West Ham and a group of pragmatic Premier League clubs are leading a revolution to unofficially cap players’ salaries and slash extortionate agents’ fees in a bid to avoid the billions of pounds of TV cash filtering straight out of the clubs, ESPN can reveal.
The clubs are keen to end the current use of income streams such as the bumper cheques from TV, central sponsors, overseas TV rights and shirt sponsorships towards ever escalating player wages and agents’ fees.
Many have dreamed of the proposition but realised an official wage cap is unworkable, and while the super rich clubs carry on spending – with some players in the £250,000-a-week bracket – most Premier League sides will begin to curb excessive demands.
The new £3 billion-plus TV contract, which represents a 75% payrise for the clubs, has been heralded by some as the catalyst for a new wave of spending sprees, but Premier League clubs in the middle and lower order want stability and freezing of ticket prices to encourage their fans to stick with their teams at a time of deep recession throughout Europe.
West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan told ESPN: “I cannot see any collective decisions, but there are quite a few clubs – for example Norwich, Swansea and WBA – who seem to be taking a more sensible approach to things and West Ham will be in that camp.
“We’ll pay good wages but not be taken to the cleaners by agents and players at the expense of our supporters. The increase in TV money next year will allow us to continue to freeze ticket and season ticket prices.
“Overpaying had virtually bankrupted this club and we are still burdened by £100 million of debt as a result of the excesses of the previous owners in giving too much to players. Many clubs are saddled with too much debt, for example Everton, and the restrictions imposed by their bankers will ensure there is a tighter control over wages going forward.
“I think next season a lot of clubs will look to not give all the new TV money to players and agents. On all previous occasions it has gone up, it has ended up with them; however, I feel on this occasion it might not happen. West Ham United are determined long term to be a viable, self-financing club.”
Sullivan, who has personally given six-figure sums to various local hospices, added: “We are, as we have always been, more than a football club. We see our role in the community of East London and Essex as a vital part of the role of the club.
“West Ham United is rooted in London, working with and for the community. We are more than a football club.”