BBC BLOGS - Matt Slater
« Previous | Main | Next »

Why Kraft's salary cap cure cannot compete

Post categories:

Matt Slater | 18:04 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Herschel Walker has been called the best running back to emerge from the US college system. A remarkable athlete with a prodigious work ethic, Walker was an international-class sprinter, a taekwondo black belt and an Olympic bobsledder. Oh, and he was also an American football star in the professional leagues for 15 years.

But when he is remembered today it is usually for his part in the biggest, most audacious, most unequal trade in National Football League history, a deal so stupendous it is known simply as "The Trade".

Because when the fallen-on-hard-times Dallas Cowboys offloaded their best player to the Super Bowl-chasing Minnesota Vikings they struck a deal so cunning, so elaborate, the star-struck Vikings had no idea they were consigning their hopes to the dustbin and laying the foundations for a new dynasty in Dallas.

Mega-deals like this are one of my favourite things about US sports - teams pitting their wits against each other on a level playing-field. It is one of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's favourite things too, and he would like to see something similar in the English Premier League. In fact, if the Premier League was a bit more like the NFL he would have bought Liverpool already.

The 58-year-old American was strongly linked with the Anfield club in late 2005 - and looked at the books of other clubs - but takeover talks came to nothing. Fourteen months later his fellow US sports franchise-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks paid £218.9m for Liverpool. Regrets have been expressed ever since.

"I love the Liverpool franchise - it reminds me of the Patriots. If they think you're with them, the fan base will live and die with you," Kraft told me earlier this summer.

"My heart came very close to closing the deal but my head told me I'd get very frustrated because I'd want to win.

"I wanted to make sure we'd be able to compete financially over the next 10, 20 years and be able to attract the right players, which meant we'd need a new stadium. But that's hard without a salary structure."

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Later on in the interview I pressed him on what it would take for him to invest in English football.

"I come back to the same point: I want to win every year. I'm very confident of our organisation's ability to run a competitive EPL franchise. If we had a salary cap I would love to do that.

"We understand scouting, training, development, nutrition and so on, but we also want to be fiscally responsible because that's what the fans want and in the end it's the fans that pay for it.

"If you can make every game competitive the television product helps pay for all of it - you get a balance which makes the whole league better. That is the story of the NFL.

"We're happy to compete with any group as long as the playing-field is level. But when you skew things I don't think it's good for the business, I don't think it's good for the development of players, I don't think it's good for those passionate fans.

"It's not about money for them, they care and deserve a chance (of success). I believe a salary structure is the way to do that. Then you've got a competitive league. Then you'll see how good a manager people really are."

He makes some good points, which is hardly surprising when you read his CV. Kraft is the most successful NFL team owner in the business. He has also helped to shape the league's egalitarian structure and has played a key role in numerous lucrative television deals.

The key to the latter is the NFL's competitive balance. In any given season, on any given Sunday, half the league's 32 teams will fancy their chances of a trip to the Super Bowl. This means almost every game counts and that guarantees interest. That is why the NFL is the only way for advertisers to reach nearly half of all American homes during the autumn and early winter months.

Since the Premier League was formed in 1992 there have been only four different champions in 17 seasons. The number for the NFL over the same period is 11.

It is a similar tale when you look at the number of different clubs that finish in the top four /reach the conference championships: it is 10 in 17 seasons for the Premier League and 26 in the NFL.

And the status quo is becoming more entrenched in English football's top flight. There have been only two winners in the last five seasons and five different top-four teams, with the fifth of those, Everton, managing it once, five seasons ago. In contrast, the NFL has had four different champions and 15 teams have reached the sport's semi-final stage.

The reasons for this are simple: the NFL's structure discriminates against dynasty-building. TV revenues are shared out evenly, the teams work within a strict salary cap, unsuccessful teams are given first dibs on the best new players and successful teams are handed tougher playing schedules.

And to think this happens in the country that thinks our National Health Service is "Orwellian" and "evil".

The very best operators can buck these levelling influences for a while - and the Walker-less Cowboys managed it for most of the 90s with the young talent they gained in the trade - but the NFL's socialist ways normally get them in the end.

With these constraints in place it is no surprise Kraft, who has seen his team post the best win-loss record in the league over the last 15 years and claim three Super Bowls, thinks he can "out-manage" the Premier League's finest.

But will the confessed anglophile (he is best mates with Elton John) get the chance to put his money where his mouth is?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

No, not unless he crosses his fingers and takes his chances with the financial free-for-all that is European football.

An NFL-style salary cap simply cannot work in the Premier League for at least half a dozen reasons, no matter how much you might like its long-term benefits.

First, our football is a global game with long-established and well-rewarded supra-national competitions. As a result, the Premier League's best clubs compete on and off the field with the best clubs in Spain, Italy and elsewhere.

This brings in the complexity of legislating for different tax systems and currency fluctuations. It also introduces the wage control-busting implications of European Union employment law.

But even if these technical issues could be resolved, there would still be the more fundamental problem of making a salary cap work in a system based on the ebbs and flows of promotion and relegation.

Kraft is correct when he says more NFL teams than Premier League sides can dream of glory but none of them need to worry about the trapdoor, and that is an integral part of European sport's charm. Impose salary caps based on league revenues and you consign half a dozen clubs to permanent yo-yo status.

We also have no equivalent of the college draft: English clubs don't get to take turns picking the best ready-made replacements for their squads. They either have to develop them themselves or buy them in.

And you can say what you like about the Premier League's "skewed" competitive balance but you have to sit back and applaud its ability to sell its wares around the world. That is, after all, what attracted Kraft in the first place.

So while I can see where Kraft, who also owns Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, is coming from, I fear he will never reach his destination, at least in terms of English football.

You're probably never going to see era-defining trades between football teams (although you could argue the Ibrahimovic deal might prove to be one) and you're not going to get 15 different teams in the Premier League's top four in five seasons. But you will still get a product good enough to reach 575 million homes around the world and that can't be bad.

* As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    Really good blog and it outlines the reasons why we can't operate with a salary cap in the premier league. If the whole of Europe did it then that'd be another matter, but it's not going to happen. The USA is massive so it's almost the same as playing teams from around Europe but, in the end, it's one country so rules for their sports get applied on every club which can't happen in football.

  • Comment number 2.

    Without the relegation fear there is something sadly lacking in baseball, basketball and gridiron. The rush of adrenalin from my time watching Pompey and York fighting the drop beats any game I see over here in the states.

  • Comment number 3.

    Robert Kraft is one of the biggest idiots in American sports. The EPL doesn't want him. He is a whinny little brat. The only reason NE pats have won anything is because the NFL handicapped the league with the Salary Cap and punished teams like Dallas and San Francisco for building great teams by not allowing them to pay their players. Salry Caps are for teams that can't win, so they punish the big clubs so the others can compete...pure SOCIALISM and from a country that prides itself on Capitalism...Kraft was a joke in MLS and he is a joke in the NFL. How many Super Bowls did the Pats win prior to the salary cap??? ZERO! The cap ruins competitivness and prevents dynasties.

  • Comment number 4.

    You make some decent points, especially about the EPL's ability to market and sell itself worldwide. However, there is such diversity amongst the 20 EPL teams in terms of player ability, team formation and tactics. To the extent that not every fixture has an equal amount of interest, watchability or intrigue for non-partisan fans. The EPL has its glamour games and its not-so-glamour games. I'd bet good money that if the EPL sold the rights to the glamour games and the non-glamour games separately, there'd be fewer takers for the non-glamour games.

    Therein lies the problem. For most fans, the winning of the EPL is a non-issue for them because it won't involve their team. The EPL likes to think of itself as the most competitive league in world football. That would be true if the scrap for a UEFA/Europa Cup place and avoidance of relegation were the pinnacle of competitive football. But it isn't. The richer clubs get richer and therefore, relatively speaking, the poorer clubs get poorer. The domestic cups used to add a bit of drama and a chance for any given team to have their day in the sun. However, that's all but evaporated now by the rich clubs fielding second string teams in favour of resting their so called stars for the EPL and Champions League. Thus devaluing the cup competitions. In my lifetime, the League Cup has become almost meaningless. The FA Cup no longer has the romance and competitive spirit it had when I was a kid. And if you're in Europe but not in the CL, why bother? How has this happened? and too much of it.

