As big investment continues into the English Premier League with a reported £5.5bn TV deal soon to be agreed, the queries into Football League funding continue to grow. With countless examples of financial difficulties in the football league for clubs big and small, the question “where does this end” surely has to be addressed.
After seeing first hand the fantastic financial benefits of being a “small” in the championship, the incentive to reach that level is alive and well, but the reality of retaining that status is somewhat worrying due to the extra investment needed in a playing squad to survive.
Without more funds being evenly distributed down the leagues, especially League One and Two, there is a real danger of the league imploding; the gulf in funding from League One to the Championship is alarming. We’re not talking hundreds of thousands of pounds; the difference in up front cash is in its millions!
The payments in the Championship for clubs that don’t receive parachute payments currently stands at £2.3m a season, League One sides £325,000 and League Two sides £250,000. This is a large gulf in itself, without taking into account clubs receiving premier league parachute payments. If the Football League is to prosper and have a competitive future for all clubs, then radical changes must surely have to take place, and action must been taken very soon.
The real danger lies in smaller clubs having to live beyond their means to remain, or become more competitive in the Championship, as most football fans wouldn’t accept watching there club become a yo-yo team team gaining promotion only to be relegated the following season without any investments in the club.
So it would appear that the solution is simple: give lower leagues more cash! But in the real world without a proper structure and conditions added to higher payments, then money would just be wasted and find its way out of the game as fast as it entered.
Youth facilities and infrastructure is for me the only way to bridge this gulf in the future, providing facilities at all clubs for young talent to flourish along with clearly defined rules and contracts for young players, so they are not just poached by top clubs at very young ages. Thus, protecting lower leagues investments while also either creating future stars for there clubs or sale-able assets providing further funds for club progression.
Implementing a new scheme like this would not only benefit the Football League clubs and their young players, but would also have huge benefits towards the national standard of young players. With the ever increasing prize money in the English Premier League, clubs are looking for the instant hit, already able player rather than giving an outstanding young talent a chance, thus leaving lot of talented youngsters languishing in un-competitive reserve leagues gaining no real valuable experience.
This is where lower league facility investment would pay dividends, young players would still be using state of the art equipment and facilities but it would be at a club and environment where first team opportuntiies would very plentiful.
So what does the future hold for clubs outside the Premier League? Without further financial support and planning for the future, I’m afraid we will see more clubs going out of business and losing there stadiums and identities.
But with the right foundations and rigid simple plan, there can only be a bright future with real rewards for hard working, genuine clubs.
Written by John Bryan