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Mr X

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a football club owner appearing to lose it, especially in an official publication. On the stroke of midnight just gone, the Peterborough owner Darragh McAnthony delivered this gem of a press release that, ahem, rambled a bit.

McAnthony, of course, was the infamous Mr X character who a couple of years ago was sniffing around the AFCW skirt looking for a bit of fun. Unsurprisingly, he was told to piss off as we all now know. However, this whole episode does highlight once again SW19’s favourite off-field topic of AFCW, namely the whole funding issue of the club.

You’ve heard all the buzz words, catch phrases, cliches etc by now – external investment, sugar daddy, fans club, control etc etc. However, I came across an interesting – and somewhat poignant – article a couple of days ago. Although it was written in 2006,  it was about the average wages across the divsions.

In fact, here it is. And as a bonus, there’s more here too, from 2009.

Digested that? Good.

Now, it may have escaped your notice but we have at least six players who were employed by a L2 outfit last season. As that last link shows as well, Luton are allegedly paying a player £1400 a week, and I seriously doubt if we’re paying much below the average for at least some players.

Let’s be conservative here, and assume Seb Brown, Monty, BJ, Nathan Elder, Glenn Poole and Danny Blanchett are getting £800 a week for 39 weeks (39 is standard at this level). If you get your calculator/fag packet out and do the sums, that’s £31200 per player per year – times by six and you get £187200. For six players this season alone. And one of them is permanently injured.

To put it in perspective, the DT has about 1500 members at £25 a lob. Which equals £37,500. Or one full time player. (UPDATE: One or two have pointed out that the DT’s money isn’t used for playing staff, and it’s used to pay off Barclays etc. It does highlight though how much we need to generate – or get in – and opens up another can of worms whether we take that money from the DT to pay for players etc if push comes to shove)

Now, I know we have other sources of revenue (ticket sales, merchandise, sales from Chris Hussey and the all-important cup runs). But when we go full time next season, we’ll have to find the fag-packet sum of £500,000 just for a squad of 16 alone.

OK, there are some variables here, like how much we’d really pay the younger players. But I’m going to stick with £500k. Which as you can well imagine, is one hell of a lot to find per season. We have decent sized crowds and are willing to spend our money too, and I’m holding my breath over how we pay that. Imagine being a Gateshead or Handy and having to find that dough?

The truth is, it’s a decision we have to make and those two clubs in particular probably don’t. These days, you need to pay L2 wages to be at the top end of the Conference, and there is absolutely no way that the vast majority of the fanbase would want us to remain a mid-table outfit. We couldn’t do that if we tried – I tend to ignore those who claim they’d be happy to remain in the Conference for a while as long as they continued with the club’s current economic model. Give them a sniff of L2 and they’d be up there quicker than a rat up a drainpipe, just like the rest of us sellouts.

With all this in mind, I’ve paid a little bit more attention to the upcoming DT elections this time round. You may have seen the election forum, and certainly for the first time I can remember one or two of the candidates may have finally grasped the funding issue.  Even though the DT’s problem of abstract terminology and nazel gazing is still all too evident. I’m not joking when I say I lost interest reading many of the responses given.

And as this missive I wrote some while back illustrates, the DT doesn’t seem to have as many lawyers, planners and – IMO very under-represented – people who know about the football industry as a Conference-that-wants-to-be-L2 outfit like ourselves wants or needs. Especially now, when the wages bill is about to skyrocket. To my mind, the sooner we get another David Barnard type figure the better.

But this comment from one of the candidates did jump out at me:

We have been and are very lucky with our major sponsors and benefactors, in that they ask for very little in return and don’t seek to influence the club in any major way. But what if they did? Would we be willing to risk losing a sponsor, or a large donation to the playing budget, in order not to be unduly influenced by the sponsor or donator?


The bottom line is, whether you have this token “one vote” or not, if I came to the club with £50k in my pocket, I know I stand a much better chance of getting taken out to dinner by AFCW. The most influencial person at the club in the near future will be the one who funds the player whose goal takes us up to League 2.

Think of Jon Main and how Mike Richardson put his hand in his pocket to buy him.

I’ve noticed a subtle shift in AFCW’s language anyway. Remember that Times article? While we were all frothing about Erik’s ill-judged “fundamentalist” comment, he did mention that selling up to a McAnthony would be a “last resort”. So in effect, we’ve gone from never, ever selling up to selling up only if we really, really had to. A very slight shift it may be, but it’s a shift none the less.

But then, time and the realities of running a football club do that. Who knows what our collective attitude will be in five years time? If we get the taste for signing the calibers of the Brett Johnsons across the whole pitch, as I think we will, his £31200 a year has to come from somewhere. As the old adage goes, how do you keep them on the farm when they’ve seen Paris?

I’m glad that people are thinking more and more about the economics at AFCW. As for Mr X himself, he was the wrong man at the wrong time for us. His brand of “fun” may not have gone down well at KM, but one wonders what happens if somebody else comes along with a greater degree of seriousness…