The news that the English Premier League is planning to go global has dominated the front and back pages of the English newspapers today. Hidden away, in some of the papers, you can find a small piece about the fact that League One side, Bournemouth, are going to announce today that they have had to go into administration with debts of around £4 million. This will mean a ten point penalty, almost certain relegation and if a buyer is not found, the end of the club.
I am well aware that there is a strong argument that says in sport, as well as in life, it boils down to the survival of the fittest. I can also see that if a product is saleable, it will sell and make a profit, and if it isn’t, well then who cares if it falls by the wayside?
Despite those arguments, I can’t help but feel a little sad that as the Premier League clubs prepare to make many more millions, the small clubs, with many less, but still thousands of fans, are beginning to slide away into obscurity.
The Premier League is producing the kind of football that people all around the World want to watch. The gap between the top league and the other leagues is growing all the time in terms of the game and it’s finances. However, it would be a real shame if the football world forgot that the lower league clubs are the very lifeblood of the game.
Looking at the England team from Wednesday night we can see that seven of the players involved were scouted, picked up and coached at non premier league clubs as youngsters. David James and Ashley Cole began at Watford, Rio Ferdinand at Queens Park Rangers, Matthew Upson at Luton, Gareth Barry at Brighton, Jermaine Jenas at Nottingham Forest and Wayne Bridge at Southampton. I accept that Southampton were a Premier League side at the time.
The lower league clubs can find young players and give them professional coaching at a young age. Two of the current exciting youngsters, Theo Walcott at Arsenal and Scott Sinclair at Chelsea came from Southampton and Bristol Rovers respectively. There are literally hundreds of examples over the years and it still continues today. Swindon Town have recently sold 18 year-old Lucas Jutiewicz to Everton and 17 year-old Ben Tozer to Newcastle.
So as we see Premier League clubs making vast profits, Manchester United £59.6 million, Arsenal expecting £30 million, we see Bournemouth potentially folding with a debt of only £4 million. This cannot be right, and I think the Premier League should look to do much more to support the lower clubs who often provide the raw materials for them to make their profits. Instead, the men at the top, who tend not to be football people, look for ways to make more money and care little for the rest.
Tomorrow Bournemouth take on Luton Town, another club who are in administration. It was widely reported that Luton asked Liverpool to hand over their share of the gate receipts from their recent FA Cup tie, but Liverpool refused. Whilst I don’t know enough about that incident to draw any serious conclusions, it does support the argument that the top clubs care little for the rest.
Whilst the football world may not know, or care, about little Bournemouth, there are five or six thousand die hard Bournemouth fans whose world is falling apart today. While they see the club they love struggling to survive, they are reading about how much money the premier league clubs are going to make.
Surely with as much money as there is in the English game today, we should not be allowing any clubs to go into administration. Whilst it is estimated that each Premier League club will make £5 million pounds from this latest venture, clubs are going to the wall for less than that.
Graham Fisher writes at Views Of A Fan