Date:Saturday March 20 2010
Sheffield United Chairman Kevin McCabe spoke up of Sheffield United's debt, as well as the bigger issues surrounding the current financial situation in football.
In a seminar arranged by the Sheffield University, which was hosted in the Millenium Suite at Bramall Lane, some true heavyweights of British football were given the chance to air their views surrounding a whole host of topics.
Kevin McCabe, Lee Strafford, Howard Wilkinson and Richard Caborn MP, were joined by James Hope-Gill of the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA, Sheffield United's official biographer Dr Gary Armstrong and the co-founder of the Football Supporters Association Dr Rogan Taylor were all in attendance with BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton chairing.
The message coming from the majority, and echoed (often) by Richard Caborn was that 'football must govern football.'
Caborn stated that the FA should be given enough responsibility with no need for interference by the government.
The matter of foreign links was debated early on, with Dr Taylor discussing Manchester United's supposed 55million Chinese fans, and Kevin McCabe claiming that foreign links are a means that should be exploited not merely for financial gain but also to encourage player movement, and growth.
Other topics such as Grassroots funding were raised, as was the most recent £2.6billion television deal, but it was the issue surrounding debt that sparked the most intense debate.
With more teams across the country piling into debt, and the media being saturated with stories surrounding Portsmouth, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, more teams are running the risk of ceasing to exist due to bad management.
Dr Taylor claimed that the Bundesliga provides the ideal role-model, with no individual party being able to own more than 49% of a club, thus preventing the situation that Pompey find themselves in currently.
Also, a refined 'fit and proper persons act,' which would incorporate questions such as: 'What are your plans for, 6 months, 5 years, etc...' and, 'Can we see some accounts that prove you can achieve this?'
Blades Chairman McCabe agreed with this, and when the subject matter of ownership and debt was brought up, used the Blades as a fine example of how debt can be managed.
'At times like this, with the recession, it's hard for any business. The money's not there to borrow from the bank, so you have to find other ways.'
'There's a debt which is manageable. I like to call it 'ring-fenced' debt, as it concerns attributing the debt to assets, therefore making it serviceable.'
'It's sensible debt, rather than what we're seeing elsewhere, which is people spending with borrowed money, causing all sorts of problems.'
Former Sheffield Wednesday boss Howard Wilkinson spoke at length about 'panic spending' and spoke of how he understood the issues that face McCabe.
'The average managerial reign is down from three years, to one and a half, so the managers are always looking to turn things around in the most drastic way possible.
Kevin will know what I mean when I say every manager always needs just two more players, and then the responsibility always comes back to him, when the fans will be happy with nothing until promotion is achieved.'
When asked at the end if the panel could change one thing, what would it be, Lee Strafford provided the most intriguing answer.
'I reject that question. Unfortunately, it's the way football's gone. We are just going to have to deal with the agents, the overpaid players, and everything that comes with it.'
Earlier in the evening, the 'boy from the Cross (as he described himself)' had spoken out about how football clubs should not be able to get into debt, and should be the commodity, rather than relying on them.
In all it was a good night enjoyed by all, and as for the meal that followed, the decision to serve a whole salmon merely as a starter caused the most interesting debate all evening.
Date:Saturday March 20 2010
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