But what about Financial Fair Play?

I didn’t see that coming, Forest Green actually turning up for a big game and winning it. There is a small part of me that can’t help smiling inside thinking how much those goals must have killed Tranmere. Just goes to prove, there’s no extra points for scoring nine.

Once I move on past the moment of smugness towards the Trannies, today’s result is pretty hard for a football fan to take. For all of the banter and abuse between here and the Wirral, at least it was between two proper football teams, funded on attendances and supported well within their community. Sadly when next season kicks off, Dale Vince will have made his hippy dream a reality, and the king of smug wankers will be a Football League manager again.

Firstly, we won the league so there is only part of me that cares about this. The other part of me couldn’t give a hoot. We’re Football League, our trophy was bigger than FGR’s because we finished on more points and above everyone else. We can claim an actual title, and what everyone else does should be irrelevant. Then the part that cares about the integrity of the game ‘has a word’ and sets me off on a blog like this.

I’ve made no secret of the fact I don’t like Forest Green. I loathe these poorly-supported teams that are being fast-tracked to a coveted Football League spot by a rich benefactor, and I especially hate it when that rich benefactor starts forcing his eco-friendly vegan ideals on our working class sport. No Vince, I don’t want to eat you falafel and I’d wager a week’s wages your own fans don’t either. It’s embarrassing for you that we took almost as many fans to Southport as you took to Wembley.

I don’t suppose those fans are too angry right now though, after all their expensively assembled (and the re-assembled) team has finally given them something to smile about. Not even 3,000 of them travelled to watch the proudest day in their clubs history, which is about half the amount that cheered on Halifax in the National League North final. Whatever is motivating Mr Vince, it isn’t the overwhelming local dedication to the club.

Like a dose of cough mixture I shall swallow it down and accept that Forest Green will be a league club next year. What concerns me is how they intend to fund their Football League fight, and what that cost is to the wider league. In my opinion there is no ‘business model’ at the club, and whilst they will spend to climb the league, that will push other teams down a place, teams that are perhaps operating properly. Teams such as Accrington Stanley, who do not have a rich benefactor and struggle on average crowds of 1,600. At least they won’t be the worst supported team in the league anymore.

Dale Vince wants to get FGR into League One, and he’s going to keep spending in order to do so. The club are already reported to be £5m in debt, and the EFL has financial fair play in place, so he won’t be able to, right? After all, the rules are there to stop a rich owner pumping money into a club, inflating their turnover and effectively propping up the whole business aren’t they? The rules are there so that when he gets bored, or he’s no longer with us, the club doesn’t immediately go to the wall, which in their case it absolutely would. Isn’t that why we have the financial fair play rules?

No. As it turns out that is not what they are in place to do. In truth having looked over the rules, I’m not sure what the point is of them at all. It’s now called SCMP (salary cost management protocol), and it is as effective as Steve McNulty in a Wembley play-off final.

It starts well enough. In League Two clubs are only allowed to spend 55% of their turnover on players wages, although there are no restrictions on how much can be spent on transfer fees. Therefore you can spend what you want on players, as long as you don’t pay them too much.

Only there is a way around that as well. Turnover, from a traditional accounting perspective, is defined as being from the following three revenue streams:

  • Commercial Income (such as sponsorship)
  • TV revenue (and any ‘merit payments’ based on league position)
  • Match Day income

That all seems fair enough, but in League One and League Two, turnover isn’t defined in the same way. The EFL turnover figure includes donations from the owners to the club, and even injections of equity. Effectively that means in League 1 and League 2, a wealthy owner can fund a club’s spending in a way that is not permitted in other divisions. Basically there’s no point in having the rules in the first place, not until you’re in the Championship.

Despite it appearing that there is some element of financial fair play in League Two, there isn’t. Dale Vince will be able to keep pumping money into his garish lime green labour of love and nobody can really do anything about it. Mark Cooper can continue to try to buy success without really earning it, and nobody can do a thing to stop it. FGR can keep taking 50 fans away, and when they get a really big game they might even get enough for two coaches, and yet they’ll perhaps be watching a team with one of the biggest budgets in League Two. To be entirely honest, it makes me sick.

I look at the National League North, and although I know it was financial mismanagement that caused these teams issues, I see sides such as Darlington and Stockport, or even further down Hereford. These are teams that average more than FGR ever will, and they’re being kept down by teams who spend well beyond their means courtesy of some rich man who needs to fill his time. Dover are no better, funded beyond their means and well beyond their fan’s desires. Money can’t buy you class and it can’t buy you fans, but it can buy you a Football League place.

I’ve penned these angry blogs before and been called jealous, clearly I’m not because we won the league and beat FGR twice. I’m angry, I’m angry that Forest Green Rovers, the side that used to play in black and white and were comfortable with their achievements have been hijacked by some rich wanker who wants to force his own ideals onto them. Falafel burgers? All wooden stadiums? Organic pitches? What is this, some sort of bad joke? If you’re so eco-friendly why the hell are you spending millions of pounds on a football team that barely anybody wants to watch? The former New Age travellers that I know (and I do know a couple) wouldn’t ever dream of funding something so fanciful. They would think that the money should be used for proper good causes, not vanity projects such as a village football club.

Unfortunately now they have got their foot in the Football League door it appears they will be around for a while. SCMP seems to mean absolutely nothing, and until Vince gets bored or massively over spends then they’ll keep trying to buy success instead of earning it the good old fashioned way, you know, like we did this season.

