A fair play that all football clubs should buy into
Coverage of the Premier League is vast – so much so, you almost forget what life was like before it. Wall-to-wall analysis. Playing and moving in a national and international spotlight. It’s miles away from the Championship – never mind the Football League.
Of course, back in the day – say 1992 – that wasn’t the case. Pre-PL saw 92 clubs under one banner. When that changed, so did English football. And pre-PL – ie Paul Lambert – in the Norwich sense? Well that was a life fully immersed in the Football League. Say 47th out of 72.
No football fan should ever take their eyes off the ball. In their own interests, City signed up to the Premier League ideal. Within four seasons the pot was empty and the club had begun a 17-year battle to return for more than just one fleeting campaign, fighting the very tide they helped create.
That battle has finally ended this season.
Yet when ‘established Premier League clubs’ like Blackburn and Wolves suffer relegation, it should rightly serve as a reminder to fans everywhere – be humble.
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For some time now, money has dictated the football landscape – Newcastle challenging for fourth wouldn’t have been such big news a few years back.
But from next season, there will be big changes in this country – changes the Football League deserves huge credit for.
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And, while I’m trying desperately hard not to be naive about all this, changes that could profoundly affect and protect the health of the country’s game.
Financial Fair Play (FFP) in the Football League arrives next season, seeing clubs handed strict limits on the level of investment owners can make into their clubs.
By 2015-16, Championship sides will be allowed a �2m loss plus �3m inward investment. Break those rules and get hit by a punitive fair-play tax or a transfer embargo – depending on if the gamble results in promotion, or not, respectively.
Providing it is policed properly, it promises an equality the second tier hasn’t seen since the Premier League hit top gear.
It also takes a far greater leap than Uefa’s own FFP efforts, which apply only to the Champions and Europa leagues and might be easier to avoid given the rules seem to have more wriggle room.
The biggest problem for the Football League is their Premier League colleagues have little interest in the concept. If they ignore it entirely, the gap between top flight and Championship will become greater than ever.
“We have to make sure that FFP doesn’t kill what we are,” Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore told the Telegraph.
“We have to keep monitoring it. You can’t go to the Etihad Stadium and say ‘that’s wrong’ when you look at the way the owners have invested in the club and outside the club. This is what you get when you welcome in inward investment.
“Any other industry would be welcoming that. We should welcome it with open arms.”
Credit where its due. The Premier League shares its huge income – including TV revenues – more equitably than most European domestic leagues.
But Scudamore still misses the pertinent points – a shocking fit and proper persons test, the financial doping of teams’ squads and clubs living beyond their means, under debt burdens that could put them out of business.
Clearly the stance of Norwich fans on all this depends on which side of the fence the club sits.
But it would be the greatest of failings by the game’s custodians if they created an environment that prevented clubs tasting both sides.