Robin Sainty: City watch football finance take full view

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What weeks has it been in the alternate reality of the football club finance world.

As Norwich City’s self-funding model continues to come under criticism from the most intellectually-challenged media, we have seen the game’s cult of Mammon reach new depths with the sale of Newcastle United to a regime. with a more than questionable record on a number of issues that we appreciate.

Of course, the big clubs are complaining about the takeover of Newcastle, but much like the Premier League’s opposition to the European Super League, it is based on self-interest and protecting their own honeypot rather than a genuine concern for the fans or the game, or any moral consideration.

Meanwhile, after surviving an HMRC liquidation petition in January, Derby County is under administration, having accumulated a £ 28million debt to the IRS as well as a secured loan of £ 15million from an offshore company, while Reading faces a deduction of up to nine points for their repeated breaches of financial fair play rules.


Derby County – a club under heavy financial pressure
– Credit: PA

In Europe, Barcelona, ​​one of the biggest clubs on the planet, reported a loss of € 481m, bringing their total debt to barely conceivable € 1.3bn, while in the UK , Spurs have an external debt of £ 831million, Manchester United owe £ 526million and Liverpool £ 268million as the financial arms race continues at a brisk pace.

The whole football edifice depends more and more on the use of someone else’s money, dirty as it is, and while the big clubs will survive as long as they can keep paying off their debt. Ever growing, many of the smaller ones are getting closer and closer to Financial Armageddon.

Football looks more and more like old Roadrunner cartoons, where Wile E Coyote, after chasing the eponymous hero off a cliff, runs through the air, only collapsing when he finally looks down and sees the nothingness below him.

We are quickly reaching a point of no return and the current Fan Led Review, and the Fair Game movement that goes with it, may be the last chance for in-depth reform of a game that is increasingly controlled by people who do not know, or simply do not understand what football clubs really stand for.

To quote Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister who heads this review: “Football clubs are not ordinary businesses. They play a vital social, civic and cultural role in their local communities. They need to be protected – sometimes from their owners who are, after all, only the current custodians of a community asset.

It is often said that players, managers and even owners come and go but the fans will always be there – but if there is no club left, where does that leave them?

Does anyone really believe that when the financial bubble finally bursts Glazers, Fenway Sports or the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund will give a damn about over 200 years of footballing tradition in this country?

The takeover of Newcastle proves without a doubt that the game can no longer be left to self-regulation in a world where success on the pitch no longer has to be built when it can simply be bought on the job, and no potential owner is considered too obnoxious. to refuse as long as they have sufficiently deep pockets.

An independent regulator of the FA and EPL would be a start, but is it already too late to turn the tide of a game that has become the playground of billionaires, especially when, as seen in Newcastle, many fans seem happy enough to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing of their owners if it means winning a few trophies?


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