Capped aspirations

By Jason McKeown

These are such unusual times for Bradford City. As the 2019/20 season returns to a conclusion for the upper echelons of the 92 and for play off teams, the Bantams and most League Two clubs are left planning for a future of unknowns.

We don’t know, yet, when the 2020/21 campaign will begin. It’s unclear when supporters will be allowed to go to games again. So at Valley Parade at least, season tickets remain off sale. And with the vast majority of the club’s playing, coaching and non-playing staff furloughed, preparing for next season is a real challenge.

But there’s also another huge potential unknown that makes it really difficult to make plans – the possibility of a salary cap being introduced. Back in May, it was publicly revealed that League One and Two clubs were being asked to vote on capping player salary budgets. With League One potentially capped at £2.5 million, and League Two £1.25 million. Clubs would only be allowed a squad of 20 players – and eight of them would have to be homegrown.

It was reported that the salary cap was discussed at an EFL meeting last week, with a resolution agreed that a future vote on whether to implement it would need a two-thirds majority (previously a 75% majority was needed). It’s unclear whether any agreed salary cap would be introduced straightaway, but it remains a possibility that it will be in place for 2020/21.

If a salary cap of this level is introduced for next season, it would have a huge impact on clubs – especially Bradford City. For 2019/20, City operated with a playing budget of £2.6 million. A salary cap of £1.25 million would mean the Bantams would be forced to halve their playing budget. Given they already have 14 players on the books with a contract for 2020/21, this might effectively stop them making any further signings. Especially with any extension to the homegrown rule.

WOAP understands that League Two clubs were presented with possible salary cap budget limits that in future they could be asked to vote for – with £1.25 million the lowest scenario. So if a salary cap is to be introduced, it might be closer to £2 million. Nevertheless, it would still represent a drastic reduction.

City’s £2.6 million budget was amongst the top quartile of League Two, but not the highest. In February, Swindon’s Richie Wellens revealed that Salford, Northampton, Plymouth and Mansfield had the biggest budgets in the division. So a salary cap would impact on other clubs too.

The thinking behind a salary cap, with the crisis of the lower leagues escalating due to the Covid-19 lockdown, is to help protect clubs from their own worst impulses. Reduce the pressures of having to spend and spend on players, to compete with other clubs who have the resources or the greater risk appetite to push the boat out. Studies show that spend on player wages is highly correlated with league position. In other words, if you don’t spend as much as other clubs, it will quickly push you to the bottom of the league table.

The other potential benefit of a salary cap is that all clubs become more equal. Morecambe can operate on the same budget as Bradford City, even though they get a fraction of the crowds. And so a football season where everyone can only spend the same gives everyone an equal chance of going up or going down.

The free market approach that football largely follows right now ultimately rewards the clubs with the deeper pockets. It’s how Manchester City and Chelsea emerged from middle of the road Premier League clubs to become regular champions of England. It’s why Paris St. Germain have won seven of the last nine French league titles. It’s how Wolves have become a force over the last few years. But a free market structure also allows clubs who are prepared to take risks to progress up the ladder. Brentford currently have a great chance of getting promoted to the Premier League – a big reason for their impressive rise has been a willingness to risk building up huge debts. Bradford City would not have reached the Premier League in 1999 without being able to push the boat out.

Under any salary cap approach, a club’s financial advantage/greater risk and reward tolerance goes away. So if you’re Morecambe, Carlisle or Cambridge, you’d probably vote for a salary cap. Or if your an owner of a club like Mansfield and you’re spending a fortune every year, you might vote for it just so you can cut costs and not look bad because everyone else has to do the same. It brings others down to your level.

But whilst this all might sound noble, a salary cap could be a really dangerous thing for League Two clubs. Clearly, as Covid-19 reshapes football at all levels, players wages are going to come down. 1,400 players out of work will leave a scramble for contracts that gives clubs the upper hand in negotiations. But there are still other options. Players might find National League clubs would be willing to pay more than League Two (assuming they don’t bring in a salary cap), or they could just go abroad. Some might even have to take a pragmatic decision to change careers and give up on full time football, especially if they’re in their 30s.

According to a Daily Mail report in April, in League Two the average player wage is £2,191 a week. If you were to build a squad from scratch under the potential £1.25 million salary cap, you would have to pay an average wage of £1,200 a week. Most clubs would have a legacy of players in contract earning more than this average, which would really squeeze how much could be offered to potential signings.

Suddenly League Two clubs would struggle to attract the same level of talent as they might have before, which sees standards drop all round. Especially when clubs get injuries, and their 20-person squad means they’ve got no real depth.

As Yahoo soccer columnist Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote recently, “The salaries are where they are because market forces have dictated that this is where they should be. No club has ever been forced to offer a high salary; there are two sides signing those contracts. Begin to undermine that simple but effective mechanism, and you complicate things needlessly and invite even more corruption into a sport that already struggles badly with transparency.”

But for fans, the real issue is how it would affect the spectacle of lower league football. Because as much as we football fans like to complain about the injustices of rich clubs vs poor. In truth it is these disparities that make the sport so compelling to watch. Big club vs small club. David vs Goliath. With David winning more often than you might expect.

