How many times have you heard that forecast as the football season gets underway? We all know that the financing of football is crazy. We all know that the forthcoming season will produce stories of clubs tottering on the brink of oblivion. But it never happens does it?

I say never. Maidstone United seems to be dead and buried but Accrington Stanley and Aldershot have risen from the grave and Portsmouth stagger on. Fan loyalty comes to the rescue when all the red financial lights are on.

But could Portsmouth or even Blackburn Rovers go out of business for ever? A recent Downtown seminar on football heard the forecast repeated that this season one or more of our clubs will bite the dust.

That wasn’t the only startling forecast by Alan Switzer; Director in Deloitte’s Manchester based Sports Business Group as he presented the company’s annual review of football finances.

He also believes UEFA are serious about enforcing their financial fair play rules. The burning question here is would UEFA devalue the Champions League by telling Manchester City, for instance, that they can’t play in the 2014/15 competition if they are not breaking even?

Alan believes there might be some leniency if the direction of travel is right and developments around youth academies will be exempt. However he is in no doubt that UEFA are determined to bring an end to the precarious arms race that is afflicting so many clubs.

Deloitte’s figures are staggering. Premier League average salaries are over a million a year whilst in Division Two it is£47,000. Soon the Championship play off match will be for £150m; even Sky won’t need to hype that! The Premier League wages to turnover ratio is 70%. Most significantly profit levels are flat.

Why the alarm with the new Sky/BT deal coming along worth £3 billion? It may be an opportunity for clubs to put their finances in order, but that would be a triumph of hope over experience. It seems more likely that the poor old fans will see their viewing subscriptions soar up in order to put even more money in players’ wallets.

Alan Switzer produced a graph showing that success was linked to the money clubs spent. There are exceptions like Blackpool’s glorious adventure but generally you get what you pay for.

Is there a tipping point where Sky won’t be able to milk the fans anymore? The seminar heard that increasingly pubs are struggling to pay to show the matches.

The big kick off will soon be with us, but first it’s wall to wall Olympic Games.
North West companies have benefited from Olympic orders. Watson Steel of Bolton, Ainscough cranes from Wigan and Glasdon recycling based in Blackpool being among them. But let’s not kid ourselves it’s London and the South East, the region that least needs it that is benefiting most.

However let’s hope it all goes well and reflect on the fact that without the success of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester ten years ago, none of this would be happening.


It’s not often that the Queen drops in on a business conference in Burnley. But a visit from the Windsors was what delegates to the Small Firms’ Summit experienced this week.

Debate on the burdens of red tape and lack of skilled workers was temporarily suspended as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met selected guests.

The visit may have contributed to the upbeat mood of small firm managers as they met at Burnley College on the impressive University of Central Lancashire site in the town.

Also helping put a smile on delegates’ faces was the opening speech by Stephen Falder, a Cheshire businessman who invented the highly effective anti microbial product Byotrol which he exports around the world.

Stephen is an avid Manchester City fan and his voice was still a bit croaky as he enthused about the advantages that small and family run businesses can have over the big boys.

“You need passion and fun” Stephen declared and told us how he’d named a product for keeping barnacles off the keels of boats “Slippery Bottom.” It rushed off the shelves.

He set off a lively debate by saying claims that regulation was strangling small businesses were overdone. He’d been to Europe and said regulators in Brussels and elsewhere were prepared to listen if you didn’t rant and explained the problem convincingly.

Byotrol had been through the hard times in 2008. Everyone-managers and workforce-had gone on to a four day week and were in a good position to spring back.

The conference then debated a number of issues affecting small firms including the quality of young people emerging from schools and higher education.

There seemed to be agreement that some youngsters were under the impression that a degree would guarantee them a place half way up the management tree when in fact they needed to be prepared to start at the bottom.

There was a call for teachers and university lecturers to get business experience on the shop floor and for youngsters to be given every encouragement to start enterprises when they were in their late teens.

