A dark day for football
Posted on 11th March 2010
Wednesday March 10th 2010 was an awful day for English and Welsh football. Although Cardiff City and Southend United were both given stays of execution by the High Court over tax debts to HMRC Chester City and Farsley Celtic were not so fortunate.
Chester City’s 125 year existence came to an end as the High Court wound them up while Farsley Celtic, who had a narrow escape in July 2009, were disbanded by administrators with reported debts of £750,000. City played in the Blue Square Premier while Farsley Celtic were one step down in the Blue Square North.
The financial woes at Portsmouth may be dominating the headlines but we should never forget that no matter how big the club, it matters every bit as much to its supporters. Whether a club’s support can be counted in the tens of thousands, tens of hundreds, or simply the tens, is irrelevant if it’s YOUR club. But on a bleak day there are a few rays of light at both Chester City and Farsley Celtic.
Following City’s demise fans are pulling together to form a ‘phoenix’ club. “125 years of history have been extinguished but that’s just the body of the club – its soul lives on,” said David Evans of City Fans United. “Our model is AFC Wimbledon or AFC Telford. We want to atone for the way the club has been run.” Any Chester City fans wishing to get involved should visit the City Fans United website here.
There’s hope at Farsley Celtic too that fans can resurrect their club after administrator Robert Adamson confirmed the ground would still be open for use until a buyer is found for the land. It was Adamson’s decision to close down Celtic after he rejected the Palmer-Farrell consortium’s bid to rescue the club on the grounds it hadn’t been able to raise sufficient funds.
Phil Morris of farsleyceltic.net confirmed plans had begun to ensure that a Farsley Celtic team are able to play next season, with the Unibond First Division appearing a likely target. “I have been in touch with Supporters Direct this afternoon to discuss the way forward,” said Morris. “I think it is clear that there is sufficient interest and I shall be discussing with the Palmer-Farrell consortium how a Supporters Trust, properly constituted, could feature in any acquisition of land and reforming of the team.”
It goes without saying that both sets of fans have our best wishes and total respect. There have now been, at the last count, 54 ‘insolvency events’ since the formation of the Premier League in 1992 in the top four divisions alone. That’s not even counting clubs going bang in the non-league game either – in recent years we’ve lost the likes of Aldershot, Maidstone United, Scarborough and King’s Lynn.
This can’t go on – football clubs have to be forced to run themselves in line with their income. Balancing the books is an absolute must and it’s not good enough for clubs to witter on about rising revenue streams if they’re hemorrhaging money to parasitic agents and dodgy owners.
Look at Pompey this year. All their owners passed the Premier League’s “fit and proper person” test which just says to us that the test isn’t working. Balancing the books isn’t exactly the sexiest subject but it’s an absolute necessity if football’s going to survive in the form that we know and (sometimes) love.
Over in the USA if you want to buy an NFL team you have to show you’ve got the cash and that you’re the type of person they want involved in their sport. Oh, but that’s a different continent and sport, we hear you cry. Well how about Germany where the majority shareholding has to be owned by fans. Yes, you read that right; it’s the 50+1 rule. Half of a club, plus one share, must be in the hands of supporters.
We’re not saying these are easy rules to implement but such is the state of our game that the FA, Premier League, Football League, and Conference have to start banging some heads together and making this happen.
Doing nothing is no longer an option.
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