In the excellent 2010 book ‘Why England Lose’ by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, the pair argue that leagues which are predictable (in that it has a mixture of big and small clubs, with the big clubs more likely to succeed) attract more interest than leagues where all teams are a much of muchness. Their several pieces of research presented in the book shows that balanced leagues actually attract fewer fans.

As part of their thesis, they compared attendances in the top flight during a 20-year period where English football was more equal (1949-1968, when 11 different clubs won the league) to a period where football was less equal (1989-2008, when only six different clubs won the title). During the first period – where it was more equal – attendances fell from 18 million a season to 15 million. During the second, attendances rose from 8 million a year to 13 million. There was a lot of factors at play, but the fact Manchester United dominated English football during the latter period did not deter fans of other top flight clubs.

When it comes to being at the ground to watch our team, all that matters is winning. We don’t care that Bradford City and Morecambe aren’t equal – we are happy to financially dominate them, as it means we have more chance of beating them. And conversely, Morecambe fans will prefer us to be financially bigger than they are. So on the occasions they do topple us, it’s more of an achievement.

Indeed, part of what makes football so interesting is that small clubs on tight budgets can overturn bigger clubs full of players on huge wages. It is brilliant for everyone but Mansfield Town fans that they have had a top three budget for four years in a row and haven’t got promoted out of League Two (they came 18th in 2019/20).

When Watford beat Liverpool earlier this season we all laughed. When Man City were defeated by Norwich it was a great story. Even when Man City beat Watford 8-0 in the next game it is more interesting than every match being really close. It’s popular for all football fans to hate the Premier League big six for their dominance. But imagine taking them all out? The league might be more balanced, but would not be as appealing to watch. The same if it was a league of just the big six.

A salary cap breeds mediocrity. Makes everyone the same. Stops football clubs from having their own individual character. And a salary cap threatens interest in lower league football, at a time when clubs cannot afford to lose fans. As When Saturday Comes writer Ian Plenderlith wrote about the MLS, where a salary cap operates that keep clubs equal, “MLS is crying out for a couple of big, successful teams. Teams you can hate. Dynasties you really, really want to beat.”

For Bradford City, it’s hard to see how any good can come from a salary cap when they’re stuck in League Two. Whilst the playing budget might naturally fall for next season, given the financial hit of Covid-19, that would be the same of other clubs too. Relatively speaking, you would expect City to have a higher budget than the majority of other clubs in the league. So any attempts to cap that would only hinder our chances of promotion.

And more importantly in the long-term, operating under a salary cap in Leagues Two and One would see the gap to the Championship grow bigger, and make it even harder for City to return to the higher divisions. It keeps everyone where they are – including the Bantams. It sucks that Macclesfield Town can’t control their costs, but that doesn’t mean City should not be allowed to make use of their greater financial means.

That is clearly self interest talking, but as football fans self-interest is what we are all driven by. Indeed, Kuper and Szymanski sum it up well, “Most fans at the ground are hard core: they simply want to see their team win…they do not really want a balanced outcome.”

The new world of post Covid-19 will see football have new priorities and approach to risk and reward. And that probably gives some clubs a tougher future, as they prioritise just surviving. But capping everyone to protect the weakest risks undermining what makes lower league football so compelling. Clubs need to learn to be more responsible within their own parameters, but also be allowed to have more ambition that to just merely survive.

Categories: Opinion


62 replies

  1. No financial caps will work until the EFL grows some balls and enforces the rules they CURRENTLY have. Clubs must live within their means & only spend what they earn. If you are losing millions, then you get docked points. If you earn more in sponsorship & larger gate numbers that should be allowed to go to build up the club & team. If your revenue exceeds the salary cap, will owners reinvest in the infrastructure of clubs? I doubt it. In our case it will be used to pay back for Mr ‘IKF’’s mistakes. It will not be spent on making VP a better place to visit, investing in backroom operations, training ground, pitch. The salary cap will only benefit owners of clubs not the fans, footballers or the future of the football industry.

    The EFL have let club owners run riot with finances, never enforced current rules & regulations. Until they get a grip, a salary cap will never work. What’s to stop a player earning £1k a week for playing football, but earning £15k A week from a club sponsor for PR purposes or ‘fake job’ at t’mill as seen in The English Game.

  2. Salary caps dont work, all they serve is to stifle the growth and potential of an ambitious club.

    Its been in rugby for 20 years and the salary cap has produced 4 champions, those 4 champions were the same as the previous 10 years.

    Nothing changes, give clubs 1.2m to spend and the big clubs will spend that 1.2m and some lower end clubs will still spend 800k etc.

    It should be down to individual clubs to asses what they spend under the new climate conditions not a collective, as it wouldnt not happen in any other industry.

    Can you imagine bobs burgers being able to dictate per year how much mcdonalds are allowed to spend/produce?

  3. Interesting points raised there as usual, Jason. I fully agree a salary cap in Leagues One and Two is absurd if the leagues above and below are operating in terms of market forces. Particularly if caps are set as arbitrary figures rather than percentage of financial stability. Clubs in those two divisions would be more or less doomed to operate within the confines of the two divisions for the foreseeable future. A salary cap only makes sense if it is applied to all leagues on a scale which enables promotion and relegation not to be a millstone.
    However to accept the alternative free market approach is to condemn supporters to the continued uncertainty some experience with ‘will my club get through the season without points being deducted or going out of business?’ .
    Not easy !

