The Premier League Ponders A Salary Cap

9 By Mark  |   The Ball  |   March 28, 2010  |     13

The Premier League’s Annual General Meeting this summer will provide stringent salary cap regulations for English football’s top tier, to judge by the plethora of club chairmen who have offered unsolicited opinions in favour of such regulations in recent months. It is refreshing to see such a consensus around an issue of such magnitude, especially coming from a group of people of such sound judgement.

West Ham co-owner David Gold has struck a discordant note around the subject. But he has expressed his views with admirable consistency, long before salary caps became the sexy subject in the wake of Portsmouth’s financial demise. As he said on BBC Sport last summer, in opposition to “capping”: “I think you have to be very careful that you don’t go all the way back to 50 or 60 years ago, when Blackpool was the top club in the division, because you’d end up with a very bland league.” That, alongside his view that a “league” is “the survival of the fittest,” is a healthy sign that the debate will be constructive and well-informed, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The credibility of the salary cap argument is demonstrated by Fulham chairman Mohamed Fayed being its most fervent supporter. As long ago as last April, Fayed was talking in admirably emotive terms on the subject. “Take my crusade against Sky-high players’ wages,” he told London’s Evening Standard newspaper last April, cleverly focusing readers’ minds on the matter in hand while adding a bit of product-placement. “How can it be right for top players to be earning £15-20m per year? These wages need to be capped,” he added, rightly railing against the £330,000 weekly wage that he must have seen doing the rounds in last year’s Premier League.

He railed against high wages again in a recent interview, with the not-at-all-ironically-named journalist from the Daily Express journo, John Wragg: “I would put a cap on wages and end the exploitation of football. If you want a player, it is £20m or £30m. And the players, they ask for £150,000, £250,000-per-week,” he added, having re-negotiated Bobby Zamora’s goal bonus upwards at just the wrong time, to judge by those figures. “I keep talking but no-one is listening,” he noted, correctly. “All the chairmen need waking up,” he added. And after all that he says, I’m sure they do.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has already taken a more direct route than Fayed. In February, he wrote to Premier League supreme Richard Scudamore, calling for “a limit on borrowing, not as a set amount but as a percentage of turnover. They have to do something about it.” Who “they” were, he didn’t clarify. But he’d clearly researched the subject: “Some of the salaries I’ve read about, whether the figures are accurate or not, make you cringe.” And he’s quite right. I certainly cringed when I read that.

So between them, Fayed and Whelan can certainly construct a motion, or however the Premier League constructs policy, to deal with the issue. It would need the support of 14 of the member clubs, of course. But there’s enough public support to suggest that such a figure would be less of a mountain than the debt mountain somehow built up without their approval or knowledge.

Take David Sullivan, co-owner of West Ham United, diligently working behind the scenes to rid his club of their mountainous debt: “I’ve always been against it but now I’m starting to swing towards it,” he said of a salary cap last month. “The crazy wages the Icelandics were paying” brought on this admirable change of mind. Sullivan is more imaginative in his cost-cutting, though. He is currently trying to get manager Gianfranco Zola off the Hammers’ wage bill by forcing him to resign via constant public humiliation, rather than having to sack him and pay-off his contract. Zola, cannily, is plotting financial revenge on Sullivan by deliberately fielding disorganised West Ham sides which would be cast-iron (pardon the pun) relegation certainties were Hull and Burnley not even worse. At least I assume that’s what he was doing against Wolves.

Sullivan might even consider the earnings of Zola and others at his club to be “immoral.” And having lived off such earnings himself in the past, he should know. “Somehow there should be some sort of control,” Sullivan concluded last month. Every time he opens his mouth, I’m sure many people would agree. It remains to be seen whether all this talk will be translated into action this summer. But in the current and continuing economic climate, I fell certain that such men of class and integrity as Fayed, Whelan and Sullivan will deliver when it matters. As Fayed himself said: “There won’t be enough clubs left if this continues to happen.” And with that, you really can’t argue.

  • March 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Mark Chalcraft

    Oh, a sarcasm detector, that’s a REALLY useful invention…

  • March 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Mark Murphy

    What sarcasm?

  • March 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Mark Chalcraft

    I read a lot of the article as sarcastic, at least in it’s tone regarding the comments made by Whelan etc.

    Apologies if I misread it…

  • March 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm


    Marck C, I think your sarcasm detector broke at about 2:00pm 😉

  • March 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm


    Mark C, I think your sarcasm detector broke at about 2:00pm 😉

  • March 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm


    A Salary Cap keeps everyone competitive and makes for a better league.

    The same teams winning the league year after year after year is what is “bland” and boring.

    The top teams want to keep it the way it is because they know that if FORCED to use their youth squads as the future, they would die quickly

  • March 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Mark Chalcraft

    @Chalfers – Like I said, a really useful invention!

    In all seriousness, I think most people without vested interests would agree that a salary cap would benefit football in many ways.

    Unfortunately, nobody within a position of power in football is without vested interests.

  • March 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm


    While the sarcasm was kind of amusing, it would be useful to actually discuss the issue. I’m not sure what the point of this piece was, other than to highlight how ridiculous some owners are. Well done.

  • April 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Lanterne Rouge

    It’s a good idea of course and, as Rious says, if only we were back in the “bland” days when Blackpool won the league.

    But Fayed wasn’t for it when his Fulham side artificially manoeuvered themselves up through the divisions employing players that no other second or tier clubs could dream of affording, and nor was Whelan. Now they are the small fish in their pool, they
    want to restrict the competitive advantge of their betters. Even if the Premier League were to try and impose this, someone, somewhere will take it to court and argue that it will hurt competition.

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