EFL Chairman outlines major changes facing professional clubs

The chairman of the EFL, Rick Parry, this morning gave a fascinating insight into the major changes looming for clubs across the country.

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 1:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 1:30 pm
Rick Parry, right, has outlined what the next 12 months could look like for the EFL. (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The conclusion of current EFL campaigns now looks to be in significant doubt, while there are a number of measures being discussed that could transform the landscape whenever the game does resume.

Here’s what Rick Parry told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee this morning, and what it could mean for your club

What’s the deadline and why has it been set?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Parry all but confirmed that the EFL season will not continue if fixtures cannot be completed by July 31.

This is down to sheer number of player contracts, believed to be four figures, that will expire on June 30.

“Our end date is essentially the 31st July due to the situation with player contracts,” Parry said.

“We can't go beyond July.

The EFL have been in dialogue with member clubs on the issue and have proposed an approach that they think could solve it.

What they have advised is that by June 23, a system could be put in place whereby clubs must offer either a new contract or a short-term extension to deals expiring.

Players not offered one of those, or who opt not to sign, would then be free to join other clubs.

However, they would not be eligible to play until the start of any new season. This in itself is a subject of debate, with Tranmere chairman Mark Palios of the belief that the integrity of the games will be affected by teams protecting their cost base and using youth players to complete the season during July.

Many clubs are also of the belief that given released players will be given a severance fee for the month of July, they could be asked and expected to play during that time.

No decisions have been made but it is absolutely clear that no one believes it possible to move into August.

What did he say about when we can expect a decision?

Parry strongly suggested that the EFL will have to come to a decision this week.

With players and staff across the divisions furloughed in vast numbers, he stressed that his clubs cannot take the Premier League’s approach, which is to first resume training and then later take a decision whether or not to play.

He said ‘critical dates’ were looming and set out precisely the terms of debate that would now take place.

“That is the key question that we have to address [whether a resumption is worth it given the challenges],” he said.

“The component we need is, what do we need to do to comply with government guidelines and what those guidelines will be?

“What are the costs of testing programmes and additional hygiene requirements?

“Then, absolutely, the decision is going to be made on, is it worth it, is it feasible, or should we focus more on next season and addressing the financial challenges free from the clutter?”

Are salary caps imminent and what might they look like?

Salary caps now seem absolutely certain ahead of any new campaign.

Parry is strongly in favour of them and it is believed that the majority of League One and League Two clubs are too.

This morning he gave his clearest indication yet that they are imminent.

“I think salary caps, cost controls are absolutely essential,” he said.

“There's a lot of debate going on about that at the moment. We have an imbalance in the distribution, we have the parachute payments that cause immense stress within the Championship.

“I do think the distribution model is a problem and any model where wages are 106 per cent of turnover [in the Championship] is ridiculous.

“We're not reimposing a maximum wage.

“We're not capping at an individual level, what we're talking about is the amount that clubs would have to pay, and then within that they would have the discretion to pay players whatever they wanted to pay them.

“Capping individual wages would, I'm almost certain, be illegal.

“We're looking at some sort of cost control that would limit the amount clubs would be able to spend.”

A report in The Times this morning said that clubs in League One could be asked to consider a budget of £2.5 million, including agent fees.

What is unclear is whether there would be a period of grace for teams dropping into the division.

The current Salary Cost Management Protocols allow a greater spend for clubs during their first season in the third tier.

The proposed cap is worth putting into context when considering that League One Sunderland’s agent fee spend alone for the last two windows was £2.87 million.

What other changes are being discussed and proposed?

Parry confirmed that allowing clubs to make five substitutions in a game is being considered if football is to resume this season.

In the longer term, he also confirmed that clubs are considering a potential cap on squad sizes for next season and beyond.

Key to this would be a change of rules that would make it far easier for lower league clubs to loan players from Premier League clubs.

“I am a big believer in restricting squad sizes and I think particularly in the lower leagues, it is being debated at the moment,” he said.

“There are mixed views, we are studying a series of different models, some of which include limiting squad sizes and some of which don't.

“Personally, I think it is a good idea and a step in the right direction of exercising control.

“The other thing it does which dovetails with Premier League and FA thinking is that it enables us to reform the loan system.

“One of things we're keen to obtain from FIFA, which might take some persuading, is a flexibility on youth loans, being able to take players on short-term loans.

“There's a great concern within the FA at the lack of opportunities for developing talent, we can provide ample opportunities for competitive

“So perhaps smaller squads of professionals augmented by up and coming talent from up and above, helps us economically and the Premier League.”

In his most explosive statement, Parry also called parachute payments ‘an evil that needs to be eradicated’.

A new distribution model would be utterly transformative in the financial landscape below the top tier.

Parry also conceded that there will be a debate to be had about restarting next season, if it remains the case that clubs have to play behind closed doors.

He conceded this is a far greater issue for EFL clubs, where gate revenue is far more important than broadcast revenue.