  4. Very interesting, Jason. The idea of a salary cap sounds good in theory, but I suppose in some ways it encourages mediocrity and lack of ambition. On the other hand it rewards good management.
    If the cap is based on attendances , then City would get a,probably deserved, advantage over Morecambe.
    If one is introduced across the board , then ambitious owners like Salford, Forest Green and Harrogate Town would be penalised.
    The Premier League and Championship, I suspect , would not accept a cap, so a cap in Divisions 1 and 2 would mean that their ambitions would be stifled.
    The leagues need to be tougher on clubs who won’t pay taxes, because that is a crime against society. Similarly clubs who don’t pay their players.
    I don’t really see a need for a cap, and so, with the toughening up of the financial rules, and better scrutiny of owners, I think I would leave well alone.

  5. Although the cap on finances is very important, the issue of restricting the size of the squad is a serious matter, especially if it is down to 20. I struggle to work out how we could find 8 ‘Home grown’ players to make up the 20! Additionally if you need at least 2 goalkeepers in the squad, then that seriously limits the squad size. Last season we had two players who for very different reasons were not available to play (Riley & Robinson). Furthermore there are other injuries, health issues, suspensions, personal reasons which mean players are not available. With a match day squad, including 18 players, then this could cause huge problems, with the alternative of youth players being named, to ‘make up the numbers’.
    Clearly something needs to be done to make the game more sustainable, but such a draconian response, could have far reaching consequences. The current rules could be enforced in a much more robust manner, perhaps with an outside independent agency being involved, to ensure that the rules are fairly enforced. Having far more transparency in respect of the accounts, could assist.

  6. As always Jason, a considered and thought provoking article. whilst i agree with the thrust of the article we differ on a couple of points….
    Any upcoming salary cap will NOT be implemented in full next season. were this to happen at City for instance, our allowance would be taken up in full by players like James Vaughan: players to whom we are already contracted. City would be compelled to make up their numbers with amateurs. Either the cap will have an agreed start in 2 or 3 seasons or clubs will be allowed to exempt existing players’ contracts.
    You quite rightly quote Morecambe as an example. with all due respect to them (and that is a lot of respect), by any measure you care to employ, City should expect to be much higher in the pyramid than them. based on the latest stats the city of Bradford (not even including the rest of the metropolitan district) is the tenth biggest city in England. that is what makes me (as a lifelong City fan) so bitter.
    Should a salary cap come in and our wage bill has to reduce from £2.8million to £1.25million there might even be a silver lining. with a division wide cap how would City capture the best players? If you can’t attract the best players by offering higher wages what do you do? we could see the return of something almost unseen in the last 20 years, the transfer fee! with a difference in excess of £1.5million between the existing wage bill and the salary cap proposal we could bring in better players by buying them in.

  7. Jason, this is the most provocative subject for discussion and very relevant to the current mess confronting professional football in England. Personally, I believe in salary/payroll caps. They have proven to be very successful in North America, in ensuring financial stability and balanced competition. Without a doubt the number one reason for this stability is due to the fact they are “closed shop” operations with no promotion and relegation.

    British football is based on a multi tiered pyramid system having fans dreaming of promotion which I love but is totally foreign to North American professional sports. I fear the Premiership will become a “closed shop.”

    For British football to continue with the “open shop” structure, I think radical changes need to be made to how player contracts are written and how player transfers operate. The most radical change would be introducing flexibility in player contracts which would allow the club or player to walk away from their contract due to relegation or promotion. For example, the current parachute payment system for relegated Premier teams is grossly unfair to the teams in the Championship. Also, the gap between the Championship and League One continues to widen. How for instance is a demoted Championship club supposed to adjust to a £2.5 million payroll cap in League One. The only way being a cancellation or pay reduction clause in player contracts which is triggered due to relegation.

    Sounds simple enough but will it ever happen??

  8. The ‘new’ world will be drastically different for football clubs, principally because the bargaining power of players – especially in the lower divisions – will be drastically reduced. I suspect that we could soon be entering an era of part-time and maybe amateur players in the fourth (and to a lesser extent the third) tiers as was the case as recently as the 1960s. This alone will change the economics of football but inevitably it will serve only to widen the gap with the championship.

    As regards talk of salary caps, to some extent this will be academic without the support of the PFA, in particular to ensure that they are made workable – ie contracts may have to be reworked to anticipate those instances where clubs are relegated and contracts may need to be annulled and/or players transferred. The spotlight is also going to be on the PFA with regards the protection of football creditors, a clause that restricts financial restructuring options for clubs which is also going to be a topical theme in the next few months.

    Given that the power balance of players is going to take a big hit, it puts the PFA in an interesting position in all of this.

  9. In conclusion, the only way for a payroll cap to work in a British “open shop” structure is the introduction of “flexible” contracts. Obviously, easier said than done.

  10. I think a fair system would be an income based salary cap but subsidies from rich owners should not be counted as income.

  11. I’ve got nothing to add here except perhaps that the problem is not necessarily spending on wages, or debt, but a lack of transparency.

