By now, in any normal year, United would be back in pre-season training with the manager having done the bulk of his transfer work and with the first game of the campaign looming ever larger on the horizon.
INTERVIEW: The date that's decided to start he season ripples into everything else8 July 2020
The onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent prolonged lockdown means that type of normality seems nothing more than a distant memory, as the current transfer window remains shut.
We spoke to chief executive Nigel Clibbens about it this week.
“At the moment it’s all on hold, put simply,” he said. “There’s a lot of debate about when the transfer window will open, when it will close, and all of this kind of stuff.
“It’s something else that’s really difficult, and it’s one of the things that we’re all waiting to hear some clarification about.
“We’ve tried to lobby the EFL to let them know that we needed more time for a transfer window. Traditionally the transfer window opens after the season has finished, but this one isn’t going to finish for quite a while.
“It can’t be right that you’d be signing a player, even if he can’t play for you, who is still playing games at another club. People move down the pyramid, it’s lives and careers on the line here, and there are so many players out of contract who just want to know what they’re doing next.
“Everything has been pushed back, so we end up with a shorter window than we would otherwise traditionally have had. So, let’s say that if a window last 12 weeks, and the season started on 1 August, we’re going to be playing games and still doing transfers in mid-season.”
So will the desire to change and tighten up SCMP be implemented during these uncertain times, or will that have to be pushed back due to the current situation?
“I think it’s worth remembering where all this came from,” he told us. “After Bolton, and in particular after Bury, there was a feeling that clubs should be restricted in their spending to stop them from running out of money, and going bust and out of business.
“That’s not withstanding Covid and everything like that. For well over a year there’s been a lot of discussion within the EFL about how to make it work, with the possibility of the divisional rules being different to take into account the different needs.
“The pressures on a Championship club, in terms of losses, are different to a League Two club, because they’re competing with clubs who get parachute payments from the Premier League. If you restrict the losses on the clubs who don’t get those payments then the positions can get distorted, so it’s not an easy fix. Like I say, this has been going on for a long, long time.”
“We got some draft rules about a month ago with details of a cap on the spending that clubs in League Two would have, starting from season 20/21,” he continued. “That was based on a survey of what clubs had indicated they wanted, and I’ve previously said that clubs have been quite strong and vocal in wanting to restrain spending, to make clubs more viable and less dependent on owners and benefactors who put money in to cover their losses.
“Since that draft came out there’s been a kind of softening of approach. In my time, and from my experience in the game, this is not surprising. You usually find that when it comes to spending money, clubs and owners will talk a lot about not spending, but when push comes to shove they find it difficult to rein that in, so rules do get softened. I think that’s the direction we’re going here.
“We’ve now had a redrafting of the rules, with some softer restrictions, which means clubs will be able to spend more than they might have thought they’d have been able to spend even just a month ago.
INTERVIEW: We’re not going start selling until I’m certain that we can provide our part of the bargain7 July 2020
“It’s another example for us to prove our theory of how situations change almost by the day, because if we’d gone out and spent a budget based on the rules that were being floated in May and June we’d have found now that they’re out of the window and we’ve got something else coming along.
“Whether or not these new rules eventually get adopted remains to be seen, and the plan is that they’ll be put forward for clubs to vote on. I do sense a much softer stance and it may be that Covid overtakes this and clubs decide that we’ve got enough on already and we’ll deal with it in a year’s time.”
“I hope not, I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t deal with this now,” he told us. “I was really disappointed that they’ve softened to where they are now, and I’ve said that to the EFL.
“What we have to remember is that the rules of the EFL are driven by the clubs. The clubs vote for them and if there isn’t an appetite to take this strong medicine to improve the viability of clubs, then clubs have only got themselves to blame.
“The problem is that eventually it’s not only the clubs that bear the consequences, it’s the fans and the communities, as we’ve seen with another club going down with Wigan. These things are serious matters and it disappoints me that, at a time like this when we’ve had the fragility of football finances being put right under the spotlight, with some clubs calling for bail outs, that we’re not prepared to follow through on some of the talk that goes on in these meetings about actually putting our own house in order. I’ve got to say it, it really disappoints me.”
“I think there’ll be some restrictions, but there’ll still be scope for clubs to make losses, and still scope for clubs to put themselves at risk if they can’t ultimately fulfil it,” he concluded. “What you tend to get is clubs that are bankrolled run into trouble because the person who is backing them either runs out of money or chooses to no longer put it in, because they want to get out.
“The more losses you make the more at risk you are from those types of situation. That’s the choice that clubs continue to make.”
In part five of our interview with Nigel Clibbens we’ll be talking about how difficult it is to plan for recruiting new players with no clear guidelines in place.
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