Exclusive: EFL will invite 'Saracens-style' chaos with salary caps, warns Gordon Taylor

James Ducker
The Telegraph
General view of the match between Bury FC's Ground - PA
General view of the match between Bury FC's Ground - PA

Gordon Taylor has warned that the English Football League will be inviting “Saracens-style” chaos if it opts to introduce salary caps, with the Professional Footballers’ Association fiercely opposed to such proposals.

EFL clubs are expected to vote on new budgetary controls that could limit annual spending on wages to around £18million in the Championship, £2.5m in League One and £1.25m in League Two.

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But Taylor - while fully supportive of the need for football to get spending under control in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Bury debacle last year and other controversies - fears salary caps would be open to widespread abuse and serve as a deterrent to future investors.

Saracens, the English rugby union club, were fined £5.36m and deducted a total of 105 points, which led to their relegation from the Gallagher Premiership this season, after being found to have flouted the sport’s salary cap for three successive years.

There have also been multiple breaches in rugby league since the Super League introduced a salary cap in 1998 and Taylor, the PFA chief executive, is convinced it would be no different in football.

“When you see what’s happened with Saracens in rugby union and in rugby league over salary caps, we’re not comfortable with the idea at all,” Taylor told Telegraph Sport.

“Wherever there have been salary caps, there has been trouble and football won’t be any different from that. Akin to when there was a maximum wage in football, the first thing some do is look for ways round it.”

As a former player with Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers and Bury, all of whom have endured financial difficulties in recent years, Taylor said the PFA were “not blind to the economics of the game”, which have been laid bare by the Covid-19 crisis, and recognised that wages needed to be “sustainable”.

But Taylor believes salary caps would be less effective than robust financial fair play controls that are properly policed by the EFL or regulated by an independent body and a toughening of the owners’ and directors’ test. He also fears caps could discourage future investment in the game.

“What we are not opposed to is financial fair play, clubs revealing balance sheets, showing what they have to work with and working within clear parameters. But what that does require is good monitoring from the centre or from an independent body,” Taylor said.

“Clearly, we don’t want to see clubs go bust and we don’t want to see another Bury happen. Everybody knows wages need to be at a level that can be sustained. We’re not stupid, we know what can be sustained and what can’t be and there are lessons to be learned from Bury and other cases.

“But when we’re talking about caps for each division it moves matters to the lowest common denominator and that’s not fair on those innovative, well-managed clubs who are prepared to have a go within their means.

“There are potential owners out there who want to invest in clubs because football still has that attraction. That needs to remain an option. We’ve seen fairy tales come true when you look at benefactors like Jack Walker at Blackburn and Elton John at Watford. You don’t want to find people who have been successful in business feeling shackled by such restrictions.”

Taylor also said he felt the PFA had been excluded from the discussions around salary caps and cited their position on the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee (PFNCC) and the need for the players’ union to be consulted over any potential changes to a player’s conditions.

“We have never been told officially [about the salary cap proposals], this has all been going on without us,” Taylor said. “Rick Parry [the EFL chairman] knows our feelings on it and we’re waiting to hear back to see where we stand on it.”

Asked if the situation could complicate future discussions over wage cuts and deferrals for players, Taylor said: “It’s just not the way of doing things. We’re not looking to be confrontational.

“But if one side tries to be clever or too intimidatory without the other, it won’t work. We’re not blind to the economics of the game - to think we are gives us no credit for the role we’ve played in helping so many clubs - but if you ignore the players you’re asking for trouble. Anything that impacts on players has to go through the PFNCC. That collective bargaining agreement is quite sacrosanct.”

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