Forward Thinking

For all the randomness in football, some things are relatively easy to predict. One of the big four was always going to win the Premier League last season, as will one of them next season. Plus it seemed obvious Setanta were wobbling atop a tightrope with no safety net towards the end of last season, and having the Premier League pelt them with rotten tomatoes has only sped up their death plunge rather than causing it.

In that respect, I was pleased to read the board had planned for the TV companies eventual splat into the sawdust of the circus floor, even if it meant planning for a loss. Back in April/May when the budget was drawn up, Setanta looked doomed, but there still seemed plenty of hope that a knight in shining armour might gallop in and catch their fall, thus safeguarding all TV contracts, be they EPL, SLP or BSP. And the clubs £85,000 would be safe.

Now the worst case scenario has happened, clubs will need to re-budget quickly. It was only last month that Lutons MD (or CEO, whatever he calls himself…) admitted to have spent their TV money already. Now I have no idea what sort of crowds Luton are expecting this term, but having taken 40,000 to Wembley last season I suspect they are quietly confident they will remain around 6-7,000. Setanta’s collapse won’t affect the Luton’s, Oxford’s or AFC Wimbledon’s of this division.

special one tvAs the statement reasures us (well, at least you should feel reasured…) the club have once again budgetted cautiously in other areas – getting knocked out of all competitions away in the first round and only averaging 3,000 for example. So unless we get the FA draws from hell we should do better than that. Plus we have effectively sold 2,250 tickets for every league game already next year, I think we can expect a good 500 paying punters through the gates more on average than the clubs original estimate.

If you are still worried please bear in mind – would you rather support a club that makes a small manageable loss or a club that makes a small profit only down to a fortunate cup run, or selling players?

Its the smaller clubs the Setanta collapse will affect the most. All those clubs who just cannot afford to lose £85,000 a year, or even worse, those who were pushing the boat out with their budget even if the extra £85 grand is included. We could be seeing an extremely polarised division next season. The big clubs will fight out at the top, whereas at the bottom anyone could go down, and a number of places will be decided by 10 point deductions.

With the budget decided we won’t have to worry about emergency cutbacks that could affect a lot of teams in our division this year. As a Dons fan I obviously feel sorry for the people who lost their jobs, but the whole Setanta debacle could well work in our favour come August and beyond.

Finally, I have noticed a few people commenting that they don’t think promotion from the Conference will do us any good in the long term, citing factors including the cost of turning full time, and upgrading the stadium. Well surely those are the sort of problems a football club wants?! Lets not fear success. Even if by some miracle we do gain promotion this year then surely we could compete with the deadwood floating around the bottom of League 2 until we found our feet?

Even though I think we will do well, I’m in no hurry to change my vote on the pre-season poll from ‘6th-9th’ to ‘playoffs’ – which actually I couldn’t do even if I wanted to (and if you haven’t voted yet why not??? Get voting now…). There are still only two places available for teams heading upwards, and there are some stronger, more experienced clubs than us in this division. At least we can be sure that off the pitch we have the security and stability required to return us to the promised land.

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