Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I used to be of the opinion that it would be awful to see any football club die. Nobody should wish that upon another fan, even if it's your arch rivals.

That was then. Now, I'm starting to think that maybe we should just let some of these Clubs go to the wall, if only to serve as a warning and a lesson to others (not that it would be heeded of course).

This season has seen a lot of Clubs in turmoil.

In Scotland, Livingston unfortunately hung on by their fingertips, and two divisions of demotion, to seemingly come through the other side relatively unscathed and now sit atop the Scottish Third Division.

It really isn't fair that they get a great escape once again whereas other UK Clubs may not be finding themselves as fortunate. This week really is D-day for three of them in particular.

I've a real soft spot for Accrington Stanley and it was great to see the name back in the Football League again. It was also great to see how fans of many local (and bigger) sides have rallied to try and save them and help them pay off their huge £308,000 tax bill. I would hate to see that Club die for a second time, as I'm sure anyone who saw last year's documentary on them ("Accrington Stanley, Exactly") would also feel.

It's really crunch time for them now though. Only £96,000 was paid by last Wednesday's deadline, despite the huge fundraising efforts put in place (which included Friday night games to bring in the maximum crowds possible). They were given a one week extension to pay the balance or face being wound up. As this Wednesday's deadline rapidly approached, there were a few worrying comments coming out from those connected with the Club but they settled the bill in full today and can hopefully now move on from the last 8 weeks of turmoil.

Ironically all of this comes at a time when Stanley have strung together a good set of results to see them challenging the playoff positions in League 2.

Wednesday is also the important day for Southend United as they face an administration hearing due to an unpaid tax bill. The Shrimpers have been saved from administration twice before, and have just fought off a winding up order, but currently owe HMRC a debt thought to be around a staggering £660,000.

Administration would see a 10 point deduction and a drop from being 4 points off the playoff spots to four points from safety and languishing in the relegation zone. A further relegation, following their drop from the Championship in 2007, would probably sound the death knell for the struggling Club.

Thursday is the crunch day for Stirling Albion. Currently sitting top of the Scottish Second Division, and with some pretty good wages being paid for that level to get that success, they face a winding up order over yet another tax bill. This time it's only for £48,000 but the saga and begging bowls have been going on for some time now and follows a similar petition from HMRC for £41,000 in May. The Inland Revenue have rightly reached the end of their tether and are no longer prepared to wait for this payment to be made. There is also money owed to the Council for stadium rent, ala Livingston, which takes the amount owing to something like £115,000.

The Binos Supporters Trust are wanting to buy the Club but the agreement for raising the money was that this was what it could only be used for, not paying off a previous regimes unpaid bills.

With the way that Livingston messed the SFL about, they're not likely to be overly lenient or tolerant of another club in a similar mess.

Taking my sentimentality for Clubs like Accrington out of this, you have to question how the Club's have allowed themselves to get in these messes in the first place. It's not as if having to pay taxes should come as a surprise to them. How the hell can you run up an unpaid tax bill of nearly three quarters of a million pounds anyway?

Should they even get our sympathy, our help and more importanly our money to get them out of the hole they've dug themselves in to? How fed up are you with reading and hearing about another "Save the ..." campaign?

If your average punter in the street wasn't to pay his taxes he'd soon find himself facing fines and/or jail. If he didn't pay his rent or mortgage, he'd soon find himself out on his ear. Why should football clubs be allowed to be any different?

It maybe is about time to let some of these clubs die to show others that mismanagement will not be tolerated. If Clubs can't live and operate within their means then why should those that can have to pay the price sometimes to bail them out?

The ones that do live within their budgets often do so at the sacrifice of on field success. If Clubs can't bring in enough money to be a going concern, should they really continue to be one?

East Fife nearly went out of the business a couple of times in the late 50's and early 60's. They fought back and never achieved the heady successes of their earlier sides as a result, but they also didn't have to go out asking all and sundry to put money into their begging bowls.

It doesn't seem that Clubs learn any lessons from other mistakes. Maybe the only way will be to let some die and better run Clubs from the non league set up take their place. Yes, it would be sad. Yes, it would be a shame for the fans. But it may just be what football is needing to give it the kick up the ass it deserves.

Let's just hope that a club like Accrington Stanley won't be the first to pay this price.


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