MPs were told last month that clubs are facing a £200 million blackhole. But politicians, owners and those in the game should not and cannot use Covid-19 as the sole reason for the perilous positions some clubs are in.
It’s August 2019 and clubs up and down England, a country with the richest football league in the world, are preparing for the new season.
But two aren’t looking at it with the renewed optimism the rest of them are.
Bury, a proud North West club with huge tradition are about to go to the wall at the hands of an owner who has ground them down.
And another club from the region, an even bigger one, Bolton Wanderers were just weeks from joining them.
A club that as recently as 2007 were competing in the old UEFA Cup.
These two clubs weren’t the first to face administration and potential extinction, that would leave thousands of people out of jobs and hundreds of supporters heartbroken.
What unfolded in the weeks towards the end of last summer saw Bury thrown out of the league, and to this day still facing liquidation.
But Bolton were one of the lucky ones, they were saved by the skin of their teeth.
All the hot air and talk last summer was that lessons will be learned, this won’t happen again, we can’t let our clubs die.
Everyone wanted to believe those words, but in the back of every level headed football supporters mind, they knew there would be more casualties before something was really done.
And so it proved to be in recent weeks, when Wigan Athletic, another club who have enjoyed the riches of the Premier League in the modern era, entered administration.
This one was different though. Their apparent plight came just weeks after the club was taken over by new owners.
Wigan, a club run so well under the guidance of well known chairman Dave Whelan and one that won the FA Cup just seven years ago, are now staring down the barrel, looking at football oblivion.
Even MPs are weighing into this one, calling for a full scale investigation and labelling it a ‘major scandal.’
The EFL came in for some flack last year, but they’re about to seriously have the heat turned up on them.
This case may be more unique, with talk of other underhand issues, but it still lays out the wider issue facing football clubs.
This piece so far may read very critically of the running of clubs without taking into consideration the current climate of the Covid-19 crisis.
I, and football fans up and down this country are in no doubt of how the crisis has impacted clubs.
Lost gate receipts, cancelled games and no revenue will massively hit clubs, those further down than the ones who enjoyed the riches of the TV money.
But even some at the top will be feeling the pinch.
The crisis will hit clubs and could even directly cause many others to be forced down towards the perilous position Wigan Athletic currently find themselves in.
Yes the pandemic is playing a part in difficulties, but it is just shining a huge big spotlight on the elephant in the room that has been getting bigger and bigger for decades.
Clubs in the Premier League spend huge sums, but the TV money offsets that.
But the amount of football clubs in the Football League, who operate at a loss – and a huge loss at that – year in year out is startling.
MPs were told last month that clubs are facing a £200 million black hole. But politicians, owners and those in the game should not and cannot use Covid-19 as the sole reason for the perilous positions some clubs are in.
For years clubs have been spending beyond their means, chasing a dream, but at the same time knowing that if it doesn’t happen hundreds of normal staff members could face losing their jobs.
Of course there are exceptions. One closer to home is the way Shrewsbury Town is run, and the financial model well thought of CEO Brian Caldwell has instilled there.
But for the large majority of clubs the cold and harsh truth of years of overspending is about to bite, and bite hard.
This is why the Football League needs to take a long hard look at the road rugby has taken in terms of salary caps.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument when it comes to capping wages, such as players going elsewhere and players being restricted.
This is no way a sleight on players. Anyone who has a career in football and is offered big money, good luck to them because it is a short career.
It is those at the top, the money men, who need to be on a tighter leash.
The last year and the predicament clubs have got themselves in has shown there is no more time left for letting things slide.
Due diligence and fit and proper persons tests for owners need sorting on one hand, but making clubs live within their means is a far bigger issue that needs addressing.
As a football fan I know I’d rather see players earn a couple of grand less a month if it meant saving just one of our famous old clubs.
MAIN PIC CREDIT – WIKIPEDIA/MARK HAMMOND