Sam Wallace: Elite clubs seek to reinforce their closed shop at the top with new financial rules

Premier League clubs have agreed to financial constraints
  • @SamWallaceIndy

There is one enormous question facing the Premier League, now they have voted not to spend all that lovely money from next season's broadcast deal on players' wages: what are they going to do with it?

If it is earmarked to reduce the cost of ticket prices, you could make a case for the new financial regulations. If it was to make football affordable for teenagers then it would be, in some respects, a laudable effort.

Yet, with an aim as unerring as Peter Odemwingie's satnav, the majority have voted for more money for themselves, with no prospect of the savings bringing down ticket prices.

It is about staunching the flow of money to players and their agents when the new £3bn deal kicks in next season and diverting it to owners and shareholders under the guise of protecting clubs. The clubs are sick of the brutal market place their own bitter rivalry has created and now they want to keep some of it for themselves.

The new rules forbid new owners from making losses in excess of £105m over three years and prevent them from increasing wage costs above a certain limit. The justification from the clubs is that it will avoid another basketcase like Portsmouth but it also forms a convenient block against another wealthy owner challenging the elite.

That means there will never be another Chelsea or Manchester City who will rise from relative mediocrity. For some that will be a blessing.

The flaw is that it is no longer possible for emergent clubs to develop a team capable of winning the championship. Derby County, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest won league titles having come up from the old Second Division. These days they would be filleted for players by the richest clubs before they got close.

By the richest we mean the clubs who generate the biggest revenues, in particular Manchester United and Arsenal, who are habitually the two most profitable English clubs, as well as Liverpool and Tottenham.

The alliance against them was a strange band of clubs. The "yes" lobby did not get the full 14 votes but Reading's bizarre abstention swung it in their favour.

But the question remains. What will happen to all that money saved by clubs from their next television deal?

There will be great play made of the new long-term sustainability of balance sheets. But fundamentally, clubs are taking money away from players and not passing on the benefit to fans.

There is nothing wrong with running a tight business model and refusing to pay over the odds. That is exactly what West Brom do, and they voted against the new rules because they do not believe that clubs should need legislation to keep their house in order.

As for the 13 clubs who voted for the new rules, it has taken them more than two decades of the Premier League to realise that they are far too profligate to stay in the black. Having recognised this new imperative, however, do not expect them to be generous with the money they save.