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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
A player's view
Troubed clubs like Bury cannot expect their players to take wage cuts to help them out
Clubs cannot expect players to bail them out
BBC Sport Online's John May asks whether players will be prepared to take pay cuts to ease thier club's cash problems generated by ITV Digital's collapse.

The spiralling cost of wage bills has been cited as a major reason for clubs' financial ills which are only solved by televsion income.

Portsmouth defender Scott Hiley is typical of those players who could be affected by the fall-out from the dispute.

Currently transfer-listed by Pompey who are looking to trim a 48-strong full-time playing staff, Hiley is adamant that players should not be saddled with the responsibility of bailing football out.

I think it's unfair to ask players to bail the game out
Portsmouth defender Scott Hiley

He said: "It's unfair to ask players to take a wage cut to ease the mess the game has got itself in.

"Football has become a business and while wages are high, they reflect what the market was prepared to bear.

"It's like the film and entertainment industry.

"Wages are astronomical and it's got to stop somewhere.

"But I think it's unfair to ask players to bail the game out."

Hiley believes the PFA may have a role to play.

"As a body, professional footballers are a pretty solid bunch, and I have no doubt that most players would be happy to make some sort of collective contribution.

"I know that at some clubs, that has taken the form of paying for a season ticket, or something like that.

Portsmouth's Scott Hiley does not feel player should be asked to solve clubs' problems
Scott Hiley feels players should not be asked to solve clubs' problems

"But I think it would be a difficult thing to implement if you were to ask all players to donate a set amount."

Whatever the outcome of the ITV Digital dispute, English football will inevitably have to face some harsh facts.

Perhaps football can no longer support the number of clubs it does.

The 92 clubs from the top of the Premiership down to the foot of Division Three form the biggest full-time professional set-up in the world.

It is a system based on tradition from the formative days of the game when it was a matter as much of civic pride as anything for a town to have a full-time professional team.

Life support

Some argue that same proud tradition has become a millstone for English football.

They claim a reluctance to ditch its tradition has given England a cumbersome, overloaded professional set-up that needs paring down.

Traditionalists will argue that English football should not let clubs like Bury die.

But the counter-argument is that a club that only attracts 2,000 a game through its turnstiles hardly deserves to live.

Income from televsion has become a life-support machine for many clubs, and the fear is that it is about to be switched off.

Even a club as famous as St Etienne would not have saved from part-time status
St Etienne faced the prospect of part-time status in France

The Football League argument that the loss of a full-time, professional club will affect its community hardly holds water when the community plainly does not support its club.

Having been formed later, Europe's other big leagues are not so hide-bound by tradition.


In Spain, France, Italy and Germany only the top two divisions are full-time.

The licensing of clubs by the French Football Federation means that clubs relegated from the second division are not allowed to operate full-time.

Even a club as famous as St Etienne faced the prospect of part-time status when they flirted with relegation recently.

Clubs in France have to swallow their pride and become part-time, but the legislation is for their own good.

It dictates they cannot overstretch their wage bill and probably guarantees their survival.

Perhaps a similar move may prove a lifeline for endangered Football League clubs.

But how many of them will be happy to grab it?

See also:

23 Apr 02 |  Champions League
Keane plots return
23 Apr 02 |  Business
ITV Digital in race to find buyer
23 Apr 02 |  West Bromwich Albion
Thompson's olive branch
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