    It’s only years after the event that we learn fully about the irresponsible spending of Richmond and Radhic. There’s never any scrutiny or independent review, check or balence at the time the decision is made. The supporter base is never informed of these financial risks and only become aware at the last minute – sometimes hours before the administrators are called in.

    I’m not suggesting any old supporter is brought in on these decisions – I certainly don’t have the training to understand high finance. However if we could come to some agreement on a ‘Financial Health Scale’ between, say, 1 and 10, applicable across the leagues, that could reflect a club’s borrowing, revenue stream and costs it would provide supporters with a easy to understand metric that we could use to inform our own appetite for risk and hold the owners to account. At least give us some early warning of impending doom.

    There’s nothing wrong with borrowing money. There’s nothing wrong with speculating to accumulate – most of us have to do that to if we want a house – but it has to be done responsibly. We we loose that from football the big boys will always be big and the minnows will always be minnows. If you can’t dream there’s no point in following football.

    On another point I’m not sure about the ‘why England lose’ book. Read the book myself and enjoyed it but you have to understand the difference between a correlation and true cause and effect. I think some conclusions they draw are a little tenuous.

  12. Talk of salary caps is ridiculous and will only help the bigger clubs who can afford to strategically circumvent them with large signing fees, bonus payments, sponsorship tie ins etc. Nothing would change AND NEITHER SHOULD IT.

    What is this desire for a totalitarian fairness in sport? Smacks of communism to this long time lurker. Football has always been a playground in which the biggest boy wins and long may it continue. The wimpy kid gets a look in now and again when he’s backed with some money but the strongest rises to the top. Right now we are among the League 2 clubs with the biggest choppers and we should start strutting about like the Billy Big Balls we are. Why in the world should a couple of hundred fans in a tinpot stadium in Morecombe be able to compete with a (more or less) one club city the size of ours? If our revenue is 4 times what Morecombe get then we should be able to offer 4 times the salary. Let them get the sh*t-kickers for £500 a week and we’ll take footballers for £2k a week thanks very much.

    We should patronisingly clap their feeble support when they visit our metropolis. We should ridicule their amateur facilities when we visit their ramshackle little stadiums.

    It’s about time our whole attitude to League 1 and 2 changed. We’re too good for it and we should act like it. We need some leaders on and off the pitch that can deliver us from this excuse for pro football in the armpit end of the 92. And if you’re one of the cuckold few who can’t wait to go for a pint of ale at Barrow and Halifax then WHY DON’T YOU GO AND FIND A NON-LEAGUE TEAM TO SUPPORT.

    • Yet more from the Cow’s Arse brethren. Great contribution to the debate.

      • Thanks for the input GARY. Pray tell, what is your comment adding to the debate? Absolutely zero apart from trying to divide City fans.

        It’s a perfectly valid viewpoint. We’re enormous compared to some of the perennial bottom feeders of the Football League and we should flick them away like dandruff from our shoulder.

        Seems like you’re one of the flock, happy to visit new non league grounds to tick them off your list and have a lovely pint in a real ale pub. Some of us want more GARY. Some of us want to go to Elland Rd, Bramhall Ln, Hiilsborough, Villa Park, Stadium of Light, The Hawthorns, Cardiff, Swansea, Forest and sit in stadiums full of 20-40000 people generating an atmosphere and watching talented footballers.

      • I think you need to tone it down. Whilst you’re entitled to your view, at WOAP we don’t tolerate personal attacks on other WOAP readers. Please keep your arguments constructive.

      • Wheres your contribution Gary?

        I wholeheartedly support Vlad’s comments above. We are rubbish because we accept it. I’ve said it before and I dont mind repeating – the 80s and 90s changed this club. We went from the aforementioned shitkickers to top 2 division material. Expectations were rightly raised. We went from sub 10k crowds, to capacity 15k crowds. We then had a 6 year blip, but came back and improved again, a division higher and 20k crowds. We have shown we have the potential to get 25k capacity crowds. If we got back to the Championship I’d fully expect to us to hit that regularly, cheap tickets or not. Talk of being ok with a salary cap is so blatantly accepting the crap we’re served. Those among us who bemoan our underachievement are often told to “go support Leeds, or Man City etc”, but as Vlad very rightly says, if you’re so keen on watching awful football in awful facilities, go support Avenue or Guisely. I’m sure you’d fit right in.

    • You have such a high regard for your fellow City fans. Post under your real name rather than hiding behind pseudonym and you might earn a smidgeon of credibility

      • I’ve given my name. I endorse the comments above. Will that do you?

      • Personally Leon I think that if you want to call out City fans in such an intemperate way you should at least have the courage to FULLY identify yersen.

      • How many Leon’s actively post on here and twitter about the club? Do you want my address too? My twitter handle is Leon Hobbes, my real name isnt difficult to find from there if you’re that bothered.

