6 of the Biggest Clubs That Went Broke

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DARLINGTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10:  A general view of the Northern Echo Darlington Arena, home of Darlington FC who face a fight for survival on January 10, 2012 in Darlington, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

​The subject of financial mismanagement isn't exactly a sexy one, but it's reared its head again as Italian side Parma have been forced to fold after their debts became too much to deal with. 


While it's not sexy, it is hugely important - literally life and death for the future of a football club. Here's a look at some who got it horribly wrong...

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6. Parma

​Starting at the start then - the most recent of the big clubs to topple, Parma's proud history couldn't save them from being dissolved at the end of the 2014/15 season. 


The players went most, if not all, of the season completely unpaid, and had to drive their own team coach to some matches, as the club could not afford a driver. 


Relegated from Serie A, their crippling debts mean they're barred from entering Serie B - and instead they must start life again as an amatuer side down in Italy's fourth tier. 

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5. Rangers

​Probably the most memorable financial collapse in recent British football history, Rangers' fall from grace was as massive as it was unexpected. From ruling Scottish football alongside their arch-rivals Celtic, they were forced to disband - starting again from scratch in the fourth tier of Scottish football. 


How did it happen? Well, it turns out that ruling Scottish football is analogous to holding the world record for eating tables - you're only there because there's no other competition, and it doesn't actually mean anything in the real world. 


Rangers constantly overspent their meagre SPL earnings, losing an average of £13m a year in the decade before they were wound up. 

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4. Fiorentina

​Two-time Serie A winners and one-time European Cup runners-up Fiorentina suffered the indignity of being essentially being disbanded in 2002, when their dire financial state was revealed. 


Having won the Coppa Italia in 2001 and qualified for the UEFA Cup, the club seemed in fine health on the pitch - but the revelation that the club was around £32m in debt and unable to pay wages shook the club to its foundations, and they were relegated at the end of the season.


Their bankruptcy meant that they were refused a place in Serie B, and were forced to begin as a new club in the fourth tier. 


A bizarre situation in Italian football meant that they leap-frogged Serie C1 when they were promoted from Serie C2 (have a google of the 'Catania case' for more on that), and were back in the top flight by the end of the 2003/04 season. 

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3. Darlington FC

Not on the list so much for the size of the club as for the way they fell, Darlington's loss was mourned by English football as an example of football clubs becoming rich men's playthings. 


George Reynolds, former thief and safecracker, took over the club in 1999 and decided to build a brand-new, 25,000-seater stadium - which, naturally, he named after himself. The stadium was a disaster for the side languishing in the fourth tier of English football, costing far more to operate than it made, and rarely saw more than 10% of its capacity used. 


Reynolds left the club in 2004, and was sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding the Inland Revenue not long afterwards. Darlington struggled on until 2012 under a number of new owners, but were eventually forced to concede defeat and disband. Darlington 1883 now play in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division, having been promoted last season. 

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2. Leeds United

​Another club thrown into crisis in the transfer boom of the early-mid 2000s, Leeds United went from Champions League semi-finalists to League One and administration in just six years. 


It's easy to blame Leeds' misfortunes on then-chairman Peter Ridsdale... so that's what we'll do. Ridsdale sanctioned massive over-spending based on the idea that Leeds would make their cash back from regular Champions League runs, with prize and TV money flooding in. 


In the event, they never qualified for the CL again - and a mass player exodus followed. Jonathan Woodgate, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler and basically every other half-decent player at the club's disposal left over the course of a few seasons, and a sharp descent into League One followed - the club entering administration the year they went down. 


The implosion was so dramatic, there's now a well-stocked Wikipedia page on "​Doing a Leeds". Got to sting a bit, that. 

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1. Portsmouth FC

Impressively (alright, that might not be the word) Portsmouth have actually managed to go completely bust twice in the last six years - first being placed into administration in February 2010 when it became clear to the new owner that the club were over £130m in debt, then once again in February 2012 after owner Vladimir Antonov was arrested and his assets frozen, and the club was issued with a winding-up petition from HMRC as they owed around £1.6m in taxes. 


This time it was revealed that the club were in nearly £60m of debt - and relegation soon followed, along with the release of every single professional player at the club, at the end of the season. 


The club are now out of administration, but still struggling on the pitch - finishing 16th in League Two last season. 

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