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Cod Almighty | Diary

Triffic, Rodders, triffic

22 February 2017

Your original/regular Diary has noted some new talk in the last few days concerning that stadium they're talking about putting on Peaks Parkway. Fentydome II, are we calling it? There's some new report out from the council. Or the consultant. Or the development partner. Or the consultant's development partner. Or the development partner's development partner.

Have I read the report? Of course I haven't. I've skim-read about three pages and then given up, the same as everyone else. That's the whole idea with these things. If these people could write readable English, they'd be in a different job. And I rather suspect that it benefits the professionals involved in these projects if nobody does read the report. Write the thing in a way that makes sure ordinary people like you and me will never get through more than a handful of paragraphs, and that way they can get on and make their buck without tiresome interferences from the folk who'll actually have to inhabit and use the stadium for the next few decades.

One thing did stand out, though, and that was the funding gap. The various scenarios put forward all finish up with a shortfall of somewhere between 25 and 30 million pounds.

This got me thinking about the reason we are given, above all others, for the club 'having' to move in the first place. Town need a new stadium, we are told, so that the club can pay its way, rather than demand on subsidies from the boardroom. This claim is nonsense. Let me show you why.

This claim depends on several assumptions. Some of those are debatable. One of them is flawed beyond all doubt.

The debatable assumptions are the ones that the directors have made, and shared with us, about GTFC having more money as a result of the new stadium. That the North East Lincolnshire region has a uniquely vast unfulfilled demand for conferencing facilities and banqueting suites. That thousands of potential new supporters care much less about football, pride and local identity than clean toilets and easy car parking. That if both of the above are true, and Peaks Parkway generates a lot more money than Blundell Park, then the club will be able to keep that money, rather than using it to pay back the 25 to 30 million pounds it borrowed to build the thing in the first place.

I don't know whether the directors are right or wrong on those assumptions. I haven't seen anything yet to convince me that they're right – but that doesn't mean they're wrong. Perhaps they just haven't published their research yet. Perhaps they don't need to do research because they just know. They are, after all, successful men who can spend more on a new tie than my family can spend on a holiday. So let's assume for a moment that they're right on all that.

The other assumption being made, when they tell you Peaks Parkway will make GTFC financially sustainable, is that the club won't be spending much more money when it's based there than it does now at Blundell Park. For argument's sake we'll accept the assumption that new 'income streams' at the new ground will make up the shortfall that's currently covered by directors' loans. But nobody mentions the outgoings rising as well. The assumption is that real-terms expenditure remains steady. And this is profoundly and indisputably wrong in every way imaginable.

This is wrong because, regardless of how much money they have, professional football clubs always, always spend more.

If they have x, they spend x+1. If they have x+1, they spend x+2. It doesn't matter what x is. The competitive nature of the game means supporters have always had hopes and expectations – but in a consumer-culture age of instant gratification, these have become charged up with impatience and anger into an insatiable mindset of entitlement. The customer wants promotion. The customer wants it now. The customer is always right.

So if you're running a club and you're not spending unrealistic sums of moolah on chasing promotions or winning leagues, then before too long some dickheads will kick off on social media and the messageboards about how tight you are, you have no ambition, you're a disgrace, why don't you fuck off and sell up to that group of men who have promised to 'invest' 700 million yuan since the first time they heard of your club three weeks ago. If you're lucky you might avoid the death threats, but sooner or later some dickhead will start shouting abuse at your children outside the school gates and throwing dogshit through your letterbox.

So if you think getting a new stadium will make GTFC financially sustainable, think again. It won't. Even if all those debatable assumptions about bigger crowds and lucrative function rooms are right. Because even if the club's income doubles, its spending will double too. Fans will say, look, we've got this new stadium now, why aren't we in the Championship yet. And the directors will give the manager more money for better players. And sustainability is quietly pushed down the agenda, and the whole cycle of overspending and debt begins again. And eventually the debt becomes unsustainable, and the club needs another plan B.

And this time there won't be one.