This is always the
mantra for fans of teams relegated as a result of administration. And it is
true as far as it goes; it was seemingly true for argyle back along. Sadly it is
a myth. It is self-delusion. The penalty is set so that it pretty much
guarantees relegation for anybody “unlucky” enough to go into admin so admin
leading to relegation is hardly a matter of chance more one of design.
And the finger of blame implicit
in the statement is pointing in entirely the wrong direction. Clubs, from the
boardroom all the way to the terraces, should man up and accept that the reasons
they went into admin were avoidable and that it was a potent cocktail of
bungling incompetence, Mikawberish hope, willful negligence and/or deliberate
strategy that was responsible and “luck” had nothing to do with it.
The exact methodology
involved will vary from case to case but essentially they all boil down to the
same thing: expenditure has grossly exceded income leading to a build-up of
debt which eventually can no longer be supported.
In Argyle’s case as a
CCC club we recruited players on contracts that we could ill-afford. That led
to a debt-level that in turn led to the sale of a host of important players who
were replaced by players of lower quality also on contracts we could ill afford
either in cash terms or duration. That relatively weakened squad was decimated
by injury, results nose-dived, confidence collapsed, the manager was changed,
he introduced more expensive players on contracts that proved to be
unsustainable, relegation followed, TV income dropped, crowds dropped, admin
followed, another relegation resulted.
The root cause of all of
this was over-stretching financially while being successful on the pitch – and who
doesn’t want their club to be successful on the pitch? Essentially it was the
story of Icarus flying so high that he got too close to the sun that his wax
melted and his feathers fell off recast as the fate of a football club for our
modern times. I’m by no means a classicist but even I know the story. It is
hardly a secret.
So the real problem was
getting into debt to start with even though that debt actually built the best
XI Argyle has had in decades. It was a problem that by virtue of some huge, for
us, transfer income we could have avoided but the same core mistake (players
earning wages that were too high on contracts that were guaranteed for too
long) were repeated and eventually the wheels came off and we’re right back to
admin, the points deduction and relegation again.
We might have avoided
the worst excesses of our meltdown had we paid lower salaries. But we didn’t. We
might have avoided the worst excesses of our meltdown had we stipulated shorter
contracts. But we didn’t. We might have avoided the worst excesses of our
meltdown had we exit clauses on the contracts. But we didn’t.
So through a mixture of
panic, misguided ambition, reckless spending, soft negotiation all coated with
either negligence or incompetence we recruited players we never should have
signed and probably would not have signed had the offers been shorter, cheaper
and less secure. And it was those players who won the points that “would have
been enough apart from the points deduction” and those players should never
have been donning our famous green shirts in the first place as those points
“Cheating” is a strong
word to use but what else is signing players knowing the wherewithal is not
there to support them? The fact that we went into admin and were relegated was
our own damned fault and not the fault of the Football League rulebook or some
sort of freak vendetta. We broke the rules. We cheated. We were punished. And
The fact that the
dominoes toppled one after the other that did not need to topple and that our
club was nearly extinguished forever as a result should never be forgotten and
nor should the lunacy that prevailed in our boardroom at the time. A repeat
must never be allowed and it is beholden to us as fans to place the blame
fairly and squarely where it lies and that is most certainly not with the
Football League for applying a sanction that everybody had known was coming for
months before it did.
Never again should we
afford our owners, whoever they are, the luxury of unquestioning, blind faith
in their decision making because failure to question, scrutinise, complain and,
if necessary, sound an alarm represents the same bungling incompetence, Mikawberish
hope, wilful negligence and/or deliberate strategy in the fanbase as it did all
those years ago in the boardroom.
Being vigilant about our
club’s management is our duty as supporters not a treasonable activity
perpetrated by Quislings.