Play­ers may not even be able to get a mort­gage un­der salary cap

In the third of a five-part series in­ves­ti­gat­ing the state of the game, Mike McGrath looks at the crip­pling ef­fect pro­posed move will have on clubs and their squads across Leagues One and Two

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football -

For foot­ballers in Eng­land’s lower leagues, the im­pact of the pro­posed salary cap is about to hit home – in some cases, lit­er­ally.

Should the English Foot­ball League’s cost-con­trol mea­sures be en­forced in League One and League Two, new con­tracts will see clauses in­serted to re­duce wages in the event of rel­e­ga­tion. And it will be that drop in salary that will make it dif­fi­cult for play­ers when bor­row­ing money for ma­jor loans such as mort­gages.

“Any mort­gage com­pany is go­ing to look at that and say, ‘Rel­e­ga­tion could hap­pen, we can’t give you the money’, ” said one foot­ball agent with knowl­edge of lower-league deals. If this is bad news for es­tate agents, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions for English foot­ball will be felt far more keenly.

Clubs have voted for a max­i­mum of £2.5mil­lion on play­ers’ salaries per sea­son for League One clubs and £1.5 mil­lion in League Two, with the Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers’ As­so­ci­a­tion union in ne­go­ti­a­tions and ar­bi­tra­tion over the lim­its. For the squads of Charl­ton Ath­letic, Wi­gan Ath­letic and Hull City, fall­ing into the third tier next sea­son will not mean an au­to­matic drop in wages. High-earn­ing play­ers will be treated like they are on the av­er­age – around £170,000 per year – rather than their ac­tual amount.

But any new con­tracts are likely to in­clude rel­e­ga­tion clauses that will see a re­duc­tion in wages to fall in line with new lim­its. That is when the prob­lems will arise try­ing to fi­nance a new house or car, as wages could fall by half or more.

In­ter­me­di­aries are ask­ing for new deals to have low buy­out clauses in case of rel­e­ga­tion. While a club like Wi­gan have sold their young tal­ent to sur­vive dur­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion – An­tonee Robin­son earned them £2 mil­lion when he went to Ful­ham – play­ers will now de­mand a set price to leave when they sign new con­tracts.

It means the club will lose mil­lions of pounds in their as­sets should they drop down a di­vi­sion. “No­body has thought it through, as usual. It is just an ad­van­tage to smaller clubs on small money any­way,” added the in­ter­me­di­ary.

Join­ing a strug­gling EFL club has never been less ap­peal­ing. Come Jan­uary, those fight­ing against rel­e­ga­tion will strug­gle to buy play­ers to save their sea­son. They will be ask­ing them to join a club where wages will be slashed if they fail to stay up. “Say your best player is do­ing re­ally well and you want to ex­tend his con­tract. You won’t be able to do that,” said an EFL chair­man.

There will cer­tainly be a case where play­ers will wait un­til they are safe from rel­e­ga­tion be­fore com­mit­ting to a fresh con­tract.

One EFL chair­man be­lieves the salary cap will be voted out within a year, with the pro­pos­als merely a sign that clubs needed to take a stand against the in­fla­tion of wages sea­son on sea­son. “I don’t think it will last. Come this time next year it will be voted out again,” he said.

“The clubs all did it as a nec­es­sary re­sponse to show sol­i­dar­ity and that things can­not go on. It was a vote for change. But it be­comes too com­plex and will cause too many prob­lems for clubs to re­tain play­ers and try to sign play­ers. I think it will be­come un­work­able. I think they voted be­cause we had to change and stop bankrupt­ing English foot­ball, rather than the de­tail.”

The PFA is not op­posed to con­trols, but wants more time for pro­pos­als to be con­sid­ered, while rais­ing con­cerns to clubs be­fore they voted the lim­its in. It took be­tween 11 and 25 months for other sports to in­tro­duce new rules on spend­ing. At the time of its in­tro­duc­tion, the PFA called it “un­law­ful and un­en­force­able”.

The union pointed out the huge dis­par­ity be­tween the teams in the same di­vi­sion. Sun­der­land and Portsmouth get big gates, when fans are not shut out by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, and have a high wage bill for League One. They are among those who would need to adapt most.

“Whilst sus­tain­abil­ity is key, main­tain­ing a cer­tain qual­ity of foot­ball will be vi­tal to achiev­ing fu­ture rev­enue growth, both cen­trally and for in­di­vid­ual clubs,” the PFA added in a doc­u­ment seen by

The Daily Tele­graph.

“It may now be­come more at­trac­tive for a player to com­pete in the Na­tional League than in EFL com­pe­ti­tions, if these draft rules pro­ceed.”

In­ter­est­ingly, there have been mur­mur­ings around EFL clubs that there are ways around the salary cap, which would mean clubs flout­ing the rules they voted in them­selves.

The pre­dic­tion from board­rooms is that it will be tem­po­rary and that clubs will even­tu­ally start to think what is best for them­selves, rather than for the good of foot­ball. It could end up be­ing one of the most short-lived mea­sures the sport has seen.

To­mor­row How foot­ball’s trans­fer mar­ket could be re­shaped in the post-Covid era

Crest­fallen: Ki­ef­fer Moore re­acts af­ter rel­e­ga­tion to League One with Wi­gan is con­firmed, but he is now back in the Cham­pi­onship with Cardiff

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