I’ve not touched the Anthony Stokes story on purpose. It’s one of those stories you could be writing for a week, if you started. Anthony enjoyed a successful period for Celtic but the writing has been on the wall since the latter part of Neil Lennon’s era.
He’s still only 27, with around half his career ahead of him, but it won’t be at Celtic. I hope he gets a club who can make the most of his talent.
Despite the riches brought by a new TV deal solidarity contract, many English Football League clubs are still under severe financial pressure, including Neil’s current charges, Bolton Wanderers. Bolton owe the vast majority of their circa £200m debt to owner Eddie Davies, so there’s a good chance that will be written off, but administration remains likely.
Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside, who I hear is now seriously ill, saw this coming years ago, when he proposed an EPL 2-type league reorganisation, while lobbying for the inclusion of Celtic and Rangers. The plan was kyboshed by his then fellow Premier League acquaintances. It would have been transformational for Celtic, and literally a life saver for Rangers.
That Bolton debt figure is pretty eye-watering but the returns from non-league club Forest Green Rovers caught the eye. Net debts reached £5.4m after season 2013-14, thanks to a £2.9m loss. In non-league football. There’s only one Scottish club with that kind of debt. Although I suppose they are also playing off-piste in the Championship. Pay your way or go to the wall. Long term that rule applies.
The football industry in England and Wales will survive for a while yet, despite the broken financial model. It won’t be until the TV rights value drops due to reliable and easy to access pirate feeds that the bubble will burst. And it will burst. The underlying fragility in the football business is that your expenditure is either fixed or often contracted on a multi-year basis, while income is vulnerable to sharp shocks. It’s not a healthy business to be running at a deficit in.