After the EFL announced a proposed wage cap in League One and Two, most vocal fans offered their opinions on social media, today, all but seven clubs have voted in favour of a financial prevention to ‘level the playing field’ where in fact it does quite the opposite.
No one disagrees with the view that money across the Football League is a big factor, as in life, many things can be improved with financial injection, and those with bigger resources can often have an advantage over those with less.
However, the decision to rush through a salary cap on clubs in tiers three and four of the pyramid seems a bit ill-thought out, yes, clubs with smaller budgets may feel it helps them in their ability to challenge for victory, especially against the richer clubs, but it actually creates a much bigger problem, it creates a gulf between the top half and the bottom half of the four professional leagues.
Upon relegation to League One, Clubs will now have to cut their playing staffs annual salary to a somewhat miserly £2.5million, considering the average spend in the Championship is between £15-£20million, dependant on relegation clauses and contracts expiring, your beloved club could be forced to ship out a dramatically high proportion of the squad.
This may be appealing to the clubs punching above their weight, in fact, if Wycombe Wanderers hadn’t managed promotion against the odds this season, they may have felt the balance against Hull City next year would be fairer, but, with their promotion, they now have the smallest budget in an uncontrolled league, if last year was against the odds. Next year is Tolkien levels of fantasy, Bournemouth are entering the same league with a reported £111million wage spend. Wycombe can barely imagine that kind of funds, and to financially compete with these oligarch-run clubs, they would need to sell more than their soul.
The new ruling also means clubs with huge fan bases such as Sunderland can no longer spend what they earn, averaging 30,000 fans per home game, for 23 league matches, if every ticket sold was only able to fund the playing wage, you could see Sunderland at home for £3.63 any more than that, and the excess money could not be put into the progression of the playing staff. We all know it doesn’t cost under £5 to watch a game of football, and yes there are other costs involved, but you are in essence punishing Sunderland for their big ground and large fan base.
The flip side of this, is where it becomes absurd, if this money is raised from ticket sales, Accrington’s average home gate would rely on fans paying an average of £55 per ticket. So this wage cap does not level the playing field, in fact, it creates different challenges. Accrington are competitive at a level they technically can’t afford right now, and they are surviving, selling a player each year tends to cover costs, which is not a bad business model, but if you limit the wages, the clubs buying these players can no longer do that, and without being harsh, relying on your prospects being snapped up by clubs in higher leagues, well, you need to trust your scouts and academy’s to provide a steady flow of talent, what?
Not all clubs have academies and many clubs cannot afford full-time scouts? And if you only sell to clubs in higher divisions, you are taking the talent from the league, you may as well vote in the closing off of the top two tiers, and realign the football pyramid to a model similar to the MLS and NASL, where there is no promotion, no relegation, and you only get to play in the top league if you can buy a place.
I see a problem.