The Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney has today addressed senior figures from across football with an honest, realistic and thoughtful appraisal of the state of the game. The event, at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground, brings together 1,000 senior executives from international clubs, leagues, federations and associated companies.
Lord Mawhinney outlined the key challenges facing the football industry during his keynote address at the Leaders in Football conference, tackling a series of tough issues including club debt and sustainability, players contracts, growing wage levels and the transfer window.
The Football League chairman outlined his concerns for the growing wage demands and long term viability of the game, saying;
“In 2007/08 in the Championship, research from Deloitte shows that clubs spent an average of 87 per cent of revenue on players’ wages. Is there any business in the world where such a percentage would be sustainable?
We have been involved in a long debate on the controversial subject of whether control of squad wages should be exercised centrally. My sense is that while League 1 and 2 clubs would welcome this, Championship clubs are more divided and still to be persuaded. “
He then argued that for football to demonstrate that it takes financial issues seriously, then a greater respect for players contracts must be shown.
“Player contracts are in danger of becoming worth less than the amount spent on the lawyers and agents who put the words on paper. Why is this not a matter of broader concern to an industry that prides itself on regulation? The lack of respect for contracts also flows in the other direction. Players voluntarily sign agreements which should bind them for a given period. Increasingly, however, they appear to have little compunction about behaving in ways that can undermine the legal agreements they have signed.”
An unexpected inclusion in the Football League chairman’s speech related to the transfer window and a call for FIFA to “exclude our domestic market from the transfer regime.”
“I cannot believe that a player transfer tomorrow between Peterborough and Accrington Stanley or Wolverhampton Wanderers would be likely to cause sleepless nights in Rome, Madrid or Barcelona. But the freedom to do so might reduce sleepless nights in Wycombe, Reading or Burnley.”
In conclusion Lord Mawhinney reassured his audience that football was moving in the right direction, saying;
“Our vision is not one of doom and gloom, despite issues with players’ contracts and wages, rising debt levels and a transfer system that penalises smaller clubs, The Football League is healthy. Attendances remain above 16 million per season, revenue and profile are rising and on the pitch excitement continues until the very last match of the Play-Offs. The League’s market value continues to rise. All of us will work hard to ensure that remains the case.”
Read the speech in full at the Football League Leaders in Football page.