Winding up petition raises broader Blues question
WYCOMBE Wanderers’ recent off-field problems raises a question: Do football clubs deserve to be treated differently to other businesses?
Harsh economic conditions are taking their toll in all walks off life and on all industries.
Football clubs have not escaped unscathed and the news this week that Wanderers are facing a winding up petition is further evidence that our own club is feeling the pinch quite acutely.
Blues are already being forced to sell the training ground to pay debts, and now they are asking supporters – for the second time this season – to dig into their own pockets to plug financial holes.
The argument is that football clubs are an intrinsic part of their communities, a beating heart within a town around which the residents can gather and invest their own hopes and dreams.
For that reason they deserve to be spared financial reality and every measure of preservation should be taken.
But is this still a relevant argument?
Wanderers can point to big cup days in their history when tens of thousands of fans got behind them.
But those games were decades ago. It’s certainly true that Wanderers have a core fanbase that is every bit as devoted as in years gone by.
But that is now a tiny percentage of the town and if you walk through the high street today for every one person that lists Wanderers as their first love you will probably get a dozen more naming Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs...
Wanderers might be their second choice, but that hasn’t been enough to get them through the turnstiles.
In recent seasons the club struggled to sell out its ticket allocation for a second leg cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge, they got just over 6,000 fans (2,000-odd were away fans, from memory) for a promotion play-off game against Stockport and this season gates have dwindled to near the 3,000-mark.
Under their previous owner, that could have been explained away as a protest. But that excuse is no longer there.
So are Wanderers still the focal point of the town’s sporting ambitions, or have times changed and interests splintered?
Today’s team isn’t full of local players, under a local manager, with local boys in the now defunct youth team champing at the bit to represent their local club.
Professional sport is now far more transient – just look at Wasps or MK Dons – and it is increasingly business first, sentiment second.
There was a lot of love for HMV until they had to shut their doors, Woolworths was an established and trusted part of the high street until it went out of business.
Many near and dear companies have gone or are going under.
A few football clubs have been pushing the financial boundaries to avoid following suit, and Wanderers appear to be one of them.
I’m sure I will be public enemy number one among the Blues faithful for even asking if trading on goodwill is enough these days.
But if the club really does mean so much to the town, then it’s high time the town proved it on a Saturday afternoon.