Thank you for your reading and interest in the news Financially-stable Rochdale feeling the pinch as coronavirus hits lower leagues hard and now with details
Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - “As much as we have a rainy-day account, it may be a rainy day for long time.” It had been a sunny season for David Bottomley, chief executive of League One Rochdale. Financially, much had gone right for a well-run club. Then the coronavirus crisis began. “I am 59 years old and I have never lived through anything like this in my life,” said Bottomley. “It is going to affect so many businesses financially.”
League One and League Two football clubs are particularly susceptible. Rochdale’s neighbours Bury were expelled from the Football League last year and are at risk of liquidation. Bottomley fears more “potentially” could go to the wall now.
“The Football League know other clubs are in financial trouble and this will only exacerbate the problem because they are not even able to rob Peter to pay Paul because Peter is not turning up to come through the door because football is suspended,” he said.
Football at League One level can be a hand-to-mouth existence. Rochdale’s average attendance is 3,632 but they have prospered because of their prudence. “We have been solvent for 113 years of our 113-year history,” Bottomley explained. “That is the badge of honour we wear in the Football League. We have never been very successful on the playing field and we have never won anything but it is almost incredible we are sustaining League One football on the crowds we do.”
Sustainability comes courtesy of selling the teenage prodigy Luke Matheson to Wolves in January, a Carabao Cup draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford that netted almost £500,000 (Dh2.2m) and a televised FA Cup tie with Newcastle, who they took to a replay.
“The only reason we have got any cushion at all,” Bottomley said. Yet football has shut down and Rochdale, who are taking the honourable approach of paying full-time staff in the club shop while it is closed, had had six home games remaining.
It leaves a £250,000-£300,000 shortfall in their accounts. “We wouldn’t have a way to fill that hole,” Bottomley added. “We won’t be attracting sponsorship at this moment because we have nothing to offer anyone if we are not playing.”
On Tuesday, they were scheduled to host relegation rivals Tranmere. They had sold 700 tickets to Rovers fans, and expected another 300 to turn up; that amounts to about £20,000. Peterborough were due at the Crown Oil Arena in April. With Posh chasing promotion, that could have meant 1,500 away fans. Dale’s matchday income goes beyond the cliche of a pie, a beverage and a programme. They have a match-ball sponsor, two executive match sponsors and an overall match sponsor for every home game.
It is why playing football without crowds is of little use to them. “If we played behind closed doors, we would have none of those things,” Bottomley said. “For a lot of clubs, that is the lifeblood. Every pound you make off the field is so incredibly important at our level of football.”
The Premier League, with its huge broadcast revenues, could operate without fans but Bottomley would rather restart the game later, but with supporters: “If you are only playing behind closed doors because of a mercenary money issue then that is totally the wrong thing to be doing. What we all love about football is the whole experience. Don’t take that away.”
It leaves him hoping the Football League can support its members. “We need some very strong leadership from the EFL,” Bottomley said. “We want to see what pressure the EFL are putting on the Premier League, which is a lot wealthier a body, and the government to ensure clubs and businesses survive from this crisis.”
Updated: March 17, 2020 02:29 PM
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