Detailed: What landmark wage cap ruling means to Portsmouth, Sunderland, Ipswich, Oxford United and rest of League One
Even in a year of cataclysmic events this was seismic football news.
The EFL’s missive arrived in the inboxes of its members around the country a matter of minutes before it was released to the masses. To most, there was no knowledge of what was coming.
‘An independent arbitration panel has upheld a claim from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) that the EFL was in breach of the constitution of the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee (PFNCC) by introducing ‘Squad Salary Caps,’ it said after its release at 2.30pm.
The wordy meandering made it necessary to read a second and third time to comprehend. Or maybe it was just the gravity of the content.
Whatever, the PFA were taking a more direct approach to the panel’s verdict for the avoidance of all doubt. No mealy-mouthed stuff at their end.
‘The PFA welcomes the fact that the salary cap rules are automatically withdrawn.’ its release read abruptly after trumpeting a similar line on Twitter.
So, the wage cap is gone. The wage cap is no more. Der wage cap ist kaput.
Well, in its current guise, that is certainly the case now.
After months of toing and froing over one of the most significant and controversial changes to English football in recent times, we were at a definitive conclusion.
Just 187 days after lower league clubs had voted for the introduction of squad restrictions and a ceiling on playing budgets, the whole affair had been rendered immediately null and void.
Pompey, of course, and chief executive Mark Catlin had been at the forefront of opposition to the cap. But perhaps not for the reasons the wider game perhaps thought.
Yes, it hit the likes of the Blues and other sizeable League One clubs harder than most, but if his club had picked up a point for every time Catlin had mentioned sustainability over the past eight years it would be the Premier League and not Papa John’s Trophy in the Fratton cabinet right now.
So why did the wage cap fall on its sword? Well, fundamentally, it just didn’t quite stack up.
As Catlin has been saying for the best part of 10 months now, Pompey are broadly in support of a salary cap but one aligned to the size of the club.
But it was when the minutiae of what was being proposed dropped in July the problems started.
A one-size-fits-all £2.5m cap which allowed most clubs to inject funds while the Sunderland, Ipswich and Pompeys couldn’t spend what they earned simply didn’t make sense – and, of course, limited the earning potential of the PFA’s members.
Catlin proposed amendments which fell on deaf ears and ultimately a proposal which suited most clubs was brought into force, as the votes of self-interest were registered.
Crucially, however, was this a sequence of events which would stand up in court? Because there’s little doubt that’s where the matter would have ended up if things had remained the same.
The PFA’s view after consulting some of the finest legal minds on sporting issues was it wouldn’t. Ultimately, it never got that far although eyes will be on what the EFL’s next move is.
So we now wait to see the direction travelled because, salary cap or not, it’s pretty clear measures are needed to protect clubs from both the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and owners prepared to play fast and loose with clubs’ health.
For now, we will see the return of the Salary Cost Management Protocols (SCMP) in place before the cap’s introduction, which links player-related expenditure to turnover.
That seemed a fair and logical manner of operating, until you realise Bury’s collapse took place with the scheme in place and many other clubs made sizeable losses.
It was the allowance of owners being able to inject funds which appeared to be at the root of the problems and will need addressing moving forward.
On that note, Pompey proposed a flexing of the wage cap budget to what clubs can afford without owner assistance, the kind of notion the PFA were firmly on board with.
Catlin also suggested existing player contracts being seen as the divisional average of around £1,750 per week in the event of them being extended.
That would mean members could protect their assets, with the reality a prized asset like Ronan Curtis was never likely to accept a drop of earnings under the cap.
Additionally, Catlin has mooted owners being able to use bonds to cover the full length of contracts, so avoiding debt being piled on the club.
These are the kind of issues we are likely to see return to the table in the coming weeks, with all parties united in the sentiment talks are required to avoid clubs being left stricken in the current terrain.
As the Pompey CEO always says the devil will be in the detail, but after a long campaign which has at times wore heavy on his shoulders he can be satisfied at the outcome.
It’s certainly the right and proper result for his club and others like them. With the correct will, we will now see a final outcome in this protracted saga which is for the good of the game and those within it.
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