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Football enters the crisis stage, from Rangers to Kettering, from Portsmouth to Everton


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by Tony Attwood

I recently wrote about Everton’s financial situation, and received a number of comments from Everton fans putting the point that the current owner had always taken money out of the club, rather than being the saviour as I had suggested.

I’m going to mention Everton again later, but my point here is that they are just one among many clubs that are in a serious situation.  You wouldn’t know it, the way the Leagues carry on, but there is a crisis in football that is running all the way through the game, and which one day soon will result in an explosion.

My overall point however is to compare what is going on in clubs and what has happened and is happening at Arsenal.

Portsmouth has become a by-word for collapse, and now we hear that the company which owns Portsmouth, Convers Sports Initiatives is in administration and its majority owner, Vladimir Antonov, has been arrested for alleged large-scale bank fraud and forgery.  Clearly if this gent is found guilty this will be another great victory for the fit and proper person test.

Just for the record he offered “long‑term stability” to the club.  Portsmouth are now once again running out of money and the prosecutor general in Lithuania is looking to freeze all the assets of CSI – including Portsmouth.

It is hardly funny, but in a black humour sort of way we might note that Portsmouth’s chief executive is David Lampitt who was previously head of regulation at the Football Association.  Mr Antonov is currently facing a hearing to see if he has to be extradited to Lithuania.

Portsmouth, lest we forget, has previously walked off with £37m of taxpayers’ money, and at best we’ll only get 20% of it.  Quite possibly now we’ll get none.

Portsmouth started to deteriorate under Harry Redknapp, who ran up mega debts for the club in taking them to the cup final in 2008 and the administration of 2010 came directly from that.  Harry Redknapp we may note will be in court next year on issues arising from his time at Portsmouth.

Interestingly, in December 2007 the Financial Services Authority in the UK stopped Mr Antonov’s bank Snoras from opening a branch in Britain and rather more famously two years later the European Investment Bank refused to lend money to Saab if Mr Antonov was involved in the deal.

But he is still a fit and proper person.

Meanwhile all the Championship clubs except Birmingham (who have desperate financial positions of their own, since their part owner was arrested for money laundering and they were sued by West Ham) have agreed to reduce their losses to £5m a year by 2017.

This is still going to be a huge problem for them – because of the gap between the Premier League and the Championship – a matter dealt with at length by Phil Gregory in his Untold Arsenal submission to the House of Commons Select Committee on football governance.

In 2009-10, 21 out of 24 Championship clubs made a loss.  Bristol City lost £12m and another £11m in 2010-11 – the year Ipswich lost £15m, Nottingham Forest £12m and Sheffield United £19m.

So the question is, what are they going to do with clubs who don’t obey the new rule?

Meanwhile the situation in Scotland has become (at least from an English perspective) so laughable it can’t be true.

For months, maybe years, we have all known that Craig Whyte the owner of Rangers has been banned for seven-years from being a company director.  He has done everything to deny this, and indeed when the BBC mentioned it, he said he was taking legal action against the Corporation.  If he is then it will be fun to watch.

Now finally, with the tax man ready to pounce and the club in total meltdown with judges putting their money into accounts that the club can’t touch, so that creditors stand a chance of getting something, the SFA’s in a statement from its chief executive has said: “The SFA has noted the Rangers FC statement to the stock exchange regarding the club’s owner Craig Whyte. We have been in dialogue with the club on this matter and in light of today’s developments have requested clarification by return. We await disclosure of key information before making further comment.”

A more realistic comment might be “we have been conned by the club, and are looking utterly feeble ourselves, so are winding the SFA up at once”, but they didn’t say that.

The SFA like its English counterpart, has fit and proper person rules which are just ignored wholesale, and there are no penalties in place for breaking them.

And so back to Everton where we now see that the director of communications has left the club after his emails which criticised the chief executive of the club, have come out into the open.  One of the emails described Everton as like  “working in a kindergarten” and another talked about a “financial meltdown”.
Everton is looking for a new director of communications.
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And what then of Kettering, also mentioned in my headline.   One of my local teams, they have a long history of links with Arsenal.   They play in the Conference and have a crumbling ground on which there is a lease of another 18 months or so to go – at the end of that the owner wants them out and wants to sell the land for property development (it is in the middle of a residential area).
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So the owner of the club has moved them 10 miles down the road to the ground of their bitterest rivals, Rushden and Diamonds who were also in the conference but this season went into liquidation and now are no more.  Diamonds had a wonderful ground built and paid for by the Doc Martins company and given to the club.
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Kettering’s chairman has signed a 15 year lease on the Diamond’s ground, and tried to excite people by selling discounted season tickets before the season started.  But the fans wouldn’t travel to a rival’s ground, and crowds have collapsed.  All the players are up for sale, and it looks like Kettering could follow Rushden out of existence in the same season.
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And Arsenal?  Following our defeat by Manchester City in the game that saw the most expensive shot of all time (see my earlier article), some people wrote in saying we would never win anything unless we followed that club’s approach in bringing in vast amounts of money to the club.
It is the same thinking as has led to the collapse of football clubs large and small across the UK.  I for one hope we never go down that route.
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10 comments to Football enters the crisis stage, from Rangers to Kettering, from Portsmouth to Everton