    The levels of money flying around the EPL is unsustainable. The greed and lust for dominance is such that, as a spectacle, the EPL has become boring. At the top it's the same old story. At the bottom, it's a state of desperation which rarely leads to good football. In the middle, it's a constant merry go round with the same 8 or 9 teams just changing places each season.

    I'm not saying a salary cap is the answer, but some NFL rules and regulations would help. For example, more officials who work as a team week in week out and instant replay to help cut out cheating and reverse wrong decisions.

  • Comment number 5.

    I suspect that Manchester City will bring in a UEFA salary cup. If they keep sepnding as they are now for another 10 years or so, until the point where they dominate the sport, something would have to be done. Basically the salary cup does stop "financial doping", which is destroying football. Chelsea bought themselves a great squad, but have stopped at totally dominating the sport. But Manchester City are showing no signs of wanting too slow done. The problem is they need the likes of Juventus, Milan, Barcelona etc more than the giants of the game need them

    Of course a salary cap would be illegal under European Law, but controls to keep a club out of debt i.e. only being allowed to spend 60% of turnover from footballing activities should float legally. And they would favour the great and the good, just now so I can see them voting for it - it should also stop leveraged buy-outs of clubs too by limiting clubs debts

    I'm all for it

  • Comment number 6.

    Bringing in a salary cap, doesn't mean you have to have a draft, but it will curb the spending of some clubs which has just gone out of control.

    It doesn't have to be a crippling salary cap, but it can be something to limit the bigger clubs and give the smaller clubs a fighting chance.

  • Comment number 7.


    "Robert Kraft is one of the biggest idiots in American sports."

    Brought Patriots 1992 for $175 million, now worth $1.2 billion... What a ****** idiot this Kraft is.

    "The only reason NE pats have won anything is because the NFL handicapped the league with the Salary Cap"

    Most people would probably say that having a coach like Bellichick & a QB like Brady has a lot to do with it. You know Tom Brady the guy that was drafted as a backup in the 6th round of the draft....

    "Kraft was a joke in MLS"

    Kraft's son runs the NE Revolution and I think the MLS being a joke has more to with any problems with the league than the team.

    "How many Super Bowls did the Pats win prior to the salary cap???"

    None, the team was only formed in 1960, did not have a permanent home stadium for years, changed owners three different times in around 6 years in the 80's & 90's, even had one owner who was trying to move the team away from New England....

    "The cap ruins competitivness and prevents dynasties"

    I disagree, 16 years from the salary cap and 4 teams have won 9/16. In the 27 years before salary cap 5 teams won 17/27.

    POST SALARY CAP (1994-2009)

    BRONCOS = 2
    COWBOYS - 2
    SF 49ers- 1
    NY GIANTS - 1
    COLTS - 1
    RAVENS - 1
    ST. LOUIS RAMS = 1
    PACKERS - 1

    PRE SALARY CAP (1967-1993)

    SF 49ers - 4
    RAIDERS - 3
    COWBOYS - 3
    REDSKINS - 3
    GIANTS - 2
    DOLPHINS - 2
    PACKERS - 2
    BEARS - 1
    COLTS - 1
    JETS - 1
    KC CHIEFS - 1

  • Comment number 8.

    This article is really bad.

    Firstly, You just cannot compare the number of different teams winning the American football league with the Premier League. This is because the USA football league is structured like the fifa WC. The regular season in USA football is equivalent to the qualifying round in europe. The top ranked teams and several of the best second placed teams from each group enter a cup-style playoff round to decide the champion. Furthermore, the whole thing is divided into two conferences, the AFC and the NFC. The winner of the AFC cup plays the winner of the NFC cup in the final. This means that if the 4 best teams are in the AFC, then the 5th best team or worse, playing in the NFC, will reach the final. Since the champion is decided by a cup/playoff system there will always be more different teams reaching the finals or being champions. You would be better off comparing it to the FA cup, but even that is flawed.

    Secondly, how a salary cap works in the USA or how it would work in the Premier League is not ever explained.

    Thirdly, the arguments against a salary cap amount to a bunch of meaningless platitudes.

    Finally, you start off with the Hershel Walker Cowboys/Vikings deal, but it is never explained what it actually was that made the trade so good for the Cowboys.

    This is one of the worst blog posts I've ever read on this website, so bad that I am posting a comment for the first time.

  • Comment number 9.

    US Sports are boring. They are effectively a lottery, and to be honest if football was like that I might as well go and take up bingo.

  • Comment number 10.

    This blog just jumps in at the deep-end and leaves me confused.

    What was this "Trade" ?

    Did Herschel Walker make this trade, or was he a traded player?

    You make it sound like one team ended up losing badly from this trade. But which side was it, and why?

    Why was this deal "so cunning". In fact, just what, exactly, was this deal?

    How far will I have to read to find to find that these questions won't be answered?

    I'm sorry, but this an awful piece of journalism. As a slightly interested reader it just made me think that it is not worth reading any further.

  • Comment number 11.

    Pointing out how many Super Bowls have been won proves nothing...
    The NFL is watered down now. You used to have complete teams from top to bottom with talent and depth. Now every team, including the Steelers and Pats have major holes to fill year after year and there are no more powerhouses. Yes the Pats and Steelers have managed the cap well, but teams like the Dallas and the Niners built good teams through the draft and they scouted and they built their teams, teams that would last even after the success and the inflating salaries. Now the SHITE teams are rewarded because the good teams can't keep everyone because of the cap and they get to feed off the scraps of Free Agency. The last super bowl between Pittsburgh and St. Louis was between the two worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl. Neither one of those teams could hold a torch to the pre-cap era super bowl teams. PERIOD! The cap has diminshed the sport to some degree. Now we get to see undeserving Franchises compete for the title because of the hadicapping...what a joke. That is one of the things that makes world football so great. No to the CAP.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    For those wondering what the trade was, try checking out the wikipedia article linked to from the blog, seems to do the trick.
    great discussion, and one that my friends and i have had ad nauseum for years. The salary cap, or an equivalent fiscal measure, has got to happen for the Premier League to be sustainable - but implementing it is another issue for all the reasons already raised.
    As for the equivalent college draft, one suggestion might be to do two things: firstly, continue the youth development academies that the majority of teams have in place to good effect, and supplement that with a "Draft" for 18-21 year olds from the lower leagues, with compensation going to each team who provided the player based on draft position (e.g. $4m for #1 draft, $3.5m for #2, etc.) Just a thought ...

  • Comment number 14.

    You make some good points but don't make the mistake of seeing the NFL through Kraft's eyes. He's in a big market, with a brand new stadium and can control his costs whilst maximizing his revenue. A sweetheart deal.

    If you want perspective, suggest you speak to Ralph Wilson, elected to the NFL Hall Of Fame last week. He'll give you the small market perspective and it will be quite different from Kraft's cheesy gaze.

    And if you believe George Gillett was a "US Sports franchise owner", you'll believe anything Kraft tells you.

    Meanwhile, other sports have versions of salary caps but dynasties persist.

  • Comment number 15.

    Nope just can't compare them. Football is a historic sport and it's survival of the fittest. If a team wants to take a gamble then let them do it, the risks are there, we think top flight football hasn't been hit by silly investment, try telling that to Portsmouths fans, Newcastle fans, Leeds fans, Blackburn fans. Could Chelsea be the next team to implode, maybe.

