Thursday, September 4, 2008

As the big boys spend, the small clubs struggle

The death of football is not just an English thing. Different countries around the world are at different stages in the slide towards doom. But, even in the two-club dominated Scottish leagues, it's sad to see yet another club facing money problems.

Football fans in England tend to overlook the Scottish game - though any who say the Celtic v Rangers match on Sunday (Aug 31) may have changed their opinion - but there are still many, many clubs steeped in tradition, at the heart of their communities, who struggle to get by.

It could even be argued the smaller clubs who are in the most trouble - in this case Stranraer in the Scottish Second Division - are some of the only clubs in England and Scotland still in touch with the version of the game we used to love. The version when it was about what happened on the pitch, not in the press, and players had no other aim but to win. Yes, that game is still alive in Scotland - though perhaps not alive and well.

Yesterday, Stranraer vice-chairman Sean Niven told BBC Scotland: "We need to make difficult decisions and we need to reduce the living costs, so it's tough and painful. Mistakes have been made at the club, and we have overstretched our budget capabilities and on realising that and trying to pull things back a bit - although at a late stage - we hope it can avert any lasting damage. It's down to poor communication and poor decision-making."

His words show how serious the situation probably is - although he was keen to stress the club in not on the verge of folding, as the local press up there have apparently claimed. The sickest thing, though, with the amount of cash flowing around in England is the size of Stranraer's debt.

A staggering £250,000!

Yes, a club in Scotland, where football is still genuine and fans are still fans, is in serious trouble because they owe the (rough) equivalent of what new Manchester City signing Robinho earns in a couple of weeks. If that doesn't show what is so horribly wrong with the game, perhaps nothing will.

I'll return to Stranraer and Scottish football in general at a latter stage. But for now I'd suggest the future of the English game, with the way the money is going, can be glimpsed at by looking at the Scottish system. When football dies and is, in one way or another, resurrected in England, there may be a strong similarity.