Scottish, English and Welsh leagues. Glasgow Rangers have enormous debts which may yet sink this once-mighty club and in a fight with the tax man (owed around £9 million) there is only going to be one winner. Already the administrators are trying to persuade staff (including players) to take huge pay cuts to reduce the running costs to a manageable level.
Rangers are not alone; Portsmouth are in desperate trouble again and there are suspicions that they may not be able to see out the season. They are joined by others such as Birmingham and Coventry, who both failed to submit their annual accounts on time and who will therefore not be allowed to make any transfers until further notice. Lower down the leagues Port Vale are almost struggling.
In fact a list of clubs in tough financial straits could well be longer than those which are solvent. The reasons are many but largely revolve around attempting to pay unsustainable wages to mediocre players. But I’m not hear to discuss the reasons, I want to make the point that if your club ceases to exist it may not be the end of the world. In fact it could be the start of a new adventure.
Let’s take Portsmouth as an example; a club with a relatively large, fiercely loyal fan base who do not deserve the problems the club is going through. If the club went out of business tomorrow, the entity would cease to exist but the supporters would still be there. It’s the supporters which make the club and they’re not all going to start supporting Southampton. The club exists because the supporters exist, not vice versa.
The next bit is the tough bit but it’s a step other clubs have taken over the years and it’s where the adventure really begins. Aldershot FC went of business in 1992 with crippling financial debts but regrouped and re-registered as Aldershot Town and played their first match in the Isthmian League (five leagues down from where they had been in the fourth division) in August 1992. They are now back in League Two.
It’s not ideal but it is an answer for those who are prepared to start from scratch and run their clubs sensibly and within their means. It also introduces fans to a whole new world of non-league football and the frankly superior day out it provides. Of course it doesn’t help those local businesses and suppliers which lose out as their debtor goes bankrupt but they’re not getting their money back anyway. That’s it really, I just wanted to make the point that it’s not the end of the world.