The NFL has increased visibility in England over the past few years, agreeing to play multiple games a season at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium over the next few years. It’s having an impact on one man in particular, who hopes to bring some NFL structure to the English football ranks.
Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony has gone public with a plan to help prevent lower league clubs from overspending and falling victim to financial hardship in the wake of Bury’s recent demise. One of the centerpieces of his plan is a hard salary cap for League One and League Two players in the $7,600 a week range per player, or around $400,000 a year.
“It just think it is crazy when you hear players getting paid 10-15 grand [pounds] a week at League One level,” MacAnthony said. “There are warning signs when you hear that.”
He admitted that it is not the responsibility of the players to look out for the financial viability of clubs, but believes they should still take it upon themselves to help alleviate the pressure.
“I know football careers are short and they have to make hay while the sun shines – I am not naïve and I understand how it works,” he said. “Sometimes if you have made a few quid in football, you have got to look and think: This club is going to go under. What can I do? A lot of people in the game were saying about Bury: There is a reckoning coming there because they were handing out some massive contracts.”
“If we don’t do something, it will be someone else’s club to go bust next,” he claimed.
MacAnthony pointed to the NFL as a model for how clubs can keep a lid on wages. “I am all for a wage cap. I like the way they do things in America with the NFL. I think a lot of the clubs would get behind it. If a giant club came down, you could give them two years dispensation on the wage cap. But players have to take responsibility as well.”
The NFL, NBA, and NHL all use a hard salary cap, while MLB has utilized a soft luxury tax over the past two decades. In Major League Soccer, a hard salary cap also exists, although there are numerous workarounds to promote the acquisition of better talent and star power for the purpose of league growth. The league also maintains all contracts in a single-entity model. Still, it seems MacAnthony is proposing less of a total club cap and more of an individual player cap, which still would need to pass antitrust regulation to have any chance of becoming a reality.
Obviously, considering MacAnthony’s position as an employer, his shedding of responsibility onto players has to be taken with a grain of salt, but there is admittedly a problem within the lower ranks of English football. Aside from Bury’s expulsion from the EFL, Bolton had serious and nearly deadly financial problems recently, while Macclesfield is in the midst of a wage crisis currently, unable to pay its players.