The news emerged yesterday that Portsmouth are hoping to play Rangers in a couple of matches aimed at raising funds.
It is thought that the two stricken clubs want to play each other in two games, one at Ibrox and one at Fratton Park, in two goodwill games as both try and stay alive until the end of the season and beyond.
The article to announce this on the Glasgow
Evening Times was met the usual round of asinine comments on a website (“who is going to pay for the trophies?” said one), but it does seem to me like a very good idea indeed. One which would capitalise on plenty of desire from the supporters of both sides to see their clubs through this current set of problems.
Rangers have already announced that they are playing a Legends Game with AC Milan to boost coffers, and it does seem from the outside that compared to Pompey, the Glasgow Cub are in a much better state to survive. Portsmouth Administrator, Trevor Birch has already gone on record to say that the club face a struggle to even see out the season.
But those two clubs are far from the only clubs in trouble – merely the most high profile. Port Vale are set to enter Administration today, and at the weekend they admitted that two of their players couldn’t afford the petrol from their homes in Sheffield to get to the game at Accrington, and the club themselves couldn’t afford to pay them expenses.
While in the Championship Midlands duo Birmingham and Coventry have been placed under transfer embargoes for failure to produce accounts on time. The plight of these clubs has led many to wonder whether the current system of 92 professional league clubs and many more in the upper echelons of the non league is sustainable.
Certainly the finances of football need re-organising and as a “business” football has much work to do. But there is no reason to be overly pessimistic. A lot of the problems at these clubs are ongoing and have been manifesting themselves for a number of years – the issues at Port Vale, Portsmouth, Rangers or Coventry are not symptomatic of some sort of football financial meltdown. Football
– despite our name – isn’t a Business as such at top level. We can help you make a decent living out of Grass Roots, local, community stuff. We know this. We can prove it.
But the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea make a nonsense of any conventional Business beliefs by running up massive deficits and then, essentially, writing themselves a cheque to cover it (who else do you explain what happened the “sponsorship” of City’s stadium, or the way Chelsea can lose ridiculous amounts and remain sustainable?) The same is true in Europe too, with Real Madrid selling their training ground to the Spanish Government a couple of years ago to raise funds.
Arguably, it’s this culture – that of spending money you don’t have – that permeates the game and causes the issues. The problem, though, is that people have to compete in whatever division they find themselves in, and that causes issues to the likes of Port Vale and Coventry and the countless other lower division and non league teams that find themselves in trouble through no real fault of the their own (the issues at Portsmouth are more complex and have, really, never been replicated anywhere else)
What should happen, perhaps, is that this current wave of Administrations (and perhaps worse) acts as a wake up call to those at other clubs who are spending money they don’t have. Maybe the answer is to actually start running clubs like a conventional business, spending what you have and keeping costs down (and by that, when it comes to football
we mean wages).
Clubs would need to be honest with supporters and tell them what the aims are of the club. Most fans aren’t stupid. They would rather have a club to support, and one which had clear aims, than not have one at all.
Maybe finally football can learn from its mistakes in the past and move on from these current difficulties, and hopefully do so with all 92 clubs intact.