SUNDERLAND chairman Niall Quinn today said he could see a day that fans gain cheaper access if the Government reduced their vast take from the game and passed it directly to supporters.
Quinn spoke before a Parliamentary select committee on Tuesday that was investigating the finances of the nation’s favourite sport.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo to expand his views given to MPs, Quinn said it was important that fans understood the true nature of footballing finance.
“For every £49 a club pays a player, that club must send a further £64.80 in taxation and other contributions to the Government. This makes the Government the main beneficiary of high player wages.
“People are astonished at players’ wages, but might be more astonished at the amount the Government takes.
“In Sunderland’s case should we drop fans’ tickets by 50 per cent the Government would only have to reduce their huge take minimally to facilitate it – no gain for the players and no gain for the club.
“All Premier League clubs should be told to do this. The Government should pass the saving on to fans directly, with clubs being paid a rebate at the end of the season for participating. Therefore, the fans would have a real victory in this huge debate.
“The few chairmen I have spoken to at other Premier League clubs would back up my suggestion. It’s not just players’ wages that put the game at risk, it’s also the large Government take that adds to the pressures.
“In truth we do pay our players too well, but as a result, the Government becomes the really big winner.
“Footballing finance is a bit out of kilter. On one side the fans are being squeezed, while on the other both the players and the Government are getting too much.
“The desperation for clubs to stay in the greatest league in the world allied to rules such as Bosman and our ridiculous transfer window system, serve to put the players and their agents in a fantastic position to milk the footballing cow.
“But remember the Government cleans up in the background. It’s ironic they openly criticise our wage policy, but incredibly they benefit the most.
“Yet through all this it seems they would be happy for wages to drop. What I am suggesting is the difference goes directly to fans. The club would not gain, the player would not gain and the Government, who seem open to the idea of a lesser take anyway, would give the fans a much-needed boost to continue their love affair with their clubs.
“There are five main stakeholders in the game – the clubs, the fans, the players, the media and the Government. At the moment, clubs work like a clearing house, the money comes in, the money goes out. The media and the Government are criticising the amounts paid to players while the fans are the ones suffering because of the higher prices they have to pay.
“The real winners currently aren’t only the players, it’s the Government too”.
Quinn added that should Sunderland choose to drastically reduce match-day prices without Government assistance then top players would have to be sold.
“The only way we could afford to do that would be to sell our best players and lose our competitive edge. We don’t want to do that, and I’m sure the fans don’t want us to do that either.
“And if the majority of Premier League clubs did so it would only end up damaging our game and improving our competitors in Spain, Italy and Germany.
“I think the only way of really tackling this is for the Government to look at their huge intake.
“Why don’t they credit price-reducing clubs so we can satisfy supporters and continue to provide them with the world’s best players? The only beneficaries of such a scheme would be the fans – not the clubs, not players.”
Quinn has recently led a crusade against pubs and clubs illegally broadcasting live Sunderland home games. He wants fans to spend their money on attending games rather than watching illegal broadcasts and his campaign notched a significant victory when the city’s biggest club operator, Wylam Leisure, agreed not to show live Sunderland home games.
The chairman accepts that price is an issue for many supporters and is working hard to come up with new and innovative ways to make games more affordable for fans.
Quinn was angered by the way in which some of his responses to questions asked at the Select Committee had been reported.
“I was told by the chairman that Sunderland had no chance of ever being successful in the Premier League.
“I explained to him that I would be chased out of Sunderland if I were to say such a thing
“And while stopping short of saying we would win the league, I did say European football is a realistic target for us in the next few years.
“Unfortunately some bright spark reported my quote back to front. To think that I or any chairman would concede success is ridiculous. And to balance things I voted “yes” in last night’s Echo poll.”