West Ham United are set to have more freedom when it comes to spending as UEFA scraps Financial Fair Play controls.
Whether Hammers co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold will take advantage of it is another matter entirely.
Sullivan and Gold have been accused of using FFP as an excuse not to spend big to try and elevate West Ham to the fated ‘next level’.
Ironically David Moyes could be on the verge of managing that on a sell-to-buy budget with a squad sorely lacking in key areas.
Back in 2013 – one year after promotion back to the Premier League – West Ham threw their full backing behind spending controls including FFP and restrictions on salary increases.
Hammers owners Sullivan and Gold fully backed FFP
“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 London Stadium.
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.
Fans feel duo have used FFP as an excuse despite stadium move
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 were ranked the 17th and then 18th richest club in world football based on income (Football London).
But supporters feel that has not been 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, as was evident again this week.
Whenever West Ham have looked to be in a good position to kick on – as will be the case again this summer with a top eight finish the least Hammers fans can expect – a strict adherence to FFP regulations is often flagged as a reason not to over extend.
Back in 2016, West Ham insiders Claret & Hugh – who have direct links to Sullivan and Gold – defended the duo over the ‘amount of times they mention FFP and the annual wage cap limit’.
But soon they won’t be able to mention it at all.
Moyes proves there is a lot to be said for prudence and frugality but Sullivan and Gold have no excuses as UEFA takes the shackles off
The body is now in favour of a radical overhaul including new rules which will allow clubs greater flexibility with regards to their spending power, particularly in the transfer market.
UEFA’s plan is reportedly to gradually introduce the new regulations next year.
Of course the pandemic has impacted football finances worldwide and not uniquely West Ham.
But it will be interesting to see whether – once football returns to normality in the coming months – the scrapping of FFP makes any difference to the level of ambition at West Ham.
Not that throwing big money around is any guarantee of success or progress of course.
When Sullivan and Gold did splash the cash under Manuel Pellegrini so much of it was wasted on flops such as Felipe Anderson and Sebastien Haller.
What Moyes has proved is that there is plenty to be said for being prudent and frugal with West Ham’s money. And the Scot has made some of the best signings for many years with a more cautious, considered approach.
But last summer it was clear West Ham needed further reinforcements. Particularly in central midfield and up front. And even more so in January after Haller was sold to Ajax for £20m.
Moyes has been fortunate that brilliant duo Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have both been ever presents.
For all the criticism of Sullivan and Gold, the current West Ham squad is just three or four players off being a truly top side.
But therein lies the frustration.
Perhaps now with the shackles off in terms of FFP, the duo can start to build that much-needed strength in depth and make the most of the extra revenue being generated by increasing TV deals and – when fans do eventually return – the stadium move.