Saturday, October 11, 2008

Torquay 1 Yellows 1

Peter Rhodes-Brown said on Thursday that he would be happy with 4 points from the two away games. Given that Burton come to the Kassam on the 18th, I would go as far as saying that 4 points from the three games would be acceptable, so a point against Torquay was a good start.

Not promotion form, that, of course – although going back to the Cambridge win, 10 points from 15 would be pretty good going… certainly play-off form, maybe even championship form. Of course there’s some catching up to do, but like last year there is evidence that from a slow start Darren Patterson maybe starting to instil some confidence in the team; although fitness, form and a lack of suspensions are helping too. Goes to show the benefit of thinking more long term.

Such number crunching has got me thinking about the impact a global recession might have on Oxford. First and foremost, of course, a small business in debt with few assets is seriously exposed. But football clubs are generally quite robust in recessionary times, firstly, because foreclosing on a football clubs’ debt has very bad PR connotations, plus, in Oxford’s case – what the hell will the creditors gain by doing it? And, because going to a game on a Saturday offers some relief from the gloom, income holds up quite well.

What’s more, the concept of an expensive family away day to a Premiership ground may well be sacrificed for something more local; which will help Oxford who have few rivals in the locality. With careful ticket pricing and local promotion, we could benefit. Although there is a gulf in the quality of football between the Premiership and Conference, the resultant entertainment is not that different. Phil Trainer slamming the ball in for £15 is better value for money than Frank Lampard doing it for £55. With money tight, £40 (plus travel, food etc) to watch Lampard strike the ball with a little more panache may not be great value for money.

As for buying the ground, Firoz Kassam holds all the cards. Investment in land has good long term prospects and he may be happy for it to rot. In time, when the market picks up, he could level the stadium and build houses, shops and offices on it (planning regulations permitting). In the short term his portfolio will be taking a fairly serious hit at the moment and he may well look to liquidate some of his assets.

The Kassam Stadium complex is a good asset to have; plenty of land, in an affluent area with good commuter links. But it’s a football ground and, unlike a retail unit, not many companies need football grounds. He may stubbornly fix the price, but the market he’s selling into has but one potential customer. He may choose to lower his price (or change the terms of the deal) so to gain some cash to invest in something distinctly more marketable elsewhere; like house or offices.

All speculation of course, but perhaps there are reasons to be cheerful, if we play it right, which is where Kelvin Thomas is most important.

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