Stoke City and Leeds United transfer plans could be transformed for long-term at EFL meeting

Joint-chairman John Coates has been lobbying for a change to Financial Fair Play rules and to the way that money is distributed from the Premier League.
-Credit: (Image: Phil Greig)


There is an argument that Financial Fair Play rules are in place to stop a situation like at Derby County or Bolton Wanderers, the Football League founder members who were both on the cusp of oblivion after spending more than their then-owners could afford or were prepared to pay.

Except that the Financial Fair Play rules were in place when both of those clubs diced with death. It turns out that the threat of points deductions was not enough to avoid them going to the brink.

So why are they in place? There is a different argument that they are there to create a more level playing field. Except that there is what is described as a "cliff edge" between the Premier League and the Championship. The team who finishes 20th in the football pyramid has a guaranteed income from TV rights of about £100m and it's less than £10m for the team in 21st.

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Just in the Championship, there will be six teams next season in receipt of Premier League parachute payments because they were relegated in the last three seasons. Those will range from about £50m to just under £20m, so it is no surprise that research suggests parachute teams are three times more likely to win promotion. This is the first year since the financial cushion was introduced in 2006 that West Bromwich Albion won't be either in the top flight or receiving parachute money.

Championship clubs are allowed losses up to £41.5m over a rolling three-year period, whereas they are allowed to lose up to £105m in the Premier League. It might even pay off as a financial gamble to spend a season or two in League One, where FFP rules are different again - although you would have to really back your recruitment to do an Ipswich Town and win a double promotion.

The playing field is not very level.

There is debate that cannot be settled about whether parachute payments are right or wrong, whether they are an essential part of the modern game or make problems worse. There is a debate that cannot be settled about whether the big pot of Premier League TV money should be distributed differently.

There had seemed to be a consensus that there should be some kind of constraint to stop football eating itself and pouring money on top of money endlessly, except Manchester City seem to be testing that theory by mounting a legal case against the Premier League while they still wait a review of 115 charges for breaching FFP rules.

Stoke City's position has largely been one of frustration. They are still kicking themselves for wasting their parachute period but they had been lobbying for more to be done to address the chasm between the top two divisions even before they were relegated. Michael O'Neill at times privately wondered if it might have worked out easier to have slipped into League One in his first year rather than spend the next three years firefighting - except you can rack up 90 points in League One and still not win promotion.

Stoke are in a group of about 30 clubs of a similar size whose life will mostly, more or less, be spent flipping between the top two tiers, and the impact of having even one freak very good or very bad season is extreme. Too often there have been clubs who change their minds about the bigger picture depending on what division they are currently in.

The current model isn't working for anyone and Championship clubs, including Stoke and Leeds United, Hull, West Brom, Swansea and Cardiff are expected to urge the EFL to take a different path when they meet in the Cotswolds on Friday.

Perhaps clubs could follow the UEFA model and be allowed to spend 70 per cent of their revenue on wages, transfers and agent fees in time for the 2025/26 season.

Perhaps - and you wouldn't be surprised if Stoke championed this - owners could be allowed to ringfence a similar kind of money to inject as is being put by the Premier League into relegated clubs via parachute payments. It would have to be put in upfront so that bills will always be paid.

Perhaps a salary and transfer cap could bring down the costs for everyone so that all clubs were not swimming in debt.

Perhaps there is another option but there definitely has to be a better way to ensure fair competition without the risk of clubs going bump. Perhaps we will find out at this meeting on Friday.

What's the answer? Have your say in the comments section