Manchester City's Pursuit of Kaka Raises Thorny Issue of a Wage Cap

Dave GooderhamCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2009

In the small Suffolk town where I work, 150 people lost their jobs within 24 hours.

On a national scale, the economic turmoil has left everyone on a knife-edge, wondering if within a moment's notice they could be joining the millions desperately looking for a new job or struggling to pay their mortgage.

Barely a day goes by without news of popular high street chains closing and unemployment levels rising.

But those employed within the English Premier League have so far seemed immune to this crisis. Club bosses might have spoken about the credit crunch and warned fans not to expect the same big money transfers as in past years. But the financial crisis plaguing the world does not seem to be affecting your everyday Premiership footballer.

Sure, some are said to be considering an enforced pay cut but most have earned so much in the last few money-driven seasons, it will make little difference to their lifestyles.
If rumours are to be believed, Manchester City actually have a chance of signing Brazilian ace Kaka for £100million-plus after offering a salary of somewhere in the region of £200,000 to £500,000 a week, depending on who you read and believe.
The proposed acquisition would dwarf both the previous world record transfer fee and be beyond the dreams for most Premiership managers, let alone the cash-strapped lower tiers of the English game.

But it also raises the perennial question of should salaries or maybe even transfer fees be capped, with Kaka hardly alone in securing astronomical figures.
This thorny issue has been raised time and time again but surely it is more pertinent at a time when the average fan in the street worries about his job and home more than his local football team. Supporters are being priced out of watching their side at the same time as their affinity with star names becomes weaker by the day.

One wonders what the typical Manchester City fan makes of the Kaka transfer. A tantalising glimpse of the future, or a sign that the beautiful game has lost its attraction given the financial events happening away from football?

How a wage cap would work is open to interpretation and a logistical and legal nightmare. One hope would be for voluntary action on the parts of the clubs but that is highly unlikely. It is has been described as a “complete non-starter” by some but others are keeping their minds open to the possibility.

At the back end of last year, Football Association chairman Lord Triesman warned that desperate measures might be needed in order to prevent spiralling costs in English football—and it was good to see the likes of Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher support his views.

And in December, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge urged Michel Platini, UEFA President, to impose a salary cap on clubs competing in the competition to protect European football from the current financial crisis.

So it is not just your typical hard-up fan who believes football’s greed is spiralling out of control. Bolton boss Gary Megson said he would welcome the introduction of the salary cap to try and make the Premier League more balanced. One could accuse Megson of jealously but surely a gulf developing between two or three teams and the rest would surely not help the world’s richest, but most exciting, league.

Megson is not alone in thinking that the kind of wages thrown at Kaka and others could be detrimental to the game as he calls for football’s authorities to clamp down. Never silent on football’s hot topics, Arsene Wenger criticised City for acting away from the real world while Wigan chairman Dave Whelan was even more frank describing the offer as “totally barmy”.

But one person unsurprisingly detached from the real world is City boss Mark Hughes, who described paying a footballer up to £2million a month as making good football and business sense.

I guess he would see it like that.