The Price of Success - The Misery of Failure !

As we chill out (or not) the close season pondering the next, where do your thoughts turn to? A beach if you are lucky but for most aficionados of all things EP I suspect the usual mix of trepidation, hope, speculation, sprinkled perhaps with a stint of ‘work party’ Should it all get too depressing you could always reflect on the ‘bad old days’ when we were …………. well, better placed then we are now. 

Wembley pic from 2008.

Drooling with envy I cast an eye over the success stories of this past season with particular regard to the play off games up and down the League and Conference spectrum. It struck me that a common thread was present in all the success stories:

The Premier League is in essence a different planet.

Manchester City’s success has been analysed and documented by finer scribes than me, but none the less they represent a great starting point for my analysis. Formula is: A ready built 21st Century Stadium + Several Millions of Pounds Investment courtesy of multi billionaire foreign owners ( high profile manager + best players available ) Of course with the dosh available that is the easy bit, still got to get it to gel but that should happen eventually by tinkering the management/player formula. 
The fly in the ointment of this formula is something called UEFA’s ‘Fair Play’ rules, which in part, simplified, mean that clubs in essence cannot pay a disproportionate percentage of their turnover in salaries ostensibly to players.
Rule maker- Michelle Platini.

If this rule is breached (an army of ‘creative’ accountants should ensure it isn’t) the penalties are a reduction in the following seasons Euro Squad and……. Wait for it………. A giant fine! Yes the penalty for being hugely rich, making huge (paper) losses and clearly not employing clever enough accountants is….. a monetary fine.  

Let us drop a division (no not us God forbid) The Championship – remember it?
Champions, Leicester City read, part one and two of the formula and to a lesser extent parts 3 and 4 although you cannot fault Nigel Pearson and they appear to have stayed within the Fair Play Rules. Runners Up – Burnley, possibly an exception to the norm in that they appear to have bought and sold well, financially managed it prudently and made the most of their parachute payments after being relegated from the Greed League. The polar opposite of that is QPR who fulfill the entire formula (bar a new ground), appear to have broken UEFA’s fair play rules, and will almost certainly get fined- but if promotion was worth around £134 million what would a fair fine be?

Lets try League 1 (getting misty eyed now) Champions Wolves without researching them appeared to have gone up on (financial) merit and competed at that level on the strength of their own fan base. Brentford a strange one. For a ‘trust owned/ran’ club they seem to have been able to generate investment into the club no doubt due in part to their ex chairman Greg Dyke – you may remember he had a dream about playing Premier League reserve sides down in the depths of League football.

 This dream occurred only when Brentford made it into the Championship. But no matter let us look at this divisions play off winners Rotherham United. A relatively recent history of multiple administrations/receivership's, they were able to survive each one and remain in the football league and then they acquired a wealthy owner, the services of Steve Evans (libel laws would preclude me from saying too much about) who knows how to get teams promoted, they eventually procured a new stadium and hey presto…. Championship here we are.

Don Valley...after Rotherham`s exit!
Now we are into the basement level of the football league (I dream of this division)
Chesterfield (see formula), Rochdale and Scunthorpe seemingly done on good management but even so significant investment/loss shortfall particularly in Rochdale’s case given their low fan base would appear to have taken place.
Zoom back to Wembley where just over 14,000 watched a single goal for Fleetwood take them into League 1. Their Chairman eulogised  the football pyramid system which has taken Fleetwood from the North West Counties League to FL one in a little over 9 years. The £10 million plus thrown at this mission seemingly being incidental to the cause. Perhaps we should all eulogise the pyramid although I suspect the likes of Darlington, Rushton, Maidstone and even ourselves may not quite feel like it just now.

No matter, let’s feast our gluttony on the Conference Premier League (I’m in pieces now) Luton finally managed to escape it and quite right too. Their gates have consistently been larger than most League 1 and 2 clubs and I am presuming this has formed a financial basis for their success. Cambridge United again appeared to have been able to weald considerable clout in attracting players and investment – Tom Elliot a case in point.

Ex Hatter- Tom Elliott.

Let us sink into the Conference Regional Divisions (I’m howling now for quite different reasons) On some weekends last season our gate figure exceeded the total of all the other games played in the division that day. In fact I think on one occasion is exceeded the combined north and south league’s figure. Yet we will struggle to compete with North Ferriby, Harrogate etc,etc. OK our situation is somewhat unique with regard to our ground ownership (or lack of it) but unless our Fairy Godmother’s materialise or we are somehow able to either attract investment or somehow produce a winning team from somewhere you have to wonder what the next 2 or 3 years hold for us.

Editors note: oh yes there is , this one`s  total magic!

So there you have it, there is no magical formula. The Premier League Champions plus every one of the Wembley Play Off Winners all had something in common. Now you could argue that we have little to boast of given the state of our own finances during our last trip to Wembley albeit for a relatively small immediately pressing debt. You could also argue that football is indeed a metaphor for life and unfairness happens. (I cleaned that up)  The rich generally get richer, the bold, the cheating and the cavalier generally get away with it and if they don’t the penalties are small and bare little relation to the ‘crime’ Play an ineligible player in the Premier League get a smack on the wrist, do the same at a lower level (our level) lose points, get fined….. you know the drill. 

Spare a copper guv!

 There is of course an argument and perhaps quite a valid one that if an owner wants to buy a toy – lets say a football club and spend zillions on it making huge losses that’s his (or her) business.
 Should an errant oil shiek/oligarch/investment banker/oriental person waltz into E.P and pledge to make us winners of the Champions League in 2022 I for one shall not try to dissuade him/her.

Enjoy the beach/garden/patio.   



  1. Brilliant article, Adrian. I have doubts whether I could support an owner the likes of the Man City type. County deserve better.

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