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Football in resorts: the case of Torquay


Ar first sight Torbay might seem to fit into Type 2 of our resorts categorisation.  Type 1 covered small, select up market resorts.   Type 3 were towns highly dependent on tourism that had fallen on hard times like Skegness.    Type 2 were towns which had diverisified economies in which the resort function sat alongside many others such as Bournemouth.

However, the case of Torbay is less straightorward than it first appears.  Disposbale household income is 86 per cent of the national average.  Workplace earnings are 72 per cent of the national average. Productivity is 61 per cent of the national average.   One in ten of the population is claiming incapacity benefit.

Distribution, hotels and restaurants account for 33 per cent of employment compared with 22 per cent in England as a whole.   Financial services accoiunt for just 12.5 per cent compared with 24 per cent in England as a whole.

The Torbay Economic Strategy for 2010-15 notes, 'For the past two decaces Torbay has experienced a gradual but persistent decline in visitor numbers and associated declines to spend per head.  During this period there has been a dynamic globalisation of the tourism industry, combined with a revolution in consumer expectations, which until recently Torbay has failed to recognise.'

'Traditionally the English Riveria was a weekly and two weekly holiday destination but this had declined to 7.6 nights in 2003, and then sharply reduced to 4 nights by 2007.   Many other emerging destinations offering city or rural breaks have increased at a much faster rate than Torbay.'

'Torbay has relatively high levels of deprivation.  Part of this deprivation arises from a reliance on predominantly low paid, low skill jobs within the tourism sector which have resulted in wages in Torbay being significantly lower than the regional average..'

The population of Torbay is just under 130,000.  The hinterland is not densely populated and one soon runs into the spheres of influence of Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle.    Formerly in League Two (tey have enjoyed one season at a higher level), Torquay United has been through a series of financial crises, leading to another recent takeover of the club.

Swindon based Gaming International took over just before Christmas, have failed to agree a deal in the summer.    Not all supporters are happy about this, but the club was threatened with going into administration.   The Gulls have been losing thousands of pounds a week and have been struggling ever since June 2015 when local lottery winner Thea Bristow decided to end her investment in the club,

The Gulls rank 7th in Conference attendances this season with an average of 2,059.  The biggest crowd was 2,540 against Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day.

The new owners have talked about moving to a new stadium on the outskirts of town, but it is difficult to see how this would overcome the demographic limitations the club faces.

Non-league budgets

I'd love to see a break-even, pro forma budget for a non-league team. On the face of it, it doesn't seem wise to own or operate a business based primarily on fan attendance, that is open for customers only about two dozens times per year, including some rainy weekday evenings in winter, and often performs poorly against other teams that are heavily subsidized by their owners, all the while trying to sign up workers who will cheerfully work hard for relatively modest pay.  In that light, the stability of the non-league system is remarkable.