Is a 10-point deduction a strong enough deterrent?

Portsmouth are set to come out of administration and incur the usual penalty. They've had it bad, but Aaron Cox wonders if some clubs are getting off lightly…

The Football League: The home of real football, a sanctuary of equality away from the money-spinning world of the Premier League; a level playing field.

I would beg to differ.

In a world where the aim is always promotion, the need and greed of smaller clubs has seen the word ‘administration’ bandied about as if it is a mere bump in the road, a blot on the copy-book. It turns out it pays to bend the rules.

As a Rochdale fan I have felt the immediate impact of spending above your means, just not from my own club. Despite Dale achieving little during my lifetime, in 2010 they recorded a first promotion in 36 years.

This was done within the financial capabilities of the football club, with young players and affordable footballers brought in to the side and developed. In fact the previous summer, when faced with a tax bill that would have placed the club in financial difficulties, the board opted to sell a certain Adam Le Fondre to Rotherham for a mere £150,000. Then they paid the bill.

Le Fondre in his Dale days

In May 2010 the two other sides automatically promoted to League One were Bournemouth and Notts County, neither of them strangers to financial problems.

The Magpies certainly ruffled the feathers of Dale manager Keith Hill. Their suspect takeover by Munto Finance allowed them to bring in players well beyond their means including the likes of Lee Hughes, Ben Davies and Kasper Schemeichel. Money that never existed was spent on a squad that breached the Football League's salary cap (60% of turnover plus shareholders' donations).

The Nottingham outfit were ‘saved’ by Ray Trew and placed under a transfer embargo that had little effect considering the squad already at their disposal. They somehow avoided any means of punishment as far as the league table was concerned, continuing to operate with the odds stacked heavily in their favour.

Hill quipped "If we can't catch Notts County, I'm sure the tax man will." It turned out that he was wrong, as they went on to be crowned champions and remain a League One side to this day.

Notts County backers Munto unveil Sven-Göran Eriksson

AFC Bournemouth, thanks to the astute managerial skills of Eddie Howe, also enjoyed promotion in the same campaign.The Cherries had been placed into administration for the first time in 2008, resulting in a 10-point deduction that saw their play-off charge halted and ultimately contributed to their relegation to the bottom tier of English football. Enough for some, maybe, but the impact of financial mismanagement is long-term, not just immediate.

Ahead of the 2008/09 campaign, the south coast side, along with Rotherham, were asked to prove they could complete their fixtures and move out of administration if they were to compete. The clubs agreed to pay unsecured creditors 10 pence in the pound and started the season with a 17-point deduction.

This may seem harsh, but the club had been allowed to operate on an unfair financial level and despite that deduction they survived once again.

Their promotion the following year was a phenomenal achievement from Howe and his players, something that can never be taken away, but their mere presence in the Football League does not sit easily with some observers.

To punish a side with a points deduction is a slap on the wrist, a warning to not do it again. In the case of Bournemouth they did do it again, and they are now fighting for promotion to the Championship with wealthy backers. It’s hardly a warning to other clubs looking to manipulate the flawed policy of the points deduction. 

To relegate a side over financial inadequacies at board level could seem an overreaction but until an example is set the money merry-go-round will continue to spin.

Throughout the promotion season, Rochdale fans proudly sang “We’re Dale, and we pay our bills”. A strange choice of topic for a football chant, but one that perfectly symbolises the weighted dice many clubs have rolled in English football’s lower reaches. 

By contrast, another writer bemoans the unfairness of the 10-point penalty... What do you think? Tell us via our Facebook page

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