‘An absolute disgrace’ - £2.5m League One salary cap set to be voted through today despite opposition from ‘big clubs’
League One clubs are set to vote today on the introduction of a controversial £2.5m salary cap, which looks likely to pass despite high-profile opposition from the likes of Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Portsmouth. Mark Heath takes a look at the arguments for and against from around the league...
The salary cap is set to be discussed when the EFL meet today. With a majority of two thirds needed to pass, it’s likely that the move will get through, although Town, Sunderland, Portsmouth and Oxford United are all known to be against the plan.
In theory, it looks to level the playing field in League One, bring costs and spending down and make the game more sustainable in a post-Covid-19 world.
The problem is, with the Championship cap set to be a much higher £18m, it’s hard to see how clubs vying for promotion to the second tier could possibly hope to compete if they did go up. Premier Leagues One and Two are on the horizon, with the third and fourth tiers being cut adrift from the land of milk and honey.
Town, with a current wage bill of around £5-6m, would certainly be in danger of breaking the cap - and, with reported fines being £3 for every £1 a club goes over, you could soon be looking at a hefty bill.
Squad sizes will also be reduced, with a first team squad of 22 allowed for the coming season - although players aged 21 and under are exempt from the cap.
Here’s what some of League One’s managers, owners and chief executive have said about the cap - both for and against...
Michael Appleton, Lincoln City boss, said: “I do believe that you should be able to spend if you have the power to do that,
“I am a fan of the salary cap. It just depends how much the salary cap is. I think you have got to find a balance where you give an opportunity for an owner or a club, if they choose to do it and have the money, to get promoted.
“But, at the time same time, I like the fact you wouldn’t be able to spend quadruple what the other teams are to get out of the league. If they get the balance right I will be happy with it.”
Darragh MacAnthony, Peterborough owner explained: “I delivered a document about three months ago with my proposals.
I would base the cap on a club’s turnover so the likes of Sunderland and Portsmouth could spend more based on what they generate. That would be a fairer way.
“For instance Posh generate around £6 million a year so we would be capped at a lower figure than Portsmouth who attract 16,000 fans to every home game and generate much more. You should be rewarded for running a successful business like Portsmouth.
“But my first thought when I heard the EFL proposal was that it would benefit us. It would drag the bigger clubs down a bit as there would have to be a lot of revision of players’ contracts.
“We will cope because players under the age of 21 don’t count towards the figure, and we have a lot of them, whereas some of the bigger payers who have players on 8-9 grand a week could have a problem.
“We will be voting for the proposal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some amendments made.
“It’s clear when there are clubs who can’t find £200k-300k to fund the completion of a season that salary caps are needed.
“There could still be a rocky road ahead for a couple of seasons for some clubs, but no-one will go bust because of this.
“A salary cap may even deliver some fairy tales.”
Blackpool chief executive Ben Mansford said: “Covid will provide an important reset for finances in League One and League Two.
“The Championship has a wages to turnover rate of 106 per cent, which I’d suggest is not sustainable. We saw the disappointing circumstances surrounding Wigan as well.
“I think greater regulation and a tightening of the financial regulations is really important and I also think the EFL need to look at the Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
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“When clubs are changing hands, you need to see who is actually owning football clubs and then you’re more likely to see a greater sense of sustainability.
“We’re likely to see a number of financial fair play regulations coming in and a salary cap is one that has been talked about a lot.
“I think there needs to be a calming of wages and wage to turnover ratio outside the Premier League in particular.
“For the next 12 to 24 months, the Covid situation will see a calming.”
Ben Robinson, Burton Albion chairman, said: “Why would you be against it? The Championship’s a different ball game. You’re talking about £100m-plus to be successful, whereas in League One it’s not the same.
“I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t go through. I think there will be enough clubs who see the importance of reining in overspending. The Covid crisis and the financial pressures it’s created for clubs brings that more into focus. It’s going to make clubs think more about how they run their business.”
Lee O’Neill, Ipswich Town’s general manager of football operations, said: “It’s an issue we’ll have to address – it will put restrictions on us.
“I can definitely see why smaller clubs want it because it could give them a more level playing field. We don’t necessarily want it to happen.
“It would have been better if they’d been able to make Financial Fair Play rules truly work. That’s a self sustainability model which would be fairer than an across the board salary cap.
“We feel that if you have a fan base that is size ‘X’ that brings you in revenue of ‘X’ then you should be able to invest as much of that money into your squad as you like.
“When you look at some of the figures being mentioned for salary caps in the Championship, League One and League Two (£1.25m) then there are going to be some big gaps between the divisions.”
Jim Rodwell, CEO of Sunderland, said: “Sunderland absolutely agree that clubs should become more sustainable, but that doesn’t mean a hard and fast wage cap.
“Sustainability is not about creating a level-playing field, it’s about living within your means.
“If that means one club is larger than another, so be it.
“That’s what sustainability means.”
Mark Catlin, CEO of Portsmouth agrees. He said: “Should salary caps come in, those clubs with a 40,000 average attendance and generating huge commercial revenues will be only allowed to spend the same as clubs with a 2,000 attendance and no commercial income.
“How can that be right?
“It is an absolute disgrace. I have been fighting this behind the scenes and will be fighting it even more strongly over the coming weeks and months.”
Oxford United boss Karl Robinson added: “If owners want to spend money they should be allowed to, as long as the club is safe.
“We’ve all got to have hopes and dreams that you could do a Bournemouth one day of getting to the Championship and further, but this might stall it.
“How can anyone think £18m to £2.5m is fair? Let’s all get promoted and be sitting ducks and come back down.
“I’m telling you now, Premier League 2 is round the corner.”
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