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.