    I don't mind sitting down here and watching the top flight circus, because it's not as if my team (Lincoln City) are close but don't have the finances no, we know we will never reach those heights and our fans are happy with simpler pleasures of having a decent league finish every year, watching young local lads progress through the academy and move on to bigger things (Hobbs, Huckerby, Loach etc) makes our city proud and we are more than happy to stay away from the top and watch teams build up and then crash down, lower league football is passion and pleasure, top flight football is just a quick buzz to us, some drama to watch on tele for an hour on saturday night whilst our real world spins around and I'm sure many teams outside the premierleague when they really look at it are happy in their current position of taking pride in their local team, because we know we will never reach the heights of the PL so have about as much connection with it as NFL fans and basketball fans etc.

  • Comment number 16.

    "US Sports are boring. They are effectively a lottery"

    EPL is boring. It is effectively a coronation.

  • Comment number 17.

    Striker416, your arguments are biased.

    Kraft was a season ticket holder of NE Patriots since early 1970's. Purchased some of the stadium in mid 1980's. Purchased the team in 1992.

    I also doubt that you had anything to do with Kraft since you could not even spell vegetable properly in your post that got removed.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Pointing out how many Super Bowls have been won proves nothing..."

    Yeah it proves your original point wrong.

    49ers won 4 super bowls in 27 years
    Patriots won 3 super bowls in 7 years

    "The only reason NE pats have won anything is because the NFL handicapped the league with the Salary Cap and punished teams like Dallas and San Francisco for building great teams"

    "Yes the Pats and Steelers have managed the cap well"

    make up your mind....

  • Comment number 19.

    It's easy to state that clubs would surely yo-yo between leagues (as though they don't do that already) but without some evidence, it's hard to just accept the claim at face value. The other points are far more speculative, personally I am not bothered by vague 'complexities.'

    I think most people can agree that this sport is beginning to turn into a bit of a circus. Maybe at the moment it that is somewhat entertaining, but there could be serious problems by staying on this course. Perhaps a salary cap is not the answer (it needs to be considered a bit more seriously) but certainly ignoring the problem would be a huge mistake.

  • Comment number 20.

    This presents a very interesting debate on what model for a sports league is better: one where every team has an equal chance, or one where some teams are expected to be better than others. Most people's preference seems to depend on whether they support one of the big four teams or not.

    I prefer the English model for this reason:

    If all the teams are equal, and say Burnley has a 50/50 chance of beating Chelsea, then it makes it less valuable, and less interesting, when it does happen. If you like cheering for an underdog, how boring is it that there are no underdogs? If they are all the same, it doesn't matter who you support.

    Paradoxically, I think a system that gives complete unpredictability to each match makes it less interesting, not more.

  • Comment number 21.

    A salary cap will never work as clubs will always find a way round it. At the very least players are still more likely to want to live in, say, London or Manchester than Burnley.

    A much simpler way to narrow the gap a little would be to place restrictions on the amount of debt a club is permitted to carry. I don't think anyone can claim it's unfair that a club should have to live within it's means (ie on matchday and merchandising revenue), and wealthly owners could still gift money to clubs, they would just be prevented from lending it Abramovich style or leveraging it Gilette/Walker style. This would have little affect on most clubs, but would perhaps discourage the more fickle nouveau riche from investing in football (as they couldn't take their money back when they got bored) and protect clubs like Leeds from themselves.

    The Football League has rules on clubs going into administration, I'm sure the same structure that monitors this can be used to monitor debt.

    The rules would of course have to be applied pan-europe, but given UEFA's recent comments I don't think that's unrealistic.

  • Comment number 22.

    The NFL has a lot in common with a socialist oligarchy - a reflection of American hypocrisy. English football in particular and European football in general is much more competitive - with the league pyramid allowing well-run clubs (effectively small and medium businesses) to climb up the ladder and poorly run clubs slide down the ladder.

    The problem is that the European football market is not open enough - which enables bigger clubs to use their dominant position within smaller domestic markets to to entrench their position in Europe and globally. I'm surprised that the European Union allows such anti-competitive structures - a reflection of the improper influence FIFA and UEFA, with their out-dated nationalistic outlook, have exerted on the EU.

  • Comment number 23.

    Frogstar: "The Trade" (one of many incidnets at that time in the NFL referred to by the capitlaized "The") was a deal between the COwboys and the Minnesota Vikngs back in the early 90s that set the scene for Dallas dominance for a decade. Walker was an unusual player since he had been a beast at college but had not gone to the NFL, instead signing up for the USFL along with Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Reggie White and others. In his time at the USFL he obliterated all the records (admittedly against sub par defences; but you play what is in front of you). When the USFL folded he was up for draft and - I believe - Dallas had craftily spent a low-down-the-draft pick (where one normally picks up a used sweat sock) gambling that the USFL would end one day, to get his rights. In other words they had first dibs on him. At the time Minnesota was - in their mind - one running back away from the Super Bowl. Walker was such a proven quantity (no fresh out of college back he) that they reckoned it was worth mortgaging the farm to get him. They therefore handed Dallas the bulk of their draft picks for the new two years plus (details I can't remember) in return for the rights to employ Walker. I remember seeing his first touch of the ball in Minnesota; it seemed to vindicate the decision. He took a kick off back something like 90 yards to score. Things didn't stay that way however and Walker and the Vikings split within a year or two (he spent many happy years with the Eagles but never tore the league up the way people thought he would).

    Meanwhile Dallas took the draft picks and went to town. Seldom has a team been able to build with so many players the same age and of high round talent at one time. HAving a shrewd management team helped but it is rare to be able to draft the likes of Michael Irvine, Emmitt Smith, mst of their offensive line and a chunk of the defence in one go. Aikman had arrived the year before. The rest is history

  • Comment number 24.

    The problem with a salery cap for the Premiership, or a UEFA-wide one, isn't just the logisitics, but the fact is that as soon as it's brought in countries outside Europe, my guess would be Asia, will be falling over themselves to create a new Super league with boatloads of cash floating round.
    It's players that make the Prem/ La Liga etc so great, not where the game is played. Players will have absolutly no hesitation moving out of Europe to follow the money (and the talent) to this new super league and with them they'll take the fans.
    While the money is currently unfairly skewing the game, a salery cap or any sort of restriction, will destroy it. It works in America because there isn't the worldwide audience that football has, there is no chance of a competing league being created to tempt the players elsewhere as there isn't a big enough audience to bring in the money to make it wothwhile, so they have to accept the US system or don't play the game.

  • Comment number 25.

    Morning all, thanks for reading. Here are some replies from me:

    striker416 (3) - As other posters have pointed out, there are a few glaring holes in your no need for me to do so again. However, I can't understand why you think a salary cap "ruins competitiveness" AND "prevents dynasties". That makes little sense. As for salary caps punishing "big" teams, yes, well spotted. How else could a small-market team like the Packers compete on the same stage as the Giants, Bears or Cowboys? OK, that might not bother you at all and that's fair enough. But the NFL's owners/TV bosses have decided the artificial level playing-field that is the salary cap-era NFL is good for business.

    And why is Kraft "a joke" in the MLS & NFL? Everything I've read suggests otherwise and his track record would appear to bear this out.

    nudais (4) - You also raise some excellent points. But aren't those tactical differences really just a direct result of the financial disparities in the league? Wealthy teams with good players, by and large, spend most of their time attacking and playing "good football" to break down stubborn, less-talented teams that come to draw/nick a lucky win. The dream scenario floated by Kraft is wouldn't it be great if every team had the ability to play 'fantasy football' within a set budget. Tactics, formation, scouting, conditioning, player development etc would then be what differentiates teams, not spending power.

    As for your comment about the attractiveness of the glamour ties v the not so glamorous ones, yep, you're undoubtedly right. But the collective selling of the EPL TV rights has been its strength and without the inequalities in the league (caused largely by the extra revenue from European competition) would be greatly increased. The big teams in Italy and Spain sell their own TV rights with damaging implications for the rest of the teams in their leagues.

    ericj23 (5) - You might be right. A percentage of revenue system (with strict limits on debt) is being discussed. I believe it is already up and running in the Blue Square Prem, isn't it? And the Football League has been debating something similar too.

    the-neutral (8) - Sorry you don't like the piece and thanks for your idiot's guide to how the NFL is structured. But let's leave aside the fact that the NFL isn't really anything like the World Cup at all (what with its set divisions and annual rivalries), or the fact that it is 22-21 to the NFC in Super Bowl wins suggesting a degree of equality across the league, or that the FA Cup comparison you suggest would be almost as conclusive the Premier League let's ignore all that and pick up your other points.

