IAN LADYMAN: Do as EFL chief Rick Parry wants by introducing a salary cap and it will only create a Premier League closed shop
- Football in this country now looks to an uncertain future post-coronavirus
- According to EFL chief Rick Parry, his 71 member clubs must consider salary cap
- Aston Villa chief Christian Purslow says the Project Restart row driving the Premier League apart is like BREXIT
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
There was a time less than a decade ago when some foreign owners new to the Premier League discussed divorcing themselves from the rest of the football pyramid. They thought it would be rather nice if there was no such thing as relegation.
The plan never got off the ground. The Football Association would have final veto and were not impressed. The danger, such as it was, quickly passed.
Nevertheless, as the game in this country now looks to an uncertain future post-Covid-19, many of those with seats in the millionaires’ club of the top division are entitled to feel more separated than ever from those staring upwards from the Championship.
The sport of football in this country now looks to an uncertain future post-coronavirus
According to EFL chief executive Rick Parry, his 71 member clubs must consider a salary cap
England’s top clubs will survive Covid-19. Their world might feel a little different for a while but when the mist clears they will still be there. But for those looking to join them for more than the occasional season, the landscape threatens to become unrecognisable.
According to EFL chief executive Rick Parry, his 71 member clubs must consider a salary cap if they are to escape from the current imbalance between wages and income that threatens to ruin many of them.
‘Salary caps are essential,’ Parry said on Tuesday.
Under such schemes, a club’s wage bill must not exceed a certain figure. It works in sports such as the two rugby codes — at least when clubs aren’t cheating the system — and it works in the NFL in America.
But football club executives and financial experts were on Wednesday wondering how it could possibly function with the Premier League exempt from the plan. ‘I don’t see how I can take my club up to the Premier League on the back of a salary cap and then find Raheem Sterling and Virgil van Dijk staring at me on £200,000-a-week salaries,’ one Championship executive told Sportsmail on Wednesday night.
‘We could buy players on bigger money when we got promoted, I guess. But what happens if we come down again?
‘It is a nice theory and clearly the league has to change. But I just can’t see how it works in reality.’
This sentiment was echoed eloquently by Kieran Maguire, the University of Liverpool’s football finance expert.
‘Salary caps work in the NFL because it is a sealed league,’ Maguire said.
‘There is no relegation. To implement it in the Championship would be an enormous challenge.
‘If I was a Premier League player with a nice contract how could the EFL effectively demand that it’s torn up to fit with their rules if my club got relegated?
Of clubs in 2018-19 Championship, at least half paid more in salaries than they got in income
‘What would work nicely in the Championship would obviously not work when you got to the Premier League. And that is the problem. The gulf gets wider.’
Further down the football food chain in Leagues One and Two there is enthusiasm for Parry’s plan. In a letter sent to him by Mansfield Town chairman John Radford on behalf of fellow clubs last month, capping was referred to as a prerequisite of future restructuring.
However, the majority of clubs in the bottom two leagues do not have Premier League ambitions. Many owners are still local. Their horizons are limited.
In the Championship it’s different. Just one level down from the promised land, you are nothing if you are not aspirational.
Reading, 14th this season when play was suspended, had a wage-to-turnover ratio of 226%
Christian Purslow, chief executive of last year’s Championship play-off winners Aston Villa, told talkSPORT on Wednesday: ‘The EFL have grave financial problems that pre-date Covid-19. It is unsustainable at every level.’
He would appear to be right. Of the clubs playing in the 2018-19 Championship, at least half paid more in salaries than they gathered in income.
Reading, 14th this season when play was suspended, had a wage-to-turnover ratio of a staggering 226 per cent. Something clearly must change and Parry also has the parachute payment system on his radar.
Under the current arrangement the three clubs relegated from the Premier League receive a payment of £40m directly from the top flight to soften the landing. The other 21 Championship clubs receive a ‘solidarity’ payment of a little over £4m.
Christian Purslow, chief executive of Aston Villa, told talkSPORT on Wednesday: ‘The EFL have grave financial problems that pre-date Covid-19. It is unsustainable at every level’
The disparity is clear, so much so that Parry said on Tuesday the system was ‘evil’. He wants the money distributed more evenly through the division but there is one problem: the Premier League clubs would have to vote for it.
As Maguire said: ‘At the start of each Premier League season you have about 12 clubs who are terrified of going down. The one thing they cling to is that they know if they do, they will get all that parachute payment cash to help them come back up again.
‘Given that 14 clubs would have to be in favour of a change of system, why on earth are any of them going to put their hands up?’
It is an argument that points to the very heart of the matter.
Such are the financial stakes of Premier League football these days, any club remotely interested in looking at the bigger picture will only do so having first made sure they themselves are going to be looked after.
Villa’s Purslow essentially said it on the radio on Wednesday morning. Individual needs will always come first.
With that in mind, the Premier League will watch the talk about EFL salary caps with interest.
Another step towards Europe’s most valuable league effectively becoming a closed shop — it is what many of them have wished for all along.
The 20 Premier League grounds up and down the country remain locked amid the pandemic
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