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 Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Andy Holt

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.

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