    You're right, I don't go into detail about how the NFL salary cap works or how it might work in the EPL. There are a few reasons for this: 1) The intricacies of the NFL salary cap are actually quite boring 2) They would also take some time/words to explain...that's not good for a blog 3) But for those who are really interested there are links to sites that go into all the detail - click on "a strict salary cap" above or try here 4) I don't go into detail about how an EPL cap would work because of the reasons above and because Kraft didn't either (he suggested it would be a percentage of league revenue with a hard cap on total payroll)

    Not sure what you mean by "meaningless platitudes" either...the existence of highly lucrative club competitions beyond our borders is a pretty open-and-shut argument against imposing an NFL salary cap on the EPL. Sorry you find that observation commonplace. Perhaps you're right and I should have gone into chapter-and-verse detail about EU employment law and how imposing limits on the amount people can earn might run counter to that....or perhaps not.

    As for the Herschel Walker trade I used that as an example of the kind of thing Kraft thinks he and other NFL owners could bring to English football...the key quote being "that's when you see how good a manager people really are". The constraints of a salary cap and restricted free agency make trades an integral part of the US system. And in any trade each party is trying to strike the best deal....the Walker trade is the most famous example of one side being hammered by the other.

    thefrogstar (10) - You're right, I do throw you in at the deep end a bit, but I throw in a few life jackets too. The answers to your questions are all there. I think it's pretty obvious that Walker ("a running back"..."an American football star") is the Cowboys' "best player" being traded to the Vikings.

    And I later refer to "the Walker-less Cowboys" managing to buck the anti-dynasty trend "for most of the 90s with the young talent they gained in the trade". Doesn't this at least go someway to explaining what they got in return?

    As for not explaining why the deal was so cunning I refer you to my earlier answer to long have you got? It involved something like 18 players in the end, umpteen draft picks over a number of seasons, brinksmanship and media manipulation....but that's another story.

    kwiniaskagolfer (14) - Hello, old bean, haven't heard from you for a while. You make a good point about dynasties surviving in other sports with salary caps. It can be done. You could argue Kraft's Pats are doing it in the NFL. But how long can you do it before the need to clear out your big earners gets you? You only need a bad draft or one bum trade and you're dragged back to mediocrity. I would also argue that most other salary cap systems in operation around the world (particularly in Australia and English club rugby) haven't quite bedded in yet. And in English rugby's case they are not always adhered to!!

    As for George Gillett, he owns a Nascar team doesn't he?!? And the Habs play in a primarily US sports league!

    as others have pointed out - particularly DERedcoat (23) who has perhaps followed the link I provided to explain all....notice it took him nearly 400 words as opposed to the 50 I used in the interest of brevity.

  • Comment number 26.

    Agree not the best blog, i think the point of teams not allowed to be in debt and only allowed to spend turnover in proportion to size i.e if Man u get to spend say 60% of their turnover it going to be more than Burnley, so some kind of co-efficient factor to even this up is added based on league position as well, so newly promoted teams get to spend more. Am sure some boffins could work it out, I dont have the time.

    Suggest people read the link on "the trade" good read, also shows how messed up the US system is.

  • Comment number 27.

    Firstly, anyone that calls a football club a franchise should be banned from buying any club.

    Secondly, it's far easier to introduce a salary cap in American Football, as the NFL is the only competative league in existence, so therefore players have little option but to accept this as they're unlikely to earn anywhere near what they do in the U.S. elsewhere, even with the cap system in place. Where as, with a global sport like football, it would be impossible to get every league in the world to agree to an equal salary cap system. If a cap was introduced in England players would simply move overseas to a league that does not have a limited salary system in place.

  • Comment number 28.

    The arguments against adopting an NFL-like system presented here are very weak, and miss the point. The main reason we won't have an NFL-sytle system is nobody wants to give up what they have! Does anyone think any EPL team wants to "help" any of the other teams in their division by making it a more level playing field? The same issue exists in the US...look at Major League Baseball - the NY Yankees payroll for this year is $200 million, whereas the Florida Marlins is $37 million. The great thing about the NFL was that revenue-sharing was set up at the beginning of the's just the way it is now...nothing will ever change because the rich don't want to give up money to the poor, and the poor don't want to give up money to the poorer.

  • Comment number 29.

    NJPete, I think it's you that's missing the point.

    While you're right to introduce the human condition and our basic instinct to look after number one into the argument, you're drawing the wrong conclusions....unless you're suggesting NFL owners are a different breed of person to EPL owners, which is unlikely.

    First off, there are teams in the EPL that would consider introducing a salary cap to control costs, rein in player power, close the gap to the big four, it's just that they would need a 2/3 majority to introduce a change that major and the real reason they will never get that is for the reasons I proposed in the there is no point unless WORLD football does the same AND we reconsider our promotion/relegation model. The fact is the EPL clubs DO share revenues to make the playing field more level. OK, since the advent of the EPL they no longer try to do this across the divisions, but within the top 20 the TV revenues are shared relatively evenly. The financial disparities come for historical reasons (it's an old league and the big clubs are very well established brands) and the skewing effect of Champions League money/exposure.

    As for your point about revenue-sharing being set up at the beginning of the NFL that is only partially true and the salary cap, which is continually revised, didn't come in until the mid-90s.

    You're spot on about the MLB, though, and it is in many observers' eyes its greatest weakness when compared to the NFL and the other big leagues that have salary-cap systems. If you're interested in this you should read "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis. Good book....but you could just wait for the film.

    You're last line is all too true, though, and can be seen by the compromised level playing field we have in English football: a wealthy top flight increasingly cut off from a league pyramid system rich in history but poor in cash. Parachute payments only compromise this further.

    theghost2 - You're right and I did think about doing him a favour and dropping the 'f word'. But it's there in the video and it is just an Americanism really. I believe the Glazers have often talked bout their franchise too and they haven't done too badly, have they?

    Just don't ask me if it's sustainable...I need to log off now and enjoy the weekend.

    Again, thank you all for reading

  • Comment number 30.

    Interesting blog but a simpleton could tell you that an NFL style salary cap system could not work in football as it would be impossible to impose worldwide. If it were a UK-only rule then we'd soon see what it would look like with English players playing for European clubs!

    The US system works on a salary cap based on total wages of the squad but I think in the UK people want a limit on what one player can earn...say £100k a week. This wouldn't work either as other countries would opt out to attract the best players.

    It is the same reason that any individual carrying on a trade should not be restricted. Say if you're profession is making boats and you make a huge one for Abramovich you wouldn't bother if someone came along and told you that you could only make a reasonable profit when the buyer is prepared to pay much more for your skills. Why should a sports professional have that restriction when your man on the street does not?

    Governments and authorities should have no influence on this as the contract/price is a matter between the buyer and seller. Maybe the only valid intervention is to impose a minumum wage but even that does not help the man in business for himself.

    In reality clubs are the only ones who can decide what they can afford to pay and they need to ensure their business model is sound. It is a money business but lets not be blind because that is what drives most businesses. If you run a football club and want to win the league then be prepared to spend billions, but equally if you run a supermarket and want to challenge Tesco then you'll need hundreds of billions.

    We will see plenty more Leeds United style failiures in football and I guess it is more important to fans than if their local Sainsburys disappeared but in reality there is no difference.

  • Comment number 31.

    Their is so much wrong with the English game its hard to no where to start. As a huge NFL fan for 25 years I have always seen it as being light years ahead in competition. Tat said Teams in England are just that Teams that live at the centre of Cities and Towns not Franchises to me moved at a whim.

