Belfast Telegraph

Wage cap will not work here, says Linfield chief Kerr

By Graham Luney

As Linfield manager David Jeffrey finalises his squad for the Setanta Sports Cup battle with St Patrick’s Athletic at Windsor Park on Saturday, his chairman is warning that the financial crisis gripping clubs across Ireland is far from over.

Jim Kerr, who has not pulled any punches when it comes to criticism of the all-Ireland club tournament, is not surprised that the dreams of League of Ireland clubs have turned to dust.

Derry City were thrown out of this season’s tournament and are slipping into administration while Cork City have been wound up in the High Court. In a bid to stop Premiership clubs drowning in choppy financial waters, moves are under way to bring a wage cap into the local game but Kerr says it won’t worlk and he wants to see officials take a pay cut.

“A wage cap is not feasible,” said Kerr. “I can quote one Premeirship club whose maximum wage earner is £75 a week. Do we believe that? We have talked to players about coming to Linfield and we could not match what they are being paid by their own club.

“A player might see a pay slip for the first time when they come to Linfield as everything is done through the books. Our referees are also paid too much. In the Scottish First Division, which is full-time, the referee only gets £120 a week. Our referees are getting more for one game than some part-time players are earning for a week when they are training three nights and playing on a Saturday. Where is the logic in that?”

Linfield’s future participation in the Setanta Sports Cup remains up for discussion, while the Cup organisers acknowledge its format must change.

“The participation money certainly does not cover the expenses in terms of travelling,” added Kerr. “We haven’t had to travel to Cork but we have been to Dublin and Derry. I feel sorry for Cliftonville who have had to go to Sligo and Cork.

“I was a lone voice many years ago when they were talking about an all Ireland league. I said it wasn’t economically viable and it is showing now.

“The southern clubs went full-time with big money backers but those people want a return for their money. It hasn’t happened and now southern clubs are looking to go part-time again. Our management commitee will decide whether we continue to play in the competition and we are always thinking about the manager and his players.

“They are, on the whole, part-time players and the demands on them — playing two games a week — are substantial.”

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