A DARK PLACE

Twenty-six days in to the January transfer window and to be honest, you would be excused for not even knowing it had opened. Whilst there have been some good buys in the lower leagues, for supporters of Premiership teams this January window has been, well, awful. In the past, the opportunity to transfer and loan in players midway through the season has been jumped upon; this year, clubs just don’t seem interested.

So why the lack of activity this January?

Football clubs not needing additional players – I think we can safely rule this one out. Hull look like they are running around with only eight men when Jimmy Bullard isn’t fit. Bolton’s Gary Cahill – a centre back – is pretty much their leading goalscorer such is the lack of talent up front. Blackburn too look most dangerous when Cherno Samba and Ryan Nelson go up for corners and free-kicks. West Ham need a second striker so badly Gianfranco Zola must be seriously considering polishing up his boots and registering himself as a player again. Wolves’ boss Mick McCarthy is rotating his team every week to such an extent that it leads to the basic inference that he thinks all of his players are **** and Portsmouth don’t even look like they could compete with Charlton, Norwich and Leeds at the top of League One. In my book  every single team in the bottom half of the Premiership could do with reinforcements in January.

There are no players worth signing – Nah. Rubbish. I heard a pundit last Saturday say that he thought the average standard of player in the Championship and League One had gone down in recent years which meant there were no ‘decent’ players for Premiership clubs to buy. Pundits don’t always get it right and this is one such example. Pundits also talk out of their backside sometimes – this is an example of this too. I am not even employed within the football industry and I could give you a list of footballers from the Championship and League One, who would bring enery and much-needed creativity to any of the Premiership’s bottom-half clubs.

Money problems. I am going to blog about the financial state of football clubs soon so I do not want to go in to too much detail now. All I can say is this. If you were the boss of a Formula One team and your car was quick but just not quick enough, you would invest in R&D and build a better car. If you were in the cloth industry and a rival opened up across the way with bigger, better, more efficient machinery and you lost half of your revenue to this new firm, you would have to invest in new technology if you wanted to stay competitive. If you could not afford to buy the new machinery, you would have to go the bank and arrange some form of loan. The prize for staying in the Premiership is HUGE. There is only one reason why a football club would not invest further in order to guarantee their top-flight status; the reason surely, is that – much to the bitter disappointment of football fans throughout the country – from a business perspective football clubs we revere are not being managed correctly and have absolutely no liquid funds. Certain clubs, some of whom are actually in the Premiership this season, are in dire financial straits. Many are on their last legs. If  a club carries on year after year making loss after loss, it cannot survive. Either it reviews its entire business model and changes accordingly, or, it carries on as it is and its fans sit and hopelessly watch as their football club folds up slowly and ever-so sorely.

The main stakeholder for any football club is its fans.

Just as we expect our banks to be run efficiently, we expect our football clubs to be too. Businesses can never be completely transparent to onlookers, but now is the time to sit up and ask the FA to investigate the financial state of our football clubs. Football clubs need financial clarity and need it fast.

When the January transfer window was first thought up, its creators believed it would be an exciting month, with money changing hands here, there and everywhere. Because clubs would only have one month to adjust their team it was thought that clubs would splash out big to get what they wanted. In theory this should happen but so many of our country’s footballing establishments are in such a financially dark place, it is probably a good thing they are not spending any money on transfers because for a combination of reasons, for most clubs it is not their money to spend, it is their creditors’.

You would not put your life savings into something which would give you no return on your investment.

How long can we continue to watch as many of our football clubs die a death and yet continue week after week to invest our time and most importantly, our money into them? If we don’t think about this question soon, our thoughts will be rendered useless. Certain football clubs will have been driven in to the ground and any decision we could have made together as stakeholders, will have been taken out of our hands forever.

By Ross A. Fox

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