Thursday, 4 February 2010

Charity Begins At Home

West Ham United's co-owner David Sullivan has reignited the debate over a salary cap in the Premier League, saying it may be the only solution to the "madness" of current top-flight wages. Sullivan, who along with David Gold bought 50% of West Ham last month for £52.5m, said the salaries were "bad for football" and hit out at the imbalance created by the spending power of the ­billionaire owners of Manchester City and Chelsea. "Maybe the ultimate solution would be a salary cap," said Sullivan. "I've always been against it but I'm starting to swing towards it, as they have in American football. Other than that I just don't see an end to it – of wages out of all proportion to the turnover of the clubs. Somehow there should be some sort of control."

Sullivan's comments are certain to raise an eyebrow following United's audacious bid to secure the services of the ­Holland and Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy for £100,000 a week last month. After that attempt failed, West Ham were able to land the Egyptian striker Mido on loan from Middlesbrough with a wage deal of just £1,000 a week. "Mido … doesn't need the money but he wants to prove something in England, so he is willing to play for £1,000 a week," Sullivan said earlier this week.

Speaking to the BBC News Hardtalk programme, the West Ham co-chairman reiterated he only invested in the club because he was a supporter, describing its financial situation as a "serious mess" which be blamed on "the crazy wages the Icelandics [the previous owners] were paying". He also said players were looking to maximise income in their relatively short careers. "Players are driven by their agents – some are very nice people, some are greedy," he said. "There's no loyalty to the local club or the club they play for. Most of them will just move, particularly foreign players, for more money. You've got to take the players off the pedestal and realise they are employees. They're doing a job every supporter would like to be doing and they have to give something back to the badge."

Talking about the inflated contracts awarded at West Ham by the former chairman Eggert Magnusson, Sullivan declined to name names but stated: "There is one player who hardly plays at all who might have to accept retirement," before revealing he is earning "£60-70,000 a week". Unquestionably he was referring to Kieron Dyer. The midfielder's latest setback is a persistent hamstring injury which means that the former England international has played just 18 times for West Ham, who have struggled with a crippling wage bill, having also broken his leg soon after moving to the club.

West Ham have been sympathetic but there is a growing frustration at the club that Dyer is collecting such huge wages and they have had little return for their investment. There was reportedly an inquiry from Ipswich Town, Dyer's first club, which was encouraged by West Ham but it's understood the player has been demanding a £1 million pay-off. Even then it's unclear whether he could pass a medical. Sullivan went on to talk about the recent retirement of Dean Ashton who was forced out of the game by his chronic ankle problems. "There is one player who has accepted retirement but we have to give him one year's money," he said. Vice-chairman Karren Brady has already taken on the FA to get compensation for the former England striker.

It is reported in the Telegraph that Brady is carrying out swingeing cuts at the club which is set to include the departure or technical director Gianluca Nani who was not involved in any of the transfer dealings that took place during January. Instead Sullivan helped negotiate the deals while using agents Barry Silkman and Willie McKay. "We have to cut some overheads, staff who are on the administration side and support staff for the team and work down the contracts we have inherited which are terrible," Sullivan said. Club doctors, technical staff and even West Ham's football in the community officer are under threat, states Jason Burt.

In addition club mobile phones are being cut off and credit cards destroyed after a member of staff spent £10,000 a month on restaurants and hotels. "Economies have to be made," Sullivan insisted. "Unfortunately this is a business in trouble and the club is £110m in debt. You can’t run it as a benevolent charity, which is how it has been run. In most businesses there is waste and we are addressing that. But it is a slow process because people have contracts and there are agreements in place and it takes time."

The new West Ham regime have extensive experience of turning around a cash-strapped club after inheriting Birmingham in a mess in 1993 before selling up last year for £80m to Carson Yeung. Sullivan believes it is crucial to build a close rapport with fans and he went to meet the club’s box holders on Tuesday. "We have people at West Ham on three times the money as people at Birmingham, and they're not as good," he stated. "We have cut everyone’s company credit cards up. Now when they spend money, people have to claim it and justify it to the club. There are 110 mobile phones paid by the club, and that will be cut to 40. And we have axed a few ambassadors because the club quite simply couldn’t afford to pay huge retainers. On a match-by-match basis we are still bringing in four or five old players and paying them per game. But what we can’t afford to do is pay big annual retainers for people to be ambassadors, because we don’t think it is cost effective for the club."

Of the playing contracts, Sullivan said: "We cannot rip them up under football league rules, you are stuck with these contracts. We have to let them run down or do deals with players." Two players whose futures at West Ham are in doubt are Robert Green and Matthew Upson. Both have less than 18 months left on their contracts and have stalled on talks over extensions to their deals. It appears that both are likely to leave in the summer with Green, apparently, keen to try and find an overseas club while Upson is determined to play in the Champions League, if possible.

Sullivan also restated his fear- first voiced on the day of his take-over at West ham- that a ­Premier League club could go into administration this season. "It's possible that a club, where their football debts exceed the value of the club, would cease to exist," he said. "There are many other clubs who have very, very heavily borrowed against future television income. It gives them a one-off lift but then you have to keep borrowing and borrowing in the future. And if you're relegated it's a disaster because your television money is halved. Everyone is terrified of being relegated and the parachute payment probably isn't big enough. As a result they spend every penny they've got on players to keep them in the division."

You can see David Sullivan's HARDtalk interview here.

1 comment:

TBI said...

Blimey he loves spreading the word about our financial problems doesn't he.


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