If not a salary cap, then what’s the solution?

May 7, 2008

Grant celebrates as Ferguson looks on

Kevin Keegan thinks the Premier League is getting boring — see our latest Vlog on the Pitch — but, not for the first time, Sir Alex Ferguson sees things a bit differently.

“The League is murder for me and Avram Grant and nerve-racking for fans and players,” Ferguson said. “It would be impossible to make the Premier League any more exciting.”

Perhaps Ferguson has a point. The top two are heading into the final day level on points, and a glance at Mike Collett’s piece here will show you how rare that is.

But look at this phrase of Ferguson’s, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

“Domination is not a word that will get used again with Everton and Aston Villa getting better,” Ferguson was quoted as saying.

Yet the fact remains, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Everton will all face a battle from the big four just to maintain their star players this summer.

Gareth Barry and Dimitar Berbatov have been strongly linked with moves to Liverpool and Manchester United, meaning Villa and Spurs could be weakened before they can try to add to their squads.

So what’s the answer? A salary cap? It would at least stop the likes of Chelsea and United adding all the top players to already bulging squads and allow the smaller clubs to compete.  

One league that does use this method is Rugby’s English Premiership, where six of the 12 teams were in contention to win this year’s title with two games to go.

Something has to be done, certainly. Whether Keegan is right or not, the truth is that the top four clubs get pretty much all the top players  in the end. Carlos Tevez, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Carrick are examples of this.


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I would disagree with the whole salary cap business… let us put things into perspective… Arsenal doesnt have top players or marquee names.. these players have been moulded by Arsene Wenger and from relative unknowns, they have become world class professionals (the total team has been moulded at 30 million pounds).. take Liverpool…. besides Fernando Torres Liverpool doesnt have any marquee player…. Leaving Gerrard aside (he was again a youth club product) Benitez took ordinary players and made them extra ordinary in 2005 in Istanbul…

it has a lot to do with the managers that the four teams possess…. why is it that 3 out of 4 teams qualified for the semi finals of champions league were from England? Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Real Madrid have the star names in Henry, Kaka, Raul, Viera, Ibramonovich etc, so why weren’t they able to crack the code in Europe??

Man City, Tottenham, Aston Villa etc have spent a lot in the transfer market but they have not had much success other than a top 10 finish? Does anyone think that David Moyes and Martin o Neil can actually create world class teams or for that matter win anything of substance in their professional lives in EPL?

Please…… give me a break

Posted by Shyam Tallamraju | Report as abusive

It will probably never happen, but I like the idea of putting the 4th-place through 7th-place clubs in a playoff for the final Champions League spot. It would be just like promotion playoffs in the Football League, but instead of winning promotion, they would win the CL qualifying round bid.

The title winner is still the title winner, and the top 3 still go directly to the group stage (starting next year), but if the 4th spot is up for grabs, clubs like Everton, Blackburn, Villa, Portsmouth and Man City would have something to play for this weekend.

Just a thought, anyway.

Posted by Dave’s Football Blog | Report as abusive

It’s a debatable point, but a lot of people think a salary cap would actually be illegal under EU regulations concerning the restraint of trade and the free movement of persons (the same regulations that led to the Bosman ruling). It’s a really interesting subject, but not likely to go anywhere as long as the most powerful clubs in the sport have no reason to support it.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

With a fifteen point difference between fourth and seventh, i would be quite upset to say the least if i had to play off for the last c.l.place to be beat by the lower team.

Posted by Martin,preston. | Report as abusive

Breaking the top four means breaking the mould of selling your top players to the teams you are trying to compete with.

This will always be difficult however, as these players only see the big four being in contention and don’t believe their clubs will make the grade. It’s a vicious circle but let’s face it, you’d be hard pushed to say that this season hasn’t been exciting. At one stage it looked to be Arsenal all the way and now we have Man Utd and Chelsea fighting it out until the very last game.

It might be the usual suspects, but a good title race and three teams in the Champions League semi-finals isn’t an ordinary season.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

I admit am a greedy United fan and I wish it was as boring as it used to be when we were in a league of our own….alone.

Posted by Red Devil | Report as abusive

Would you like it if the government of your country capped your salary and prevent you from getting a yearly increment after reaching the cap?

The EPL is good as it is already. No need for any ‘improvements’. Also last I checked the big 4 crashed out of the FA cup spectacularly.

Posted by Five Times | Report as abusive

A salary cap (whether such a thing is actually legal) would be unworkable unless applied across Europe. If you restrict salaries so that the smaller Premiership sides can compete with the ‘Top Four’ all you’re doing is diluting the pool of available talent, who will go elsewhere. This will result in a decrease in the level of competitiveness of English clubs in European competition, leading to a downward spiral in quality. You can have more ‘exciting’ run-ins to a league championship, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into better football.

Ultimately the top clubs are companies, brands if you like, and as such they go after the best talent they can (or in some cases can’t) afford to keep their pre-eminence above other brands. Turning back the clock is not an option and measures to try to address this (salary caps, number of home-grown players) are doomed to failure.

Posted by Gonzalo | Report as abusive

[…] Would a salary cap ease Keegan’s fears? – Keegan thinks the Premier League is getting boring and that it will always be dominated by the big four, and he has a point, pretty much all the top players end up at the big four clubs, e.g. Frank Lampard, Carlos Tevez, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Carrick. […]

Posted by Catch up on Sports news « Chris Kidd – applied youth ministry | Report as abusive

a salary cap (which I believe would be legal because it does nothing to prohibit a player from playing anywhere provided the funds are available no different than now. Once again folks, Rugby uses it with no challenges wo why would football be any different?) would be fought for the simple fact that relegation exists.
NO one in the Prem would want a scenario where Arsenal, United and Liverpool all had down years and were relegated. You’d be throwing out 3 world known brands.
I personally find the Prem to be the most boring league on earth in many ways. Sure there are talented players and all, but seeing the same result every time gets old and stale.
People always slag off Bundesliga since it’s ‘Bayern and no one else’ But over a similar stretch of time from the present to 15 years ago, United has won more titles in England than Bayern and there have been more total different teams that have won in Germany than in England. To me it’s the most exciting league top to bottom as you get low table teams knocking off the big boys far more often than you get in England. La Liga is a lot like that as well.

Posted by papa bear | Report as abusive