Is football getting dafter?

In a month where we see the salaries of Bolton players and staff being paid late, we learn of Darlington board members personally bankrolling their club, and of other fan owned clubs only surviving due to money spinning cup draws, we see the absolute obscenity of a man receiving a reported pay-off of £18m: a pay-off for failure; a pay off after wasting tens of millions on players he then chose to ignore.

The gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ is now so great that I find myself asking how long will it be before there are no more ‘have nots’?

Can ‘fan owned’ clubs survive? Can they be sustained without regular cup revenues? I spoke with some our old friends from Darlington this week and they were arguing that ‘fan owned clubs’ are simply no longer sustainable and they were also making the point that the days of the ‘local businessman benefactor’ were also to be consigned to history – simply because your ‘average local success’ cannot complete with the foreign wallets now taking over at the top of the pyramid. I have a slightly different view – put simply, there has to be a way for supporter owned clubs to survive; the alternative is simply unacceptable.

The point about ‘local businessman benefactors’ is interesting and leads one to the view that we, being fortunate to have such a gentleman involved with our club, should work in support of Raj and give him the credit which he deserves – having said that, we still have the right to question things and express doubts and fears.

And meanwhile, down at the bottom of the pyramid we see fans criticising each other rather than trying to work together for the common goal – the survival of their club. The abuse dished out to some of the Darlington (volunteer) directors has been astonishingly misplaced. Fans are complaining about cost cutting whilst some of their fellow supporters are lending money and providing guarantees to their club.

I’ve previously talked about the issue of expectation (such as that which plagues us in this post Hodcroft era) and the need to trim costs and I find myself returning again and again to the basic questions: is the Hartlepool United financial model sustainable and, if it is not, or Raj loses patience (which is entitled to do), then what? Can the Trust support the club? Will the folk of Hartlepool provide sufficient financial support for ‘the Town’s club’? Will we find ourselves in a similar situation to Locomotive Darlington?

Are the days when small football clubs could survive and potentially become successful, simply over?

Lower league clubs used to enjoy the occasional windfalls of transfer fees but the number of players being sold up the domestic pyramid appears to have all but dried up; so why should smaller clubs persist with ‘academies’? Are they nothing more than expensive ego trips?

How can smaller clubs survive without occasional but significant transfer fees and cup runs? Does Raj have the answer? Or is one of his staff sitting in the former Clock Garage, elf-like, working on this very question?

Dear Santa

We’ve been very good this year and so can you please send us the following for Christmas:

1. An offer of £1,000,000 from a Championship club for Josh Hawkes.

2. A supply of fresh pies and hot dog buns for all home games.

3. Enough blue and white paint to cover all four stands and our offices: me and Dickie Dosh will slap the stuff on in the style of Brian Clough.

4. An average of two points a game between now and the end of the season.

5. Wins at Wembley in both the FA Trophy and Play Off finals.

6. A selection of take away meals for the players on the bus to away games which won’t upset anyone.

We all promise to be good next year and we’ll be nice to those folk from Salford when they come to our gaff at the end of the season.

Love Mark

Cup runs? Well, Telford United is our next hurdle in the FA Trophy. We played Telford back in 1999, a pre-season friendly and a 3-2 win. This season Telford have been beaten 3-0 by Darlington in their league and Telford then beat Darlington 2-0 in the Trophy – a home game against Darlington in the Trophy would have generated a significant gate and so, again, we just miss out on substantial gate receipts.

But perhaps not! Pools have drawn Darlington in the Durham Challenge Cup –a mouth-watering tie to be played at Blackwell Meadows on 26 January! The first fixture between the two clubs since that 3-0 win in 2007………

It will be interesting to see what sort of team Richard Money selects – so long as he understands that defeat against Darlington is simply not an option.

And as we approach the festive season, gate receipts and merchandise sales are critical – but with the blanket football coverage on TV, how many folk will brave the elements to see Pools entertain Havant & Waterlooville? How many kids will ask Santa for the Pools 90/91 retro shirt (which are fantastic by the way!) rather than a Pogba Manure shirt? It is undeniable that the already disproportionate spend will get even more skewed and the ‘haves’ will get more and the ‘have nots’ will get less.

Our festive fixtures again see us play Gateshead at home and away with a trip to Chesterfield squeezed in the middle. Chesterfield are a club somewhat like ourselves – suffering a dramatic fall after some pretty decent years – and their fans forum makes for interesting, if somewhat alarming reading. Have a look – the threads of interest are pretty obvious – and, if nothing else, it’ll make you feel a tad prouder to be a Poolie – and you’ll see that we are not alone in the problems that we face.

Of course 2018 has seen Gateshead sold to a foreign benefactor and it is interesting to compare the progress being made by that cash strapped club and our own – despite our larger gates the Heed are again above us in the league. Hopefully we’ll see large attendances on 26 December at Gateshead (surely it can’t be as cold as it was last year) and New Year’s Day back at the Vic; both of our clubs need the revenue so let’s hope for decent results between now and then, and some decent weather….so we’ll see packed away ends and increased home support.

As an aside there is an interesting thread on the Sunderland forum at present: ‘Are all Gateshead fans bald?’ The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Is football getting dafter?  

Or is it the fans that are getting dafter? Following on from the infighting at certain fan owned clubs, we see shocking examples of racist abuse just about every week on our TV screens – has it returned or has it never been away? Whatever, the culprits are beyond stupid.

And this week we saw a World Cup winner delete tweets aimed at his former manager. Is it the players who are getting dafter?

What could Richard Money and Mark Maguire do with £18m? Even ten percent of that sum would create so many opportunities for Pools to get back into League Two – or even League One. And one bloke gets this for failing: it’s not daft, it is insane.

So, is football getting dafter? Or have we simply reached a point where there should be a complete disengagement between the elite few and the rest? Outside of the ball and the numbers on the pitch, how many similarities are there between Arsenal v Tottenham at The Emirates and Pools entertaining whoever at Fortress Vic?

A pretty depressing way to end the year? But we should end the year by reflecting on what might have been. To acknowledge and appreciate the work done by those responsible for ensuring that there will be a game at Fortress Vic on New Year’s Day. So, let’s be positive.

We still have a club.

We have a new manager – a manager with experience and a decent track record. We could get into the play offs………

We have a chairman who deserves our support: and we have a Supporters Trust which also deserves our appreciation and ongoing support.

So thanks and best wishes to Raj, the Trust and all you loyal and long suffering supporters!

Ho Ho Ho


Leave a Reply