VIEW FROM THE BOARDROOM – Paul Armitage’s Notes (25/03/23)

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It is tighter than ever at the bottom of the Championship with eight games to go.

Six teams could feasibly be at risk of the drop into League One and the price of getting things right — or wrong — is huge. Rough estimates suggest that falling out of the second tier costs an immediate drop off of around £7million ($8.5million), and that is before taking into account spending on players fit for a promotion push in the league below.

Throw into the mix unpaid wages at Wigan Athletic, takeover uncertainty at Huddersfield Town and huge losses at Cardiff City, according to their latest set of accounts, and the backdrop to the fight for survival looks even more chaotic.

This is a quote from ‘The Athletic’ – it describes a situation endemic to football clubs at most levels, including our own level.

I use it for the instruction of all those who think there are simple solutions to a club’s fortunes.

In our own league we have heard of huge losses, problems paying wages on time, late lodging of accounts and we have seen currently unsuitable grounds requiring large investments in basic infrastructure, poor pitches and facilities and all this to a background of rising costs from bags of potatoes to utilities and a desire from all quarters for greater investment in players.

There are no easy solutions facing clubs and as we are clearly in a relegation struggle, the siren voices of critics float to the surface. Sack the owners, fire the managers, find better players.

At heart, every fan and every official or team member is doing their best here to swim against this financial tide, but what we need is a radical rethink of how to survive and prosper in these shark infested waters. It’s a league where York City, Stockport County and Altrincham have struggled to escape and one where full time clubs with big financial backers like South Shields, Macclesfield and Worksop are wanting to play. We are in a community where 20 thousand crowds couldn’t save the Bulls from losing Super League status.

At Horsfall we have a long lease, some useful ground improvements and the basics of a forward-looking business structure, based on local community, youth investment, giving  parents alternative pathways for their kids. It is a concept based on development and requiring local commitment to all the anchor users at Horsfall. We have a very few, hard-working individuals striving to create success.

For football generally there is a need for new ideas and new business models. What it isn’t is short term fixes and longer term debt and we must learn to live with some of the consequences that may bring.

At Boston last week we saw a club that had a ground to sell, a council that supported their relocation and support from the Football Stadium Investment Fund which has created an excellent facility (still short of one stand) and a club with no big competitor clubs nearby. Their pre and post match rooms were excellent and full; they attracted 1500 for the game and had numerous employees helping to create success. They had adjacent 3G pitches and large car parking areas. Having watched the game we were unlucky to lose and that was a widespread view around the locals too.