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Sam Elliott: Forest Green Rovers won’t be the last to spend big in bid for promotion

WHEN someone who hasn’t followed a story picks it up, more often than not it goes horribly wrong.

So the frustration from the well-run clubs was understandable at certain media coverage of Forest Green Rovers’ promotion. Deserved on the day undoubtedly, but some kind of footballing fairytale it was not.

The ‘small club on the hill’ as they call themselves are kings of the hill when it comes to spending. Dale Vince is a patient and ethical guy but his slogan ‘sustainability in sport’, plastered all over the New Lawn, has an irritating irony to those who visit.

For a place with a vegan menu, and locally sourced and environmentally friendly food only available, the fact that there is nothing organic about their on-the-pitch offerings isn’t lost on me.

Some think it is, and fun and games on twitter on Sunday after congratulating the club on their promotion received a typically heated response.

Half of the reason people are prickly about Forest Green is their reported £10m debts over the past four years, and recently released figures that revealed £200,000 had been spent on agents’ fees this season alone.

Commitment

Here comes the but. Vince isn’t everybody’s cup of camomile. Green or not, a whacking playing budget with crowds as they are will never be well received. No eco points scored.

However, one thing you can’t question is his commitment. How many businessmen and benefactors would have called it a day after seeing their fortune chipped away at after a season or two?

Well Vince has been trying since 2010. Every single year they have fallen well short. Woefully short sometimes. But he returns every time and despite numerous failures, he seems to enjoy it more every season. Boom, but no sign yet of bust.

Vince is not alone in spending more on players than his club brings in. Don’t be fooled into thinking the National League will be more of a level playing field next season. It won’t. Farewell Forest Green Rovers, but hello to AFC Fylde and to Ebbsfleet United.

Things will be getting more difficult before they get easier if you look down the leagues. Salford City have signed superbly so far this close season, defenders Danny Livesey and arguably Gateshead’s best player last season, Liam Hogan, will already install them as National League North favourites.

It may be a few years down the line, but Billericay Town will buy their way through the leagues – especially as the National League South is now short of cash-rich clubs.

Their owner Glenn Tamplin isn’t short of the reddies, and he’s more than happy for everyone to know it. Their budget last season when they failed to reach the Ryman Premier play-offs was over £20,000 a week. He tweeted it.

Like it or not, the money men are here to say.

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