        And in what way did my posts demonstrate a lack of control? Because I dont paid everything the club do? Have rose tinted glasses? Some behaviours are deserving of criticism. I’ve not singled anyone out, or insulted anyone. But, and this is very important, because we’re all entitled to an opinion, in my opinion the attitudes of many of our fans hold us back. That is the consensus among the regular posters on The Cows Arse. Now you can tell us we’re being nasty, or engage in that debate, it’s up to you.
        Nodding along and accepting the status quo never achieved anything. Therefore others who control TCA twitter, and some like myself who are happy to post as themselves, challenge what we see as damaging behaviour. The other guys anonymity in no way devalues their point, and anything posted as TCA is a distillation of the opinions of a relatively large number of forum regulars.

      • Not got the slightest interest in twitter or “TCA”. Sorry. Very hard not to interpret the last sentence of your original post as anything but insulting! We all want the best for the club that is a given …how we achieve that will always be contentious. I very much doubt that a paradigm shift in fan expectation you advocate will of its self have much impact. Not altogether sure that there is a significant lack of ambition anyway

  13. Just a note to say that it appears the likes and dislikes on reader comments have been hacked and/or the target of a campaign, so reluctantly I’ve had to switch them off.

    Real shame, as the like/dislike feature was a nice way for others to join the debate. Sadly an idiot or two is spoiling it for everyone else.


  14. I enjoyed this article Jason. It’s made me think again about whether a salary cap is a good thing. Previously I endorsed it but I don’t think it actually solves the problems it’s sets out to fix. The demise of Bury has rattled English football, as has the problems at clubs like Bolton and Sunderland. We sailed mightily close to the wind of insolvency but only when the wheels came off the Richmond train. Before then, City were rocking. Recently the reckless spending of Rahic could have had the same effect but Rupp stepped in. He won’t do it again. I’m sure of that.

    But a salary cap would have not allowed a speculation season like 12/13 when we put money into signing good players and achieved all we did. I interpret Vlad’s comments above as one of frustration. He wants to see City compete with the best. Whilst I don’t share his disrespect of other teams in this league and beyond, I agree we should be aiming much higher and would like to see some good players down at Valley Parade rather than the poor showing of recent seasons. If we speculate we could make a big impression in the league next season, but we must have a plan B for if it doesn’t work. The last thing we want is to go backwards any further because we paid big money for the wrong players.

    How does the EFL manage the rogue owners who spend what they don’t have and fail to control costs? I think there needs to be much greater scrutiny of the finances by the EFL with non-financial sanctions for failure to control costs. How this would work in detail, I have no idea.

    A return to the low salary season followed by a big salary season might be the way for City to go from next season. Doubt Vlad and co will like it or accept it as a business model for success. We will see what happens.

    I wish ALL city fans well and hope we get back to watching a winning bantams team soon.

  15. If the EFL properly enforced the wages-to-turnover cap which currently exists then we wouldn’t need anything else in my opinion. The only way I see them being able to do that is if they appoint an independent accountant to each club who has full access to the books. Perhaps, even, they are based at each club 2/3 days per week. Surely they could contract someone like Deloitte, KPMG etc. to carry out this work independently? They would all have to abide by strict non-disclosure terms of course. Obviously this would add cost but that would be a more than fair trade-off to ensure 72 clubs are run according to the rules.

  16. I would agree entirely but in practice it would not be so easy to monitor. For example a player’s contract is signed in anticipation of a budgeted income for the forthcoming season and justified on that basis. There is no guarantee that targeted income will be achieved and it could be hard to judge midway through the season what will be the outturn. Hence in the final event, the compliance test could only be applied after the season has finished and the accounts are finalised. Monitoring the accounts through the season is easier said than done given that many of the income flows are uneven and unpredictable and the accounting of them is to a degree, subjective. As to the cost of a firm such as those charging 100 days in a year…

    The implications of the Covid emergency on the viability of English club football are enormous and inevitably the issue of payroll costs and how to control / regulate them is going to become centre stage. As I have said above, the PFA will have a big part to play in terms of the outcome. However we are likely to see player wages collapse anyway as a result of ‘market forces’.

    The theme of payroll regulation is not new, witness the lobbying for an end to the maximum wage in English football or nineteenth century attempts to ban professionalism. In 140 years we have yet to see a perfect or workable solution. A salary cap on the face of it sounds sensible but it runs up against contradictions and vested interests. Finding a consensus will be difficult and in all likelihood we will see the EFL stumbling along and some sort of ineffective fudge being enforced.

    Ultimately any proposals for wage regulation in football rely upon the willingness of individual clubs to comply with the spirit of the arrangement. Therein the biggest problem of them all.

    • Hi John. It’s good to understand more detail of the barriers that prevent such financial best-practice in the world of football. Perhaps my suggestion is more of a long-term one and one that requires the independent regulator to be embedded on a club’s board permanently. They may have to use some subjective judgement, rather than a hard and fast P&L line, to determine if a club is complying with the spirit of the regulation but that will become finessed over time. I still feel like it’s the best solution from all of those I’ve seen mooted.

    • John Dewhirst,

      Your point makes some sense about income flows being somewhat unpredictable, however, financial forecasts are nothing new and we have several seasons of evidence to use for a poor, median or excellent forecasts. As long as projected accounts were within these boundaries it would be a sensible precaution and any accountant would be able to work with the figures.

  17. This accountant is highlighting the practical difficulties of monitoring mid-season. However that’s not to stop an assessment of the forecast payroll / income ratio at the start of the season or that at the close of the season based on actuals.