Firms were encouraged to make work experience meaningful and the conference ended with calls to the government to take action on business rates and the growing number of extra charges firms were being asked to pay for a range of services.


Meanwhile over at the Liverpool Economic Forum calls were once again heard for all agencies in the City Region to work together.

The new mayor Joe Anderson was billed to be there but was already strutting the world stage at an event in Paris. This was one of the ideas around the creation of the post that seems to have got off to a quick start.

If Joe had swapped Old Hall Street for the Champs Elysees he would have heard an old cry for agencies supporting business in the Liverpool City Region to work together.

The panel including Wayne Locke (Space Northwest), Neil Murray (Redx Pharma) and John Schorah (Weightmans) clearly had concerns about whether the new Local Enterprise Partnership, Liverpool Vision and the councils on Merseyside were all pulling in the same direction.
This may be a task that Joe Anderson can undertake, but he is only mayor of Liverpool, an early sign of the folly of not making this a city region post.


In the week when we are celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens, I’m writing about two cities; not London and Paris but Manchester and Liverpool.

If you want to know the real issues facing business in Manchester city centre ask Pat Karney.

He’s the councillor responsible for the heart of the metropolis and everyone beats a path to his office.

At a major gathering of city centre employers this week, Cllr Karney gave them an insight into the diverse range of problems that came across his desk in just one morning. In addition to the uproar over charging for Sunday parking, one shop keeper came to complain about human excrement outside the Hidden Gem church and representatives of the gay community objected to a club being turned into a budget hotel.

Despite these minor inconveniences, Manchester seems to be surviving the recession very well. Indeed council leader Sir Richard Leese suggested that the city centre could accommodate a thousand new residential units a year for the next decade. There is 96% occupancy of the existing provision. Leese claimed that Manchester employment had returned to pre recession levels.

Leese does not want the city to vote for an elected mayor, he prefers the Combined Authority model that has been in place for nearly a year now. All the local authorities in Greater Manchester are working together to drive an impressive range of projects.

There’s the enterprise zone at Manchester Airport where the infrastructure for a major retail, leisure and warehousing scheme will be in place by next year. In addition there’s MediaCity and the Sharp Project in east Manchester for budding media businesses. So successful has the latter been that Sharp 2 is planned. Nearby Manchester City football club is developing the Etihad Project.

At Manchester University a government backed plan is underway to capitalise on the discovery of graphine (very thin and very strong). Are we going to make some money for once out of a product developed in Britain?

Salford’s soon to be elected mayor will inherit a city still struggling with some big social problems but with a number of infrastructure schemes including the Chapel Street gateway and a plan to open up a riverside route from MediaCity up to Salford University.

Meanwhile Liverpool Council took the formal decision to go for an elected mayor. Liberal Democrat opposition to scrapping the planned referendum was half hearted and the debate did not match some that I have witnessed in the historic council chamber.
Council leader Joe Anderson had the wind in his sails having just signed off the £130m deal with the government that he insists was only possible because the city was going to have an elected mayor.

One felt the politicians already had their eye on who was going to stand. Joe Anderson will clearly be Labour’s candidate. He might face ex leader and Lib Dem peer Mike Storey. The suggestion was certainly not denied by a senior party source. If Storey can’t be lured from the best club in London, then Cllr Richard Kemp might consider standing.

The Liberals will field Cllr Steve Radford who gave his support to the new post on Tuesday night, and there is likely to be a Conservative candidate.

But the campaign will be enlivened by independents. There are two at the moment and they make an unlikely couple. There’s former broadcaster Liam Fogarty who has campaigned for the last 10 years for an elected mayor. A clever man of substance, he cares passionately about his city. It will be fascinating to see how he stands up to the robust style of bruiser Anderson.

Then there’s celebrity hairstylist Herbert Howe who has promised to take no salary and to be independent of all party factions.

Before you dismiss his chances remember that Robocop got elected in Middlesbrough. H’Angus the Monkey won in Hartlepool and an English Democrat became mayor of Doncaster.