Wayne Rooney signed up to be a player and coach at Derby County not a shop steward but that is the position he finds himself in as the club and squad haggle over pay. The bosses want to defer 50 per cent of the players’ wages until the Championship is up and running again, Rooney and the workforce are willing to go to 25 per cent.
These are deferrals not cuts. No jam today but jam tomorrow when normal service is resumed.
This is a patch-up operation for the current crisis. The reality is that in English football’s aspirational but dysfunctional second tier the jam and the jar do not come close to matching even in normal times.
Derby spent 161 per cent of their income in wages in their last published accounts; Reading 226 per cent.
Championship clubs as a whole are expected to make a combined trading loss of more than £600m in 2018/19 chasing the holy grail of Premier League football.
Spending is insanely high given what comes back in which is why the tentative steps taken towards the implementation of a salary cap in League One and League Two next season should extend to the Championship.
The lower-league owners have been edging towards a mandatory wage ceiling for some time but the present shutdown has served to concentrate minds.
Reports this week suggest they are close to an agreement.
Players will moan about wage cuts, agents will kick off about restraint of trade but this is the radical reboot the EFL needs. The current crisis creates the validation to go for it.
The cap would need to be fixed right level to bite, not simply at the level of the highest spenders in each division. The numbers that are being talked about – £3.6m per club in League One and £2m if League Two – are viable.
It would also need to be strongly policed with stinging penalties for evasion. It is naïve to assume supine compliance amongst some of the rogues who use football clubs as their own ego massaging couches.
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But if it could be put in place football would have a system which would enable it to move away from a hand-to-mouth existence and protect the futures of clubs crucial to the communities they serve. No-one wants another Bury, do they?
The Championship would stand to benefit to an even greater extent from a cap as the flagbearers for casino economics in English football.
The spin-off would be that a level playing field when it comes to wages would also create more even, and by definition, more exciting leagues.
Interestingly, Rooney recently spoke out against the salary cap in reference to Major League Soccer in the United States where wage control is the norm across sports.
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He felt football/soccer in the US is handcuffed by the cap when it comes to competing with European leagues for players.
For the same competitive reasons, unless every top European league sets the same ceiling, that is why the Premier League will never go down the cap route here.
But this is not an argument about the elite level with its eye-watering income streams. This is about the crumbling blocks of the pyramid below.
The EFL is in serious financial trouble as a result of the virus. Clubs could go to the wall unless action is taken. That action should take care of the long term as well as combat the nightmare of now.
For the Championship downwards, the cap fits. They should wear it.
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