In recent years the amount of money involved within football has been escalating wildly. It is exciting seeing the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea spending big to bring in the world renowned, exotic players that we all appreciate and admire on Match of the day regardless of the team we support. It brings that added interest to the Premiership which so many feel is the best league in the world. On the flip side though, all of this money flooding into the Premiership is not reflected further down the league, where teams struggle to maintain their existence.
Manchester City’s opposite in English football at this present moment would be Plymouth Argyle. Sitting on a single point at the foot of the football league they are plagued by debt and are a stark example of what happens when the bubble pops. What is happening to Plymouth Argyle should be considered as a warning, unfortunately, of what is to come. The Plymouth players have not been paid in full since last December, and a potential strike against Burton Albion was only averted at the last when a partial pay agreement was agreed.
It is harsh on the players. Plymouth Argyle players don’t live the stereotypical ‘football lifestyle’ that their Premier league luminaries do. In a BBC interview, the club veteran Carl Fletcher summed the state of affairs up simply, ‘its getting to the point where people are having to move out and sell their houses’. At the moment there is a degree of optimism. Bishop International, a Gibraltar based property firm hopes to buy Home Park and the surrounding areas for a fee reported to be around the £6 million mark. Acting Chairman Peter Ridsdale would then purchase the club for a nominal fee.
Sounding promising, but the timescale of events surrounding the club leave much to be desired. It was on the 5th July that the deal with Bishop International was announced, followed a month later by the confident words from Argyle’s administrators that a deal ‘would be done next week’. It was not. After a court case against Bishop International in an attempt to secure the capital for player and staff wages, the players finally felt enough was enough and agreed on the 1st September to make the strike threat. The financial insecurities which have persisted have been a poor preparation for the start of the season; Argyle have been disjointed and thus far recorded only a solitary point.
Strike action was averted, meaning there was a full compliment of senior players on the field in the 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion. Players were paid forty percent of their September wages, yet although met with initial relief, this was quickly followed by annoyance. The players questioned why it took such a threat on their part for money to be stumped up only a day later? This mis-management suggests that some funds were in place, and the desperation felt by many of the players and families was actually unwarranted. Still the club is being hauled through this period on the tarnished promises by administrators and prospective owners alike.
The manager, Peter Reid, has supported the players in their wishes, which can only be helpful and aid the relationship between the club and the boardroom. For now on pitch matters it would seem have been put on the back seat as the club attempts to come through this period of turmoil intact. For how long can this go on though? The fans must be truly sick not only of their precarious finances and potential existence in general, but also the clubs precarious league position. The football should be a welcome distraction for players and fans alike, yet it is not and only compounds problems.
For all teams in English football this affair should be a warning. Albeit on a small scale, the Plymouth Argyle example shows the fragility that football clubs have, and the high reliance of big businesses and their money on the clubs and the little control, or indeed just basic information that fans have regarding the future of their own clubs. A club like Plymouth Argyle have much smaller overheads, and the monies involved here are a mere drop in the ocean compared to the finances of the Premiership. The recent high profile example of Portsmouth example underlines this little control and transparency that players and fans have under such circumstances of administration. It is surely just a matter of time until another high profile case of this ilk is upon us.
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