Belfast Telegraph

Don't gamble and throw it all away

By Graham Luney

Some things would make interesting reading. However, I'm not referring to the blockbuster novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.

The only whips I see these days are when Tony McCoy is charging towards another record at the races.

But if Irish League fans were shown the wages earned by every player in the Danske Bank Premiership... that might raise a few eyebrows.

You may assume that wages are low while clubs fight to stay afloat. However, according to several Irish League sources, some players are still doing very well on the financial front. Very well indeed.

And good luck to them, you might say. Which one of us would go to our employer and say 'I don't want more money.'?

The players might also argue what they are being paid is no-one else's business. But do supporters, who keep clubs ticking over through their own financial contributions, have a right to know if bumper wages are going to a privileged few?

Managers, including Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson and former Linfield chief David Jeffrey, have argued that unrealistic salaries couldn't be sustained while league attendances dwindled and sponsorship money dried up.

And don't forget that clubs are supposed to be balancing their books. The Irish FA enforced a salary cap from the start of the 2012-13 season, with clubs being restricted to spending 60 per cent of their 'total allowable income' on paying their playing staff. That was reduced to 45 per cent for clubs with significant debts.

It's purpose? To put clubs on a sound financial footing.

Linfield's financial agreement with the Irish FA may rankle with some, but even the Blues have slashed budgets.

The financial concerns of our clubs are well documented, with Glentoran and Coleraine in particular almost going out of business in recent seasons. Both clubs now steer clear of excessive spending.

Even in England, where cash flows more readily, the Premier League Financial Fair Play Regulations ("FFP") were ratified to prevent clubs from sustaining huge losses in the pursuit of glory.

But Irish clubs, north and south, need to keep a firm grasp of figures.

Crusaders director Mark Langhammer says: "Crusaders made the initial wage cap proposal some years ago. The aim was to create a fairer, more competitive league.

"The wage protocol, in theory, assists clubs to control wages spiralling and avoid an 'arms race' which would, in time, put clubs out of business.

"The protocol has helped, but concerns remain that a minority of clubs still take the risk of making 'off books' payments, undermining the integrity of the system.

"Crusaders' recent submission to NIFL proposed more effective policing, a formal whistleblowing system and proper enforcement. We hope NIFL will consider this."

Langhammer's reference to 'off books' payments should raise alarm bells – if true.

Andrew Johnston, Northern Ireland Football League Managing Director, says: "The NIFL Board remain supportive of the Salary Cost Protocol scheme and have introduced further regulations regarding undisclosed payments to players into the respective league regulations."

Details can be found at http://www.nifootballleague.com/rules-and-regulations.

If NIFL feel that salary rules have been breached, an investigation will be launched and fines handed out if co-operation is not forthcoming.

I don't care who is getting healthy wages and I don't care which clubs are dishing out the big cheques, but I do care about a league that is fair and competitive.

It makes no sense for clubs to gamble on their own financial futures by issuing a few big pay cheques. Don't take supporters' loyalty for granted.

Clubs that gamble run the risk of losing – and by that I mean lose everything.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph