Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Dundee Divide

Image result for dens park tannadice
One city, two clubs - but it's Dundee who are on the up, while United are in the doldrums

There might only be 200 yards between Dens Park and Tannadice, but increasingly Dundee's two clubs are streets apart.

Both announced significant losses in their 2015-16 annual accounts this week.  Dundee, who finished eighth in the Premiership last season, were £500,000 in the red.  Dundee United's, meanwhile, were positively eye-watering; they were down £1.5million in a season where they were relegated.

For Dundee, there seems to be plenty of reason for optimism.  Their American owners, John Nelms and Tim Keys, had budgeted for a repeat of 2014-15's top six finish and their deficit could be largely attributed to the drop in prize money from finishing lower in the table and the increasing cost of maintaining Dens Park, a stadium which looks like a flashback to the 1980s.  So the owners have only gone and bought a significant amount of land over at the Camperdown Park area of the city, with the aim of building a new stadium there.

On the pitch, Paul Hartley's side have recovered from a poor start to the campaign to haul themselves up into a comfortable mid-table position, with almost enough points on the board now to stop worrying about relegation.  And even if they miss out on sixth again, the early season sales of Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart will make the next balance sheet look rather better.

What the duo see in the club isn't exactly clear to this blogger.  There is no realistic prospect of Dundee challenging for regular honours in Scottish football; how they expect to make a profit in the long run is not clear at all.  But with Nelms and his family settled in the City of Discovery, they appear to be around for the duration - music to the ears of fans who have endured administration in both 2003 and 2010.  It's incredible how much has changed since the latter - the same year that United won the cup, their neighbours were staring into the abyss.

Now it's United who are suffering.  It became apparent a year ago that their business plan was to run at a loss, offset by the sale of talented players...which was fine until the family jewels were all gone and there was no-one decent left to sell.  That £1.5million loss is despite seven figures being raked in for the transfers of Nadir Ciftci, Ryan McGowan and John Souttar - that's how much of a basket-case they are.

Their income had already dropped significantly as a result of their poor league position and the knock-on effect on attendances.  This season they are of course in the Championship, denting revenues even further.  Chairman Stephen Thompson has said, over the course of 2016-17, £1.5 million in cuts were being made to operating costs, but that surely will still leave them running at a loss for this campaign too.

To make matters worse, a return to the Premiership is hardly a given.  Under Ray McKinnon, United lie second in the table, seven points adrift of leaders Hibs but only two points better off than Falkirk and Morton who both operate on shoestring budgets in comparison.  Whilst a place in the promotion playoffs seems assured, their current run of just one win in eight league games doesn't bode well.  There has been precious little to suggest the current squad would beat Premiership opposition in that playoff.

And if United don't go up this season?  One shudders to think.  At the very least there would be more cuts, though rumours of future administration appear malicious.  But the longer it takes United to return to the promised land, the harder it will be.  There's no sign of a knight in shining armour coming to rescue them.

That's probably because he's already across the road at Dens.

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