Under the relentless sunshine alighting the sky’s vivid blues and whites, stands one of Los Angeles’ finest holiday homes. The exterior is a smart blend of bleached white stone and tinted blue panes, each reflecting the never ending rolling hills beyond the horizon. And around a shimmering pool stands a film crew, with their attention fully fixated on one man: Manchester United’s newest box office signing.
Romelu Lukaku is only one of football’s most prestigious transfers, but as he puts pen to paper to pledge his foreseeable future to the Red Devils, he will be earning around £200,000 a week. In comparison, the Belgian front man had been earning £75,000 at his previous club; a measly figure when compared to what he is receiving now at Old Trafford.
UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, has recently been putting forward his case for bringing in salary caps for Europe’s biggest clubs, and the Slovenian may see this newest blockbuster move as another statistic to add to his ongoing argument. Ceferin has recently had an interview published in one of his home country’s most respected political magazines, Mladina.
He told the publication that UEFA would have to “take into serious consideration the possibility of limiting clubs’ budgets for players’ wages”, before he argued that the introduction of a salary cap would force clubs ‘to be more rational.’
The Slovenian’s concept will have the purpose of bridging the gap between Europe’s largest clubs and their smaller competitors, who will be earning a significant amount less in revenue. And it’s clear to see why Ceferin believes this is a necessary move.
There are examples in the largest leagues around Europe of the same teams earning substantial amounts of money, and then increasing this figure through certain other dealings and sponsorships. Familiar faces end up lifting the trophies at the end of the season the majority of the time, with the biggest clubs being able to show off their supremacy more with the addition of big names and sky-high wages. Meanwhile, rooted to mid-table obscurity or worse, are teams that simply don’t generate as much revenue, and are forced to aim for players of a potentially lower standard, in an attempt to achieve the impossible.
The largest teams are consistently generating more revenue than any others in their respective leagues, due to their continued successes. With success comes more sponsorship deals and furthered attraction for top-class players. And it’s a constant cycle; one which Ceferin believes should be brought down to a fairer level, so that every team is enabled to be competitive. The idea is that every club is imposed with a strict figure for wages, that shouldn’t be exceeded. It is hoped that this could allow smaller teams to have a chance of securing bigger name players, and without the danger of overspending on wages, could use their healthier finances to invest in winning more trophies.
A similar initiative was put in place in 2012, when UEFA introduced the Financial Fair Play system. This was meant to prevent clubs from spending above what they generated in revenue, but has so far been met with mixed results.
Both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have received substantial fines for breaching FFP guidelines, but don’t appear to have been affected in the way they are carrying out their transfer business, with more big signings expected to be made by both clubs this summer.
However, as the Financial Fair Play system doesn’t seem to be effective at points, there may be no guarantee that Ceferin’s salary cap would force change instead.
For many supporters, a salary cap has seemed like a goal which needs to be achieved, but may not be possible. The idea of simply implementing a salary cap system to the biggest clubs would be met with fierce resistance, something that the UEFA president himself has acknowledged. The idea of clubs becoming more financially secure, and potentially having a chance to becoming champions of their leagues, is certainly a tantalising one.
The idea is almost certain to be shot down by both clubs and sponsors alike, as both will wonder why they should give up an advantage over their rival teams which they would have been working towards for years.
It seems like it can only go two ways. Either a salary cap is introduced and Europe’s biggest clubs are forced to sell some of their superstar players to meet the required figures, or nothing changes – and football is continued to be hounded by suggestions to level the playing field for smaller teams.
Whether Ceferin is capable of introducing a salary cap is a completely different question, and one answered by some critics of the idea as the Slovenian simply pandering to the press of his home country. However, others may see his vision as one which will change the face of the beautiful game forever and could be the much needed way that allows smaller teams to possibly achieve their greatest dreams.