    1. Draft just not possible in English Game.

    2. Salary Cap also not possible, but UEFA could have a Max squad rule. This would limit the big teams from having all the talent (and young players) stored up and thus denying the fans seeing the players play. If clubs want to buy young players but don't have room for them in their squad they can but they must loan them out to another club in the league prior to the start of the season. You could then have a draft of the teams that don't have players to loan out.

    3 TV Money don't have the big 4 on TV at home, show them away so the other clubs get more TV money to spend on players. Share all or a reasonable percentage of all commercial revenue. Man Utd might like to win the league every year but make it a fair league. How will teams ever get the Big 4 to agree to this? Well if they dont play ball try sending a Kids X1 along to play them. Why not Man Utd treat other competitions with disdain. Soon the home fans would not be paying season ticket as no sport, crowds would drop and thus less money for the Big 4. Of course they would win the league but then they do now anyway. The NFL Giants had all the money and marketing but gve it up for the good of the LEAGUE.

    My main hate is player wages, not how much they get but what they get it for. If they are suspended then dont pay them, would stop players verbally abusing he ref if they knew it would cost them £100K.

    Ref's should be forced to watch the game again after the match and issue and rescind cards for made decisions and missed ones. Players who dive or pretend to be head butted get a red and also lose wages as not available to play, League could find them weeks wages if clubs wont and give the money to local sporting charity. They should then report this to the media at a after match press conference at which they take questions. A 4th Official is required who can rule on contentious issues, he beeps ref says blow whistle, game stops to see if ball was over the line or not etc etc. Ref gives penalty refers it up to 4th official is their any reason I should not give that as a penalty? Yeah he dived ref are you blind I can clearly see it on the replay, no penalty given.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why would we want to change the most popular league in the world watched in every country for an american version? that as far as i know isnt watched outside the U.S

    what channel would it be on here?

  • Comment number 33.

    The Trade [1]

    [edit] Minnesota Vikings Received

    * RB Herschel Walker
    * Dallas's 3rd round pick - 1990 (54) (Mike Jones)
    * San Diego's 5th round pick - 1990 (116) (Reggie Thornton)
    * Dallas's 10th round pick - 1990 (249) (Pat Newman)
    * Dallas's 3rd round pick - 1991 (68) (Jake Reed)

    [edit] Dallas Cowboys Received

    * LB Jesse Solomon
    * LB David Howard
    * CB Issiac Holt
    * RB Darrin Nelson (traded to San Diego after he refused to report to Dallas)
    * DE Alex Stewart
    * Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1990 (21) (traded this pick along with pick (81) for pick (17) from Pittsburgh to draft Emmitt Smith)
    * Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1990 (47) (Alexander Wright)
    * Minnesota's 6th round pick in 1990 (158) (traded to New Orleans, who drafted James Williams)
    * Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1991 (conditional) - (12) (Alvin Harper)
    * Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1991 (conditional) - (38) (Dixon Edwards)
    * Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1992 (conditional) - (37) (Darren Woodson)
    * Minnesota's 3rd round pick in 1992 (conditional) - (71) (traded to New England, who drafted Kevin Turner)
    * Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1993 (conditional) - (13) (traded to Philadelphia Eagles, and then to the Houston Oilers, who drafted Brad Hopkins)

    [edit] Aftermath and legacy/infamy

    Dallas ended up with a total of six of Minnesota's picks over the succeeding years, two of which were used to draft Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson. Jimmy Johnson used the other draft picks to make trades with other teams around the NFL. One of the trades led to obtaining the first overall draft pick in 1991, which was used to draft Russell Maryland. In other words, the trade of Herschel Walker to the Vikings contributed largely to the Cowboys' success in the early 1990s. For this reason,'s Page 2 lists it as the 8th most lopsided trade in sports history. [1] Seventeen years later, the trade was still an easy target for satire: one ESPN columnist, assessing the impact of free agency on the NFL, noted that it had almost entirely replaced significant trades and by doing so, "took away one of the greatest shortcuts to becoming a Super Bowl champion: fleecing the Vikings." [2]

    Despite Walker's performance as a Minnesota Viking, his trade was widely perceived as an exceptionally poor move for what the Vikings had to give up in order to get him, and remains one of the most frequently vilified roster moves of the team's history (indeed, in the history of Minnesota sports). "Herschel the Turkey," a mocking "honor" given out by the Star Tribune newspaper to particularly inept or disgraceful Minnesota sports personalities, is named for him. The trade was also made into an episode of ESPN Classic's The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame.... In 2008, the trade was selected by as the number one worst sports trade of all time.

  • Comment number 34.

    Provided it is adopted by all countries and can be passed by European employment law, I have always thought the following system would inroduce better competition;

    1. Ban loaning players, except in the cases of goalkeepers who are specialists. If you don't want a player, or a player wants first team football, then he must be sold. This would reduce squad sizes and prevent bigger teams from buying dozens of young players to loan out to clubs lower down the league who basically rent them and gain no long term benefit from the deal. It also means that these players will not spend years playing in reserve teams and on loan at various clubs before being discarded, but will actually get a chance, albeit at a team in a lower league, to prove themselves and learn from the experience.

    2. There should be a squad salary cap not an individual salary cap. As far as I know this is not against European law as many organisations have to work within a salary budget. This should be the same for all clubs regardless of revenue or profit, for example 1.2 million a week. Clubs can then decide if they want 12 players at £100,000 a week or one player at £300,000 and 18 at £50,000 or any combination provided the overall total doesn't exceed the 1.2 million (I suggest this merely as an example). That allows the big players and the big clubs the huge wages they all seem to crave, but prevents it from getting out of control and if you have to pay Ronaldo, Kaka, Alonso and Benzema £200,000 a week each then the rest of the team is going to be a lower calibre of player. This prevents one team simply buying players to prevent other clubs from having them.

    3. Smaller squad sizes means a 'clean sweep' of trophies will be nearly impossible, allowing other clubs the chance to win 'lesser' trophies such as the carling cup and FA Cup. I do not see what is wrong with having trophies that are more often won by clubs outside the top four as this promotes competition and gives money to clubs lower down the leagues. The smaller squad sizes may also mean trimming down the Champions league and Europa league, but these have become bloated anyway and there are far to many games. Scrap the league style format and have a straight knock-out competition over two legs. This will reduce the game load as well as adding to the excitment, plus knocking out, say, Man United in the first round would seriously damage the television revenue and limit what they could do next year, again increasing competition.

    The above is not my own ideas, more an amalgamaion of thoughts by journalists who have written about the topic over the last few years. I feel the above would increase the competitiveness of all football without placing to restrictive limits on teams. I do not say whether increasing competition is something that people want (fans of the top four and the owners of those clubs would definately prefer the current system as it guarantees them more profits). The main 'dividing line' between teams in leagues around the world is those that regularly qualify for the Champions League and those that do not. Under the present structure, even if Chelsea have a 'mare of a CL and lose every time, they still get 6 games and all the revenue that implies. There is no penalty for failure so in a sense there is no relegation from the CL unless there is poor financial management. This allows the clubs to spend more and more money chasing the trophy whilst never really fearing the 'trap door' as even if they fare badly, they get more than enough money to keep them there.

  • Comment number 35.

    I can't believe what im reading above!! Presumably the majority of responders are supporters of larger teams!

    Given the dusgusting size of player's wages today a salary cap is the only way around it! Whilst EC law may impose restrictions on this kind of thing, a simple agreement by all the clubs would NOT be illegal. If they all refuse to offer any more than (let's say) £50000/wk, and players said this was an illegal restraint, it is easily combatted with an argument that the player is free to go and earn whatever he likes from whereever he likes, so if he doesn't want to play for team A for £50000/wk he is free to go elsewhere... but of course he cannot do this if noone else is willing to offer it - this is not illegal! It is not a salary cap per se, it is merely an informal agreement that the employer has a wage structure and pays a certain amount to certain employees within the company and that level will vary of course! If the position (ie a player) pays a wage of £50000 per week then just as you and i cannot demand wages of £100000/wk from our employers, so then they too would be unable to do so because the going rate is half that amount!