My ‘worry’ (and it isn’t really something that worries me) is when he does get bored, or when he isn’t around anymore. When that happens you can have all the lentils and beans you want, you can have all the self-knitted hemp clothing, butter bean juice and mud huts your heart desires, but if you don’t have enough fans wanting to pay money to watch your team, then you’re going to the wall. I won’t shed a tear, and I doubt very much Tranmere will either.



  1. I feel for Tranmere tbh. They pushed us all the way and we could have so easily have been in their situation. Can you imagine having to go through all that again in hope of finishing top. It’s such a hard league. I actually fancied Aldershot to win the play offs as they had a great second half of the season. So so pleased we did don’t have to endure the play off lottery. As always a great read

  2. All I cared for was LCFC winning the league and avoided the playoffs we all know how we’ve done in the past.Yes I too feel for the trannies, in a way, won 95pts and weren’t promoted any other league they would go up as champions. Dale Vince Rovers finish third and win it on a one off game, is lucky you could say but it happens every season in one league or another. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope next season ( financially) it would love to know there turnover on the “food” . How much more cash will he have to inject ?

  3. Hi Gaz, apologies for contacting you through your blog but I couldn’t find an email link. I’m after some advice on getting something signed by Danny and Nicky. My Dad turns 84 at the end of the month and I have picked up one of the prints from The Art of Football site. He still gets to as many games as he’s able and it would make his day to get this personalised print. My email is andyhelson@gmail.com (don’t mind showing this. We’re all friends here). I would be for ever grateful if you could help point me in the right direction. Cheers. Andy

  4. Hello mate, no problem messaging I’ll see if I can help. I’ve passed your details on to Alan Long, hopefully he’ll be in touch soon.

  5. Yes it is bloody awful – but it is great to have some pantomime villains in our league to play with. I will look forward to these games. Also think it is hilarious that when you go there the only vegan food they have Is vege burger or chips! Very healthy… and my favourite moment of the last few years happened right there. I will remember it forever. Thank you Swampy

  6. .. the only thing that got up my nose is that after the game Kaiyne Woolery is going on about that they had a chance to win the league but threw it away – what a complete to$$er – you didn’t throw it away – we won it and beat you both games in the process so get over yourself – looking forward to beating both times next season. Imps 4ever.

    • Great comment Ross. During the game, I thought about how Woolery reminded me of Nathan Arnold, with his control, change of pace and finishing. But in total contrast, Nathan is always modest and polite in his post-match interviews, which reflects the Cowley Brothers culture we are so privileged to have.

  7. Cheers Jeremy and you’re right about the way the Cowleys run the mighty Imps. Gary, I meant to add that your article is spot on and have to admit I was a bit gutted that Tranmere didn’t win as to be fair I always thought Micky Mellor seemed to be an honest bloke who doesn’t go around looking for excuses (unlike Cooperman, etc.) when they lose. But with all this money that F***** G**** have had thrown at them by Mr Veggie Burger the arrogance from him filters all the way down to their manager (I use that term very loosely) and now players. I really hope we do the double over them as well as Mansfield and of course our fishy mates next season – could you put the word in with DC next time you see him Gary. Imps 4ever.

  8. Being a veggie myself, I’d feel hypocritical bashing Vince for his eco-friendly ideas. However, any sympathy I would have for his ‘project’ totally vanishes when you look at unsustainability of it all. Changing a content non-league club into his plaything, pumping crazy amounts into a club to buy success and being an all round smug so-and-so at the same time. It’s a real shame for football. What’s the point in championing environmental sustainability but making a mockery of economic sustainability?

    • Absolutely. I mock the vegan angle not because I disagree (nor agree) with his principles, but I don’t believe anyone should force their beliefs on others, and certainly not through a club. He is a walking contradiction, a man I fear is becoming a victim of his self-created hype. For the record my cousin is a vegan, it does make eating out very difficult….

  9. Cooper also said this

    “When you’re on the outside, you think everybody [here] is earning 10 grand a week,” he continued. “When you get on the inside, you realise that is not strictly true.

    “We have to pay sometimes to attract players because of where we are, but we have a competitive budget. But that doesn’t guarantee you anything.

    “We try to play football the way we believe it should be played. Our fans know that we’ve got a little bit of an identity in how we play football. Lincoln are long ball. We’re a football team.”

    From what I saw of VGR, they scored from an error at Sincil Bank, on 9 mins, then began to time waste. Their centre half play acted and stayed down, when Angol equalised. They fouled and fouled Rhead. They play acted, performed snide tackles and showed absolutely no grit when things weren’t going their way.

    Their manager, who out Brented David Brent, blamed his players, our fans – for actually being there, and the pitch.

    If that is playing football, how football should be played, then I am Tommy Cooper.

    For someone that is on the left of politics and probably anti-capitalist, then his club – and the way he funds it, is a dystopian bastardisation of capitalism and all that is wrong with greed in sport.

    Lincoln has a modest income. All of the success we have achieved this year is down to relentless hard work,team unity, method, process, engagement with the community and a desire not to lose.

    That is the way that I believe football should be played, and not by buying it up, like a bunch of Wonka bars in the vain hope you will get a Golden Ticket.

    If we were to apply the Roald Dhal principle, then VGR would be Augustus Gloop and we would be Charlie Bucket.

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