In recent years we’ve seen the oligarchs and the sheiks gobbling up premier league clubs, and now even chic European outfits, as something to play with while their wives are buying up half of Harrods. Arguably, and ironically, it was Al Fayed who started this craze of high profile foreign ownership.
While non-league boardrooms may not be following suit in moving away from the local tongue, there has been a similar pursuit of success through reckless spending. Look at Crawley Town’s recent ascension to the Football League, Truro City are another example of one man’s ambition to capture glory at any cost in securing five promotions in six seasons; but both clubs have been in court courtesy of HMRC, and gone to the brink of extinction but for last minute settlements in full by their wealthy benefactors.
So, closer to my humble level of grassroots football, I am always astonished to learn of extravagant investments in local sides and the incentives to attract the mercenaries required to deliver the promotions and trophies.
I think back to when I first became aware of such goings on, ”So-and-so are offering petrol money”. And there’s never any question of a registration fee being required from the player, Heaven forbid. But then it becomes “there’s some money over at x – I can pick up £25” and soon it escalates; “£50 to sit on the bench and a win bonus even if I don’t get on!”. And for what? So the one man and his dog can enjoy a game of football? I can’t imagine his entry money will cover the wage bill for the home games, let alone the away games when the club don’t get a cut of the gate receipts.
Of course, the local businesspeople have earned their money and along with it the right to spend it how they wish but it makes life an awful lot harder for the rest of us who try to run a sustainable football club when the competition can afford to waive all fees, kit the conveyor belt of players out in new tracksuits (and there’s always a new face at training every week when there’s money to be had), and even have enough to pay these postmen, labourers, desk-jockeys to play a sport that they love.
And no matter what you say, money changes people. Even just £25 a week for turning out for a side a step or two up the football ladder. So when they fall from grace, they expect everything on a plate. And a fat little brown envelope sitting on said plate. That’s one of the toughest jobs at this level, getting cash out of the people that are actually getting the enjoyment out of the cause you’ve devoted yourself to.
Despite all that, introduce me to a sugar daddy any day!