Michael Bailey: Fewer of the transfer secrets please EFL - it's time to see justice is done
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey looks at a pair of well-meaning issues the EFL should not simply leave alone.
The road to hell is paved with good intensions, they say. It’s unlikely football was at the forefront of the proverb’s meaning when conceived by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century – not even Ipswich Town’s heralded history dates that far back. But as we focus eyes purely on a football bubble, the EFL must sit down every so often and find themselves grimacing at the state of play.
Two key cases come to mind – and both have carried an issue for Norwich City.
The Championship still has miles to travel to become a financially stable landscape. Maybe with the giant Premier League carrot dangling from the summit, such a goal farfetched.
Football finance blogger The Swiss Ramble posted some fine work on Twitter at the start of the week, that explored the scale of Championship imbalance – such as the fact 87pc of clubs’ cash between 2008-2017 came from their owners, while 42pc of funds were needed just to cover losses. That was only the tip of the iceberg.
“The Championship is a division where most clubs require significant financing from their owners, largely to cover operating losses and fund player purchases, as they strive to reach the (wealthier) heights,” the posts concluded. The carrot and its effect on ‘investors’ – something we have all known for a while.
How those figures develop beyond 2017 will make for very interesting reading. There is no doubt the EFL’s financial fair play (FFP) framework has had an impact. Plenty of clubs are now at least aware of the risk they are taking if they go for broke and then miss out on a promotion prize – even if it doesn’t always stop them. In other cases, the reality is seriously biting.
It is believed about five Championship clubs – maybe more – had to work through some sort of trading restriction during the summer as a result of FFP. Some of those issues will spill into January too – with news seeping out over Birmingham’s continuing financial issues and possible points deduction, while Bolton Wanderers are in a huge mess that runs much deeper.
It is Wanderers of course who have created the Canaries’ involvement, with £195,000 owed in wages from the loans of Yanic Wildschut and Remi Matthews – plus the latter’s scrapped permanent move. Norwich aren’t even the worst off from the fallout.
While City post figures that should earn huge respect for their newfound and hard-earned financial picture, it’s the comeuppance for those who fail to stick to the rules that needs work from the EFL.
Justice being done is never enough on its own – it has to be seen to be done.
The EFL’s cloak and dagger management of FFP penalties and resolutions – keeping things not only from the public but also fellow clubs – is wrapped in the protection of commercial sensitivities, but this is a matter of policing and integrity.
Until the right thing happens, the messes will keep happening.
It has to be said, Norwich have also found a way to show up the EFL’s homegrown rules – somehow penalising a club that has developed some superb young talents in the last 18 months, seemingly for not having more players akin to Danny Graham and Ryan Shotton.
The Premier League has different homegrown rules that are arguably easier to twist – but at the same time, the effect is probably more even; it’s not often you say that about the top flight.
Either way, the EFL surely realises nothing they do is beyond improvement – and it would be good to think that’s exactly what they will discuss in time for next season, whether Norwich City are involved or not.
<B> Despite the protestations of Portsmouth fans on social media, the dust settled pretty quickly on Norwich’s FA Cup exit. Sure, it was disappointing – but there will be another shot next season.
What eased the pain is what awaits us between now and the middle of February.
Nothing is decided yet, but with big games against fellow promotion contenders where any points won or lost get magnified, this is a crucial time.
It be interesting to see how City cope with their in-game situations and how they have evolved and strengthened their belief since the start of the season. It will also so intriguing to see how their opponents have developed too.
Norwich lost a fair few points earlier in the season, but there are various mitigating factors if you look for them. This time round, there is less room for manoeuvre.
That said, once City return from Elland Road they face an East Anglian derby before a reunion with Alex Neil at Preston – all underlining the many thrills still in store before May.
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