Without wanting to jump on the ‘austerity’ band wagon, just how will 2011 pan out for football?
This is a question anyone involved in the business side of the game from the top pro clubs to grass roots has to address. Who would have thought 12 months ago that Man United would be advertising corporate packages and season tickets on national media? Who would have thought clubs like Chester, Ilkestone, Farsley Celtic and so on could go out of existence in their old identity? Who would have thought Carlo Tevez could throw his toys out of his pram even though he earns over £200k a week?
And who would have thought England’s so called ‘professional’ bid for the 2018 World Cup would unceremoniously get rejected by the rest of the World.
In a way, the failed World Cup bid has diverted media attention away from the stark reality that football is no more immune from the current economic climate than local government, the armed forces or the private sector in general.
Even those who don’t fear for their jobs are concerned and in that situation customers become cautious. It will be even harder to get football supporters or players to part with their cash. Fans and players want best value for money. Businesses want best return on investment.
There are only four clubs with waiting lists for season ticket holders, crowds are down across the Premier League and Football League and corporate business is at an all time low. The gravy train is slowly moving into a rusting, weed strewn siding.
Interestingly the FA (who are only too happy to use terms like England’s failure – not their own failure – to win the World Cup) are sending out messages that the impact of missing out on 2018 on the English game could be catastrophic. But already, the next best option – a UK Olympic team, has become another mess as the authorities seek to play an English side, when the Olympics has always and should always be UK driven.
On top of that the FA (probably expecting World Cup glory) has swerved the new Carling sponsored Home Nations tournament in Ireland which in its own right could have given the FA the best opportunity ever to give a big V sign to FIFA.
Commercially, the UK leads the world in football from the best league to the best grass roots. Per head of population, more people play football regularly in the UK than any other country in the World. That is what we need to concentrate on.
The economic prospects look gloomy, but football can prosper with due difference to the fans and players whose money makes it all go round. At the top level, empty stadiums suggest tickets are too dear, lack of sponsorship the same. At grass roots, we can’t see the number of players falling – and the revenue their spending power generates can sustain football through difficult times.
After all, over 2.5 million people play football every week in the UK – only 4,000 or so are professional players!