In the last year I have written a number of articles trying to explain some common Economic Theories using football as a reference point. Up until now they have all been hypothetical but today there is a real link between the theory and the reality that Lewes are currently experiencing.
The “Doom Cycle” is a phrase often used to refer to the current boom-bust-bailout structure of the financial sector that leads to economic crises. The pain of the last few years is still too real for many people to have forgotten. The Doom Cycle has been defined by The New York Times as: “a virtueless circle in which banks take ever-greater risks to boost returns”
In footballing terms, it means trying every possible variable to try and break a cycle of bad results. Just like Lewes’s current run which has seen us exit all four cups and take just one point from the last fourteen Ryman Premier League games. I think you could say that was a bad run of form. Yet within that sequence there have been many positives. Alas, football is a cruel game and failure to take chances when presented, or convert possession into something meaningful. The virtueless circle where you try anything different, whether than is a formation, personnel, preparation or set pieces to find a win. It is fair to say that you get to a point somewhere along the line where you will take any win, irrespective of how it comes.
“You can’t buy any luck when you are at the bottom” said someone to me at a League meeting last week. Every club has sympathy with teams at the bottom (well, at least to your face), saying platitudes such as “your luck will turn” or “It will turn out alright”. To those 23 other teams in our league they will hope we stay down at the bottom – after all it is one less position for them to worry out. Last week at East Thurrock we felt the full effect of fate – three players ending up in hospital, one of which with a long-term injury just days after signing a contract plus a sending off that embarrassed the basic rule of refereeing about being impartial and not influenced by the actions of the teams.
As results continue to be poor, crowd numbers fall. Football fans are either unconditionally loyal (circa 20% of the fan base) or are results driven (70%) with 10% sitting somewhere in between. When times are good, the crowds come and watch and spend money in the ground. When scores go against you, those results-driven fans decide to spend their time and money elsewhere on a Saturday afternoon. That is totally understandable. Alas, when budgets are set at the start of the season you do not factor in being bottom of the league – you set realistic targets for average gate revenue and yield per spectator. You can’t factor in those 2 or 3 big games that provide some extra insurance being postponed or being moved. Today we were supposed to be welcoming Dulwich Hamlet and their army of beer-thirsty fans. Instead they are in FA Trophy action. With no disrespect to Leiston, but their dozen or so fans will not make up for the hundred or so from Dulwich.
So as results decline, so do the crowds and match day revenue. To keep a balanced budget that means having to cut spending in other areas, which potentially impacts the performance of the team even further. And so on – the club enters a Doom Cycle or a virtueless circle of short-term decline. I think we have dispelled the myth now that the answer to any problem is to “increase the budget”. Most fans understand that we are not in a position to do that. We have our cloth, cut to size and we have to wear it.
Some fans have questioned the commitment and focus of the club, even suggesting that there is foul play at work on the board in how we manage the club’s finances. It’s tough to have the answer the same questions time and time again, especially those around the budget. There is no secret fund, piggy bag or plastic bag full of cash. Sure, we could take money from elsewhere – not paying our electricity bill or income tax, but we’ve been there, done that. Still some think that the responsibility of the individual board members is to constantly put their hand in their pocket.
The game would also see the launch of our new 12th Man scheme – a different approach to adding to the first team budget. Launched at 12:12pm on the 12th of the 12th (clever, eh?) the concept has been used with some success elsewhere but even this initiative was scorned upon by some fans on Social Media – suggesting that the move was an admission of failure and neglect from the board for not putting in money the club didn’t have into the budget. Sometimes I truly wonder whether the stress is really worth it.
Of course, all of the pressure would be worth it if we could grab that first win at home this season. It would be nice for once to head home with a smile on my face.
Lewes 1 Leiston 1 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 12th December 2015
This was one occasion when a draw felt like a win to the 370 Lewes fans in the ground (plus 25 Dulwich Hamlet ones – more on that later). Seven minutes into injury time and Lewes launched a final ball into the box, looking for a goal that their pressure deserved. The ball must have hit every player, bar Lewes keeper Winterton in the box before James Fraser got a final touch and the ball trickled over the line. The outpouring of emotion was clear to see. There was no time to restart the game, alas as I genuinely thought we could go onto win the game.
For 93 minutes of this encounter The Rooks had dominated play. Unfortunately, the same old issue haunted the team in the opening few minutes – a failure to clear the ball, a missed tackle and an opponent left unmarked. The result? 1-0 down after 4 minutes 43 seconds.
The strong wind certainly played into Lewes’s favour in the first half but no matter how many times the ball went into the box, there was never a head or a foot on the end. Last week a fellow Ryman League chairman made a valid point. “The reason why week after week we have poor officials is that anyone with any potential is fast-tracked up the leagues, so we are left with those who will never get any better” Those words echoed around the terrace when the officials failed to see a clear push on Pacquette in the first half when he looked to get on the end of a Redwood cross, and more clear-cut, failing to see that McCreadie was fouled in the box in the second half, despite the marks in the turf, giving a free-kick a yard outside.
The Rooks pressed in the second period, but once again the goal was leading a charmed life. At the other end Winterton was an almost spectator. This had been the story of the season – playing well for long periods but failing to convert possession into goals. That’s not down to us being a community club, the beach huts or our match posters. That’s down to not being able to find an out and out goalscorer. In fact, that is something the club have been missing for years – someone who could score us 20 goals a season and probably win us 15/20 additional points.
I’m sure we all felt we had run out of time, but it was actually our opponents who gave us the goal. Despite Leiston having a goal kick, one of their players decided to make a comment to the referee. Cue long lecture and a yellow card, allowing us the additional time to score. Thanks for that!
The whole crowd appreciated the point – even the 20-odd fans from Dulwich Hamlet who had come down for a stag do, arranged before their club’s progression in the FA Trophy and consequently the cancellation of our game with them.
Perhaps that goal was the tipping point for our season? The one moment where our luck changes. We know that we are still in Intensive Care but for the first time in weeks we had a faint heartbeat. Has the Doom Cycle been broken? Well, we will see in 7 days when fellow critically ill patient Farnborough arrive in East Sussex.