    It is the larger clubs who are unwilling to cap salary levels and the sad thing is that after the craziness of the 90's wages were on there way down again intil the likes of Abramovich got involved! The days of clubs like Nottingham Forest winning the European Cup with a great side built by a great manager (and whilst Manchester Utd have a great side and a great manager - so too are and do Everton but they cannot win the league whereas maybe 20 yrs ago they could?!) are gone, and what i mean by that of course is the days of clubs growing into great sides built by great managers are gone because it is impossible for smaller teams, even middle to bigger sized teams too, to hold onto any emerging great players or to keep sides together because the now established larger teams with a ridiculously imbalanced position of financial power can inevitbly come along and pinch that player for themselves because ultimatley they can pay more money!

    It was always the case that certain clubs were deemed to be "the bigger clubs" but that was ultimately in name and that name enticed players/managers to is similar now but for wholly different reasons! Gone are the days of a number of teams having a genuine shout at success and that my firends is a GREAT shame!

    The football world reflects the real world, and that too is a GREAT shame! The amount of money in football cannot be complained about because it is a product which the consumer laps up and is clearly willing to pay for it what they do but it is the money now being paid to players that has bumped up the prices of season tickets to ridiculous heights, the ordinary man cant take his son to a premiership match anymore and that too is a great shame! But if it didnt cost so much to watch football, live or on tv, the clubs would recieve less money and so would not pay such ludicrous salaries, and that would benefit us all! Ultimately it will come down to us, the consumer, to take a stand and simply not pay what we do anymore! This would affect the likes of sky who in turn woudln't pay as much as they do for tv rights, the clubs would pay the players less and so on etc!

    If ALL clubs only paid a certain amount it would get rid of the mercinary nature of today's players and that too would be of benefit to the game! The Matthew Le Tissier's of this world are rare these days and whilst im sure Fernando Torres would have made a handsome living at Athletice Madris had he remained he left for Liverpool in search of a little bit more and a chance to 'win things'! But had Liverpool only been able to pay him the same as Athletico would he have come? Maybe, but not for sure...and then as all players would be and that position the game would be better all round and like in the NFL, maybe we too could finally see teams from different cities winning things and that would be better for more people...utilitarianism isn't a bad thing some of the time you know :) Wouldn't it be great if teams were able to competer on an equal footing financially and then have a real chance of seeing teams building a side, making it into the Premiership or wherever, and then due to being there getting the tv money and being able to offer equal amounts as the Man Utds and have a chance of success? I think so!

  • Comment number 36.

    Before you hold Bob Kraft up as a potential savior of Liverpool from the depredations of his fellow Americans Gillett & Hicks (who purchased the team with the intention of building a modern, revenue-producing stadium for the club), recall that Kraft signed an agreement in 1998 to move the Patriots to a new stadium in Hartford, Connecticut, 100 miles away (the deal fell through because of site problems and Kraft eventually financed the very nice Gillette Stadium next door to the Patriots' old venue). So when Kraft says "I love the Liverpool franchise - it reminds me of the Patriots. If they think you're with them, the fan base will live and die with you", Liverpool fans will have to decide of they're willing to "live and die" with Kraft by taking the chance that Anfield migrates 100 miles away to York.

  • Comment number 37.

    ciscojennings, first off Connecticut is in New England.

    Secondly the only reason he was even threatening to do that was to get money off the state of Massachusetts.

  • Comment number 38.

    1) The franchise spent its first dozen years as the "Boston Patriots", only becoming the "New England Patriots" in 1972 when they quit their vagabonding ways and moved into their permanent home in Foxborough, in the Boston suburbs. The name change was, in part, a marketing move to appeal to potential fans (both those willing to attend games and those willing to watch games on TV) in Rhode Island (and to a lesser degree, NH and the rest of NE) and to avoid the absurdity that began unfolding in 1971 when the New York Giants struck a deal to move across the Hudson River to the swamps of New Jersey, but retain the name the "New York Giants".

    2) Massachusetts paid for infrastructure improvements, but the cost of Gillette Stadium was borne by Kraft, thanks in large part to a new NFL program in which the league contributes a significant portion of new stadium financing costs. The Hartford deal would have been entirely publicly financed.

    3) The Boston-area fans, who comprise the bulk of the fanbase, were vehemently opposed to the move to Hartford, not because Bostonians failed to realize that Hartford is indeed located in the southwestern fringe of NE, but because it would add 4+ hours to their roundtrip drive to see their "hometown" team, an incredibly unappealing adventure for a Monday Night game in December.

    The point I was making was that an American, willing to move his hometown team 2 hours further away from his hometown & primary market, is unlikely to take the sentimentalities of English football fans into all that great of an account. While Kraft's ownership won't result in a Wimbledon F.C.-style wholesale uprooting, Liverpool fans will have to be prepared for a new stadium to be built at the fringes of the club's geographic footprint - wherever Liverpool's Hartford may be.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't necessarily think that a salary cap is workable in football for the obvious reason repeated as nauseum here - it would have to get the approval of at least UEFA. I think it will be interesting, though, to see what happens if (and I am tempted to say when) MLS gains money and traction, because it operates on a trade system a players are sold out of MLS by the league as a whole. I wonder if teams looking for MLS talent might have to start playing by their rules at some point? (There was talk last year of the Galaxy forcing Milan to "trade" a player back in return for Beckham). I know that those safely ensconced in the UK think it will never happen, but MLS does keep getting bigger every year and I would argue it is already at the status of some of the lesser European leagues.

    My second point is in response to RickyM:
    "If all the teams are equal, and say Burnley has a 50/50 chance of beating Chelsea, then it makes it less valuable, and less interesting, when it does happen. If you like cheering for an underdog, how boring is it that there are no underdogs? If they are all the same, it doesn't matter who you support."
    I think the blog has somewhat skewed this opinion. It is misleading to say that NFL teams have a 50/50 chance to win "any given Sunday" despite the cliche. Each year there are good teams and bad teams and there are run-away winners, but year on year you have to work hard and trade savy to stay at the top. For the last few years you never thought that the Raiders could win on "any given Sunday" but there is a sense that in a few years with some decent draft picks they could prevail. That's not boring, it is the opposite in fact. The NFL draft is a prime-time event and one that I (as an British ex-pat) find extremely fascinating.

    Also - Rufus wrote:
    "A salary cap will never work as clubs will always find a way round it. At the very least players are still more likely to want to live in, say, London or Manchester than Burnley."
    That's a mis-understanding of US sport too. NFL players don't live in the towns that they play in - they'd be selling up every time they're traded. As I understand it, they live in their old hometown or in Miami and they fly up to their team for the season. And this is in the US, how much easier would that be when you're in the UK? Heck, any Premiership player could live in London and fly to Tyneside for training every day.

  • Comment number 40.

    ciscojennings, I live in Boston I remember the whole thing. It went on for years and it was obvious that he wanted the stadium to stay in Massachusetts and only looked at other choices when the retards up in Beacon Hill brought politics into the whole thing.

    English fans have a lot more principle that Americans. If Kraft moved LFC out of Liverpool his stadium would be empty. If Kraft moved NE Patriots to Hartford there would still be people driving there from Boston.

  • Comment number 41.

    I think it is six in one, half a dozen in the other. Like kitincal said above, there is an inherent problem with the American sports system and that is the lack of a penalty for being the worst. Relegation is something that is disparately needed in American sports. But maybe a combination of it could work. But like someone else said too, it would have to be UEFA wide, otherwise the best players would flee the EPL like the plague.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm an American and I can't underscore enough how much the NFL dominates the US sporting landscape, it's not even close. I think the salary cap has a lot to do with it - in all the other sports unless you are in a big media market you have no chance of winning over the long haul and your best players will leave you. So the salary cap is a good business model. Also, in the NFL there are virtually no huge trades anymore because everyone wants to keep their young talent. Also, there still are a few teams that tend to be the best year in and year out due to their management and ability to draft and keep their talent. Europe and the Premier League would be well-served by a salary cap - it actually makes for a good business model.

