Should the English Premier League Have a Salary Cap?

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Should the English Premier League Have a Salary Cap?
(Photoby Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

There has been talk for a while now that the Premier League in England should be governed by a salary cap system, such as is seen in American sports such as the NFL and NBA.

Due to the current financial climate we are all experiencing, combined with the "vulgar" amounts of money Manchester City have spent and look to continue to spend, the debate and call for a salary cap has come to the fore more recently. It would govern how much money teams paid their players, and how much could be spent on players.

The argument is, that a salary cap would bridge the gap between the so called "Big Four" and, for want of a better term, the rest. Big players would move to "smaller" clubs and the league would be on a more level playing field. It would also stop or at least discourage the dreaded foreign ownership spreading further into the league as there would be—in theory—less money to be made. 

I think the general consensus is that the average footballer's wages are far too high for the privilege of doing something he loves, and the rest of us have to pay for, every day of the week. However, it is also true that it is a relatively short career and it would be equally as hard to find someone who would not take the kind of money on offer if they were in a similar position.

Taking that reasoning, a salary cap would not be preferable to many players, especially your average squad player would miss out and potentially struggle later on in life. He'd still be set up quite nicely, but there would be a much bigger danger of insecurity there.

Another reason against the salary cap in the way the League is marketed. Everyone knows that the English Premier League is apparently the most beautiful, fastest and aggressive League in football, which boasts the biggest of names. However, if a salary cap was enforced, surely the big stars would begin to look across the water to places like Spain and even Italy which at this point would have comparative bundles of money to throw at players.

Up until now, the Premier League has had the fantastic ability to seem to keep hold of its own home-grown talent. The only notable deportations recently have been David Beckham and Michael Owen, both to Real Madrid, both for apparent huge sums of money. If a salary cap were to come into effect, the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney would surely have to think twice, even if they do profess to love their current clubs.

Even players who say they aren't in it for the money, the ones that are in it for the trophies and the glory—the Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs of this generation would still find themselves seeking pastures new. The biggest prize of all, the European Cup would seem a distant reality. The harsh truth is that money does buy success and our teams would be overrun by the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan and Real Madrid. In fact, the danger of that happening is there even pre-salary cap.

So, with the salary cap, the League's most valuable assets—its players—would potentially be moving to Spain or Italy. But surely this would be good for the small clubs. Surely, it would level the playing field and the division would become more competitive— the very thing the FA wants.

Sadly, everything points to that not being the case. You see, it is common knowledge that only a handful of clubs actually make a profit in football. The majority are in a constant struggle to keep their head above water—Premier League or not. To do this, they must sell their up and coming stars, the top goal scorers and their wing wizards for big sums of money to the "bigger" clubs. That's just the way it is. Some clubs go out of their way to find a buyer for their star player as it would help balance their books and secure the club in the long term.

But what would happen if a salary cap was the be brought in? These so-called smaller clubs would no longer be able to force these massive sums. When Charlton Athletic squeezed 18 million pounds out of Tottenham for Darren Bent, they were ecstatic. It was a great piece of business for them. After all, clubs are businesses nowadays and it helped ease the pain of relegation for them.

But if these teams would not hold out for such big asking prices, if there was a limit on what they could accept, then surely their future would be in jeopardy. There would be no point in having a more even league if there were not enough teams to play in it.

A salary cap would not mean that big players would sign for smaller teams who had more cap room; they simply wouldn't sign. They'd go elsewhere. Hull City this season have been allegedly throwing money at players to come and play for them, but the amount of rejections are as long as this essay. Hull simply is not a desirable place to live and the club is not big enough for the big names. They'd much rather go somewhere else or stay put.

The problem is that over the years the Premier League has been built on money, and taking it away would cripple the foundation which supports it. Cash is the lure with which stars are coaxed away from their villas in Spain and southern France. Unfortunately, if a salary cap were to be introduced, the Premier League would no longer be a viable product for many investors, and fans. 

We will just have to hope there is some other way to break the monopoly of the big four. Perhaps a manager such as David Moyes or Martin O' Neill could make some more shrewd signings and mount a challenge that way. Nothing is certain and time will only tell. My feeling is that a "smaller" club will break the stranglehold eventually but until then, we will just have to look forward to watching the fastest, most beautiful, vulgar league in the world. 

Tell me what you think.

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