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Roma progress excites fans


A long time retired

In today's age of the billion-pound television deal players are exponentially richer when they finally hang up their boots than the stars they idolised in their youth. The takings of a testimonial match are usually donated to charity these days, not used to pay-off the mortgage.

However, relative wealth does not alter the fact that while players are still plying their trade on the park they are intent on two things; achieving as much success as possible and maximising their earning potential. Hackneyed though it may be, the old adage that players are a long time retired is as true today as ever it was.

Once a player makes the decision to call it a day he will want enough memories and money to keep him content for the rest of his life. Gone are the days when the most an ex-pro had to look forward to was running a pub and knee-replacement surgery in his early 40s, well, at least the top end of the game.

Of course, the layman baulks when he hears of a 28-year-old demanding a £50,000 increase on his £80,000 weekly salary. But while it's sickening for most of us to imagine anyone earning quite so much to play a game, wanting more is perfectly understandable and an entirely natural inclination.

If you were a player hoping to retire in your mid-30s, that would give you a little over 15 years to earn enough money to be able to live the rest of your life in the lap of luxury. Factor in an agent who demands his pound of flesh... sorry, 10%, heavy taxing on high earners, not to mention a competitive nature and ego that demands to be paid at least as much as the next man and getting what you think your worth becomes a vital objective.

So it is perhaps not an enormous surprise to learn that Frank Lampard has reportedly told Chelsea that unless he gets the deal he wants within the next month he will exercise his right to buyout the remaining two years of his contract and move on as a free agent in the summer.

Three weeks after negotiations with Chelsea broke down over Lampard's insistence that his earnings be brought in line with those of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack - the club's top earners, who take home £130,000 a week - a frustrated Lampard has decided to play his trump card and threaten to walk under the terms of what, until recently, was a little-known FIFA rule.

Under article 17 of FIFA's transfer regulations a player is entitled to terminate his contract with just 15 days notice after the last game of the season, on the proviso that he has served three years of a deal which was signed before he was 28 and that he can compensate the club with the remaining value of his contract and, where applicable, a proportion of the player's original transfer fee.

Having signed a five-year deal in May 2004, and with his original 2001, £11million transfer fee having already amortised to zero, this means Lampard could walk for £8million; his wages for the two remaining years of his current deal.

Given that his market value is around £25million, any number of European clubs would happily reimburse Lampard the cost of extricating himself from Chelsea in order to secure his services for a meagre £8million.

It might appear greedy, but one can kind of see Lampard's point, though you will need to suspend the part of your brain that tells you that you'd do his job for an annual salary equal to his current weekly wage.

Lampard has been consistently excellent for Chelsea, particularly over the last three seasons, and notwithstanding difficulties in adapting to the Premiership, he has represented significantly better value for money than both Shevchenko and Ballack.

Then there's the fact that Chelsea are owned by an independently wealthy billionaire oligarch and that the club is to be amongst the main beneficiaries of a new Premiership television and multi-media deal, weighted in favour of larger, more successful clubs, which will net the league's 20 clubs in excess of £1.7billion over the next three-years.

Lampard's argument is that a club benefiting from such a uniquely strong financial position can afford to reward one of its most consistent performers with a deal equal to what it is already paying other players.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon's objective is to make the club self-sufficient by 2010, that is to say not reliant on the benefaction of Roman Abramovich (who, incidentally is a cool £1billion lighter in the pocket thanks to his quickie divorce), so adding an extra £2.6million to a player's annual wage packet when he already rakes in £4million a year would not necessarily help Kenyon reach this target. Nor would acquiescing to the demands of skipper John Terry, who is reportedly requesting a mammoth nine-year deal worth almost £60million.

The club must decide whether it is more important to retain the services of its most important players, who are in the prime of their careers with much left to contribute or to stand stubbornly by a principle to rein-in what has been a period of extraordinary spending.

Lampard's stance might be seen by some as aggressive but Chelsea have created a situation whereby a player in his position could be forgiven for thinking that mediocrity has been rewarded far more extravagantly than excellence. And Chelsea might just pay the price for fostering this disparity.

New Zealand may yet retain a franchise in the Australian A-League after Football Federation Australia (FFA) was finally presented with financial documentation proving the necessary wherewithal exists for New Zealand to be granted one of the eight licenses to operate an A-League side.

A few weeks before the end of the last A-League season the FFA stripped the New Zealand Knights' owners of their licence to operate the club, handing it to New Zealand Soccer to manage the club until the end of the season before plans could be made for the licence to be re-issued ahead of the A-League's third season.

Last Friday the first deadline lapsed without a prospective Wellington-based franchise providing the proof that they had either the necessary A$2million in the bank or an operating plan that would improve on the Knights' sorry showing on and off the pitch last season; they finished dead last in the league and attracted poor attendances.

A second deadline was met on Wednesday, but that the required documentation has arrived at the FFA's Sydney offices and is now undergoing scrutiny does not guarantee that New Zealand will be entitled to retain its A-League berth, in fact the brinksmanship may well count against them.

Two other prospective franchises in Australia, one in Wollongong and another in Townsville, are keen to step in if the FFA remains unconvinced by the New Zealand bid.

A decision is expected to be reached in the next week.

Congratulations to Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world, which has just announced that it has bought its first ground; a mere 150 years since its inception.

The amateur side, which currently sits proudly atop the Northern Counties Eastern League Premier Division, have purchased the lease for their Bright Finance Stadium in a deal worth six figures thanks to investment from the club's directors.

'This might not be a multi-million pound deal', concedes Sheffield FC chairman Richard Tims, 'but to a football club of our size, it is equivalent to Arsenal purchasing their new Emirates Stadium.'

As part of the deal Sheffield FC have also taken over the running of the Coach and Horses pub, conveniently located right next to the ground and which Tims hopes will help provide extra match-day revenues for the club.

Sheffield FC is recognised by the FA and FIFA as the oldest club in the world and celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary later this year. No doubt with a pint or two in the Coach and Horses.

  • Any thoughts? Then you can email Phil Holland.