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[Blog] Cresswell - The Beginning of the FFP Young Talent Drain?
Written by Superfrans on Wednesday, 25th Jul 2012 13:10

So, Aaron Cresswell may soon be leaving for the Premiership for £3.5m. It’s a disappointing prospect, but it is a reality which we all need to get used to.

For the record, I would always like to keep our younger players and watch them develop in a Town shirt. But, in the case of Cresswell, £3.5m would represent a huge profit on his £250,000 transfer fee 12 months ago – and I genuinely believe that is more than he is currently worth, or likely to be in the coming three or four years. One season does not a career make and Cressy (highly promising though he is) still has a lot to prove.

Besides which, of course, it is questionable whether any club can or should stand in the way of any young player making the kind of move which will set them up for life – and give them the chance of playing at a higher level.

But all such debate is a sideshow to the bigger issue. Get used to it, guys and gals, this is just the beginning – thanks to Financial Fair Play.

FFP (Financial Fair Play) – which the Football League voted to comply with earlier this spring - is essential for the health of the game outside the top division in England. The nightmare facing Pompey right now is evidence of the greatest perils facing English football clubs outside the Premier League. They aren’t the first and the won’t be the last, unless some common sense prevails (or is enforced) among clubs which covet a place in the Premiership and spend beyond their means to get there.

The key point from FFP – and which Simon Clegg and Marcus Evans are sensibly looking to adhere to this season – is the one which demands that all clubs spend only the money which they have generated, and thus restricts all clubs to spending a lower percentage of their turnover on salaries.

By summer 2016, clubs need to have reduced their losses to £2m. In contrast, the most recent ITFC accounts show that we spent 98.9% of turnover on salaries in 2010/11 and 106% the previous year – clearly not sustainable under FFP.

As we have already seen, this has had a significant impact on the wages we can afford to pay our players. Lots of talk at the end of last season suggested that the like of Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards had been offered new deals on roughly half of the £15-£16,000 a week they were previously on.

And the (Nottingham) press talk that Luke Chambers had been offered around £15,000 a week to come here is laughable in the new environment. It seems likely that few players (perhaps excepting Jimmy Bullard) are on more than £10,000 a week right now.

Applying some financial common sense is essential move for all clubs like ours – especially when we have been rooted in the Championship for more than 10 years, a fact which means we have no access to parachute payments and a slowly declining attendance base, as fans become increasingly disillusioned with the monotonous inevitability of another season in the same, dreary grey division.

But this reality also serves to accentuate the chasm between our division and the rich boys in the division above. The same FFP rule which protects the second tier clubs gives the top tier clubs a massive financial advantage. While a £10,000 a week salary is top dollar for a club like us, it is mere loose change for clubs which are swimming in cash.

When West Ham were promoted in May, the media largely agreed that their move to the Premier League was worth £45m to them – encompassing all related income. In fact, the money distributed directly by the Premiership itself (prize money, TV money etc) suggests this might be an under-statement – the bottom club Wolves were the lowest earners, receiving £39m from central funds, Man City the highest earners picking up £60.6m, with Man Utd collecting £60.3m. None of this includes independently sourced sponsorship, ticket sales, merchandise etc etc. These guys are loaded.

To put this in context, ITFC turned over £17m a year, based on our most recent accounts - it made a small profit, thanks to the sale of Connor Wickham. Over the next couple of years (and starting now), Football League clubs have to become self-sustaining – which means no more paying beyond clubs’ means.

However, with Premership clubs’ means so much greater than those in the Championship, that can only result in one thing – a talent drain from the lower divisions. English-based players in the Championship will be cheaper and easier to sign, because Championship clubs simply won’t be able to compete with the wages offered.

Cresswell, for instance, could be on £5,000 to £8,000 a week at Portman Road. A team such as Villa, who received £42m from the Premiership central funds alone for 2011-12 (and turnover of £92m in the most recent accounts) could comfortably double or treble those wages and sign Cresswell speculatively.

