For too long now the disparity in finances between the teams at the top of tree in English football and the teams in the second tier and below has been far too wide. In the last few months, we have watched as Bolton Wanderers, Bury FC, Gateshead FC and others all face major financial difficulties – all while the likes of Manchester United are reeling in £600m per year.
Next season, Gateshead FC will start their campaign in the National League North, a league lower than they were in last season, despite the fact they finished ninth in the league this season. This is due to a demotion, forced upon them by an owner who basically stripped the club of all its assets. A month ago, the club had no ground, no players and no hope for the future – it took the fans to step in and raise the money to take the club back.
In the Championship, the second tier of English football, we watched as Bolton Wanderers failed to pay their staff month after month. The families of the non-playing staff were forced into using food banks to feed their children, because the owner couldn’t pay the wages. They’ve now been relegated and will start the 2019/20 season on -12 points, a punishment for entering administration.
Back down the leagues we go, this time to Bury – where a very similar situation applies. Players haven’t been being paid on time, winding up petitions have gone to court and the future looks very bleak.
Now, compare this to the Premier League. This season, the team that finished bottom of the league (Huddersfield), made over £100million in television and prize money. A tenth of that would help these clubs operate for weeks, months or even years in the case of Gateshead. In their accounts last summer, Manchester United announced a record revenue of nearly £600m, their local neighbours Manchester City announced something very similar – the disparity is frighteningly wide.
How can we sit by and allow these clubs to dwindle into non-existence? Why aren’t we doing anything to help? Most importantly for me, why are the FA punishing these teams? They should be helping, and this is how I propose they do so:
All teams in the Premier League should be forced to pay an “emergency tax” of sorts. The tax could for example equate to 5% of their annual revenue stream. That, for instance, would mean Manchester United would have paid £30m into this pot last year. Newcastle United, who announced significantly lower revenue of around £100m, would pay £5m. Therefore the tax they pay is proportionate to how much they earn.
This money would go into a fund, managed by the Football Association, to be used in times of need. One thing people often forget when they see staff aren’t being paid at football clubs is that not every member of staff is a player. Yes, the playing staff may be able to maintain themselves for a while based on their level of income, but what about the tea ladies? What about the cleaners? What about the security staff? How are they supposed to pay their mortgage/rent?
So, when clubs are struggling with their finances and struggling to pay their staff, the FA can allocate a portion of this fund to that club to help see them through their time of need. I don’t think this is too much to ask in all honesty.
The FA should be doing more to help in these instances. At the end of the day, we should be doing all we can to help preserve these football clubs. They are historic clubs, often the lifeblood of their town – they should be protected.
Football is becoming, or even has become, a business rather than a sport. It seems the top brass don’t actually care about preserving the rich history of the sport as much as they care about making as much money as possible. There are some great football clubs out there who are dying – if the FA really cared, they’d step in and help rather than slapping them with a ridiculous points deduction.