Cobblers – Business or Sport.
First published 616 days ago
As a Pompey fan who has seen my club plummet from winning the FA Cup to Division 2 (I still think of it as Division 4), through three periods of administration and only saved by the supporters taking over the club I have a great deal of sympathy for Cobblers supporters.
The sacking of Aidy Boothroyd and current position at the bottom of the League has only exacerbated the supporter’s fears that they may well be facing non-league Conference football next season.
The current situation has of course brought out supporters who have been very vocal in criticising the club and the Chairman and because football arouses a great deal of passion the critics have inadvertently and wrongly linked the football and development issues together.
The ‘on the field’ footballing issues are separate from the redevelopment of the stadium in that it is the responsibility of the board to appoint the manager and find the funding to pay the players and other staff wages.
It is something that when you look at the accounts which showed in 2012 a club with a net value of -£7.5 million raises concerns about whether the club is a viable ongoing business.
The real question is whether the Cobblers are in any more danger of going into administration or out of business than any of the other League Clubs?
Of course taking on a £12 million loan from the Northampton Borough Council is a risk not only to NTFC but also the tax payer if for any reason there is a default on paying it back.
It is a risk that wasn’t helped at the recent Council meeting when the Cabinet Finance Member wasn’t able to say how long the loan was for.
The suggestion by some who have taken the time to go onto the local newspaper website that the Chairman will leave the club once planning permission has been granted for the stadium and housing development that underpins the loan agreement is in my view way of target.
I’m sure, or at least hope that the Borough Council will as part of the loan agreement have inserted a clause that in effect requires those signing for the loan to have agreed to either remain until it is paid back.
It seems to me that considering the loan and housing developments are all part of providing for the stadium redevelopment and making the club financially sustainable it is a clause I would expect to see included.
There is no doubt following the disappointment in 2006 of the then commercial and retail development proposals being rejected by the Northampton Borough Council that the Chairman David Cardoza has continued to back the club.
Of course his critics argue that it is only through loans that the Chairman has supported the club and that if he walked away he would expect to get his money back.
I don’t see what the argument is?
While David Cardoza has been making substantial sums of his own funds available to the club he hasn’t been able to use it elsewhere, where in fact he could have used it to make money.
So of course he will want it repaid.
It has been suggested to me that supporters through setting up a trust might follow the Pompey FC model and bid to own the club if David Cardoza walks away.
There are two major factors to consider, the first is that Fratton Park is owned by the Supporters Trust whereas the Sixfields Stadium is not owned by the Football Club, and I believe in the event of liquidation would default to the Borough Council.
The second major issue is that Pompey has a hard-core fan base of between 12,000 and 15,000 who turn up to watch them week in week out in good times and more importantly bad times which provides a substantial level of income.
The future and importance of the Cobblers as a Football League Club in Northampton shouldn’t be underestimated by ‘fair weather supporters’ which as experience has shown me is something die-hard supporters never do.
It is of course important that the business side of sport is sound if the sport is going to continue to not only survive but also be successful.
The major question is what is the right balance between business and sporting success that is acceptable to both the club owners and supporters.
It is a balance that I don’t profess to know or understand, but is one that fans understandably believe and want to see balanced in favour of the team.
What Cobblers fans need to know is what is the commitment from the Borough Council, Owner and Players to their club.
What the owner and players need to know is what commitment there is from the fans at a time when the future looks bleak.
All I can say is that as a Pompey fan,
Your club picks you not the other way round so it is really a case of you may as well try to enjoy the drama of it all because what is the alternative?