A look at the current financial climate in English football
What a difference a win can make both on and off the pitch. Bradford City’s dramatic penalty-shootout win against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals this month has effectively secured the club’s financial future.
State of the game
The club’s director of operations, Dave Baldwin, has stated that the two televised semi-final ties will bring the club an extra £1m in revenue and help stave-off the threat of administration.
The fact that clubs of this size are reliant upon successful cup runs and defying the odds against superior opposition, simply to guarantee their existence, shows you just how much of a state the English game is in at this moment in time.
Had Arsenal prevailed and advanced into the last four of the competition, nobody would have batted an eyelid about the financial significance of the match for Bradford.
Rather than dedicating pages of coverage to the demise of Arsene Wenger and his team, the column inches would have been minimised for what would have been perceived as nothing more than a predictable victory for a Premier League side.
Because Bradford did come out victorious, the importance of the televised two-legged semi-final has been well documented in the days since.
As referred to in my previous Clear Debt blog – television is having an ever-increasing influence on the financial condition of English football.
The value of television funding to football clubs cannot be underestimated and such are the sums paid by broadcasters for their slice of the Barclays Premier League, there’s no surprise that the Championship play-off final is widely regarded as ‘the richest game in football’.
The cost of broadcasting rights for the Football League pales into insignificance when compared to that for the top flight. A much smaller level of funding is distributed amongst nearly four times as many clubs. We’re talking the difference between millions of pounds and billions of pounds.
The promised land
The Premier League isn’t called the ‘promised land’ for nothing and for those clubs who aren’t a part of it, competing in the latter stages of the FA Cup or the Capital One Cup is the closest simulation from a financial perspective.
Bradford will feel like winners already but an appearance in the final of the Capital One Cup would have astronomical benefits for them. Dare I say they could even go on to claim the trophy? Words couldn’t describe what that would mean to the football club.
League One side Portsmouth currently find themselves in administration for a third time while League Two outfit Port Vale only recently exited the dreaded position in November.
These two clubs are the latest in a long line to suffer the fate since March 2002 when ITV Digital – the then owners of the broadcasting rights to the Football League – went bust.
Unfortunately, there is an inevitability that certain clubs will cease to exist given the current financial climate in English football. Over the past decade, there have been very few encouraging signs to suggest the situation will change. Who’s to say it will change in the future?