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By Tony Attwood
We are so used to seeing the Football League and Football Association as mindless monoliths that never change until it is far too late, that the thought of the Premier League contemplating a whole series of changes to its structure and approach is quite breath-taking.
But that is what it looks like as their almighty majesties who run the clubs are trying at least to drag the League into the 16th century.
In my last article I suggested that the British obsession with the individual and the politicisation of the individual and rejection of society as a concept has stopped British clubs and British leagues becoming fan owned, as they are in Germany.
That won’t change, but regulations for greater financial controls of clubs, especially on wages, are now being taken far more seriously than ever before.
With only Arsenal, Fulham, Manchester United, Newcastle, Tottenham, West Bromwich Albion and (relegated) Wolverhampton making a profit last time despite the endless windfalls from TV rights, and with Man City and Chelsea able to buy anyone they want, and thus disrupt the plans of other clubs, there is at last a feeling that something must be done.
We’ve talked before about the salary cap, but that has limited support, and there’s no doubt that a special EU exemption for the league would have to be introduced to achieve it. Not impossible (since football is seen by the EU as a special category) but time consuming and uncertain.
But a limit on wage rises is possible, as is a limit on the percentage of income that can be spent on salaries. In other words Chelsea and Man City would be stopped from having seasons in which they can spend more than their total income on paying players.
Amazingly, given their long term history of incompetent status quoism, the Football League already has such rules. League 2 clubs (ie Division 4) are given a transfer embargo if they spend over 55% per cent on salary. In League 1 (Division 3) the limit is 65%.
In the Championship (Division 2) the clubs are to be subject to their own Financial Fair Play rules and will be fined for non-compliance from 2014.
As for the Premier League Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, would have failed the Financial Fair Play rules this season if they had been operating at full speed. Portsmouth were, I seem to remember, not invited to play in the Europa League despite winning the Cup. Rangers in Scotland are also banned from Europe, although judging by their recent results, that is probably a blessing.
All that’s dramatic enough, but there is more. A move towards a winter break. Roy Hodgson, Sir A Ferguson and Roberto Mancini have all said they’d like one. The problem is that the FA, Premier League and Football League can’t work out where to put all the matches.
The talk is however that if replays were eliminated from the FA Cup in the Competition Proper, that could do the trick.
The Premier League don’t want to budge on the number of teams in the league – although the original plan was for two teams fewer than now. The Football League refuse to give up on the Reserve Team cup (or League Cup as they call it). And the FA want to keep their Cup as big as possible.
Of course technically the Premier League could just do it – and then simply drop out of the FA Cup. Since that would invalidate most interest in the Cup, the FA would be bound to move to accommodate the League. The Premier League is already saying that they will be happy to start the season a week earlier, so that’s another step forwards.
Another option is for all the bodies concerned to turn on Fifa and Uefa and demand fewer internationals. Trouble is, despite everyone seeing that Fifa is corrupt and totally anti-England, no one seems to have the nerve to take the bloated crooks on.
There has been one move – the hated friendly in August has come out of the international calendar, so that is one more date, but they are putting in no less than nine weekends with internationals over two years, which causes more problems. And at the moment we have the Africa Cup of Nations running in consecutive years, which makes clubs want to buy more players to cover for those absences.
Sadly, despite everyone seeing what Fifa is, the Premier League still say that they support the FA if it decides to bid for more final tournaments.
So, will any of this happen? It is possible. There is far more drive behind these moves than there ever was behind the extra game a season being played overseas.
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- Match Review: Mike Dean – Manchester City Vs Arsenal (1 – 1) [23/09/2012]
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