Financial Fair Play – Is it actually fair?

I’ve read with some interest that Village Green are interested in signing Ricky Miller and it occurred to me that at some point the FFP rules must stop them from buying success. What point exactly is that?

The financial fair play rules differ the further up the spectrum you go. In the Premier League rather than being restricted on wages because of turnover, you are permitted to make a financial loss of no more than £105m over three seasons, or £15m over three seasons if your owner doesn’t inject equity. The figures drop in the Championship to £13m and £5m but the rules stay the same.

We all know that the rules don’t apply in our league, and if they did we’d probably be battling with Tranmere and Dagenham alone at the top of the table. However owners like Dale Vince and Jim Parmenter are allowed to bank-roll clubs with poor attendances and give themselves an unfair advantage. Parmenter is perhaps different to Vince as any transfer fee they receive at least goes to their turnover, with Village Green they don’t even sell players on.

So what happens if they manage to get promoted? There are a set of FFP rules that apply in League Two, will sub 1,400 attendances mean they have to move players like Ricky Miller and Keanu Marsh Brown on to control their wage bill?

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins
Dover travel in numbers.


No, unfortunately for all that is fair and honest in football the League Two FFP rules stipulate that owners can donate cash to the club and include it in the turnover. So even though they can only spend 55% of their turnover on wages, that turnover can include a nice fat cheque from my least favourite eco-warrior.

In League One you can spend up to 60% of your turnover on wages, but once again owners can donate to the club and include it as turnover. In essence the term ‘Financial Fair Play’ actually means absolutely nothing below the Championship. If you’ve got a sugar daddy it doesn’t matter that you have low home attendances and only take thirty to away games. Basically Village Green can get away with buying success right up until the Championship.

I think it laughs in the face of clubs who suffered the ignominy of relegation or administration in recent times. The likes of us, Hereford, York and Macclesfield who have the fan base but don’t attract a multi-millionaire investor are put at a disadvantage, and our ultra competitive league is allowed to become polluted with rich men’s play things.

Dale Vince stood in a field full of Forest Green fans that regularly travel away.


Realistically looking at attendance figures we could have a top of the table clash between Dover and Village Green that attracts less than 1500 fans, and yet they could be about to fork out £100,000 for Ricky Miller. We can’t afford that as a well run business attracting an average attendance of 3,425, but Village Green can offer £10,000 per fan that regularly travels away for Dover’s star striker. With £100,000 Dover could afford to give every one of their loyal home supporters £100 and still have money left.

Maybe it’s jealousy on my part, but I can’t stand to see these abominations buying their way up the league ladder. It pains me to see seven clubs in the National League North attracting more fans than a side bound for the Football League. That’s right, FC United of Manchester, Halifax Town, AFC Fylde, Darlington, Salford and Kidderminster all have a higher average attendance than Village Green. It may be an anomaly of sorts, but even step FOUR side Hereford get more bums on seats.

If Village Green get Ricky Miller I concede it would be incredibly hard for any team to stop them running away with the league. My fear is when does it stop? Next year AFC Fylde come up with a big ‘money no object’ budget, and that’s in addition to Eastleigh and Barrow. At what point do well run and modestly funded teams get a chance to compete? When they attract hungry young managers like the Cowley brothers? When they attract players who want more than a big pay packet, but want to play in front of bigger crowds in decent stadiums? Never?

I actually think it was easier to get out of this league back in 1988 with just one place up for grabs. We knew back then we had to win the league, but with the biggest attendances and remaining full time, our promotion ensured a natural balance was restored. However now with teams like Forest Green simply buying success without the fan base to justify it, even with the play-off spots it is becoming increasingly hard to compete, and the weight of favour is with those teams that can afford to pay for it.

We may be in a unique position in that we have other attractions this season, and as a club we’ve identified ambitious players who want to play for the bigger clubs, but my fear is that if we remain in this league and the Cowleys move on, are we forever stuck in a competition that allows the very richest to buy success over hard work and endeavour? Isn’t that the epitome of everything wrong with society today?