THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 16 March ~

It’s now a distant memory, but when Clyde and Meadowbank Thistle packed their bags and headed for pastures new, it was supposed to signal the end of their troubles. With both clubs in severe financial difficulty and dwarfed in their original locations, it was thought that moving to the new towns of Cumbernauld and Livingston would allow them to escape their monetary woes and potentially add thousands to their fan bases. But March 2009 has seen Clyde chairman Ian Letham announce that the club needs to raise “a substantial amount” between now and the end of the season to safeguard its future. And Livingston’s players failed to receive their wages on time for the third month in succession.

Both clubs are teetering somewhere near the brink, although Livingston’s board members have been less than forthcoming about the problems they face. Indeed, shareholder Tomasso Angelini faced the press to declare: “There are no financial problems at the club.” This despite the late wages and a list of unpaid creditors reported to have included a mobile disco. It’s not quite up there with Peter Ridsdale’s goldfish, but it’s close. And while these bills are a legacy of the previous regime, the fact that several have ended up in the small claims court over the past few months suggests the club is still far from flush with cash. To compound matters, Livi’s Italian owners were forced to pay former chairman Pearse Flynn £330,000 in January. Fans are understandably worried, fearing a repeat of 2004, when the club entered administration and were eventually relegated from the SPL.

The crux of the problem for both teams, putting aside the general financial mismanagement, has been attracting the support to match their ambitions. Clyde’s average attendance is barely 1,000, the lowest in the First Division, and local interest in Livi has been on the wane since their SPL heyday, when they could boast gates of over 7,000. Gaining acceptance has been difficult for two sides that play in towns mainly comprised of overspill Old Firm followers. At a hastily arranged fans’ forum last week, Letham spoke of the strained relationship between Clyde and North Lanarkshire Council, owners of their Broadwood home. The tenant metaphor is a handy one – not being viewed as an entrenched part of the local community has made attracting sponsorship a problem.

A mooted solution for Clyde has been to relocate again, this time to East Kilbride, another new town. Although this is closer to the club's original Rutherglen heartland, it is unlikely that lost fans would be persuaded to return more than 20 years after Clyde's departure. More likely is that both sides will simply have to curtail their ambitions, at least in the short term. Clyde, particularly if they are relegated to the Second Division, face part-time football, as crowds will surely dwindle further. Livingston, for their part, may have to shelve plans for a swift and easy return to the SPL. It was, after all, an outrageous wage bill that led to their period of administration five years ago.

The one certainty is that it will fall upon committed and loyal fans to bail out their sides – the Clyde Supporters’ Trust has already raised over £300,000 since it was set up to deal with the club’s last financial crisis. But similar situations have shown that followers of all teams tend to pull together in times of need. Only the most uncharitable Scottish football supporter would wish to see their fellow fan without a team to watch. Stuart Gillespie

Comments (7)
Comment by blameless 2009-03-16 12:48:47

Livingston have been a financial basket-case for years now (cup wins and qualification for Europe paid for with money that wasn't theirs), but Clyde's woes are more of a surprise - they had money trouble in the late 90s when they tried to sustain full-time football in the second division, but by all accounts they'd righted things after that.

Moving to EK won't solve any of Clyde's problems - like Cumbernauld it's a Glasgow overspill town, and like Cumbernauld it's been dominated by Old Firm fans since it was built.

Comment by AMMS 2009-03-16 13:07:41

Clyde were going to move to EK in the 70s but it never materialised, it would have made more sense then too. I agree moving to EK now would be suicide, at least a generation has grown up with Clyde as their local team, even if they don't currently go and watch them.
It does beggar the question about full-time football now, can anyone in the first division now afford it?

Comment by chippy 2009-03-16 13:25:54

And to be fair on Clyde, their attendances in Cumbernauld are not any lower than they were getting at Shawfield or Firhill. I wonder how many of their fans come from Cumbernauld. A couple of hundred I would guess.

Comment by AMMS 2009-03-16 13:48:58

The only Clyde fan I know actually moved to Cumbernauld when he got married which is taking club devotion to previously unscaled levels in my book.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2009-03-16 14:05:00

For me, the problem is largely a question of brand identity. Nobody wants to watch clubs called "Livingston" or "Clyde" - they're forenames for Victorian-era gentlemen, not 21st-century football clubs! I would suggest a more fierce-sounding main identity, one which includes a nickname. Something like "Clydeside Marauders" and "Livingston Anacondas". The teams should reninforce these new idents with a stronger visual language: logos featuring scary beasts, of course, and colours more suited to prevailing leisurewear trends: charcoals, electric mauves, tungsten silvers. Not mere "red" or "black"!

I suspect these also need to consider a marketing research approach that better elicits and sizes the "why, how and wow" language of today's entertainment culture, and the feelings consumers use to describe their relationship with the brand. In today’s tightening marketplaces, those brand owners who can really identify and then listen to what their customers and prospects like and dislike about their brand are the ones who will be the most resilient.

The Scottish Football League does share some of the blame. Consider the improvements that have been made to the equivalent in England since the second tier rebranded itself as "The Championship." Nobody is interested in watching mere "First Division" football these days. Where are the brains at the SFL?

As you can see it's about *so* much more than football these days ...

Comment by chippy 2009-03-16 15:19:44

Clyde did have a Gold Lame (is in Lam-ay) away strip in their centenary year

Comment by blameless 2009-03-16 15:52:50

Exploding Vole works for the SPL and I claim my £5 cup of Bovril.

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