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Dec 10, 2008

If the cap fits

It's back. Our old favourite, the salary cap. And this time the Premier League are ready to jump on board. Ok, only joking.

Earlier this week, while insisting to the UK government's Parliamentary All-Party Football Group that the Premier League demanded the very highest standards of corporate governance amongst its 20 member clubs, the body's chief executive, Richard Scudamore rubbished the idea that a salary cap could work in English football's top flight.

While many contend that the idea would make nothing but good sense for the Premier League, Scuadmore begs to differ.

''This is where we get interesting comparisons with my American cousins who run their sports in very different ways,'' he said. ''They don't have to play in anything other than an American context. We don't live in glorious isolation. [It] would make us hugely uncompetitive with rest of Europe and the rest of the world.''

When he wasn't cocking a satirical snook at the US, Scudamore actually conjured a rather cogent argument as to the unsuitability of a salary cap, pointing to the fact that even setting the parameters would prove troublesome, let alone policing it.

''What is it fixed at?'' he asked. ''Salary caps are difficult when you have such a range of incomes. If you lock a percentage of turnover to your wage bill you are giving that club a huge advantage forever based on its history.

''Manchester United's income is the largest in our league [at around £230 million], but in some ways it's a product of the years 1958 to '68 when they became globally popular before they won the European Cup for the first time.''

Scudamore's argument is that there is a ''natural restraint'' on spending on salaries, with clubs generally spending no more than 60% of their income from television rights.

Nice in theory, but the idea of natural restraint falls down somewhat with the involvement of people like Roman Abramovich and the well-heeled gentlemen comprising the Abu Dhabi United Group who now call the shots at Manchester City.

The latest transfer rumour concerning Eastlands would see Valencia's David Villa joining City in January for £60 million and agreeing a £150,000-a-week salary; the same package as Robinho who joined City a few months back for £32.5 million.

£300,000-a-week for two players' wages. Perhaps that's the sort of salary cap Scudamore has in mind.


When it comes to football video games the only question that really matters is are you a fan of Pro Evo or FIFA. In the case of Italian giants Lazio the answer was displayed proudly on their shirts during last Saturday's game against Inter.

Lazio, who are without a shirt sponsor this season, agreed a one-off deal which saw their players emblazoned with the PES 2009 logo, the latest incarnation of Konami Entertainment's wildly popular Pro Evolution Soccer series. Using vacant space to advertise products? Whatever next!

Would it have been more effective if Lazio hadn't lost 0-3? Possibly, but the key consideration for Konami was the fact that Lazio were playing the league leaders in front of 50,000 at the Stadio Olimpico in the evening's live televised game midway through one of the key shopping weekends in the build-up to Christmas.

As such, the deal is unlikely to be repeated; Lazio's two remaining games before December 25th see them play Udinese away and Palermo at home. With 675,000 copies of the game sold in Italy since its October launch, Lazio v Inter was the video game's last big sales push. And a rather canny one at that.

It's not quite the most inventive sports sponsorship deal, that distinction perhaps belongs to British heavyweight boxer Julius Francis who had the soles of his shoes sponsored by a newspaper when he fought Mike Tyson in 2000. Francis hugged the canvas five times in two rounds.

Nor is Pro Evo the best football game. As all discerning gamers know Sensible World of Soccer is the daddy, but hey, that's another debate.


Last November as Steve McClaren's tenure as England coach ended in ignominy, the doom merchants were suggesting that the UK economy stood to lose north of £500 million as a consequence of the Wally with a Brolly's failure to reach Euro 2008.

Sales in everything from plasma TVs and takeaway pizza, to beer and replica shirts would be down as everyone took a hit for John Terry and chums' missing out on the party in Austria and Switzerland.

Everyone that is except English football clubs, who it has been announced received £4.14 million in solidarity payments from UEFA for releasing their players to compete in the championships.

Despite the country's national team failing to reach the tournament the English club's received the third most from UEFA after Germany (£5.92 million) and Spain (£4.44 million).

Each club was entitled to recompense based on calculations by UEFA equating to around £3,420 per player, per day of involvement. The compensation clock started ticking two weeks before the tournament kicked-off and ended the day after a player's country was eliminated.

In total UEFA, who made £218 million profit from the three-week tournament, handed £37.9 million to clubs across Europe, with Germany's Werder Bremen the highest overall earner pocketing a tasty £935,107.

Arsenal were England's biggest earners with £732,760, while the rest of the big four didn't do too badly either: Chelsea (£702,827), Liverpool (£607,641) and Manchester United (£440,614).

The hand out deal was agreed in January in the 'Memorandum of Understanding' between UEFA, FIFA and the newly-formed European Clubs Association and which effectively sounded the death knell for G-14, the ECA's more aggressive predecessor which had been an irritating thorn in UEFA's side for the last decade.

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