Counting the emotional cost of Notts’ takeover…
Takeovers are a cold and calculated process. Suddenly, the thing that is invaluable to you and your fellow fans is being weighed and measured in terms that are devastatingly commercial and clinical: assets, debts, land ownership. There’s something distinctly immoral to it all. Like taking Grandad’s war medals to Cash Converters.
Notts’ market value seems to be in the region of 5m pounds, a staggering figure for a club less than financially fluid and in the depths of the National League for the first time in its history. Its playing assets offer little comfort too. Although Notts have retained its most marketable assets as part of the 19 man squad that still remains at Meadow Lane, they have a distinct whiff of being slightly soiled by the abject season before.
Notts’ market value seems to solely hinge on a strip of land behind The Kop as a potential development space and has been muted as becoming anything from apartment flats to a hotel. This had previously been impossible due to conditions set by Nottingham City Council but, given its recent determination to develop the Trent waterways, it now makes perfect sense.
What they haven’t calculated is the emotional cost to all this. While surveyors measure and plan for that particular piece of land, a rubbled carpark to the inexperienced visitor, they miss the significance beneath the surface. Under those stones lies what is left of two five-a-side pitches (one cowshed, one open to the elements) used by everyone from the first team to primary school football tournaments (Rosslyn Juniors being robbed in 1990 due to a clear penalty area infringement). A place where those who dreamed of playing for Notts grafted and grappled and those dedicated to Notts’ cause gave up their spare time to help.
The proposed development of this space is, to many, a miserable metaphor for the whole process. What about the football? What about the memories, our history? Weighing Meadow Lane in terms of bricks and mortar may make financial sense but does little to reassure us that the emotional investment we have in the club will also be taken into consideration. Build your flats. Build your hotel. But don’t neglect the primary concern – this is a football club that needs its own investment to match its supporters’ stake.
What should appear on that balance sheet is the dedication of the Notts faithful. The miles travelled, money spent and weekends ruined. Not many clubs can end up 23rd on performance but 4th in attendance- a true sign of fans trying to keep a club afloat and fighting.
NDAs and shadowy consortium figures do nothing to ease the fanbase’s concern, and that same dedication and fight for the Notts cause inevitably turns inward. Social media spats, blocks and screenshots are dished out to anyone daring to break the stalemate or question the current status quo. Even Leigh Curtis and Charlie Slater, two who did sterling work in a dismal season, have come under fire for lacking the financial (and probably legal) resources to break national stories of fraudsters and fakery. This is all a far cry from the ‘guess the trialist’ football fun we should be having. With every day of tepid takeover talk, Notts’ emotional debt with its fans grows.
There is more than a sense of bewilderment that Notts start preseason this week. The fact that training will take place in another temporary location with a lack of coaching staff and an imbalanced squad just shows where priorities have been for the Notts hierarchy and how desperately we need that to change. Whoever assumes control of Notts needs to realise that once a deal is done there is one debt that still needs paying – and that’s the debt of gratitude to the fans.