I have heard a lot of nonsense as to why Bury are this morning expelled from the Football League and Bolton Wanderers are two weeks away from a similar fate. There are not ‘too many teams’, in fact, attendances across all levels of the game in England are at historical highs and compare favourably to those in mainland Europe. More choice has led to more attendees.
Inadequate ‘fit and proper tests’ are not to blame either. None of those responsible for the plight of these two clubs had red flags in their backgrounds. The suggestion that supporter representation on the board would have inhibited clubs spending their way into trouble is perhaps the most laughable suggestion. Can you imagine a fans’ rep. at a board meeting saying, “Hang on, we can’t sign him, that’s going to push our wage levels to unsustainable levels”?
Football clubs are remarkably durable. Most of the senior club formed in the 19th century are still in business. The failure rate is incredibly low comparable to any industry.
The grass roots game, which Bury is a part of, is healthier in England than in anywhere in the world. Bury over-spent, securitised their stadium and had multi-year commitments they could no longer service. They failed because they are the worst crop in the field.
Bolton were a fixture in the Premier League when the late Phil Gartside was in charge, but the loss of revenue from that source following relegation is like nothing else in world sport. I’m amazed we see so few failures of this nature, but by any reasonable expectation, failures like Bury and Bolton should be more common than they are.
There are those in the game who think ‘the model’ of English football is broken. I have been reading the tea leaves of English football finances for decades. The model looked broken before Financial Fair Play brought a correction to the market, but we will need to see a lot more Bolton and Burys fall down before that theory stands up.