The beginning of the end for English football?

IN THE fourth and final feature entitled ‘Football and Finance’, James Robinson gives a personal account of a sport which financially, “is a sinking ship”, and what the future could well hold for football beyond the current economic recesison.     

Like all good dramas, the story of football and finance, especially in the current recession, has indeed twisted and turned more than Christiano Ronaldo facing a petrified full-back. Some organisations are using a vision of “recessionary apocalypse” according to Professor Simon Chadwick at Coventry University.

Others though according to the football analyst within the industry are facing real problems which threaten their very existence. Whichever of these two observations is relevant to your club, you can presume that we are not yet beyond the first act of this particular drama. Following years of unprecedented growth and commercial development, the downturn in the country’s finances will inevitably bring wastage to some football clubs – even though people always presume ‘a knight in shining armour will come and save us’ –our own ‘Roman Abromovich’. Sugar Daddy owners are few and far between, clubs are looking for investors but due to the global economic downturn even the wealthiest will think twice about investing in football and taking such a huge responsibility.

Two diehard Darlington FC fans pleading for a new owner to save the club

Football is a fortunate sport within the sports industry. It has the marketable factor of being an international sport; even the English leagues are frequently shown live all over the globe to a mass audience of ex-pats and keen foreigners. Sponsoring clubs is a view that many fans feel will help them financially – clubs now even sell the name of their stadium to attract revenue; The Emirates stadium at Arsenal, The Reebok Stadium, Bolton and even The Northern Echo Arena in Darlington! We will have to hope that the clubs that are facing a troubled future, due to their finances, only see this stage in their history as a phase of turbulence in their ongoing and growing history.

Players earning huge wages from their clubs, and clubs charging fans more and more for tickets is not the way forward. Clubs need to attract a brand of football that is not only sustainable but also conveys an image to fans that will bring new and returning fans back to the stands, rather than the comfort of their armchair.

We can therefore only hope that all is well in the coming years for all football clubs, up and down the country, and in true dramatic style use this period as the end of this particular stage drama where the ‘good guy gets the girl’, and football lives happily ever after.

But as the recession does bite, football clubs, especially in the lower leagues, can’t take anything to chance. They will have to consider that not only might the ‘bad guy’ survive but how he also may cause severe lasting damage. It will be twelve months or more before we will finally see who comes out on top in the next act of the football and finance drama. We all like happy endings and I would certainly like to see one for all of football in this country and I sincerely hope that English Football lives happily ever after.

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