The long haul

The news which broke this morning that Bradford City is considering linking up with a football academy in Mexico, to identify promising players, has been met with a mixed response from fans. While questions of where this leaves the present link up with Belgian outfit Royal Racing FC Montegnee – apparently not going as well as hoped – are valid, the argument against from some fans is that the likely resource needed to secure such a partnership should be spent on signing new players is both predictable and depressing.

Depressing because it is typical of the short-term thinking that continues to steer, and blight, football. Never mind considering a partnership that in years to come may bear fruit and bring possible substantial reward – why haven’t we signed another striker yet?

Coming in a week where City have baulked at paying a transfer fee for a player who would probably be considered back up in the coming season, to the annoyance of some, it’s perhaps unsurprising City’s Mexico link up has been received negatively be some. I read with some confusion that all of City’s efforts should apparently be centred on a promotion push this season, and that failure is not an option. It appears those in charge, at least, see a future beyond May 2009.

The reaction from some of our supporters is not unusual among football followers these days, as immediate success seems to be all that matters. Supporting a club which is well overdue some, it’s understandable newspaper articles about looking to the future cause frustration; but, as the club continues to move away from the difficult financial problems which have hindered progress in recent years, the possibility of them reoccurring shouldn’t be ignored.

News also broke today that the Football League are going to deduct another 20 points from Luton Town, meaning they are set to kick off the new season a whopping 30 points behind the majority of their League Two rivals. A quick scan at last season’s final table shows only the top seven would have survived relegation with a 30 point deduction – a stat which underlines how difficult it will be for the Hatters to avoid kicking off the 2009-10 season in non-league.

Rotherham and Bournemouth’s fates are still to be determined; the former having being told they will need to pay the Football League a £750k bond to continue – on top of trying to agree a CVA with their creditors. Next season’s League Two already hints at carrying a sense of farce.

It must be incredibly difficult for the supporters of these clubs to watch the Football League hit them with further penalties while claiming it’s, “to protect the integrity of the competition.” A worrying precedence has been set following the Leeds United saga last season and, while there’s a logic to clubs receiving some form of penalty for running up debts they can’t meet, the punishments don’t seem to be fitting the crime.

Are City immune? We may appear to be over some difficult times, but a quick look at the club’s history suggests it may not be the last. It’s vital we live within our means, build up the club on solid foundations and make decisions for the long term good of the club – not short term gambles. Refusing to pay £60,000 for Jon Shaw may be considered as lacking ambition by some, but compared to City’s activities in the transfer market since relegation from the Premiership in 2001 it would have been an extravagant signing.

Clearly money is still not awash at City, but the situation has improved significantly. It would be easy to sink it all into buying players, gambling on short term success and hope it then brings in money; but only four teams will get promoted from League Two this season and football’s competitive nature will mean if City are among them it will be an outstanding achievement rather than our right.

It may seem wrong to hear City talk of extravagant link ups across the world and it may ultimately be ruled out as a waste of time; but, as the lower reaches of the game experiences more difficulties and our local neighbours face up to going out of existence, now should be the time for ensuring we never again end up in such a situation. The merits of building ‘the brand’ in Mexico will be carefully considered – not for helping the club get promoted this season, but determining what it can bring City in the years to come.