It's The Money Stupid

Given our relatively lowly position within the Football Pyramid and the ongoing debate over returning to full time status, I thought it would be an apt time to consider not just the finances within our own club but those within the wider structure of the game with the UK.

As we currently sit 10th in the Conference North with an estimated playing budget of around £300k supporting a part time playing set up, I thought it might be interesting to consider the plights of similar sized clubs.

Clearly within the non league structure there is only realistically Orient, Hartlepool, Tranmere, Wrexham, York and possibly Torquay and Halifax.

All bar Halifax remain full time set ups.

If we look into the Football League then possibly Brentford is the highest placed of the County sized clubs (although you could argue Bournemouth) that continue to sustain their Championship credentials. They sold Scott Hogan to West Ham earlier this year for a rumoured £12.5 million with sales regarding Andre Gray and Adam Forshaw netting a further £8 million.

Scott Hogan.

Not too many clubs in either leagues one and two would outrank County in size or indeed fan base. There, perversely, lies the problem. Most weekends our gates are larger then several league fixtures and often exceed the entire total of all Conference South games. Our travelling support is disproportional large 1000+ for local or rival games and yet when a decent side like Curzon bring less than 50 supporters, the income for the club is almost solely dependant on the funds generated from within the club.
Derisory support for Curzon A who were top of the table  then.

I am of a vintage to remember when gate money was split between each side. Apply that to our current position and thank our lucky stars that ruling was changed. We are the mainstay of the economy at this level with maybe FCUM, York and Salford to a lesser extent. The early pacesetters are presently Harrogate Town who brought 91 fans to the recent EP fixture and Brackley Town (even less, last season).

Harrogate( again table toppers)- fans largely absent.

 Some may argue that the reverse situation occurred when we were a Championship side, I would disagree. We traveled with plenty and although home gates were close to the stadium capacity it was only the likes of Leeds, Wolves, Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday that brought maximum numbers. In our old Division 4 days I recall Sheffield United, Wolves and Bolton bringing good numbers but again so did we, and if you want examples of how large clubs have nearly gone to the wall as a result of suicidal financial planning you need look no further than the  last two clubs I  mentioned.

So we have established our size, our fan base, our traveling support and the general lack of income derived from the other clubs in this division. Our position of having to effectively rent our ground by way of a council owned mortgage leaves us with little or no assets to either attract ‘investment’ or leverage credit. Our balance sheet I understand includes around £1 million historic debt that has been pared down considerably but still remains and again does little to attract investment or at least the right sort of investment. Thankfully after making considerable operating losses since administration that have been absorbed by the owners we made a small operating profit last time round. Investment you may have noticed I couched within speech marks. Investment in football at almost any level outside the Premier League is an acronym. People put money in, sometimes take it back. If we look at the Fleetwood model - £23 million and counting, currently a League one side average attendance last season 2889. Forest Green, Crawley, AFC Fylde and at this level Salford pumping money in at a prodigious rate. 

But look at the disasters: When Cheshire Sport headed by the then 24th richest man in the country took us over – happy days, well no.

And.....look at the farce going on at Blackpool.
Current & former Blackpool Chairs, Karl (top) Owen(below)

 I remember Keith Hill at Rochdale having a pop at us after the Wembley win highlighting the fact that we were spending money that we did not have – true, but of course even well run clubs like Rochdale have a saviour, in their case Chris Dunphy, picking up the tab for any financial overruns.

Chris Dunphy.

Another dynamic working against us is the division we are in.

The Conference North seems to have become the launch pad for all moneyed, ego driven, vanity projects. The competition at this level has become so intense that I suspect that what for County may have been a fairly routine return to the National League seven or eight years ago has become difficult to say the least. When we dropped into this division after the Kidderminster game in 2013 who amongst us thought that we would still be here 6 years on?  The fact that every side visiting EP seems to massively raise their game is yet another obstacle to overcome.

So we are inappropriately large in every respect for the level we are at, but so what, we are here like it or not. Part time in a rented stadium with large balance sheet liabilities you may ask what have we going for us, I will tell you:

The best coach/manager outside the Football League
James Gannon- top man !

Not just the best fans in terms of support in numbers but think about Help the Hatters, think about the car boot sales, stadium cleaning and maintenance, think about the museum, the charities supported not just by the club but by the various supporters groups.

Think of the tireless work by the huge number of individuals to keep this club going

The Players Fund – supporter financed( see button on this site)

The Guardian Account –  supporter financed ( link below) 

We have a set of owners/directors who I think understand the club and are trying to achieve that balance of sustainability and progress without endangering the club (again) Progress for me is slow and given a less than stellar start to this season patience does get stretched. None the less I feel although slow we are creeping in the right direction. I suspect that a sensibly invested £2-3 million would get this club back to where it should be but the obstacles to that injection of capital I have already highlighted. Please make cheques/postal orders payable to Stockport County 2015 Ltd !!

Just as an end of article filler, let’s bandy some figures around looking at our situation and then try and get your head around these:

In the close season of 2017 Premier League Clubs spent in excess of £1.4 billion on players.  THAT’S 14000 MILLION POUNDS

Since the inception of the Premier League Players agents and ‘intermediaries’ have received in excess of £1.9 billion pounds. THAT’S 19000 MILLION POUNDS

The average salary for a Premier League CEO is over £1 million with Manchester City paying Ferran Soriano around £3 million and even Bournemouth (another County sized club) paying its CEO in excess of £1 million

England and Tottenham’s Eric Dier stated in the Mail on Sunday on 3rd September 2017 that ‘footballers have no say in their earnings'. Begs the question why bother with an agent then. Still, I guess if somebody is going to lob £100k a week at you you’re not going to say no.

If Sky TV were to ever pull the TV deal with the Premiership and an equivalent pay deal could not be found around 16 Premier League Clubs would default on their commitments with several Championship clubs going the same way with League one and two clubs at risk..........

............ as the ‘trickle’ from the Greed League would cease.

Adrian Caville


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