Footy FDs as sick as parrots

I’M A Man Utd fan, so it’s fair to say my week didn’t get off to a great start. But that said it could be worse. If I were a Plymouth Argyle fan I’d be facing the very real prospect of losing my club.

There are plenty of people out there who couldn’t care less, they’re probably sick to death of hearing about football, but for many others it is a very important part of their lives. In the words of Bill Shankly: “Someone said ‘football is more important than life and death to you’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.”

I’m also an accountant (obviously otherwise I wouldn’t be writing here), so when the two collide I find it fascinating. Obviously it’s too big a subject to tackle in a single blog, Accountancy Age has a whole section dedicated to it, but I thought I’d share a couple of musings. After all football club finances have been increasingly under the spotlight in recent times, with a seemingly increasing number of clubs falling on hard times and going into administration.

Often it’s HMRC who push for the order, tired of not being paid their dues. But I don’t see them as the ‘bad guys’, after all they just want what’s due to them, and in many cases they’ve shown considerable patience in the past.

One group of people I really feel sorry for (apart from the fans obviously) are the FDs and FCs of the clubs. Think about it; these people can be in an impossible position. A team that’s relegated (which is often either the trigger for administration, or triggered by the administration) faces the prospect of its revenue disappearing practically overnight (TV money, diminished gate receipts, less merchandising etc. – it all takes a hit).

How on earth are they expected to budget for that?

They’ve got pressure from all around to pay a wage bill that can be c80% or more of their total income in the year, and find a couple of million to pay bonuses to people just to turn up to work?

Not a position I envy (although I’d be up for the challenge if Man Utd are hiring). As an accountant ‘prudence’ should be my middle name, but as a fan I dream of Sir Alex going on a £100m spending spree in the summer; pity the FD who has to reconcile these polar opposites.

The other thing that I really can’t understand is the system of deducting points from a team in administration. OK, so initially it was supposed to be a deterrent (it’s not working, guys), but in actual fact all it seems to be is a metaphorical kick in an uncomfortable place when they’re already down. Often it dooms the club to a lower league and even greater financial difficulties, not to mention scaring off potential rescuers.

This rule really needs to go because, as much as it’s a cliché, the people who really suffer when a club goes under for good are the fans (and the poor support staff who all lose their jobs and never get a mention), and it’s ultimately self defeating.

As I said, it’s much too great a topic to cover in one little blog, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to explore some ideas in future blogs (once the ‘busy’ season turns into the ‘not quite as busy’ season that is – the auditors out there will understand me).

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