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