With the season now over and the football long since played, the thoughts of your average football fan turn to drunken snippets of half-forgotten transfer gossip, wildly inaccurate rumours of “cash injections” and the careful planning of summer holidays which don’t clash with pre-season friendlies away at places like Leigh Genesis. We have already had a little transfer news at the Dale with the signing of Jason Kennedy and the contract renewal of Gary Jones, but a quiet transfer window might be a blessing in disguise; despite our need to rebuild much of the squad. As Accrington, Darlington, Bournemouth, Stockport and presumably many more realise, no news would be good news this summer.
The crisis in the global economy came at a bad time for a number of teams in the bottom tier, but many were struggling even before this. Accrington Stanley have today been issued with a winding-up order by HMRC due to £300,000 of unpaid bills. The credit crunch has undoubtedly been a factor; main sponsors Fraser Eagle went bust mid-way through the season owing £100,000, but the biggest reason for the unpaid bill is their meagre home support, which last season averaged at just over 1,400. Accrington have vowed to pay the bill somehow with “the opportunity to restructure the finances of the club, particularly in terms of revising [their] playing budget”. It would take some ‘revising’ indeed, Stanley have one of the lowest wage budgets in the division and a cut in this would mean they simply wouldn’t be able to afford League Two-standard players. You would have to question whether they could afford full-time players at allon crowds of 1,400, a figure which would not even sustain a higher Conference team (16 non-league teams have larger crowds than Accy). The threat of semi-professionalism seems to beckon for Stanley, barring some quite miraculous ‘financial restructuring’.
Another side which has undergone some dramatic ‘financial restructuring’ is Darlington. Talks involving local businessman Raj Singh to bring Darlo out of administration seemed to have broken down, but today Singh was revealed as the new owner of the club, and 50% shareholder of the stadium and land. The news secures Darlington’s short-term future, but it is unclear quite how much money Singh is prepared to plough into the club in terms of playing budget. Darlington, for once, might actually have to live within their means and suffer a season or two of relative mediocrity, which I’m sure most would Darlo fans would be thrilled about given their unsure status since they went into administration.
The news of Singh’s acquisition seems to dent to Chester City’s very slim hopes of earning a reprieve from relegation. They entered administration themselves following their relegation from the league, but waited on the outcome of Darlington’s case to see whether they could benefit from their possible disbanding. Chester’s future still remains up in the air, (an excellent summary of their situation can be found here), but the only certain thing at the moment seems to be that they won’t be in the Football League in 08/09. Indeed, they may not even by in the Conference next year.
Bournemouth, yet another club in crisis, seemed on the brink of non-existence a couple of weeks ago when it was announced that all bids for the club had been withdrawn. Since then however, one fresh bid has been tabled, and co-owner Paul Baker has said “we do expect another”. Whether these bids are successful or not is still anybody’s guess, but the first priority of any new owner must be to pay the salaries of the players, who have stop receiving wages since the season end. If rumours are to be believed, as much as five or six of Bournemouth’s players have begun 14-day notice proceedings, as AFCB have technically broken their contracts by not paying them. So if Bournemouth’s chairmen are to sell-up (and they desperately need to), they’d better be quick about it, if only to keep a decent squad of players at the club.
A club who has to seemed to have secured a future are Stockport County. Having entered administration late on in the 08/09 season, County have apparently received four bids from various consortia, and on Wednesday the Stockport Express announced County were ‘within ours of coming out of administration’. Good news for Stockport, but other clubs in League One may feel aggrieved about how Stockport entered administration effectively punishment-free in the first place.
So, as the preceeding news all testifies, as you’re frantically checking the forums and various news outlets for transfer news, be thankful you aren’t a fan of any of the teams mentioned above. It might not be an exciting transfer season this summer, but at least we’re not going bust.
Written by Matt Boothman on 29/05/09