Preston North End chief Peter Ridsdale says crisis could WIDEN wealth gap in football
Peter Ridsdale believes there is a danger that football’s great wealth divide could grow even wider as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Since the coronavirus pandemic brought the entire football season to a halt in March, there has been much talk of a financial reboot at all levels of the game.
Clubs from the Premier League to the semi-professional game are feeling the pinch due to the unprecedented circumstances facing them.
Shorn of much-needed gate receipts from the final couple of months of the season which has left a huge black hole in their revenue streams, many clubs – certainly lower down the pyramid – are teetering on the brink financially.
The Premier League clubs themselves are anxiously hoping no spanner is thrown in the works of Project Restart, which aims to put the product back on television screens in order to maintain the lucrative TV revenue streams.
At League One and Two levels, and also in non-league, there have been discussions about introducing salary caps for players in the future.
There have also been calls for a fairer distribution through the leagues of the money generated by the game.
Ridsdale, who is the advisor to Preston owner Trevor Hemmings, has long been an advocate of a smoother distribution of money in order to allow the game to thrive at all levels.
So could it be that £100m-plus transfer fees and six-figure-a-week wages in the top flight of English football could be a thing of the past as a result of Covid-19?
Ridsdale is not too sure, suggesting that clubs in danger of going bust in the National League North, for example, may not be much of a priority for Premier League chairman, who have their own concerns to deal with.
“You could argue that this situation has made things worse because Premier League clubs have got their own commitments as well,” Ridsdale told the Post.
“They are going to have to see what happens with the TV revenue, etc, as a result of the lockdown and the disruption to the season.
“But I don’t think this should stop us taking one step back and looking at things.
“When you think you’re going to get £100m for finishing bottom of the Premier League and then parachute payments of anywhere between £77m and £90m – in the Championship it’s £7m, League One it’s £1.5m and League Two it’s £900,000.
“For the good of the game as a whole, you have got to have a smoother distribution, acknowledging that the Premier League drives the majority of the revenue and they should take the lion’s share. I don’t think the current distribution model as it currently sits is good for the game as a whole irrespective of coronavirus.”
Ridsdale insists that Preston remain in a strong position despite the consequences of Covid-19.
That is because of the way the club is run and the continual support of Hemmings.
Ridsdale said: “I have been saying this for two years now, it’s what I call the cliff edge – the gap between the Premier League and the Football League, the Championship.
“It does not make any sense. I causes problems when clubs get relegated and causes Championship clubs to probably overspend in a bid to get that golden ticket of promotion.
“But I think there are two groups of clubs.
“There are those that have overspent anyway irrespective of lockdown, and there are those clubs who have tried to run themselves properly but lockdown has caused them problems which were unforseen.
“We are in a great position in terms of the way we run the club but also the ownership.
“It’s a tribute to Mr Hemmings that we are one of the small number of clubs who have carried on paying the players and staff throughout the crisis.
“I think those clubs who run themselves properly should not be in too bad a position but you can’t underestimate what the crisis has done to the pyramid as a whole.”