After I wrote about clubs that have been damaged by bad management, a friend said that he couldn’t believe I hadn’t mentioned Leeds. They went from competing in the semi-finals of the Champions League (2001) to League One (the third tier of English football) in 2007, via financial collapse, the forced selling of their best players and a punitive points deduction by the FA for financial mismanagement. They have climbed back up to the Championship (the second tier) and are in with a shot at promotion to the Premier League this year, but it’s still a long, hard fall from grace for a well-supported club with an eminent history.
In fact, I could have mentioned several other clubs. Recently, Leyton Orient are in the news over financial chaos and poor results. Leyton are minnows relative to their big neighbours in London (Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs et al) but they are a popular club with a family-friendly reputation. In 2011, they drew with Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round (they lost the replay) and in 2014 they missed out on promotion to the second tier only by virtue of losing a penalty shoot-out. Today the club’s future is very uncertain and they sit last in the fourth tier. Today I read that the club doctor has quit after not being paid.
Glasgow Rangers, Scottish league champions an incredible 54 times, were demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football after insolvency in 2011 and only returned to the top flight this season. They are third as I write this, so it’s a resurrection of sorts. But they are a staggering 35 points behind the leaders Celtic, their old rivals.
Similarly, Southampton have clawed their way back from the third tier in 2009 (after insolvency) to the English Premiership and are now a serious outfit. Southampton in the last decade and a bit provide both an example of how to run and how not to run a football club.
I was trying to think of an example from “the other way round”, a club that has clawed its way up through sensible management (not catapulted to the top by the munificence of a billionaire sugar daddy). I thought of Bournemouth because it’s a club without a grand history and from a fairly small town (a seaside resort on the south coast), so it doesn’t have legions of fans or big local businesses backing it.
Today Bournemouth are enjoying their second season in Premier League, and not in real danger of demotion. If it weren’t for the miracle of Leicester winning the Premier League last season, I think people might be talking more about the incredible achievement of Bournemouth in reaching the top flight and staying there — and now proving to be a resilient and difficult opponent for the big clubs.
But when I looked it up I found that they too had been in meltdown in 2008 (bankruptcy) before their current rise.