There is a strange phenomena in football whereby many folk regard player contracts as watertight, irrevocable and absolutely binding.
Which as top-flight and Championship salaries grow bigger than the blocked list on Donald Trump’s Twitter account, always rears its head at this time of year as teams look to get their own houses in order before entering the transfer market.
Earlier this week, Sheffield United were granted permission to keep Ethan Ebanks-Landell until the end of the season but, it will not have escaped your notice, only after the on-loan defender has agreed a new long-term deal with Wolves. Others sides have also been renegotiating the terms and conditions of their staff like an over-excitable shop stewards since the turn of the year while, at Bramall Lane, several members of Chris Wilder’s squad are also about to trigger clauses entitling them to extended stays.
Forgive me for not joining in the hullabaloo, usually generated by gushing PR chiefs and fuelled by the gullible, which tend to accompany these announcements. Because, unless the actual small print is revealed, there is a very good chance nothing much changes. Not even the size of the fee a club might receive if the player in question moves elsewhere. It is not uncommon for agents to insert all sorts of clauses into these arrangements. Often guaranteeing their clients can jump ship at a moment’s notice if a rival offers a certain figure for their services or a specific performance target is not met. Joe Bloggs ‘commits’ himself to Dynamo Darnall until 2030? Well, whoopie doo. If the details of the arrangement are kept private then, to all intents and purposes, so what?
Transparency is not something that comes easy to those in charge of running the national game. At the time of writing, exactly two thirds of the permanent transfers completed during this month’s window were undisclosed.
Including, it must be said, Samir Carruthers’ arrival at United from MK Dons. In my experience, this usually happens to help spare the blushes of the selling club because they have just lost an asset for less than their perceived worth. But it is still a sorry state of affairs.
Salaries are a private matter between and employee and his or her employer. In all but the most extreme of circumstances, we have no right to know what individual players earn.
But the size of a fee paid, or anything that might affect a player’s value and consequently a team’s balance sheet, is a different matter. Because, via television subscriptions fees, ticket sales or merchandise purchases, our money helps fund the sport.
Football loves to paint itself as the people’s game. It is happy to push the idea that fan’s are stakeholders and the most important part of any club.
Just so long as they do not ask too many questions or have to temerity to wonder how their hard-earned cash is actually being spent.