  • Amr

    The funny thing is, this also reminds me of the Government and their own actions…borrow, borrow, borrow, spend, spend, spend, steal from the poor, give to the rich. In most places in society those that care have been driven out by those that are there to make a quick buck for the shareholders and themselves. It’s endemic to 21st Century Society as a whole.

  • Odhis KenyanGunner

    So twitchie did a hit-and-run at Portsmouth, uh! Is someone keeping tabs on him at the Scum, coz good-old yappy Harry has an affinity for Scam.

  • Joe

    Can I just say this is an absolutely brilliant article and usually i’m not one for going into too much detail for the money behind the game (obviously i know abit but not as much as yourself) Truly brilliant and really makes you open your eyes to how there could be a whole financial meltdown of football! Hopefully Arsenal will be the Pheonix from the ashes and be the only club left standing!

    #COYG

  • mike collins

    Great Article. This is why I love this site. Football unfortunately is about money and debt, controlling both is difficult but essential. Wenger, the Board and the rest of AFC are to be congratulated on the way they run the club.

  • Mandy Dodd

    In many ways, it is sad to see – some of these are top clubs and in a real siuation.
    Arsenal have been much critisised over their business model, the cautious approach of current and previous board members, but read the papers, look at the news, these guys got it right!
    Wenger several weeks ago warned of a storm about th hit Europe, yesterday, Merrvyn King of the BOE ecjoed his stark warning

  • Richard B

    On many occasions, sometimes on this site, I’ve described football in this country (and others) as being built on the principle of mutually assured destruction.
    Ultimately the throwing of money at the problem of trying to keep up with those who have access to a great deal more of it than you do will destroy many clubs.
    The hype that is put behind the requirement to achieve success at any cost merely makes the situation worse and leads, inevitably, to widespread dissappointment and acres of empty seats at so many games.
    David Lacey, not for the first time, wrote a pithy piece in the Guardian yesterday (in the context of the sad demise of Gary Speed) saying that footballs great strength should be that it is, in the end, an unimportant diversion from the really important (and often far more depressing) things in life.
    We attach ourselves to football clubs for social and many other reasons. Knowing that, the most important policy that the board of directors of a football club can adopt is one of custodianship. Ensuring, as far as they can, that a club continues to exist is far more important than buying short term success, hoping against hope that the fans will turn up in their droves and pay fortunes to keep the whole juggernaut going. Portsmouth, Blackburn, et al bear witness to that.
    Despite all of the criticism that has been levelled at them, the Arsenal Board has stuck to their principle of custodianship decade in, decade out. When there has been a coming together of great management and great players we have enjoyed great success. But when things haven’t gelled ( as they don’t for most clubs most of the time) we still know that we can pay our bills, play our fixtures and draw decent crowds to watch decent football.
    It isn’t rocket science but it hasn’t seemed to have occurred to others to adopt it due to greed and dishonesty getting in the way. If FFP isn’t strictly applied, mutually assued destruction will continue and, although we will have a great sense of ‘I told you so’, the consequences for football as we know it will be disasterous.
    Never has it been more the case that Wenger and Arsenal (and Tony) Know Best.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    And Arsenal FC has never engaged in the completely criminal act of bugging it’s own supporters in their own homes, has it??

    Do stop this self-righteous twaddle. Arsenal break the rules with the best of them, it’s just that the ones they break aren’t financial.

  • Richard B

    That’ll be the financial rules that don’t exist will it? The absence of which has put football into the mess that Tony, quite properly, points out?

  • robdogunner

    AW should be the next president at FIFA. Hes probably the only person involved in world football that would be willing and able to sort out the mess that Blatter and Havelange have left in thier wake.

  • The Blaze

    Can someone explain to me why Tottenham aren’t having the same problems as Portsmouth? They have been spending like crazy for years now, have laughable income, yet they are still standing. How?