Swansea City and Cardiff City could both soon be operating within a salary cap if new proposals being discussed by Championship clubs are brought in.
As clubs continue to play in front of empty stands, the 24 clubs have begun fresh talks over a wages ceiling in a bid to protect themselves against the looming financial crisis.
With the grim possibility of empty stadiums all season starting to appear a distinct possibility, the clubs in the second tier are looking at ways to reduce costs.
The majority are now in favour of a cap, with only the ceiling figures proving a sticking point.
Most clubs want the wages limit set at a figure lower than the £18m which was mooted earlier in the summer.
They fear they could go bust if £200m goes missing through lost gate receipts if, as feared, matches remain behind closed doors throughout the season.
New Swansea City chief executive Julian Winter – formerly in charge at Watford, Sheffield United and Huddersfield – confirmed: “There is dialogue about what a form of salary cap might look like in the Championship, but nothing is yet agreed.
“There are all kinds of complications around the rules concerning what used to be financial fair play and then became profitability and sustainability, and how that impacts on a cap.
“Leagues One and Two have introduced it and that will absolutely help their future sustainability and the timing of that has been key.
“There is nothing yet agreed in the Championship, but I think it will come. I don’t know where it would sit, but I wouldn’t imagine it would be a low figure.”
The EFL have already helped negotiate salary caps for Leagues One and Two, which was rubber-stamped at an EGM of clubs in August.
This season, League One clubs are limited to £2.5m for wages throughout the campaign while the figure for League Two is even tighter at just £1.5m.
Imagine the championship wanting a bail out from the government whilst simultaneously not wanting to implement a salary cap.
Good luck with that one lads.
— Josh (@SCFCJosh96) September 22, 2020
In the 2018-19 campaign, the average salary of a player in the Championship was £29,000-a-week according to a leaked EFL report.
Derby County – who were last in the Premier League 12 years ago – spent a massive £50m on wages, even though their income was £30m.
Championship clubs first discussed a salary cap back in July when the first lockdown following the Covid-19 pandemic began to bite.
But they could not agree on the limits, with some clubs such as Watford, Derby and Stoke City feeling it would undermine their attempts to get back to the Premier League.
Since then, however, the prospect of gate money helping fill their coffers has receded, following the decision to put the brakes on trials of small crowds at some matches and Boris Johnson’s admission that current restrictions could last until next March.
Premier League clubs would favour a wage cap in the Championship as a way of effectively ring-fencing the elite.
It would mean that clubs that come up from the Championship would find it even more difficult to stay there, while existing Premier League clubs who go down would enjoy huge financial superiority in the fight to return.
That is why Championship clubs rattling a begging bowl towards the Premier League looking for a rescue package have been told it’s only likely to come if there is a wage cap in the second tier.
Macclesfield, who were relegated from League Two last season, have already been wound-up over unpaid debts and the fear is the tipping point in the EFL is close at hand.
Winter added: “It’s marginally surprising no-one else has gone out of business yet if I’m honest.
“The pressures in the lower leagues are more significant than in the upper leagues.
“But it’s great that everyone is pulling together and finding solutions to keep everybody operating as best as possible. Let’s hope that continues.
Sensible and personable, the EFL is in good hands but David Baldwin – the new(ish) CEO has a job on.
– believes Championship will accept salary caps
– overhauling fit and proper owners test
– clubs will go, if no fans back/bailout
– EFL = 72 communities https://t.co/b07hpEECSC
— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) September 27, 2020
“I think there’s enough will from the football authorities and government to keep clubs in business, along with shareholders, directors and owners.”
Mark Ashton, the chief executive of Bristol City, joined the EFL board two years ago as an elected representative of the Championship.
He has echoed Winter’s view and said: “League One and League Two have that [the salary cap] in place, I think there is a real possibility that by the end of this season it will come into the Championship.
“We can talk about increasing revenue, we can talk about money coming into the Championship, but we need to close the door at the other end.
“We need to control and close salary inflation. I believe salary caps would do that and from a Bristol City perspective, we support that and we would like to see it in place as soon as we can in the Championship.”