What happens when the Power goes out?
Richard Selbourne considers the calls from some sections of the County Ground for Lee Power to sell up his interest in STFC…
I’d like to think I’m a reasonably intelligent bloke (although my wife would suggest my longstanding Swindon Town season ticket proves otherwise), but I have little experience of business and none of running a football club. With our club appearing to be unable to compete with others in our division this season on or off the field I, like many, have questions to ask.
I don’t imagine anyone at the club will be prepared to give me the answers I seek, so I wonder if there are any enlightened fans out there able to give me a better understanding of the current situation?
If Lee Power leaves, what then? Having witnessed two bouts of administration at the club, I have very little appetite to join the ‘Power out’ right now. If he did leave today then the future, if indeed we had one, would seem to be uncertain at best. Am I missing something here? While royalty and consortiums from across the globe are queueing up to purchase clubs in the Premier League, I can’t imagine the likes of Roman happily swapping SW6 for SN1. Surely if Power goes then we’re back where we were after Andrew Black departed, desperately looking for any Tom, Dick or Jed to throw us a lifebelt?
Why would anyone buy an average First Division football club? The way I see it, there are only three possible reasons why someone would take over the ownership of Swindon Town: firstly, someone like Elton John at Watford, who has shedloads of money and an affinity for our club. Secondly, and I’m thinking of a company like Honda here, a benevolent organisation or individual who sees this kind of investment as a worthwhile loss-leader – a form of positive publicity or a way to connect with the local community. Thirdly, despite the fact that lower league football is more associated with mounting debts than soaring profits, someone who sees our club as a money-making opportunity. It seems to me that in recent years, we’ve only ever had owners who fall into the final category. With no real sense of long-lasting loyalty to the club this scenario is not ideal or even desirable, but surely it’s better than administration?
Are Power’s current interests broadly in line with those of the fans? All fans want is success on the field. Is there any reason why Power would not want the same? I’ve heard it argued, because of the higher wages in the championship that this Chairman, and previous ones before him, have no interest in promotion. I don’t get this. Surely anyone who’s in it for the money would stand a better chance of making more if we were just one step away from the Premier League with its millions on tap?
Is Power’s self-professed ‘businessman’ approach a good or bad thing? Lee Power has made no secret of his intentions as the owner of our football club. As a businessman, he sees it as a way of making money for himself. I personally have no problem with this, providing the club benefits in the process. If we want our club to be self-sustainable, and that’s something I certainly want, then the only way we will be able to thrive and compete at the top end of the league is if we have a money-making businessman at the helm. Surely, we’re better off with someone who can turn a profit, providing a fair percentage of that profit goes back into the club. If, and I appreciate I might be living in cloud cuckoo land here, Mr Power declared specified percentages of running profits (assuming there are any) to be split between himself and reinvestment in the club, then I could support that. The trouble is there is no transparency with anything that’s going on. This kind of solution would need careful monitoring – I think back to former regimes when imaginary helicopter flights to and from the ground were claimed as business expenses, reducing the profit on the balance sheet. Would a suitably qualified Trust member on the board be a way to stop this kind of mullarkey going on, if indeed it is?
Will we ever know what is really going on with the club’s finances? Excuse my naivety, but I am unaware how much information concerning the club’s financial affairs eventually becomes available to the general public. And, even if we do all have access to year-end figures, how easy it is to read between the lines to know exactly what’s going on? Or would it just be a meaningless smokescreen of undisclosed transfer fees and imaginary helicopter rides?
Until I know the answers to these questions, I find it hard to know whether to back Lee Power as enthusiastically as I do the team or to lobby alongside those who want him out. Answers on a post card, please.