Even if he sits in the reserves for two seasons, it is an investment which the club can justify making – just in case he does make it. If he doesn’t and the investment is lost, Villa can afford to put it down to experience.

Of course, there are limits to this. The Premiership will fall under the pressures of FFP too, so cannot simply stockpile endless superfluous players. And there will always be outstanding players who will be worth Championship clubs paying larger salaries to. But these will be few and far between (the exception rather than the rule), while the financial disparity between the Premier League and the Championship will always place a huge advantage in the hands of the richer clubs up above.

If Villa really have come in for Cresswell, it is hard to see him not leaving this close season – or sometime in the near future. But if Cresswell doesn’t leave, any of our other young players could find themselves in the same boat over the next few years.

Welcome to the future, people.

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rivierablue added 13:37 - Jul 25
Excellent blog. Well researched and written, and steeped in reality. I really don't want to see us sell our best young players, but yours is an argument that, when one thinks with their head and not their heart, is difficult to contest.

yorkshire added 13:37 - Jul 25
Good blog - main point being is that by hook or by crook we need to get back into the Premiership

MGNottsBlue added 13:45 - Jul 25
Finally a level headed response to the situation, I don't think that any of us want him to go but common sense has to prevail.

Keaneish added 13:52 - Jul 25
Yep, a good read which only highlights the absurdity of modern day football. Everyone on the forum keeps saying, '3.5 million? Good business' - exactly, business. I have no interest in business. I am interested in football. Good business doesn't inspire me to stand in the cold in December at Portman Road - exciting football does.

I deplore the modern game and our club have long watched on as others have gone down this route, now, with Evans in charge, we are following the same path.

What does Jewell think? Bring in new defensive recruits...only to sell your best one and start the season with what looks like a new back 4 plus keeper! It's absurd that anyone things we'll start well next season on this basis...

Still the sun's out, and luckily someone invented surfing!

SuperReuser added 14:00 - Jul 25
A very good blog!

I do agree with Keaneish though - "I have no interest in business. I am interested in football. Good business doesn't inspire me to stand in the cold in December at Portman Road - exciting football does"

michaeldownunder added 14:13 - Jul 25
Good read

Cannot blame Crestwell if he want's to go to Villa, 22 is not old but can he afford to hang around and hope Ipswich go up in the next couple of years ?.

Fans are saying we hope to be a top ten side this season, not many think of top six let alone top two. I'm sure some of the players think the same.

Most clubs outside the premiership (and some in it) have to be selling clubs and with the power that the players have, even if they have a long term contract, if a bigger club comes calling they are off.

We and all the other clubs shook the hands of Mr sky and most of us are now reaping the rewards. Non football people buying clubs hoping to make big money / clubs paying out far too much money in wages and transfers.
While you cannot blame players, or any of us, taking big money if it is offered
football is not immune to the economic climate, for F**ks sake even countrys are going bust at this moment in time.

One last thing, how do you think the Tranmere fans felt they they sold him to us


gorse added 14:35 - Jul 25
Insightful blog post, thank you.

"One last thing, how do you think the Tranmere fans felt they they sold him to us" good point. I asked a mate of mine who is a Macclesfield die-hard about Elliott Hewitt and of course it's the same all the way down the food chain -- IMO it's a question of ambition and timing, regardless of which league you are in.

Are the stars in alignment (fans, manager, backroom, finances, squad) to make a real push this season? Or do we survive (requiring profitable/cost cutting sales), consolidate and build for the future to get to that place? Two of those things are mutually exclusive, and compromises have to be made.

Seem to me these are the common questions regardless of league.

Superfrans added 15:06 - Jul 25
Keaneish and Supereuser - fact is though, pounds, shillings and pence affects everything.

You call it "business", I might call it balancing the books. We all do that in work and in life. It impacts on your ability to buy a surfboard, buy a pie, afford to travel to a match. And it has always affected football.

The Cobbolds could only spend the money they had, or that the club had generated. Evans and Clegg are simply doing now what the Cobbolds once did.

I do have some sympathy with the club's owner. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. He gave our former manager more money than any other manager in our history has ever had to spend. That money was wasted.