  18. ‘Practical difficulties of monitoring mid-season’

    It’s just monitoring though isn’t it. You set your budget at the start of the season with a poor, median or excellent projection of finances for the coming season which will be linked to on field performance usually. The monitoring means just that; are we on track to stay in budget?

    We have it easier than most with our high % of ST holders so we don’t rely on game to game finances as much as others. We can presumably predict with some accuracy in ground sales too based on previous seasons.

    • Football seasons can be extremely volatile as you don’t know what’s around the corner. Even the best laid plans can be torn up very quickly.

      Look at when a club has built a squad of players they think will do okay, but they actually under-perform badly. Suddenly there is pressure on the club to react in ways that have a financial impact. From strengthening the squad in January by a larger amount than they would have envisaged, to sacking a manager (plus possibly their backroom staff) and recruiting a replacement.

      On the other side of the coin, you might have more success than you expect – be in with a chance of promotion and again have pressures to invest (eg City in 87-88).Or a cup run gives you lots of money that wasn’t budgeted for. Plans needs to be readjusted and balance sheets re-forecast. There’s also the impact of selling a high-performing player (eg Nahki Wells in 2014) and unexpected bonuses like the Oli McBurnie windfall.

      There are, as John argues, ways of having more checks in place, but it certainly would need to have a degree of flexibility and that’s where it’s hard. Imagine a club is on the brink of going down and a third party says you can’t buy that striker you need?

      • I think I’ve covered the bases about the fortunes of a season with my poor, median or excellent forecasts point. That broad spectrum takes in the scenarios you provide of a dreadful season in which proactive costly action needs to be taken to affect change or indeed, the potential to invest further in a promotion push at the other end of the spectrum.

        This leads us back to the salary cap suggested and rubbished by my good self. Given a salary cap, an excellent League Cup run before xmas would mean that the extra money generated couldn’t be significantly reinvested in the team in January if you were already near your cap. That is of course until clubs find a way to circumvent the rules, which they will. Which makes a mockery of having the rule in the first place. Despite what BCAFC may say about salary caps publicly, we have no intention of working within them and that info has come from within the club.

        There are advantages to remaining anonymous online, one of those being that you don’t compromise your sources of information. Many disagree with TCA’s rather assertive demand for a professional outlook from the top to the bottom of our club, however, you can’t ignore that we have the inside track for info from within. We will remain anonymous as long as that suits our needs.

      • I think it would be interesting to know who your ‘inside source’ is, especially if that insider believes there is a lack of professionalism within the club. Is that person working to improve the culture of the club, or working against it?

  19. ‘It’s just monitoring though isn’t it’

    ‘We can presumably predict’

    One of the reasons why the likes of KPMG et al would not do this type of work is that they would not be affordable. Another is that they wouldn’t risk their reputation taking a judgement call on football finances midseason – the possibility of a player transfer, a cup run, postponed matches or a play-off outcome etc. Of course you could always find someone prepared to take a punt and certify compliance but that kind of defeats the objective.

    The monitoring that is needed is to get comfort that a club has timely management information and cash forecasts, something that was entirely lacking in the latter days of Mr Rahic.

  20. [Width of a Post
    June 24, 2020 • 2:53 pm
    I think it would be interesting to know who your ‘inside source’ is, especially if that insider believes there is a lack of professionalism within the club. Is that person working to improve the culture of the club, or working against it?]

    You don’t expect me to compromise sources do you Jason? Why ask that question with any integrity.

    I think most at BCAFC want to improve the club in any way they can and often the things leaked are done with a motive. We all scratch backs to a certain extent, don’t we Jason?

    • I am not questioning you. I am questioning why Bradford City allegedly employs someone who is close enough to know the decisions being made at the top (so we’re not talking about a hotdog seller) and chooses to share the information they have gleened/interpreted with an annoymous Twitter account.

      Sharing it, whilst knowing that Twitter account is going to use that information to publicly criticise and riducle the club on a regular basis, call for fans to boycott the club’s season tickets and also angrily ridicule fans who don’t fall into their way of thinking.

      I would question why this insider would share privliged information with a nasty Twitter account. How that insider justifies believing they are acting in the best interests of the club.

      I would question why Bradford City would employ someone who would act against them. Or, if they are not employing this person, why they would share information with someone who would act against them.

      If there is someone Bradford City employ who is doing these things, it does indeed suggest they need to look hard at their professionalism. But I would struggle to see what possible way this insider is the good guy rallying against bad in this story. Whatever he or she’s motivations are, I struggle to see how they are wanting the best for the club.

      So I would love to know who the insider is. So I could ask them these questions.

      • Well Jason, you’ve certainly nailed your colours to the mast!

        I think you’re being very naive if you think there is one person within the club leaking information for unscrupulous purposes. There are several members of TCA with varying connections within the city, the football club and the media. You’d be surprised who gets in touch from time to time.

        It’s not uncommon for outlets to leak news to generate interest and create rumours. One such article recently aimed to paint JR as a hero and blamed the last 20 years on Richmond! I wonder how that article came about…

        You’ve got to realise that TCA are not ante bcafc. Far from it. We want to drag it kicking and screaming into some semblance of a professional outfit instead of the bumbling make up and make do ragbag that sees us starting from scratch every season. We demand a vision; a plan; an identity.

