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  • Danny Harrington

Why Football Needs its Own Credit Union

Updated: Feb 6

The modern era of football is problematic in many ways, from shady individuals to foreign nations buying clubs, football is it's safe to say big business.

However, most businesses fail, we've seen quiet a few football clubs hit the wall, Darlington, Macclesfield and Bury to name but a few. My thoughts are always how could avoid such a scenario and with the independent football regulator coming into the sport in hopefully the not to distant future, I've been thinking of the good it could possibly do. However, one thing has been glaringly obvious to me, football clubs need to work together to build a better financial future for all. Yes, my friends Football clubs of the world unite! In some sort of socialist utopia of football!

So, football finance is a hot button issue, look at the state of Reading but this idea I've had for a football financial union goes back further than that. What I would propose is a structure that allows professional clubs to access a pool of money not just if they're in financial distress but if they have major projects planned. But before I get to the pros and cons of the idea, we first must tackle the question, what is a credit union?

A credit union is a member owned financial institution, it offers services you’d find at a commercial bank, savings accounts, credit cards and credit, with members able to borrow money. Now for our purpose we don’t need the clubs to have a savings account but regularly pay into this ‘union’ let’s say Premier League clubs pay a portion of their television money such as £3 million, so that’s twenty clubs so that’s if my math has worked £60 million in season one. The club continually pay into the fund every year and then they can apply for money. If they decide to leave or not pay without a financial reason (which would rule out administration) then they can’t apply for funds or the union financial protection if they should go into administration.

The idea behind it is that the fund would be used primarily to keep clubs on the straight and narrow but also infrastructure projects. For example, let use Tottenham Hotspurs new stadium, instead of financing it through loans from banks and creditors, they go to this hypothetical football financial union and apply for a low interest loan from them, knowing it's their fellow clubs that are providing them the money for this infrastructure project, that way the club won't be in danger of a sudden interest spike or the lender going out of business.

I’ve referenced a figure for Premier League clubs to pay in however this isn’t just for Premier League clubs, it would also feature the entire EFL, so if Premier League clubs are paying in £3 million per season, Championship clubs should pay in half a million (£500,000) each per season, that’s a further £12 million on top of what has already paid in.

Switching to League One clubs let’s say between £75,000 to £100,000, so let’s use the lower end of the seventy-five thousand that’s a further £1.8 million and for League Two clubs say between £15,000 to £20,000 that’s a contribution of £330,000 if we take only £15,000 from the clubs per season.

So taking all those figures into account season one this Football Finance Union (FFU) let’s call it that, this union would have a combined funds of 74,130,000. If it kept going every season, then it would build a quiet a sizeable fund to enable clubs to look to it for potential funding.

However, I’m not naive to think clubs won’t just rig this in their favour, corruption is a very real possibility. That’s why an independent board would have to run it, free from the control of the clubs and backed by the new football regulator. This board would also look at each application on a case-by-case basis.

I’d primarily think that something like this would be able to pay players at struggling clubs such as Reading, where the owner has clearly lost interest in financing it. What this could be used for also is financing administrators of clubs and maybe this is my most naïve point in all of this just maybe they would be able to take over clubs and clear debt before selling it on the recoup the money.

Why no one has attempted this before is staggering to me, but I know sport is a meritocracy so why finance your opponents right? Why would Liverpool pay into a fund that loans money to Manchester United to improve Old Trafford? Well naively and to quote one of my favourite films in Hot Fuzz, it would be for the greater good!

Football is not a business; it is but it isn’t because when the owners have gone it’s the everyday working fan that has to pick up the pieces and I for one am tired of being at the mercy of terrible owners.

The only way to stop another Bury is to make sure that no matter what football has something in its back pocket for that inevitable rainy day, also a salary cap would be nice too.

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