‘Best players will want to get the hell out’ – New reality for lower league clubs post-salary cap as Sunderland, Peterborough and Co face big change



Bigger clubs will ‘face huge problems down the line’ unless they escape the post-salary cap lower leagues in the right direction, warns Sunday Times EFL columnist Rod Liddle.

Millwall-supporting pundit Liddle has reviewed the ‘huge change’ that has been voted in by clubs in League One and League Two this month, bringing down the maximum weekly wage to £1,700 and £1,000 in each division respectively.

Contracts signed before the vote will be honoured during a transition period but the long-term difference to the finances on show last season will be stark.

The average League One player in 2019/20 took home £4,753 per week and the highest earner was reported to be on £15,600. The average League Two player was on £2,191.

Liddle writes this morning: “Not everybody is terribly happy with this arrangement, not least the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), which has described it as ‘unlawful’ and ‘unenforceable’. But the big clubs in those divisions — or at least clubs accustomed to thinking of themselves as big — are angry, too.

“Why should Sunderland (average attendance last season: 30,118), Ipswich Town (19,549) and Portsmouth (17,804) be forced to pay the same wages for players as Accrington Stanley (2,862)? Should there be not some reward for clubs that have high attendances?”

He adds: “That argument has some force. But it is worth noting, too, that Ipswich and Portsmouth have both been placed in administration this century and Sunderland came mighty close: Accrington Stanley have not. It was partly reckless spending that reduced these clubs to their present positions.

“All three of those “big” clubs vigorously opposed the salary cap — and indeed it will cause huge problems for them farther down the line unless they escape from League One (in the right direction).”

The situation in the Championship, where the average wage is £29,000, remains under review.

But immediately the fall to League One becomes gigantic.

Liddle writes: “(It) is a huge change and while it may indeed be prudent (in the short term at least), there will be troublesome consequences. The best players will want to get the hell out, knowing that their clubs are constrained in the wages they can pay them.

“The gap between the Championship, where there is no salary cap, and League One will surely become a chasm… And because the League One clubs will find it ever more difficult to hold on to their bright young players, my suspicion is that they will get, on average, less money for them when they are sold.”

He points out that Peterborough striker Ivan Toney, who was tipped to fetch £10m pre-lockdown, might now be on the move for £5m and adds: “I wonder how far this downsizing is a partial consequence of the League One clubs now operating under very different rules. I suspect an awful lot of League One’s top scorers will be packing their bags very soon.”

Port Vale owner Carol Shanahan has insisted the introduction of a salary cap will not affect the club’s plans for this season.

Vale voted in favour of a cap of £1.5m in League Two, a rule that was reportedly passed by a majority of 20. Clubs can register no more than 22 players to play, and it’s their wages that count towards the cap.  On top of those 22, clubs can use under-21s players whose wages don’t count towards the cap.

Shanahan said: “I have had a chat with John Askey and Dave Kevan to have a look at what it means to us. It won’t mean a lot this year because the big spenders have already been out and spent as the cap didn’t start until the vote.

“It’s going to be really interesting. I think in many ways it takes a lot of pressure off managers and owners because they are not thinking ‘should we have spent more?’

“We now know the parameters we have to work within so it has helped us with our planning. So I am quietly confident it is a good thing, particularly for a club like ours.

“The cap is not a million miles from where we were operating anyway so it is not insurmountable.”

She confirmed the cap will have no effect on the club’s transfer plans for 2020/21 saying: “None whatsoever because we still have room in our squad.”





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