      • Just to correct your slur there, the recent article I wrote about 20 years since six weeks of madness was something I decided to write off my own back, to coincide with it being 20 years since those events. There was no one who asked me to write it. No one ever asks me to write an article. Maybe people put you up to Tweet things, but that is not how we operate.

        If you’d have read the article properly, you would note that it was called “Where did it start to go wrong for Bradford City?” with a tagline of looking at the origins of Bradford City’s decline.

        Key words there: start and origins. So please don’t paint the article to be something it wasn’t.

        I’m not sure where you got from it that it was painting JR as a hero. He was barely even mentioned in the piece.

  21. Perhaps a reasonable option is to have a basic salary, plus the potential for a substantial bonus at the end of the season, based on the income has been achieved. I know of a lot of professionals who work on a basis that the ‘bonus’ is an additional income stream (including accountants with EY & PWC). Other organisations such as the John Lewis partnership have a share of profits option.

  22. People often send info our way hoping we’ll tweet things. We decide if we want to or not. There’s a three pronged approach to some of our members from various sources at the moment sending hints that we presume they’re trying to manufacture into rumour and spice for the Twittersphere. We’ll keep that under wraps until it suits.

    In relation to your article “Where did it start to go wrong for Bradford City?” there were several very important bits of the story missing that show JR for the snide he is.

    • Such as?

      • Such as the way that the (almost £8 million) dividends were paid out pre administration. BCAFC was already losing money at that time. Richmond AND the Rhodes’ concocted a scheme to pay themselves a dividend from another company who charged the club for its ‘management’ services’ to get around it.

        It would be interesting to have an in depth revisit of both administrations.

      • The article was about 20 years since the six weeks of madness, not about administration in 2002. So why would that have been included in this particular story? There are all sorts of other factors to mention too around admin, like all the leasing stuff and GR paying himself consultancy fees. The attempts to engineer a mass FL administration/set up a Premier League Two. The article was about the massive transfer and manager mistakes of 20 years ago. It was about the start of the demise.

        I agree it would be good to revisit those administration times of 2002 and 2004. If nothing else to recall what an absolute mess the club got itself into and how difficult it was to turn it around. I’ve got some background information that I can use. But I will struggle to write about it for a few weeks due to pressures of the day job.

        There’s a modern history of Bradford City that needs writing.

    • Who is ‘We’? How do you decide, some clandestine meeting? Why would ‘people’ send you ‘things’? Sounds like something from a ‘sub Austin Myers movie.

      • Hi Vlod,

        Thanks for reaching out. “We” are the members with access to TCA Twitter account.

        We used to meet in the freezer aisle at ASDA at 9pm on Thursdays but the lockdown has hampered this somewhat so we just exchange messages instead.

        ‘People’ send us ‘things’ because we’re a popular (like it or not) lone voice in a sea of unsubstantiated positivity around the club. People like to criticise because we use colourful language but nobody can claim we’re not on the money more often than not. All we want is an ambitious football club with a plan and an identity, we’re not asking a lot.

      • Sounds more the freemasons and presumably you have the dodgy handshakes. No wonder you are ignored.

    • You think you are popular …never heard of you. My lad has just filled me …i quote….”they are all dicks”. Just wasted 5 minutes to confirm how banal puerile and nihilistic it is. You are a legend in your own lunchtime pal. The journalistic pretentions are a hoot. Trot of back to your twisted echo chamber.Thanks
      Ps Dividends taken in the early noughties were perfectly legal and in the case of the Rhodes fair value for their investment pre- Richmond meltdown

      • No delusions of grandeur here, Paul, and absolutely no journalistic pretensions either. Just a bunch of fans desperate for BCAFC to be more.

        PS, if the dividends taken (from a company losing money) were perfectly legal, why did they have to set up a scheme to pay them through another company?

        PPS, thanks Ivan666 for taking some time out of your day to ignore us.

      • Dividends were paid from the first season in the Prem and primarily the wedge from Sky( from memory in the close season. They were taken from profit when the Club was profitable! How it was structured you imagine might be tax related. JD may have a view and is qualified to comment unlike most of us. Rhodes had taken a punt on promotion putting up the majority of the cash to buy the likes of Mills and Blakey. Why not just let us wallow in our false sense of positivity and moan on the ever popular TCA?

  23. The TCA are like a stuck record and no amount of rationale argument will convince them otherwise. Their members get nuggets of gossip that they neither understand nor know what to do with but they seem to assume that they can join the dots to substantiate a conspiracy theory. Just ignore and don’t take them seriously. Just because they are loud doesn’t mean to say they need to be taken notice of.

  24. See Paul, here you are part of the problem! You’re refusing to believe it. You’re even trying to excuse it, structured as tax related!

    I’m here telling you what’s what. There were more people than GR and the Rhodes that got paid dividends. Everything came out in the wash during the administrations. Accounts, meetings, who was present at the meetings, who voted for what etc etc.

    JD is indeed qualified to comment. What makes you think there aren’t qualified people at TCA?

