ITV DIGITAL IN ADMINISTRATION
English football is reeling from the decision by ITV Digital to put itself into administration. The company, rumoured to be losing £1 million per day, claimed there was no alternative following the failure to renegotiate it`s TV deal with the Football League.
The League`s 72 clubs are still due another £180 million for the remaining two years of their three year deal.
The administration order lasts for six months, but the administrators are back in court on 15th April to report progress. ITV Digital and the Football League have been asked to continue talks to try and reach a compromise. Failure is likely to lead to the sale or liquidation of the company.
As expected, the Chairmen of the League clubs are up in arms. Some, such as Bradford City`s Geoffrey Richmond, claim the League faces the biggest crisis in its history. As many as 30 clubs could be in danger of going bankrupt because they have already spent the money they were expecting to receive from ITV Digital.
With the warning also came an admission that the clubs had become over-reliant on TV money, which has fuelled the unprecedented growth in player salaries over the last ten years.
Many critics would say that this was a day that was bound to come. Clubs have been crying wolf for years over their player costs ? but still they continued to pay more than they could afford.
Three clubs, QPR, Bury and Swindon, were already in administration before the ITV Digital decision, and hardly a week goes by without a Chairman putting his club up for sale.
The fact is the clubs have got themselves into a financial mess and have not been prepared to do anything about it. Now they have no choice but to tackle their own poor management policies.
And how they do that will be very interesting. Some will use the situation to their advantage by blaming ITV Digital for all their own failings (a scapegoat is always useful at any time), and they will keep living beyond their means.
Some, likely to be in the minority, will reduce their major cost area, the player salary bill, and hope the fans will be understanding.
The others, the majority, will take the soft option and make cuts in all other areas bar the player salary bill.
In such circumstances our own industry is always in the front line. The decision to spend £3 million for a First Division striker can be made overnight. To get a tenth of that amount spent on trying to provide a quality playing surface will take several months of reports and justifications ? and then is likely to be thrown out because the manager needs another new player.
The ITV Digital decision, at this particular time, is disastrous for all Football League groundsmen. Months, and sometimes years, of planning for end of season renovations and reconstructions will be shelved. Very little pitch maintenance work, other than the minimum, will take place this summer.
So, what happens next season? The inevitable moans and criticisms from the Chairmen, managers and players when the pitches aren`t as perfect as they would like them to be.
It`s a no win situation for groundsmen. Nothing new there!
***Let us know if you have had any pitch work cancelled or postponed. We won`t print any of the details, but we would like to gauge how much the ITV Digital situation is costing the industry. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org