Tykes’ fate dis­plays the fa­tal flaws

PARA­CHUTE PAY­MENTS WILL DE­STROY COM­PE­TI­TION IN THE CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

BARNS­LEY may have lost their bat­tle to stay in the Cham­pi­onship. But it is the whole Foot­ball League that is los­ing the war. A war against fat cats in­tent on en­sur­ing the Pre­mier League cash keeps rolling in. A war against men who would hap­pily ex­tin­guish drama and com­pe­ti­tion for a few shirt sales in Hong Kong. A war, as ever, against the Pre­mier League.

The Tykes an­nual play­ing budget – the wages paid to their first team squad – is about £4m.

Five or six years ago, that was ad­e­quate. Not to har­bour Pre­mier League dreams, nor even to at­tract the odd age­ing mav­er­ick. But enough to give the club a fight­ing chance of stay­ing up, of stand­ing toe-to­toe and giv­ing the big boys an oc­ca­sional black eye. Now? It is like tak­ing on Chris Hoy armed with a uni­cy­cle.

It would be re­miss to sug­gest that Barns­ley’s play­ers are hard up. Even if they are ‘only’ on £3,000 a week, none of them need to be work­ing nights at the The Nag’s Head to make ends meet.

But money is rel­a­tive.Three grand may seem like a hand­some pay packet but if your ri­vals are hand­ing out ten, fif­teen and twenty, the best play­ers will give you a swerve.

Leviathan

That is the re­al­ity for Barns­ley. They are the krill of the Cham­pi­onship, feed­ing on plank­ton be­fore be­ing de­voured by the leviathans of the ocean.

In re­cent sea­sons, they have made a gritty stand. Si­mon Davey, Mark Robins, Keith Hill and David Fl­itcroft – all of them kept the Tykes up on re­sources that should have guar­an­teed rel­e­ga­tion. Now, though, the leviathans are grow­ing. And the rea­son they are grow­ing is para­chute money.

The Pre­mier League’s golden kiss-off may not hin­der the likes of Le­ices­ter and Cardiff, one-city clubs with wealthy back­ers and large fan­bases.

But for small to medi­um­sized clubs like Barns­ley and Yeovil, the £46m handed to sides rel­e­gated from the top flight makes ‘com­pet­ing’ in the Cham­pi­onship lit­tle more than an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity.

It’s very sad, be­cause it leaves just two op­tions. Spend re­spon­si­bly in the knowl­edge you are beaten from the off. Or bet the house and risk de­struc­tion. One will lose you fans, the other pretty much ev­ery­thing. Nei­ther are vi­able long-term.

Bul­lied

And that is ex­actly what the Pre­mier League had in mind when they brow­beat and bul­lied the League into ac­cept­ing the re­vised para­chute pay­ment scheme in 2012.

To co­coon the elite few by crush­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.To en­cour­age the kind of lav­ish spend­ing that brings su­per­stars to the top flight. To en­sure that no­body again will ever ‘do a Leeds’.

Don’t worry, they said, splash out. Rel­e­ga­tion clause? No need.We’ll give you so much cash that the pond life in the Cham­pi­onship won’t have a prayer.

So it has turned out.With each pass­ing year, three new clubs will ar­rive laden with loser’s gold.

The gulf, al­ready huge, will widen to a chasm. And clubs like Barns­ley will be pushed to­wards obliv­ion.

Best League in the world? No.The most ir­re­spon­si­ble? No ques­tion.

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