Now, we are reverting to the philosophy of the Sheepo/Burley years - and he is damned for that too. Personally, I'm happy with the change in emphasis. But the nature of the game as a whole (the imbalance of finances between the Prem and the Championship) and our position within the pyramid (lower than our peak in the Seventies, early Eighties and early Noughties) mean we are always going to be in this situation with talented, valued players. That was the point of my blog, really.

Superfrans added 16:39 - Jul 25
Michael - Gorse answered the question, but it is obviously the same for all teams. It is, has been and always will be the same from the top to the bottom of football. I genuinely think there is a perception among Town fans that this has changed dramatically and that the world is very different now - when, in reality, it is just that our position in the pyramid has shifted. We just can't hold onto our best young players if the big clubs come knocking.

algarvefan added 17:36 - Jul 25
Great Blog Superfranz, think the club are going in the right direction, any player can be replaced and one season does not make a summer for Cresswell. Tough times ahead but maybe, just maybe, we can sneak through that Premiership door this season. That's why we all keep going to games and love the start of a season, because you never know!!!

Gilesy added 20:28 - Jul 25
Excellent use of the plural apostrophe in paragraph 14

Dalty added 23:52 - Jul 25
Excellent article, Superfranz. You sure know your onions when it comes to the state of modern football, and for the correct use of apostrophes to boot.

singingtheblues added 00:39 - Jul 26
interesting discussion .. & it's clear that there will be a reality check with respect to players wages outside the premiership over the coming years - of course, leaving aside the temptation to circumvent 'reported' salaries by back hand dealings - chairmen buying players cars, sponsorship & the like, running 2 sets of books etc etc - in the same way they breach the salary cap in other football codes in australia!

anyway i digress ..

Whether Cresswells move (if he goes) represents a 'good bit of business' all depends on what the money is used for ... we got 8mil for wickham & i haven't noticed any great leaps forward .. we've signed so many duds over the last few years, right now i'd rather have a decent player than the cash - our transfer record has been poor, it seems for every gem we've unearthed there have been a fair amount of rocks (in fairness, i bet supporters of every club probably have similar feelings about the signings their clubs have made - but maybe not all clubs have gone out & signed 12 or 13 new players each season for the last few years like Town have)

in recent seasons we've quite readily dropped a half mil on salaries for players that have hardly seen first team action - using transfer profits to fund this sort of activity is akin to selling the car to go out boozing!

the gist of superfranz's blog is that without the 'luxury' of the owner being able to pump money into the club or borrow, Town will need to become a selling club once again in order to balance the books. Hopefully this sees a return to the hit or miss world of developing youths (where price is determined by potential) rather than the more expensive hit & miss of signing 'established' players (where price is determined by reputation & agents)


Garv added 01:11 - Jul 26
Keaneish read my mind.

I'd be gutted if we sold - I would say - our best player, just for a few bob.

bigolconnor added 06:11 - Jul 26
Onwards and upwards for cressy. Good luck to you young man.

hype313 added 10:10 - Jul 27
"another season in the same, dreary grey division"

Disagree with that statement, the Championship is one of the most exciting leagues in Europe, in my humble opinion. Take the top 4 out of the premier league and its a yawn fest.

Basically what your saying, in a nutshell is money has ruined football, in which I totally agree.

truthhurts added 13:29 - Jul 27
I know football is now simply a business, and that there could (potentially) be a large profit gained from Cresswell's sales. But - surely we are better suited to keep our best young players and push for promotion (whenever that may be) than sell our best youngsters on a year to year basis. We won't gain anything from that in a football context, instead always staying in this division.

A better idea would be not to hand out huge contracts to 'has beens', and to save money that way

I appreciate when we sold Dyer that we subsequently got promoted, but £6m bought you a lot more in those days. A similar windfall now wouldn't.

I look at it this way. Is £4-6m better off in the 'bank' now (by selling our best young players), resulting in probable stays in the same division, or keep them, let them develop, and hopefully get promoted which results in many more millions?

I prefer the latter
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