A-League on the money as Europe wages war on big clubs

European football's governing body UEFA are considering the introduction of a salary cap to combat the uneven playing field in the club game that is becoming more pronounced every year. And it's about time, too.

real madrid

Real Madrid savour their latest Champions League triumph (Getty Images) Source: Getty Images Europe

At the same time several A-League clubs want to do away with the cap that has played a key role in the progress of Australia's national competition.

Go figure!

UEFA's Slovenian president Aleksander Ceferin has said that a cap would be aimed at bridging the gulf between Europe's wealthiest clubs and the rest of the field, as well as preventing top teams from stockpiling players on their payrolls.

"The wealthiest clubs are getting richer and the gap between them and the rest is getting bigger," Ceferin said.

"In future, we will have to take into serious consideration the possibility of limiting clubs' budgets for players' wages.

"The introduction of a salary cap would force clubs to be more rational. It will be a big battle and winning it would in my opinion represent an historic change."

Salary caps are necessary in order to retain balance in a competition but by their own definition they can be seen as unfair because they reward mediocrity and punish initiative on the part of those clubs that are blessed with a strong market or those that are managed better than others.

Many pundits in Australia have expressed a view that the salary cap is stifling the growth of the A-League.

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is one of the most outspoken opponents of the cap.

He wants its abolition because he says it is affecting the development of young Australian players by forcing them to move overseas too early. The coach also believes the cap is hampering the ability of local teams to import quality players.

Postecoglou's views are legitimate and make perfect sense in an Australian context but there is no question that without the 'necessary evil' of a salary cap the disparity between the haves and the have nots in the A-League would be even greater.

Some opponents of the cap would point out that there was a massive points difference between premiers Sydney FC (66) and bottom club Newcastle Jets (22) in 2016-2017 so the salary limitation cannot be working all that well.

But that disparity has less to do with the workings of the cap and more with the fact that the Sky Blues were exceptionally strong and the Jets exceptionally poor.

The bottom line, remember, is that on any given day any team can beat any other in Australia. And this is where the cap has succeeded.

The situation in Europe is very different in terms of the technical and fiscal divide between the Real Madrids and the Granadas of this world.

It is almost inconceivable that the Spanish giants lose to the minnows from Andalucia, for example.

Europe's biggest clubs are getting richer and more powerful by the minute and you only have to take a look at the teams featuring in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League every season to realise that the cake is there for only a select few to gorge on.
The outcome of the group stages of the UCL are often a foregone conclusion and many believe that the real competition starts at the knockout phase.

So it is only logical that a salary cap is seen in some quarters as a cure to the ailing game in Europe.

Europe definitely needs a form of restriction on clubs' big spending in the broader interests of the game itself but UEFA no doubt will encounter fierce opposition as soon as they pursue this controversial idea.

The governing body can expect a few bruising battles from the association of elite clubs, the player groups and last but not least the European Union.

So the chances of the salary cap being introduced in European football in the next few years are extremely slim.

Thankfully, Australian football is ahead of Europe in this regard and has a mechanism in place to protect its main competition. 

We should be careful what we wish for.

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4 min read
Published 3 July 2017 at 3:37pm
By Philip Micallef