When Manchester City’s European ban was overturned on Monday it did not go unnoticed at West Ham United.
Manchester City were handed a two-year ban by UEFA in February for “serious breaches” of club licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations, though the Premier League club vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
That ban has been overturned in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, though. And some West Ham fans were quick to suggest it leaves unpopular owners David Sullivan and David Gold nowhere to go.
Back in 2013 – one year after promotion back to the Premier League – West Ham threw their full backing behind spending controls including financial fair play and restrictions on salary increases.
‘We all voted overwhelmingly in support of FFP’ – David Gold 2013
“We have all voted and it was overwhelmingly supported, not by all the clubs – some are a little concerned – but the vast majority of the clubs voted in favour,” West Ham co-owner Gold told The Evening Standard back in 2013.
Clubs signed up to the new rules – with UEFA’s own FFP coming into force a year later – which dictated they would also be restricted by how much they will be allowed to increase their wage bills.
Gold added: “It’s not a salary cap, it’s a restraint on over-spending. It’s not a cap – it’s a restraint.
“If clubs increase their revenues then they can increase their spending. We have got restraint, that’s the important thing.
“What’s driving the whole thing is we’ve got to avoid another Portsmouth.”
Three years later West Ham left their beloved Upton Park for the former Olympic Stadium. They had London plastered all over their sacred club badge and just in case people still weren’t sure their new home was renamed the London Stadium to boot.
The world’s 18th richest club but a distinct lack of tangible evidence
It was all part of a grand plan to boost West Ham’s global brand and allow them to compete with the Premier League elite.
Bigger revenue streams meant more wiggle room to spend with the new FFP regulations Sullivan and Gold helped vote in.
The move served its purpose. West Ham have been ranked the 17th and now 18th richest club in world football based on income (Football London).
But supporters feel that is not reflected in any tangible sense. Whether that is net spend on the team. The club’s league position or ability to fight for honours. Or indeed on facilities such as the training ground, which fares poorly when compared to the complexes occupied and being built by many Premier League clubs.
And don’t even get fans started on how they feel about the stadium itself.
Owners are unpopular but have elevated West Ham’s financial standing
Sullivan, Gold and vice-chairman Karren Brady would argue they have done a reasonable job.
They took over West Ham when they were reportedly on the brink of administration 10 years ago.
And they have slowly turned the club’s finances around.
But whenever West Ham look to be in a good position to kick on, a strict adherence to Financial Fair Play regulations is flagged as a reason not to over extend.
In 2016 Premier League clubs have voted to continue their Short-Term Cost Control (STCC) rules; their name for Financial Fair play. The updated rules came into effect from the 2016/17 season and apply for a three-year duration.
Clubs were able to increase their wage spending by £7m each season from 2016/17 to 2018/19 (an increase from the £4m a season during the old TV deal). Clubs can exceed this £7m cap if they generate increased revenue from commercial income, player trading and Match Day income called Club Own Revenue Uplift called (CORU).
Allardyce showed first signs of frustration at restraints
According to club insiders Claret & Hugh, West Ham has generated significant CORU since its move to the London Stadium allowing it to go way beyond the £7m per year increase.
No sooner had West Ham thrown their weight behind the financial controls over clubs, than their then manager Sam Allardyce was complaining that is was restricting his plans to improve West Ham’s squad.
Allardyce told The Telegraph later that year that he might not be able to sign Andy Carroll due to FFP.
“In one fell swoop the financial restrictions mean Andy Carroll can’t sign for us from Liverpool because it’s too expensive, even if he wanted to,” Allardyce told The Telegraph.
“Even if I wanted him, even if the chairmen wanted him, even if we all wanted him – which we do – it will not be allowed to happen.”
‘Life is already extremely difficult as it is’
Allardyce added: “I understand everything about the financial restrictions, where all the owners are coming from. It’s sensible, yes. But my life is already extremely difficult as it is – and this is going to make it much more difficult. You must always try to improve your team. And the only way to do that, on a quality basis, is to spend and invest more money in it.”
In speaking out, Allardyce became the first Premier League manager to publicly voice his concerns over the implications of the new financial fair play regulations.
