Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Salary Cap: keeps things competitive

Having just finished watching another NFL season, I am particularly over the moon with my favourite New Orleans Saints winning their first ever Superbowl. However with all the talk of the salary cap and player issues which could result in no NFL games being played in 2011 (worse case scenario) I want to raise a point: the football leagues around the world would do well to follow the example of the American Sports.

I want to start by saying that I am not American, nor have I ever been across the pond. I do not think that everything American is bigger and better, however I feel that with the salary cap, they have done something that the european leagues have failed to do: keep the season competitive.

Take a look around the leagues in Europe, the big teams are becoming bigger and each year the leagues are won by the same select few, these are continually getting the big money from playing in the European competitions (Europa (EUFA)cup and Champions League) whilst the others fall behind. Look at the league and be realistic about how many teams can win over the course of the season, Scotland: Rangers and Celtic; England: Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and possibly Liverpool; Spain: Real Madrid and Barcelona; Italy: AC Milan and Juventus; Holland: Ajax, Feyenord and PSV; the list could go on and on.

However look at the teams that have won the Superbowl; out of 44 games the most dominant team, Pittsburgh, has won it six times, these were not six years in a row but spread between 1974 - 2008.

The way the salary cap works is that each team is given a limit that they can pay their players collectively. Imagine the cap was £100 million and you had 25 players to pay out of that, if you spend £60 million on two 'star' players then you are only allowed to spend £40 million on the remaining 23. Some teams tried to work around this by giving the players bonuses spread over several years, however this meant that in these later years you were still paying money for players that were no long at the club or even retired.

This would get rid of several things from the game. It would make the leagues across Europe much more competitive, unless players were willing to take a paycut then they would have to move to other teams that could afford to pay them. Secondly it would give the chance to some of the 'smaller' clubs to win the league, the team success of the teams would not be based on money, instead the level of scouts and the quality of coaching would determine the team that picked up the silverware at the end of the season. Thirdly it may encourage fans to actually support their local teams, Man Utd couldn't simply go out and buy the best, Sir Alex would actually have to prove he was the best coach year after year rather than adding a £70 million player to plug a gap. Fourthly it would give our younger players a better chance of success, with a club only being able to spend big money on a couple of players the younger lads would cost less and also get some match practise.

Whilst I think that this is a great idea, in practise I do not believe it will ever happen. Why? Money. The owners stand to lose way too much, the powers that be would not be happy simply relinquishing the reigns after years of dominance. Do I think there is even a slight chance? Yes but slight chance: 1 in 10000. Football, especially the big teams, are relying on money and the banks grace. Most of the big clubs are hundreds of millions in debt, should the bank decide to call in these accounts, not likely but a slight chance, then many of these clubs could simply have to fold. If we had to redesign the football structure throughout Europe then that would be the only chance of this ever happening. Fair enough, you may think I'm talking nonsense, but consider this: who will be in the Champions League final this year? I'll bet that you would struggle to even count 6 out of the last 16, sadly football glory is exclusively for the wealthy clubs.

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