Michael Bailey: Norwich City’s alliance with Manchester United on financial fair play
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As we know by now, the Premier League landscape is going to change again next season…
• I’m sure most of you by now have seen Joey Barton’s attempts at communicating in French by simply adding a Gallic accent to his English – if not, visit my column online. But while mocking his technique ripped out of the ‘Allo ‘Allo! manual for ‘Good Moaning and Good French’, the last thing you’d have expected him to do was admit it.
Cue his Twitter: “In my defence, it is very difficult to do a press conference in Scouse for a room full of French journalists. The alternative is to speak like an ‘Allo Allo!’ character. It’s simply a case of you had to be there.” Oh René – or maybe that should be Oh Jooé… At least it ensured no one talked about the horrendous tackle that earned him a booking after 22 minutes of his Ligue Un debut.
• It has felt for a few weeks like the Premier League table has had a settled look to it. But you just wonder where it will go from here. Managerial changes and some big games coming up – which started midweek in fact – means it’s an interesting period coming up. Although, when is it not?
An extra £20m minimum for each top flight club thanks to the new TV deal that starts from 2013-14, means every club already at the top table is more desperate than usual to hang on to their place – while the rush for a Championship exit will be more frenzied than ever, especially come January.
It is also the best reason I’ve found so far for Southampton shelling out £7m in the summer on Jay Rodriguez.
But the changes are unlikely to stop there. Lagging behind Uefa and the Football League, yes. But remarkably and far more quickly than most expected, the Premier League is instigating its own financial fair play rules.
Admittedly, that is where the fun really begins – but we will get to that soon enough.
The Football League has started to phase in regulations limiting the money clubs can spend – and can receive from investors – all related to their turnover.
Once fully employed, and should the unimaginable happen at Carrow Road, City would find a stark environment awaiting them in the second tier. Whether the increased parachute payments would make life any easier against a bunch of teams curtailed from using any of their own financial doping is an experiment still to take place.
Uefa’s own legislation, aimed at clubs taking part in the Europa and Champions Leagues, has also started and is here to stay.
Some say it is already affecting how the likes of Manchester City go about their budget planning, but again it’s too early to tell.
Which leaves the rest of the Premier League – where clubs blow money quicker than Fernando Torres blows chances. He cost more than Norwich’s entire TV revenue last season, lest we forget.
At last week’s annual general meeting, Norwich were able to paint a picture of rude financial health. No doubt the win over Manchester United a few days earlier eased any questions on the state of things on the pitch too.
That game also allowed City chairman Alan Bowkett and chief executive at Old Trafford, David Gill, to discuss more than Anthony Pilkington’s winner. Earlier this month, the Premier League voted in favour of bringing in fair play rules. They also disagreed over what those rules should be. Each club wants what’s best for them – but that will never be best for everybody.
Links to turnover would be sensible – providing the likes of Manchester City’s Middle East owners are not allowed to throw in the anomaly of multi-million pound ‘sponsorships’ from their own airlines that simply act as bottomless pits for Roberto Mancini – or whoever’s next – to throw at new players.
Proposals limiting clubs to a 5pc annual increase in their football spend also ring alarm bells – effectively restricting any club’s organic growth beyond where they were when the rules kicked in.
Four clubs have registered their displeasure at that – Everton, Fulham, West Brom and Manchester City. And Norwich are keen to have their say too.
“I sat next to David (Gill) the other day and he and I are in complete agreement over what the rules should be, which is quite strange given he’s at the top and I’m nearer the bottom than the top,” said Bowkett.
“Our view is the Uefa financial fair play has to come in for the whole of the Premier League.
“We should not be constrained in any way in our percentage increase of expenditure on football, because we are low spenders at the moment.
“And I think going forward, if owners want to invest in their clubs they should do it through equity, not through loans.”
An emergency meeting of Premier League clubs proposed for next month would aim to move things on. Whatever the final proposal, the votes of 14 clubs are needed to get it through.
“Those trying for Europe are there anyway, so that’s eight votes,” said Bowkett. “People like Swansea and ourselves who are very sensibly run are there already. You may have new entrants into the Premier League who are spending a large amount of money with little success having a different view.”
Bowkett added: “I think it will get done.”
Of course, City have been here before – helping make the rules that map the top-flight’s financial future. Unlike the 1990s, let’s hope this time City hang around to enjoy the fruits of their labour.