Spiraling wages and pandemic halt lead to fears for EFL clubs

Gates stand locked outside the closed Manchester City Etihad Stadium in Manchester early this month. (AP pic)

MANCHESTER: Spiraling wages in the Football League combined with the damaging impact of the long break in play due to the new coronavirus pandemic are prompting fears that English clubs outside of the Premier League could go to the wall.

While Premier League clubs hope that a restart in June, albeit behind closed doors, will secure their continued lucrative television revenues, the prospect of playing without fans is a major concern for lower league clubs who receive only a fraction of the broadcast cash.

Andy Holt, the chairman of League One club Accrington Stanley, said on Tuesday that clubs could go out of business if they are forced to play without match-day revenue.

“I want to know how we fund the behind-closed-doors end to this season, also how we operate next season if crowds are still not allowed?

“There’s no point even trying for some clubs. It does not work. No point wasting cash now, only to go bust later,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Many clubs go bust if next season is behind closed doors and many will go bust paying players wages if next season doesn’t start. The EFL are doing nothing to allay my fears. They’re hanging around waiting for prem (Premier League) before moving.”

Holt’s warning came after the leak of an internal EFL questionnaire on wages which showed the scale of the expenditure problem in the second-tier Championship, where clubs vie for promotion to the Premier League.

For several years, overall spending on player and staff wages in the Championship has exceeded revenue, and the questionnaire, reported by the Daily Mail on Tuesday, showed that of the 18 Championship clubs who responded, the average basic monthly pay for their highest earner is £1.51 million a year, which makes a monthly salary of £125,797.

The best-paid player in the report earned an annual salary of £3.54 million, or £294,666 a month. The figures from the 2019-20 season do not include win bonuses or other payments.

The EFL declined to comment on the report.

In League One, where 15 of the 24 clubs responded, the average highest earner is on £247,188 a year and in League Two, where 14 responded, it is £114,020.

However, one player is paid £13,000 for a year in the Championship, and two in Leagues One and Two received just £7,800.

The highest-paid Championship manager was reportedly paid £3.46 million a year, with an average across the division of £878,000 a year.

In League Two, the average manager’s annual income is £79,462, with the lowest-paid manager in the Football League receiving £45,000.

One physiotherapist at a Championship side in the Midlands was earning £191,000 a year, although that was almost three times the league average. At one Championship club, the kitman earned £56,000 a year.

The average salary for a chief executive or managing director in the Championship was £295,179, with one CEO picking up £740,000. In League One, that average fell to £89,566.