Throughout every tier of English football, a ‘boom or bust’ approach to financial controls threatens the long-term future of many clubs. Recent weeks have seen the somewhat anti-climatic transfer deadline-day come and go, the window rather subdued in comparison to previous years – but as ever - extortionate amounts of money were paid by wary clubs in order to rescue their team from the threat of relegation, or to bolster their promotion hopes.
As ever, seemingly little thought was given to what the long-lasting effects will be of paying over the odds as players and agents wield all the power.
Queens Park Rangers, the current basement club in the Premier League are reported to be paying over £100,000 a-week to new signing Christopher Samba, with the player also costing the club record fee of over £12million. Samba and other big-money signings will need to hit the ground running if they are to repay the large fees.
This is all the more remarkable considering that QPR could be playing in the second-tier of English football next season. Combine this with QPR’s small ground and thus low attendances and it's clear to see why they may struggle to break even.
Clubs living beyond their means can at times, appear to be an accepted part of the game for many fans nowadays. Supporters will rarely question the stewardship of their clubs should everything be rosy on the pitch, who cares where the money’s coming from so long as you’re successful, right?
Fans of Rangers and Portsmouth weren’t heard to be complaining when their teams were acquiring high-profile players and lifting trophies, but now both clubs find themselves living with the consequences of their bought success. Portsmouth supporters continue to fight vigorously to wrestle control of the club from foreign owners and must continue wait anxiously as their next date in the high court to decide their future beckons.
Meanwhile, for Rangers, they find themselves plying their trade in Scotland’s fourth tier. The high times of just a few seasons ago must feel a distant memory for both sets of supporters.
Fan ownership is one solution to this problem. Clubs such as AFC Wimbledon operate under the ethos of being sustainable, financially sound and living within their means. Fan-owned clubs offer supporters a voice in their club, but may eventually hit a 'glass-ceiling', where, without outside investment they are unable to progress.
Clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City regularly make losses, but with Manchester City claiming the Premiership and Chelsea the Champions League, do either set of fans particularly care how the success came about? Both club’s owners have made it clear that money is no object.
And with one of the few profit-making clubs – Arsenal – having not won a trophy in fast approaching nine years, should fans of successful clubs be concerned about the club finances so long as they continue to lift trophies?
The financial situation in the non-league game is just as worrying. Many teams in the Blue Square Bet Premier (BSBP) are almost unrecognizable to the part-time clubs that used to populate the league. The vast majority are now professional and indeed former Football League clubs. In recent years, wealthy benefactors have played a key role in the success of teams in this league.
With just one automatic place up for grabs in the BSBP, the race to claim it is an ever-more competitive one. Winners in recent years have been clubs such as Crawley Town and Fleetwood, both being bankrolled by owners who despite modest attendances, were keen to spend big in order to claim the title.
And so one has to wonder, should the wealthy owners propping up these clubs get bored of their play-thing and withdraw, how will the clubs survive? A question that no doubt many supporters have pondered, but many dare not answer honestly.