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Is Barry Fry Right?

CRITICISM OF FOOTBALL AUTHORITIES SHOWING NO SIGNS OF ABATING

As professional football teams continue preparations for the new season which gets under way in a matter of weeks, the furore surrounding the finances in the lower leagues continues.

Peterborough director of football Barry Fry and Gillingham chairman Paul Scally have both ripped into the authorities in the past few days.

Fry accused the Football Association of ‘instead of helping the grassroots game it has kicked them in the b******* and f***** up the whole game’.

Scally tore into the PFA, saying they ‘do not have any care for the problems of the employers’, claiming ‘their behaviour has been disgusting and I will never forgive them’, before signing off by saying ‘they have shown total contempt for the people who employ their members and have been an utter disgrace’.

It’s good to see both retain their passion for the game. However, they do make points that will hurt those governing bodies and while a few may be slightly over the top, elements of the criticism will hurt.

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Peterborough have not come out of this crisis well. They threw their toys out the pram when PPG (points per game) was used to calculate final league positions, seeing them drop out of the League One play-off places at the expense of Wycombe, who went on to win promotion. They had some valid reasons with at least one of those teams in the play-off places voting not to try to finish the regulation season and end it immediately knowing they would remain in the top six. But a vote is a vote. They lost and the other clubs were forced to duck as dummies, nappies, milk bottles and teddy bears were hurled.

Gillingham’s plight sums up that of many clubs in the lower echelons of the Football League. A small ground, limited revenue streams and no competitive football – and thus no income – since March, means that they are fighting for their existence.

It is reported that of the £125million advances to the EFL to help clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, 80%  went to Championship clubs, 12% to League One and 8% to League Two. That total will not go far when you are having to pay people without bringing in revenue.

The idea of introducing a salary cap is a positive step, but it needed more thought. There is far more to it than simply saying ‘this total is what you can spend, no more’. How is it fair that a club like Sunderland who get 30,000 home crowds and have multiple revenue streams can spend the same as Accrington, who have 1,500 gates and limited extra income?

And what about cup runs? Oxford United brought in more than £1million last season through exploits in cup competitions and put some of that money towardsimproving their squad mid-season. That can no longer happen.

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Grimsby boss Ian Holloway came up with a novel approach this week. His view is that clubs should be allowed to spend whatever they want, but if they fail to pay a bill on time – a milk bill, paper bill, tax bill, wages or whatever – they should be docked three points immediately. And then docked another three points when it happens again. He believes that approach would ensure clubs run tight ships and the impact of mis-management would hit everyone hard, including the fans.

It’s probably not wrong to say that finding some sort of middle ground between the salary cap and Holloway’s suggestion is best – but it’s already too late.

It will be interesting to see how clubs find a loophole to exploit the salary cap because believe me, many will find a way if they can.

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