EFL measures are needed as gambling owners cannot be trusted to limit their spending
Cap can be raised once pandemic eases, but action had to be taken to save more clubs from going to the wall
The English Football League cannot make gloomy predictions about the existential threat facing dozens of clubs and then do nothing to mitigate that risk, which is why the introduction of the so-called salary cap is a positive development.
You only have to look 18 miles down the road from me to Bury or Bolton, Wigan or Macclesfield – take your pick – to see that football as we know it cannot continue without serious regulation.
I have been a long-term supporter of such measures, but the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic makes them all the more urgent.
The new rules are the result of months of debate followed by a vote, and were proposed by clubs for clubs.
Though the annual limit on player expenses of £2.5million for League One clubs and £1.5million for League Two clubs has been called a salary cap, in reality it is a budget cap.
Clubs are free to spend on wages as they see fit within that budget. If they want to fill their squad with youngsters but have two stars on £5,000 per week, they can do.
Clubs such as Sunderland have spoken out, arguing their revenue allows them to service higher expenditure, principally due to the size of their attendances. But what attendances for the foreseeable future? We are very concerned about the lack of income from fans, and while there are hopes for reduced crowds to return in October, who knows what could happen? We could be in another lockdown.
The bigger clubs with bigger stadiums earn a higher proportion of their income from gate receipts, so they should be more worried than us. To gamble on future earnings would be irresponsible.
There are some big clubs in League One because of the lack of financial control in the leagues above.
Owners have gambled with money they cannot afford to lose to reach the next level, but when they fail their clubs come a cropper. Owners cannot be trusted to limit spending, given the incentives on offer for promotion, so the EFL has to. If not, the Government will be the last port of call because we cannot keep letting so many clubs go to the wall.
I was not surprised to see the Professional Footballers’ Association’s criticism of the new rules, but I have very little time for its arguments. It is a players’ union trying to do right by its members, and I understand that, but a union also exists to protect jobs and, put bluntly, there will not be enough teams to go around if spending carries on the way it is and Covid-19 continues to shape the next few years.
Players need clubs to be in healthy financial shape for their own benefit.
While I am pleased to see these controls brought in, I am open about seeing them relaxed if the circumstances change down the line. Once supporters return and the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we can plan with greater clarity. If we have clubs running at a surplus, these caps can increase, but for now they are needed.