Fans are left to pick up the tab each time clubs spin the wheel

Metro (UK) - - SPORT - @col­in­mur­ray Colin Mur­ray

THROUGH­OUT most of my life, I have had an un­healthy pen­chant for fruit ma­chines. Th­ese days, the slips are very rare, but once in a blue moon I still find my­self wooed by the phoney flash­ing lights and bonus fea­tures. I know I’ve lost 50 quid but just an­other 20 and maybe I’ll get the bonus spins! And an­other 20. And an­other. And an­other.

The maths just doesn’t add up. Never has, never will. The vast ma­jor­ity of those who chase the jack­pot will never touch the pot of gold. Yet, still, I some­times find my­self fool­ishly drawn in.

It is this very same reck­less aphro­disiac that sees the English foot­ball pyra­mid star­ing down a fi­nan­cial abyss, and many clubs who chased the ‘ding ding ding’ of the Premier League jack­pot now look like punch-drunk pun­ters at 3am, scour­ing the floor of a casino for dropped quar­ters.

It worked out for some, but I don’t have the col­umn space to de­tail the amount of clubs who have had own­ers take that punt then clear out when the gam­ble hasn’t paid off.

Ah well, los­ing £30mil­lion is not a huge deal to some­one who has many times that gath­er­ing dust in off­shore ac­counts. It is an at­trac­tive wager, with a po­ten­tially mas­sive pay out, es­pe­cially when they can walk away, but they can also leave be­hind them a club in trou­ble, ad­min­is­tra­tion or out of busi­ness, the fans dis­re­garded and aban­doned as easily as tossed around chips on a high-rollers’ poker ta­ble.

While there are those who de­serve im­mense praise for draw­ing a fi­nan­cial line in the sand, there are too many through­out the pyra­mid who re­mort­gaged, loaned, un­sus­tain­ably propped up or sold off, of­ten so they could feed for­tunes into the ma­chine in the hope that they might strike it rich.

But, hey, what do you want me to say? As I write this, I feel help­less and some­what re­dun­dant. Why? Be­cause we’ve been here be­fore. Many times.

The rea­son why this is a na­tional dis­cus­sion again is be­cause of Wi­gan Ath­letic, who find them­selves in ad­min­is­tra­tion through a set of cir­cum­stances bizarre and dis­tress­ing even by to­day’s stan­dards.

But in Novem­ber last year I wrote about the Bury grounds­man who still went to work and mowed the pitch, even af­ter his beloved club had gone un­der. I have writ­ten about a myr­iad of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios at Black­pool, Bolton, Coven­try and so on and so on. Yet here we are, and here I am again.

What’s the point of me list­ing what you al­ready know? An EFL wage cap is needed. A more even distri­bu­tion of parachute and sol­i­dar­ity pay­ments from the Premier League to the EFL is es­sen­tial. Real leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the grounds and prop­erty of foot­ball clubs from be­ing lever­aged is long over­due. More strin­gent rules and reg­u­la­tions in re­la­tion to own­er­ship are an ab­so­lute must. EFL chair Rick

Wi­gan are in ad­min­is­tra­tion through a set of bizarre and dis­tress­ing cir­cum­stances

Parry has called for ‘a proper re­set’ of foot­ball fi­nances, and I fully back that, but even with the best will in the world, he faces a mine­field of com­plex­i­ties, con­flict­ing in­ter­ests and le­gal ob­sta­cles, and lit­tle time to over­come them.

Covid-19 may have ex­ac­er­bated the prob­lems the English Foot­ball League faces but they were there long be­fore.

Over the years, the var­i­ous col­umns

I have writ­ten on this sub­ject, while gar­ner­ing plenty of retweets and pos­i­tive com­ments, achieved lit­tle or noth­ing in terms of ac­tual change.

So, for the first time, I’m go­ing to leave it there, rather than p****** in the wind one more time, and next Fri­day I’ll de­vote this col­umn to one sin­gle, ac­tive idea that could bring about change, and ask those who mat­ter most – the fans – to stand united as one.

It may well fail, I may well be left to look stupid, but it is clear that sim­ply high­light­ing the hu­man heartache and de­struc­tion of com­mu­nity af­ter com­mu­nity is sim­ply not enough.


Time for change: The nev­erend­ing fi­nan­cial prob­lems faced by clubs like Bury show no sign of be­ing solved

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