The devil was in the detail... Why salary cap’s ‘average’ leaves Ipswich Town with little wriggle room
- Credit: Archant
More details have been emerging regarding the League One salary cap which was voted in last Friday. With the benefit of added information, STUART WATSON takes a look at what it will mean for Ipswich Town.
LEAGUE ONE SALARY CAP UPDATE
Ahead of last Friday’s vote, we published an article discussing how the introduction of a salary cap would affect Ipswich Town.
It was made clear that a lot of the sums were based on the vague bits of information which had filtered out through national reports and interviews with various club chiefs. The devil, as we recognised, would be in the detail.
Well it turns out that the average wage figure which the league will use is a lot higher than many had anticipated.
First of all, a reminder on how that ‘average wage’ will work... As a transitional measure to give the division’s bigger spenders time to get their wage bills down to the £2.5m a year hard cap, the league will treat any big contract that was signed prior to last Friday as being ‘X amount’ for the cap purposes.
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It was widely thought that figure would be £1,300 to £1,700 a week (£67,600 to 88,400k pa), but Ipswich revealed on Saturday that the initial average will be £113,000 pa (£2,173 pw) for the upcoming 2020/21 season and then will rise to £125k pw (£2,404 pw) for the 2021/22 campaign.
There was also some clarity on the squad size restrictions which have been put in place too.
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Clubs will be able to name 22 players aged 21 or over (at the turn of this calendar year) in their squads for the upcoming season. That number will drop to a squad size of just 20 players aged 21 or over for the 2021/22 campaign.
So let’s have a look again at how this will affect Ipswich Town...
Town currently have 20 players who were 21 at the turn of the year.
They are: Holy, Wright, Vincent-Young, Donacien, Cotter, Chambers, Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Kenlock, Edwards, Skuse, Nolan, Huws, Bishop, Judge, Jackson, Norwood, Sears, Drinan.
Excluding fringe players Cotter, Drinan and Wright, they are all likely to be earning more than the £113k per year average.
So £113k x 17 = £1.92m, plus a bit extra for the aforementioned trio and Town are probably looking at a current wage bill – for salary cap purposes – of a little over £2m pa.
That leaves, roughly, £500k wriggle room as manager Paul Lambert looks to strengthen his squad. That’s £9,615 a week.
Last summer that sort of budget got you a star third-tier signing, like James Norwood, and left change to get a decent squad competitor.
This summer it should stretch a bit further. Even so, Lambert is going to have to think very carefully about where he priorities his funds. Every penny will count.
If he wants to add a striker, centre-back and left-back, for example, then signing a back-up goalkeeper may be a luxury that they can’t afford.
Assuming Lambert is to bring in more than two senior signings over the coming weeks then he’ll have to cut from his squad list to be within the 20 ‘senior’ players limit.
Barry Cotter and Aaron Drinan – neither of whom have been anywhere the first team in recent years – would be the obvious candidates. Assuming this squad limit is just for League One games, those two could still play for the U23s and in cup games.
There’s also a chance that a senior player could depart – Toto Nsiala a potential candidate here.
The wages for Downes, Dozzell, Nydam, Folami, Morris, McGavin and Ndaba will all come into contention.
Adding those seven players, and taking into account that the ‘average’ wage figure rises from £133k to £125k pa, then Town’s declared players salary bill for 2021/22 would be set to exceed the £2.5m cap (19 x £125k = £2.4m, plus several lesser earners).
It would also mean getting the squad size down from 27 to the reduced limit of 20.
The major caveat here is that Town have the ability to release several players next summer.
The following are all now in the final year of their contracts: Chambers, Wilson, Edwards, Skuse, Jackson, Donacien, Wright, Bishop, Nydam, Judge, Sears, Nsiala, Huws, Drinan, Folami, Morris, McGavin and Cotter.
Negotiating new deals with any of the above would push the club’s declared salary cap up further if their terms were in excess of £125k pa (£2,404 pw).
If young players such as McGavin and Folami are given extended deals on relatively modest terms then they would almost certainly be sent out on loan so as to free up squad space for senior players. The same is true of Ndaba (whose contract runs until 2022).
It’s not just wages that count towards this salary cap.
It also includes things like agents’ fees, appearance/goal bonuses and image rights.
As much as Lambert wants to get away from Ipswich relying on loan players every year, there may be a loophole here.
There could be arrangements where the borrowing club pays very little of a player’s wages (getting around the salary cap) and instead compensates the parent club with an inflated loan fee.
Time will tell on that one.