Clarke, who has been in the chair for 18 months, made his remarks in an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post. He said: "I am a raving optimist, you have to be in football. But I am pessimistic about football finances because if we get complacent then we will start losing clubs."
Replica shirtsHe says the fans are telling him times are hard, and that they are "trimming at the edges", cutting down on buying a replica shirt or a pie at half-time. But, he says, "if the economy continues to struggle then people are soon going to have difficult decisions to make with regards going to football games."
The truth is, those decisions won't be too difficult for most people. If the financial pressure is on, the season ticket or the visit to the match will be one of the first economies. And that's why Clarke reckons it's so important for clubs to "have a sustainable cost base".
Premier LeagueBut the way football is structured provides an incentive, almost an imperative, for clubs to spend their way to success, rather than build a sustainable business base. And that does not look about to change. The Premier League is where the money is, and within that it's the top four places and European football.
With the rewards for success so disproportionately weighted towards the top, the gap between the successful few and the unsuccessful many – a gap which is an important part of defining what sport is – can only grow; while at the same time the need for clubs to do whatever it takes to become one of those successful few grows.
Clarke's words are welcome, particularly when he talks about sustainability and clubs having their roots firmly in communities. But it's going to take a much more radical rethinking of the way the game is organised for real change to happen. At the moment, football clubs think they are too important to fail. For some, there's a nasty surprise waiting.