Macclesfield Town striking again? What does the future hold for the Silkmen?
Background image: Ben Sutherland, CC BY 2.0
The financial state of clubs in the lower league has been a hot topic this season. Bury were kicked out of the EFL. Bolton Wanderers barely escaped a similar fate. Macclesfield Town are the latest club in the spotlight. What does the future hold at Moss Rose? Can the club survive?
Just two seasons ago, Macclesfield were the surprise story in the National League. They achieved promotion back to the Football League by winning the title despite limited funds in comparison to their division rivals.
Last season, Sol Campbell came in and provided a minor miracle to keep the Silkmen in League Two despite being stranded at the foot of the table early in the season. However, survival remained overshadowed by players going unpaid for large portions of the campaign.
Despite his success, Campbell left the club of his own volition. He knew the financial problems the club faced. Daryl McMahon took over. The young Irish boss has done a remarkable job given the circumstances. Even with their problems, the Silkmen continue to perform well on the pitch. Although winless in their last seven games in all competitions, they sit 14th in League Two. With only one side due to go down after Bury's eviction, they are almost assured of safety assuming they don’t receive a points deduction and can make it to the end of the season.
In September, Bury became the first Football League club to be kicked out of the league in nearly 30 years. Those around Moss Rose worry a similar future awaits their club.
A second strike?
Issues surrounding unpaid wages endure. It all came to a head in recent weeks. In their home FA Cup tie with non-league minnows Kingstonian, the First-team players refused to play their home FA Cup tie with non-league minnows Kingstonian. McMahon fielded the youth team who lost 4-0.
Their subsequent league game against Mansfield Town was very nearly called off following the threat of further strike action from the players if they were not paid in full. Thankfully, owner Amar Alkadhi made the payment and the game went ahead.
Fast-forward three weeks and the Silkmen are in the same situation. On Monday, the players issued an ultimatum to Alkadhi. Unless they were paid November’s wages, they would not train this week and would not play their fixture against Crewe Alexandra on Saturday. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved in time but even if the match goes ahead, long term problems persist.
Macclesfield's plight again brings into question the EFL and FA's role in overseeing club stewardship. Is there a point where the authorities step in and say enough is enough with certain owners? If not, should there be? Will the two organisations finally introduce a fit and proper test for potential owners that is actually effective? This saga didn't begin with Macclesfield, Bury or Bolton. It was hardly a new phenomenon when Portsmouth suffered through administration. After decades, you would think the powers that be would gain a grip on the situation.
Supporters groups and the players themselves warned the EFL that action needed to be taken. Those warnings came before Bury's demise and were repeated in the aftermath, so far to little effect.
This week, the club faced their latest winding-up petition over unpaid debts of nearly £200,000. Additionally, the EFL charged Macclesfield with misconduct over the delayed wages. The Silkmen now face a points deduction. Of course, the punishment is designed to push the team down the table, out of the Football League, where they are someone else's problem.
As the money at the top of the game increases, more lower league clubs gamble to win a piece of the pie. Responsible ownership rather than ambition is the priority. A potential takeover fell through in November. Unless another investor comes forward to rescue Macclesfield, we could see another EFL club go out of business this season.