Of course West Ham did in the end sign Carroll who, despite chronic injury problems, did score some important goals for West Ham over his seven years in east London.
Rightly or wrongly, West Ham fans feel it has been a convenient excuse for the owners not to push the boat out ever since.
And when the Man City ban was overturned – which many believe paves the way for clubs to effectively spend what they want without fear of reprisals as there is now a precedent set – the irony was not lost on some Hammers supporters.
West Ham fans feel Man City ruling leaves owners nowhere to hide over investment
West Ham have been at pains to make clear the financial impact of the current global health crisis on the club.
As a result West Ham – like many clubs – are not expected to spend big in the next window.
But the ruling in Man City’s favour is very much being seen as a victory for clubs – and fans of those clubs – who feel like FFP was designed to protect the established elite while pulling the ladder up on the likes of West Ham in the process.
“Bad news for Sullivan and Gold,” one West Ham fan wrote in response to the Man City ruling.
“Their (Sullivan and Gold) whole transfer strategy has been based on complying with FFP apparently. Well now you need to come up with another excuse. Enter covid19.”
Here are a selection of responses and reactions from fans of West Ham and other clubs.
Many also suggest the verdict could open the door for new investment in clubs like West Ham if restrictions are eased or deemed unenforceable.
Fans have their say on social
Bad news for Sullivan and Gold. Their whole transfer strategy has been based on complying with FFP apparantly. Well now you need to come up with another excuse. Enter covid19. https://t.co/4KWJwnZSPy
— West Ham Geezer ⚒ (@WHUFCGeezer) July 13, 2020
On my opinion its always been their intention to invest as little as possible and sell up when they dont have to pay a percentage back on the lmstadium lease. We will never progress under them, they’ve known it all along too.
— Gary James ⚒❤ (@GaryJames86) July 13, 2020
You can see it now…
— Ⓟⓗⓘⓛⓘⓟ 父 Ⓦⓘⓛⓚⓘⓝⓢⓞⓝ 父 (@PW57WHU) July 13, 2020
Perfect time to sell!!
— Mike (@mhare641) July 13, 2020
Clubs still have to comply with FFP otherwise face fines and points deductions. In a nutshell what City did was sell sponsorship deals at ‘inflated prices’ to buyers ‘connected’ to their owners.
— apu vyas (@apuvyas) July 13, 2020
FFP was created for one reason & that was to maintain the status quo, so to prevent any other club following what Man City have achieved & challenging the established order. Actually 2 reasons; also to give @WestHam owners an excuse for not investing! 😡⚒
— Chris (@GSBOutNow) July 13, 2020
‘The current FFP setup didn’t allow a big investor to come in and keep the dream alive’
Don’t you know FFP is there to stop clubs like West Ham, basically London’s version of City, having a chance of challenging the 1990s ‘elite’ dinosaurs?
— Angular29feb (@almay292) July 13, 2020
As a West Ham fan i’m glad City won their case. FFP is just trying to protect status quo of historical elite. True FFP would be to set a squad wage cap that the majority of top flight clubs could afford.
— Dan Adams (@OneGrizzlyAdams) July 13, 2020
Cannot wait to hear this!If I was a West Ham/Everton fan etc I’d be delighted.FFP as we know it dead in the water and investment (with no debts) should be allowed.This could make that happen and clubs again may have a chance to break into the elite -exactly what UEFA didn’t want
— Steve Z (@SteveZee6) July 13, 2020
FFP was brought in to protect the ‘original’ top clubs – this whole thing is good news for clubs like wolves, everton, Newcastle even Sheffield United and West Ham if they stay up who should be able to be bought out by decent owners and compete
— Lauren (@lauren_mcfc) July 13, 2020
@davidgold after the man city news…
West Ham might as well break FFP and surge up the league and win cups. It proves that breaking the rules isn’t punished heavily enough especially if you pay for the best lawyers in the world to protect the club.
— Adam Leatherbarrow (@ADAMC1R) July 13, 2020
City’s victory in the courts is a win not just for them but for teams like West Ham, Newcastle and any other ‘small’ team.
The current FFP set up didn’t allow a big investor to come in and keep the dream alive.
— Sean Sweeney (@SeanSweeney09) July 13, 2020