  • Comment number 43.

    00:19am on 15 Aug 2009, Striker416 wrote:
    The last super bowl between Pittsburgh and St. Louis was between the two worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl.
    Did The Steelers not win 4 Super Bowls prior to the salary cap?

    All your arguments are so weak, especially the one about "SOCIALISM". Obviously you don't understand the very essence of Capitalism, maybe a little lesson is in order:

    1) The NFL is a for profit corporation.

    2) The NFL makes money through TV rights and selling official merchandise; hat, jerseys, video games, dvds, etc...

    3) This one is important so pay attention and hopefully you can follow.

    By having a salary cap, by handicapping the successful teams, by giving the previous seasons lowest achieving teams first choice in choosing the brightest new prospects, the NFL ensures interest by fans of all teams, in all markets around the USA.

    4) When interest by all fans of all teams, in all markets is maintained, it ensures that, TV rights in all markets will be bid for and sold, merchandise for all teams will be bought. Therefore the NFL ensures that it will have a constant stream of income and PROFITS.

    5) Nothing to do with socialism, just protection, by the NFL, of pure monopolistic capitalism. The only poor fools that would think it is socialism, are the altruistic fools that believe professional sport is not a business.

    As with any sport, and as Kraft was quoted, the fans pay for the team. Therefore the fans pay for the owners huge profits. Maintaining a winning team generates more interest, more fans = more profits. This can clearly be seen with Manchester United at present.

    The only business model that has a chance of achieving similar structure to the NFL, would be the Champions League franchise. UEFA, the governing body has been making enormous sums of money since the European Cup changed to the Champions league format, and it is only growing every year.

    How to discuss revolutionizing the European and domestic leagues is for another day, but when huge amounts of money are involved, you can bet that a revolution (similar to the start of the Premier League) is on it's way.

  • Comment number 44.

    Lets not call it a franchise. It is a mistake that we in the US make because that is how all teams in the NFL,NBA,MLB,NHL and MLS are set up.
    Actually, here, the league owns the franchise rights and licences them to entities while still retaining the right to pull the franchise from current ownership for certain very extreme reasons.

    If an English football club exhibits this type of relationship to the FA (see below) than the term is not completely foreign:

    FRANCHISE - A business relationship in which an owner (the franchisor) licenses others (the franchisees) to operate outlets using business concepts, property, trademarks and tradenames owned by the franchisor.

    As for the cap, I think it has merits but I can't see it being workable due to many of the reasons outlined above by others.

    I am a strong Celtic supporter, maintain a rooting interest in Manchester United, and have been a Green Bay Packer fan for 44 years (I am also a Packer stockholder). Bob Kraft is smart enough to recognize the differences and know that it would only frustrate him. Better that than what Hicks and Gillette have gone through. I think that US based owners who understand what the EPL is and embrace it, can be ultimately successful.

    I have thought that these owners would be better starting with a smaller club and learning about football (British style) and the business in parallel while building the club.

    They are both great games as they are.

  • Comment number 45.

    You make some interesting points but cannot agree with the current football setup in Europe nor does it disguise serious flaws with the integrity of the leagues. We here in Oz, like the USA, apply salary caps (AFL and NRL, A-League, Super 14) and drafts (AFL only)in our major leagues. The aim of those running the competitions is that supporters of any team can feel they have a good chance to win on any day - surely that has to be a good thing. I cannot understand how 16 teams in the EPL all understand they have no chance of winning the Championship - what is the point of the competition if this the reality. How Hull fans simply accept that they cannot expect to win at Old Trafford, Anfield etc. I simply cannot understand this - nor how the people running the game think this is good. Each year clubs like Man U and Chelsea etc simply open the purse strings to kill off any opposition. What is interesting about this? How good a manager is Alec Ferguson? It is hard to tell considering he works with one of the most expensively assembled squads in the world year after year. The EPL reminds of the kids birthday party where we are all invited to, but are asked to accept the fact the host will win all the games!

  • Comment number 46.

    I should start by congratulating the author for one of the more intelligent articles yet written. It is thought-provoking and timely considering the increased mercenary mentality amongst modern players. There is little or no respect for the shirts and traditions of teams players join, with tragi-comedy ranging from lack of knowledge of teams they join (Robinho and the Blues) to whining about "slavery" to contracts willingly signed (CR7).

    Robert Kraft does raise enough points for any connoisseur of the beautiful game to ponder. Most attractive is use of a salary cap concept to curb runaway expenditure - what every serious going concern must adopt. This principle is true whether the concern is domestic, corporate or even government. It also creates focus on what truly matters, the competition proper, and less on the resources. The vision and blueprint of the institution becomes deadly important to any smooth running and future success of a franchise.

    A word of caution though from life. Success in one area doesn't translate into similar success elsewhere. Whereas you have an NFL model driven by seeming equality in the playing field, soccer thrives on actual competition, some of it is truly lopsided. It is the David Vs Goliath scenario that makes the FA Cup have so much historical romanticism. The odd upset always lurks in the corner somewhere with the resulting excitement factor immeasurable.

    Unlike North America, a relatively locked market, driven by distinctly regional preferences, the EPL already deals with a global brand emanating from a near universal game, soccer. This makes it relatively easy to sell to any continent, even North America where the same is relatively underdeveloped. This means there is already a willing market in existence.

    While each PL team has its fans, the same already know that soccer aristocrats like Real Madrid, Liverpool and Milan already exist, and that they're unlike the Wigans or Burnleys. This is an accepted order of events - not necessarily right. The challenge to me lies in equalizing the playing field somewhat and making it particularly hard to destabilize opponents by raiding from them. This will tame such disruptive tendencies as have been seen by Manchester City and Real Madrid this season. This has no doubt also been seen in the past from the likes of my club, Liverpool. It ought to stop to promote fairness in the game.

    While the US has a college system that taps athletes right from the grassroots game, soccer has academies which achieve a similar kind of development. The curricular in such academies might need enhancement to include all-rounded management skills that more academic and formal institutions can bring. This helps safeguard the young ones' futures.

    Perhaps the biggest impediment to NFL-style socialism is the complex tax regime and laws across the EU. While the EU seeks to harmonize such, it is exceedingly hard to reconcile such diverse systems as France's socialism with England's mixed economy that borders more on capitalism. This will continue making soccer a bit more of the haves and have nots, although it doesn't mean means to promote financial sanity cannot be instituted.

    Curbing of exaggerated (runaway) spending like that of the nouveau riche clubs needs to be done so as not to kill this game, but it must be balanced with respect for competition, respect for one's opponents, and above all the rules of fair play, which form the ideal competition was meant to bring out. Therein to me lies the challenge(s) that this article thought-provokingly seeks to bring out.

  • Comment number 47.

    It’s a balance argument that the author has made. But I wish he went 1 step further ….. are these salaries fair???

    Please bear with me on UK salaries and do feel free to correct my numbers. Most of the EPL player earn as much as £100,000 per week, that is £400,000 a month …….. Let me see now ………….

    So a London City bus driver must be earning about £40,000 per months and has to work 10 years to earn the same amount what an EPL player makes or 120 years what an EPL players earns in 1 year!!

    I love sports, but is it fair?? Hang on now …………… does it mean basically bus drivers, train drivers, milkmen, postmen, lorry drivers, and the average white and blue color workers who actually helps any country are considered are all idiots!!

    Ronaldo being paid £80 Million to go to Real Madrid is a crime. What does he do for the country in any sense where the average worker does for his country!?!

    Now call me an idiot, sports is a business, bigger than IT, Petroleum, Aviation and financial sectors. So why not get your kid from small age to do sports and not study, because at the end of the day all that education is not going to get you anywhere is it now?

    Even the worst sportsman earns more than a decent average worker!

