James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Why football must examine the use of parachute payments

Kevin McDonald and Andre Boucaud of Notts County � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Kevin McDonald and Andre Boucaud of Notts County � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

I’ve received two important reminders this week. Not revelations. Reminders.

The first, having seen Kevin McDonald finally complete his transfer from Sheffield United to Wolverhampton Wanderers, is that 98 per cent of power in the modern game is wielded by players.

Jean-Marc Bosman might never have made much of an impression on the pitch, where he endured an unremarkable career with the likes of R.F.C. de Liège and Olympique Saint-Quentin. Off it though, his landmark legal challenge changed football’s dynamic forever.

Not that McDonald, who as a professional will always enjoy a different relationship with his employers than their fans, should be castigated for leaving Bramall Lane. Unless there was a compelling moral obligation for him to stay.

But the clause in his contract, which Wolves triggered to secure his release, was not inserted at United’s request. Either he, his representative or both insisted upon it when a new deal was being negotiated nearly two years ago. And I’m prepared to wager its presence was a condition of the paperwork being signed.

Yes, United have made some pretty dubious decisions in the past. Which, one suspects, is why they are being criticised in some quarters for losing McDonald now. But, assuming my reading of the situation is correct, it is difficult to see in this instance what else they could have done at the time. Other than allow him to leave for zilch.

The second is that parachute payments skew competition. I understand why they exist. But greater governance should be exercised over their use.

Wolves, of course, are in receipt of a £16m handout from the Premier League this term. Another £8m is due the next. Meaning United could never match the wages McDonald was being offered by their League One rivals.

Don’t get me wrong, United have previously benefited from what is effectively financial doping themselves. But that doesn’t make it right.

So I propose a rule whereby monies received following relegation from the top-flight should be spent on ensuring office staff, cleaners and the like, recruited to ensure the smooth running of gigantic FAPL concerns, aren’t callously made redundant when a club fails. Not used to subsidise sporting operations.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1