A note to Bradford fan and BoyFromBrazil.co.uk writer Michael Wood; if you have a go at a club and chairman who charge away fans £20 for Division Four football, make sure your own team aren’t doing it themselves.
The timing of Wood’s bizarre attack on our chairman Chris Dunphy is odd, given that it comes a full six months after the original interview Dunphy did with the Guardian, in which he lays into clubs that have gone into administration for receiving punishments he sees as minimal. Fair enough, Bradford might not have “wiped off debts of £38m”, but they did over-spend – knowingly – and did not pay off the total of those debts. Wood says the debt paid was significant, “in a way that handicapped the club to such an extent that rather than recovering to be reinstalled in the Premiership we end up at Spotland, playing Rochdale, in Division Four.” Oh the horror! Not Spotland! Not Rochdale! Anything but that!
Wood later describes Bradford as an “unfortunate”, as opposed to Leicester City whose actions I think universally, and rightly, would be counted as crooked. But is spending £4m on David Hopkin and Ashley Ward “unfortunate”, or is it stupid? Bradford’s last two administrations were a direct result of the Premier League era and its £40,000 a week Benito Carbone’s, so forgive us if we don’t cry for you Bradford City.
Wood also tries to paint Rotherham United as a similarly unlucky team. The side who funded second-tier football for four seasons racked up debts of £3m and ended up having to sell Millmoor to Ken Booth to clear that debt. Now they play at Don Valley after a dispute with Booth, and have entered administration twice since 2006. But Wood says Rotherham “try do the same [as Rochdale]” by budgeting “up to the line but no further” and states Rotherham’s crisis is all the fault of “the South Yorkshire flooding”. The most recent of their administrations may have been exacerbated by this unfortunate weather problem, but over-spending again was the actual cause. So once again, forgive us if we don’t shed a tear Michael.
What Wood seems to overlook is the very real problems faced by teams such as ourselves, such as low crowds, stadium wrangling and match postponements; as if we haven’t had any of the bad luck which has seen teams such as his face liquidation. The difference is that we have sacrificed competitiveness on the field for a continued, non-administrative future off it. We may not have got anywhere in the past thirty years, but with roughly half of the sides currently in the league having spent time in administration, that counts as a success – and we don’t see why we should feel sorry for the teams that cannot do this.
Nobody particularly wants to see teams in trouble, but when they are financially mismanaged up to the point of bankruptcy, justice is needed. Why Michael Wood feels Dunphy is “scandalous” to suggest so is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the trauma of having to play Rochdale has affected him somewhat.
Written by Matt Boothman on 10/3/09