These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FIT FOR NOTHING

Printed in the Southern League Division One Central game v Leighton Town Saturday 22nd March 2014 We won 4-1 in front of 248.

It seems the job advert for owning a club in England must read something like this.
'Like a bit of money laundering and tax evasion? Have the morals of an axe murderer?
Why not invest in an English football team.'

Last week Birmingham City's owner Carson Yeung was given six years in a Hong Kong slammer for money laundering - £2.8 million of which he used the buy shares in the Blues. The fact that Yeung had been convicted of two other fraud offences before he bought the club, counted for nothing when it came to the FA's fit and proper test. Birmingham City's board now consists of Yeung's long-time Hong Kong-based associate Peter Pannu, and Yeung family members including his 20-year-old student son, Ryan. The league said after the verdict that it is satisfied its rules are being complied with and that "Premier League football is one of the most regulated and transparent sectors of UK sport or business".
Meanwhile Leeds United fans wait with baited breath to see who their next owner is. Will it be Massimo Cellino, who is currently facing court in Italy over suspicion of embezzlement and already has an impressive tax fraud record.

Never mind, what is really getting some clubs hot under the collar is the fair play rules that have been introduced by UEFA. Some are threatening court action over rules which were introduced to address the huge losses sustained by many clubs. Cardiff City won the Championship last season losing £31million while doing so, while Hull City notched up loses of £26 million and came second.

Even Brighton, who have the most season ticket holders of any team outside the Premiership, are having to cut costs to comply with the rules.

The bottom line is players are getting paid too much and it is totally unsustainable. Surely no one needs more than £10k a week to live on?

A report from the High Pay Centre in 2012 revealed that footballers at the top have seen a wage increase of over 1500%. As players’ wages take up a bigger slice of club turnover - up from 48% in 1997 to 70% in 2010 - there is lower levels of investment in the essential infrastructure that could improve the national talent pool, namely coaches.

Of course, not all footballers are on such obscene wages and it does stick in the craw when I hear chairman, managers and players moan about too many games at the top level. Have a look at non league, where many clubs are having to play 3 games a week after the winter monsoon. Or the Slough Town captain Adam Foulser who is out for six months and as a self employed plumber losing wages to boot because of an injury during a game.

So perhaps we will see more clubs like Vauxhaull Motors taking the sensible but regrettable decision to resign from the Football Conference. Their chairman said “Like many other football clubs, we are confronted with the reality of low gates and ever-increasing costs. This now unsustainable position has been going on for several years despite efforts to balance the books and to do nothing would be foolhardy. As a responsible committee administering a club that was founded over fifty years ago and a club that we would wish to continue for another fifty, with responsibilities beyond the Football Conference, to some thirty teams, youth, junior and ladies catering for over 400 children within Ellesmere Port and beyond, it has become necessary to withdraw the senior side from the established pyramid.”

That's one honest chairman who would pass any decent 'fit and proper' test.

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