At the end of February, the plight of League Two’s Darlington F.C. — in contention for a playoff spot at the time, but docked 10 precious points for entering administration — was noted. As the Independent’s Michael Walker muses, “Darlington rarely sets trends”, but they’re hardly the only club in dire straits.
“I’ve had contact from people not just in this division, but the division above,” manager Dave Penney (above) said. “There’s a cut-off date, 26 March, and I know a lot of clubs that are close to administration. From talking to people, we might be the first but we won’t be the last. I’d say five will go this year.”
From nine to five: that reduction supports the theory that some observers are prone to exaggerate the economic state of Leagues One and Two. Patrick Nelson, the chief executive of Macclesfield, made a key point that, with the vast majority of players on one-year contracts at this level, and with player wages the largest club expense, “each summer offers the chance to reset the compass, to adjust. You can be prudent. We will be”.
On Tuesday night, with Liverpool and Chelsea both live on ITV, Macclesfield’s game against Accrington Stanley was marketed as “Credit Crunch Tuesday”. Tickets were £5 and 1,800 attended, when Nelson feared it might otherwise have been half that. The significance of the “third Thursday of March” is also disputed. It is a date set by the Football League by which clubs considering administration must enter if they are to take the 10-point deduction this season.
Cheltenham Town, said to be on the brink financially, are bottom of League One, 16 points off safety. They look certain to be relegated so 10 points would make little difference but, if Cheltenham were to enter administration after that Thursday, the 10 points would apply to next season. Cheltenham would begin 2009-10 on minus 10 points and in administration. That would concern prospective purchasers.
But for a club on the cusp of relegation, and in financial trouble “ Southampton in the Championship, for example “ Thursday week is a date of resonance. If Southampton move into administration after Thursday week, and stay up, then the 10-point deduction will be applied in May regardless. That could relegate them post-survival. If Southampton move into administration after Thursday week, and go down anyway, then the 10 points will apply next season.