    Where have all our morals gone?

    What is next?

    Also please note, more and more the players get paid, higher and higher will be the cost of season or match tickets will get. When the average fan can’t afford, the attendance will take a hit.

    Then what? ………….. Cut ticket prices to get more people in ……….. that makes lower profits ………… that makes can’t buy a player who can make a difference because the club can’t afford …………….. then teams performance diminishes ………………….. ends lower and lower down the league and finally relegation

  • Comment number 48.

    It’s a balance argument that the author has made. But I wish he went 1 step further ….. are these salaries fair???

    Please bear with me on UK salaries and do feel free to correct my numbers. Most of the EPL player earn as much as £100,000 per week, that’s is £400,000 a month …….. Let me see now ………….

    So a London City bus driver must be earning about £40,000 per year has to work 10 years to earn the same amount what an EPL player makes in 1 month or 120 years what an EPL players earns in 1 year!!

    I love sports, but is it fair?? Hang on now …………… so does that mean all bus drivers, train drivers, milkmen, postmen, lorry drivers, and the average white and blue color workers who actually helps any country are considered all idiots!!

    Ronaldo being paid £80 Million to go to Real Madrid is a crime. What does he do for the country in any sense where the average worker does for his country!?!

    Now call me an idiot, sports is a business, bigger than IT, Petroleum, Aviation and financial sectors. So why not get your kid from small age to do sports and not study, because at the end of the day all that education is not going to get you anywhere is it now?

    Even the worst sportsman earns more than a decent average worker!

    Where have all our morals gone?

    What is next?

    Also please note, more and more the players get paid, higher and higher will be the cost of season or match tickets will get. When the average fan can’t afford, the attendance will take a hit.

    Then what? ………….. Cut ticket prices to get more people in ……….. that makes lower profits ………… that makes can’t buy a player who can make a difference because the club can’t afford …………….. then teams performance diminishes ………………….. ends lower and lower down the league and finally relegation

  • Comment number 49.

    Bob Kraft is the gold standard for owners in the NFL. My family has been seasons ticket holders for the Patriots since 1974 and I've been going for over 25 years now. He rescued the franchise from the doldrums, when literally no one in the region cared about the team and pushed them into the Boston sports mainstream. No mean feat considering the historical pedigree of the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins.

    As an MLS owner ("investor/operator" in the parlance) he has, for the last decade, been a joke. To be a Pats STH and a Revs STH is a study in contrasts. Kraft Sports running of the team can best be described as "benign neglect". The team's COO, Brian Bilello, is the man who runs the Pats' Pro Shop. Advertising is minimal to non-existant. The team payroll is comically low and that's in a league with a $2 million dollar salary cap. After the Revs lost their second straight MLS Cup, the team's promotion for the following season was that they were bringing back all the starters. After the Pats lost to the Colts, Kraft went out and created a monster team that lost a single game all year (sadly that game was the Super Bowl). The local media ignores the Revs and when you ask why you often hear, "well it doesn't seem like Kraft cares, why should we?"

    The Revs exist mainly as a tax write off and this becomes more and more evident ever year. They exist to have something to put in his privately-funded stadium when the Pats aren't playing. Up until last year there was zero Revs signage in Gillette, a stadium they had the first event in when it opened. Be wary of this man as a soccer owner. His passion is American football. Soccer is a tidy sideline.

    Also to those who defend him by saying his son runs the team, not so fast. His son has the same position with the Revs as he does with the Pats. It is unclear precisely who does what with the Revs, which is part of the problem.

  • Comment number 50.

    A salary cap developed and enforced by UEFA would effictively cover the largest and most influential clubs in the world and could be done in Euro's (with reasonable rules to allow for fluctuations from non Euro Nation) so the argument that a salary cap could not work in football for technical reasons is null, but although this article potrays every gridiron fan as a pied piper for the Salary cap this is far from the case. There are many that argue that parody is another name for mediocrity and that the NFL is as much a crap shoot based on injuries and the luck of your schedule as it is a test of the best team. Finally although the salary cap has not greatly effected the top earners in the league (look at the money the slime ball Eli Manning just received) it has forced teams to make up the numbers with inexpensive young players at the expense of veterans who may not be superstars but are often the cult heros real fans feel the closest association for.

  • Comment number 51.

    I spent some time with GG the day he bought Liverpool and you'd be surprised about some of the ideas he has for the Club; but imagine he's hamstrung by his "partnership" with Hicks. Very surprised he sold Les Habs.

    Two thoughts:
    *Introduction of a salary cap would be the end of the Premier/Football League structure as we know it, and the forerunner of a European League. Hearing from Ralph Wilson on this would be more instructive than Kraft.
    *NASCAR? More important, he also has is the most beautiful slice of Teton heaven you could imagine. Breathtaking, you should see it sometime.

  • Comment number 52.

    Even with the salary cap, it looks like there will be either a strike/lockout in 2011 because of salaries (the owners are upset that salaries now use up about 60 percent of revenues the teams make and want to cut it down, the players union obviously doesn't want that to happen).

    Also, NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. The only money a NFL player knows he will get for sure is any signing bonus he gets- if he gets cut by the team, he doesn't get anything.

  • Comment number 53.

    First off, the last Super Bowl WASN'T Between The Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams. It was between Pittsburgh and the ARIZONA Cardinals. I take that to be confusion between American Football and Baseball, where there are a St. Louis Cardinals.

    Second, while yes there are good teams and bad teams year-in and year-out in the NFL, it seems like more teams come out of nowhere to succeed in a particular season then in EPL. In fact, you can't really say there is a 'big 4' in the NFL, though I'd propose NE, PIT, and NYG as 3 of those 4. That a team at least has the shot of coming on strong and taking the national championship is something you CANNOT say about EPL, and I think steps should be taken to help rectify that situation. Perhaps a NBA-style Soft Salary Cap, where teams have to pay the league if their total payroll is over a particular amount? But make it enough to be a deterrent.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi all, just a quick one from me. I wanted to say thanks for all contributions to the debate, which was pretty good in the end. Lots of interesting stuff thrown up:

    - good info from jimmystagger (49) about Kraft's MLS record
    - food for thought from frantictadpole (34)
    - ppmus (39) makes an intriguing point re: MLS system
    - mjholland30 (45) raises the Australian example
    - And lots of you rightly discuss the spectre of European Super League......I couldn't agree more and I assume many of you will have seen Arsene Wenger's comments today. It's only a matter of when as far as I'm concerned.


  • Comment number 55.

    dont need a salary cap, just a cap based on actual turn over, but football will eventually get to apoint where people in smaller countries ask questions of fairness. How is the largest economy in europe, Germany with well supported clubs hardly have any teams in the champions league latter stages, then it will become a poitical issue. They will demand answers. also who will join any sort of euro super league unless you have answers of fairness adressed. Football is now a muti billion pound industry with lots of people paying lots of money for the products be it ticket sales tv subscriptions or merchandise millions of pounds changing hands. How long can the european union be kept away from even just looking at the possibility of regulation.

  • Comment number 56.


    Excellent points very well made. I'm glad i didn't have to write the list to counter Striker416's somewhat incorrect assumptions on the NFL (though i respect his opinion on the salary cap, i disagree with it).

    Salary caps will never happen in football, and certainly not as long as the EU exists. We need to accept that unfortunately and we also need to accept that it will only be a matter of time before the number of professional clubs in europe is drastically reduced due to debt. Over 85% of all professional clubs in Western Europe are in debt apparently, what with "parent companies" and "subsidiary lending policy" etc.

    Well- here is a NFL fan looking forward to a new, salary-capped season. Perhaps the cheeseheads can turn it around from last season's mediocrity

  • Comment number 57.

    To those labouring under the misconception that an NFL style salary cap would reduce the EPL's top player salaries, please take a look at Eli Manning's latest contract, or wait until Tom Brady's new deal is thrashed out, suffice to say they would not be the poor relations stood in the bar with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.