    • If you want to set out in detail your allegations I am sure we would all be willing to listen. There is nothing necessarily illegal about structuring payment to avoid a liability for tax. As you hide behind a username we have no means of assessing your credibility. JD/JM have the guts to be wholly transparent about who they are and what they are about. The backgrounds of both lend credibility to their views.
      The Club turned a profit and dividends were taken. If you think otherwise lets have the detail

  25. That’s for another day Paul. Rest assured, there’s a whole portfolio of historical records ready when required.

    • Evidence required for what exactly? When do we get the big expose?You have come on here like Billy Big Balls making potentially libelous comments and slunk off without any corroboration. Priceless. What this thread has proved is that City fans should not take you seriously. I suspect most do not anyway and that is what fuels the miserable negativity and cynicism of your outlook

  26. Seriously, this is getting tedious. If you want to post wild allegations then why don’t you do so on TCA where you can exchange a few expletives and congratulate your chums on your puerile wit. Evidently the fact that you resort to post on WOAP is confirmation enough that no-one takes the blind bit of notice of TCA. If you ask yourself why, then you might derive the sort of invaluable insight that you currently lack.

    The mantra is frankly tedious. Unambitious club blah blah. You ridicule and defame people yet never offer constructive solutions. Your grasp of reality is sorely lacking. You claim to have nuggets of gossip and slander that you seem to think amounts to one big conspiracy that explains away the failings of BCAFC at a stroke. If only it was so simple. But then, simple people see the world through a simple prism.

    You make ‘allegations’ that you barely understand. Equally damning is the fact you haven’t got the faintest idea what to do with them.

    And the ultimate problem is that no-one listens to you or takes you seriously or has any interest in what the TCA has to say for itself. In a nutshell you are the problem but you lack the insight to recognise it.

  27. Hi Damian,

    Thanks for the considered response.

    If you were to research even a tiny bit, you’d see that TCA have (repeatedly) offered constructive solutions.

    There are no ‘allegations’ made here either. This is historical fact, available to people who know where to find it. Some is hard to find due to a couple of administrations but it’s there if you know where to look or even better, if you have the files saved.

    TCA members are free to post on any platform as far as I’m aware and if one of our members has a view on the salary cap then the comments section of this article is the pertinent place.

    The fact that other people then choose to interrupt the conversation to question TCA is something for the moderators of this platform to deal with.

    There are further details to be explored re admin1 and admin2 and the role that all the players had in it. Happy to go into details when that is the primary issue being discussed.

  28. Go for it. Let’s have some comedy as you make an even bigger fool of yourself.

    • Are your comprehension skills lacking, Damian?

      Which bit of ‘Happy to go into details when that is the primary issue being discussed.’ didn’t you understand?

      Jason has hinted that he might do an article in the coming weeks so more than happy to chew the fat and get the facts on the table.

      If you’d really like to discuss it further, pop along to TCA forum and start a thread.

  29. I think it’s fair to say this debate has run its course, so I will now switch off comments for this particular article.

    Vlad/Cow’s Arse/Darth Vader/Gordon Gibb – whoever you are, I think it’s very disappointing for you to accuse someone (JR) of being “snide”, present a half-baked piece of evidence to back it up, and when asked to explain the evidence refuse to do so. You are clearly keen to change the mind of City fans about JR (otherwise you wouldn’t go to these lengths), but then fail to provide coherent reasons that might actually succeed in changing people’s minds, instead bragging about supposedly being in the know.

    Telling people they’re wrong but not explaining why they are wrong is not a way to win hearts and minds, You might very well have damning evidence that changes the complexion of everything, but if you don’t share it how do you reasonably expect people to believe you.

    For what it’s worth, your ‘revelation’ that GR/JR used a holding company for dividends is not a revelation. Those of us who are keen fans of David Conn have known about it for years. In his 2004 book ‘The Beautiful Game?’ he covers it in detail. I thought it was worth quoting this section to you and other readers, written by David on the CVA:

    “The document contained some uncomfortable revelations for Richmond. In 1999 and 2000, the Premier League years, Bradford City had paid Bradford City Holdings, which owned the football club, large amounts of money described as ‘management fees’. The holding company had paid these out in dividends to the shareholders, the Richmond and Rhodes family, personally…The administrators concluded that the dividends were ‘reasonable’ because Bradford City had been in the Premier League at the time.”

    So it’s not news.

    You mention waiting for me to write an article on the administrations and that, when I do, you will “get the facts on the table”. But if you do indeed know more than me about the situation, then I’m not sure there’s much motivation on my part to spend an awful lot of time researching and writing an article that you will attempt to rip to pieces with your secret “facts”.

    Perhaps another way to look at this is for you to write an article yourself about all you know regarding administration, the new facts you have that are not in the public domain, and why JR (or whoever) is the bad guy in the story. Provided it’s backed up by sources and no one is going to sue me for libel, I would be happy to publish it. So maybe something to think about for you. You feel like you know more than everyone else, so maybe it’s time to show it and stop hiding in the shadows.

    In the meantime, I’ve got a lot on with work and limited in what I can write, so my intentions are to write more ‘Why we Bradford City’ pieces for the next few weeks, as they’re not time consuming and a nice release from other pressures in life. But when some of my work deadlines ease, I can look at continuing the 20 years of decline features and move past the origins stage.



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