By Neil Harker (@neilharkerYNWA)
The following is a guest article by the aforementioned author – linked above – and is not necessarily representative of opinions held by anyone at Empire of the Kop…
Well, of course, you might say. Or you may be at home sipping espresso from a golden teacup with your feet up on a leather ottoman watching a 76 inch TV thinking, “what do we need salary caps for? The more money we pay these players, the better the entertainment.” And you may be right, but I believe with the current pandemic, economic situation and environmental crisis, it’s time to put a salary cap, and maybe even a transfer fee cap, on the ridiculous amounts being paid in the modern football era.
I’ve watched the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and all other top European football leagues for the last 20 years, seeing some of the giants fall and a new oil classico emerge. Amidst all that, whilst being in North America, I’ve seen how, in the hockey world, the player lockout in the NHL finally brought about salary caps and much-needed changes to the game’s officiating, similar to how the EPL brought in VAR and had to update interpretations of the rules because of fine margins and evolving technology.
Now the FA and Premier League must realise that the over the top spending to get the next brightest star and bring the most fans to the games at your venues cannot continue. These amounts need to be regulated so that, even if one team is owned by a Saudi-lead investment firm and another team is simply a community-owned cooperative, they can only pay so much and there is some kind of level playing field, which is why we all play this beautiful game. Just one ball, two nets on a field, and 22 willing players who agree the game stays between the lines, and if they respect the rules then you can have a game.
So respectively, if we respect the rules of supply and demand and spending, then there has to be a ceiling on the amount of money that can be splashed around on the wages of a player who just kicks a ball around. And don’t get me wrong, I realise Mo Salah does not just kick a ball around; he plays the game and manipulates the ball the most eloquently I’ve ever seen. Players now do things most people can only dream of via the use of a controller, or they cry when they don’t win a penalty from diving over because they know, either way, they go home with 180,000 pounds per week.
So it can be the beautiful game to watch, or it can get ugly and be allowed to turn into an overpriced Broadway show, but it’s inevitable there has to be a limit set or things will go bust. If the salaries are allowed to go as high as the investors can go and players keep demanding more, what will happen to the community they are in and at what cost? Pushing out the competition, bankrupting the smaller clubs? Local business close? Bleeding the clubs dry to pay for salaries when their revenue is limited by a fixed number of ticket sales and TV earnings is not feasible for all clubs.
Let’s finish like this. We all saw what happened during the “Super League” drama, ffs. Can we not learn something from all of this? Clubs need salaries regulated and players have to accept it, and agents have to deal with it. This weeds out the people who don’t want to play the game for playing the game, or only want to make the most money. It gets rid of the drama divers and glory hunters that don’t want to pay their dues and work the way up and earn accolades and trophies the hard way – with hard work, a little blood, a lot of sweat and maybe a few tears. That’s how teams build bonds and history, and it’s how the beautiful game was made.
Back when the FA cup started and teams wanted an edge (so started recruiting from other towns and started paying players) it was illegal to pay for a transfer of a non-local player. But look how far we have come – international stars and rival transfers make for some of the highest wages ever. We have had to make changes before, as we realized some things needed to evolve. Now we live in a different time, where those expectations are as high as the wages being offered, and we can’t just keep printing more money or it loses value, and we can’t just pay more and more to the players or the game becomes a pantomime and loses its beauty and appeal.
If salary caps are introduced then rich clubs, community-owned clubs and players will all be aware of the limits and can go as high as the limit to try and recruit players and beat out the competition. This would make the competitiveness genuine and more about the style, quality and tactics of the game, rather than the richest team becoming the best. If there is a level spending field, like FFP suggests there could be, then the financial part is removed from the equation when speaking about why a team beat another one. Instead, you are left with the players on the field, the setup they had, the effort on the night and nothing to do with who had a million-dollar mansion with training facilities. It stops being about which team has the most money to spend on trying to win and becomes about who wants it more.