Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Tales of Scotland, League One, Financial Management and the Pub.

Reports stated recently that Glasgow Celtic are said to be "in talks" and hoping to apply for a berth in England's League 1. That's Division 3 in old money, lest we forget. Presumably in an effort to show just how much they would like to be in the English League, whilst also thinking they would only be that far down the pyramid for a short time.

The reports have naturally since been dismissed by both the League itself and Celtic officials. But it is a question that has, and will, keep rearing its head as football clubs and leagues - or Brands - search for ways to continue to survive and, if possible, prosper in difficult times.

Newton Heath Library

Difficulties with financial management at clubs is not a new issue. (as an example, in 1932, now mega-monolithic Manchester United had to be saved from extinction by James Gibson, a local businessman, who wiped their debt clear - the club having already been saved from financial ruin a couple of times before - oh look, they are in millions and millions of pounds worth of debt again!).

However, it is an interesting anomaly that today, many clubs are still facing ruin, some chasing dreams that look like they can no longer come true, at a time when fans and the sporting media are so financially savvy.

Each club will have business directors, fans groups are well-versed on the financial side of football (some taking control of clubs, or at least placing themselves in positions where, should the worst happen, they may be able to step in) and the sports pages are also regular haunts for financial news, and vice-versa with sports news making the financial and business pages. Successful businessmen are usually the people in charge of clubs, drawn like moths to the flame - but football can't be run by the same model as successful businesses and the majority have their wings severely singed.

Football is such a global game now, that the song "we support our local team" has become less of a stick to beat opposition fans with and more a sign of insularity. Clubs need more and more money to just tick over and chasing that money involves getting the "product" out to as many people as possible - not just looking inwards at the locals.

It is clear that, for the long-term health of the game, something radical needs to be done. That awful phrase "thinking outside the box" seems the only appropriate way describe it.

So, that is what Celtic and, if they survive their current predicament, Rangers are looking to do.

The Scottish League can no longer contain, nor sustain them. They are far too big in comparison to the other teams, causing a real imbalance. It has been said in some quarters that some clubs are losing fans, not to the Old Firm, but from Scottish Football altogether as there is absolutely no competition in the league. The familiarity of the same two teams battling it out for the title each year, whilst all the others share points between themselves, is breeding contempt.

Many of the other leagues in Europe, of course, have the self-same problems - but not to such an extent, perhaps, at the moment. A European Super League looks inevitable at some point - it just remains to be seen, when, in what form, and with which teams involved.

As for Celtic applying to join the English league - if the league don't want them - start them off in non-league - see how much they really want to make the move. It will probably only take them a couple of years longer to get where they think they should be and once they do make it to the league, they will at least have earned it. 

Just think of what a tremendous boost it would be for the economy of many English towns and their off-licences - it could even save the English pub!

That idea about toll roads could come in as well, but keep it with the state - fans pay to cross the border, national debt would come down sharpish.

I do, however, recall with dread the condition that Manchester was left in the morning after Rangers played in the Europa League final, a couple of years ago. Walking across town was like walking on the dancefloor at the Ritz nightclub, feet sticking to the ground, and there was an overpowering frangrance of stale beer, cigarette ash and vomit seranading the nostrils of the early morning commuters.

Now, obviously, a game against Stalybridge Celtic is not going to cause 100,000 ticketless fans to cross the border wreaking havoc in Stalyvegas, but I do suspect there would be sellouts galore - a great cash boost for the clubs. However, I still get a picture of the wild west when a stranger comes to town: kids being dragged off the streets, shutters being closed, a hush falling over everyone as the massed hordes make their way to the ground.

A lot like how my elder sister describes watching tommy doc's united away from home in the seventies.

I await the next move with interest...


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