By Tony Attwood
We’ve been debating the way the Premier League has allowed clubs to be run by benefactors for years – or so it seems. And we’ve been debating what might be done about it.
The fact that something might be done, after all this time, seems almost too unlikely to be true. For while it seems the majority of Arsenal supporters want to blame the manager, the board, the players and quite possibly Goonersaurus for the failure of the club to win anything other than a vast number of trophies for the Ladies team, while Untold has plugged away at the fact that if the financial rules changed, then so would the league table.
The Uefa approach has been with us for three or four years now, and has partly been introduced. Now it seems that the Premier League clubs themselves might actually do something.
Odd though it seems, I think this might happen.
I first covered the notion of the League taking action this season about six months ago, and we’ve been through many of the pros and cons, including the issue of salary caps and the like, and all the legal implications within the EU.
But it really does seem to be true. The league clubs are taking action. They even have a new watchword: “cost-control”. They are speaking of “financial stability” and of “promoting competition”, and a “limit wage inflation to players”.
Now it pains me to say this but the first person I ever heard put forward the notion of controlling salaries was Lord Sugar when chair at Tottenham. But credit where it is due – it was Tottenham Hotspur that really started the discussion all those years ago, when his lordship proposed setting aside some of the Sky cash each year to help promote the clubs, rather than “piss it all up against the wall in players’ salaries” (as I recall his expression).
Today we need 14 of the 20 clubs to vote for change, and would you believe it, 15 just have voted for go ahead with detailed plans for a “break-even rule”, with a view to introducing it next season. Detailed plans will be put to the clubs in February.
Uefa’s version requires that clubs break even. The huge benefit the League has is that it has seen how clubs try to get around the rule – and so their own rules will be written with the benefit of the knowledge of the current manoeuvring.
The opposition to the rule is not quite as one might expect – they are:
Fulham, who object because they utterly rely on their benefactor. Without him they would sink link the Thames that flows past and now underneath their ground.
Everton would benefit from the new move but do not want to do anything that might slow down the eternal desire of Bill Kenwright to sell the club. Hmmm.
West Bromwich Albion’s objection is odd, and seems more like a fine point of philosophy about the rights of the individual than a concern for the game.
Manchester City object because they rely so utterly on a rich owner. They would be the big losers.
Chelsea claim they support break-even rule but want to reserve the right for the owner to plough in funds as equity rather than loans. Thus it was that when Chelsea announced a profit of £1.4 million, they managed to do it with £166 million of loans transferred into equity. With that sort of movement going on, their support is really opposition, in my view, so I count them in the five no votes.
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