Scrap salary cap floor, says former Sydney FC boss

Inaugural Sydney FC chairman Walter Bugno believes the A-League’s salary cap floor should be scrapped to ease the burden on the competition’s struggling clubs.

Football Football Australia (FFA) confirmed this week the salary cap floor had risen from 85 per cent to 90 per cent as part of a number of significant contracting changes in the A-League.

Under the current salary cap of $2.55 million, that equates to a rise in minimum spend of approximately $130,000.

Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets and Central Coast have all experienced financial hardship in recent times, in a worrying trend ahead of a critical 12-18 months for the code with the broadcast rights deal up for negotiation.

This week the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations between the Professional Footballers’ Australia (PFA) and FFA hit a major obstacle in light of the A-League rule changes.

At the heart of the two parties’ negotiations has been contracting to the flexibilities of the salary cap. The PFA are desperate to avoid another salary cap freeze in order to ensure players are adequately compensated.

However, Bugno, who helped lead Sydney FC to the A-League’s inaugural championship, told FourFourTwo that he believed the salary cap floor should be removed altogether to aid the struggling clubs.

“Whilst I can see the benefit of a salary cap, the problem is you’ve also got a salary floor of minimum spend,” said Bugno, who is this week in Australia on business.

“When you look at the financial structuring and capability of some clubs that’s not the answer.

“Some clubs can’t afford, even though the FFA is paying a subsidy equivalent to the salaries, some markets can’t afford a team costing $2.5 million.

“Around the world, there’s few leagues 10 years in that operate under a salary cap.”

Bugno, who helped sign marquee man Dwight Yorke in Season One, added he felt the league still needed to evolve before it could fully disband the salary cap.

He argued the broadcast deal negotiations represented a time when the FFA needed to present the best possible image of the A-League and stories about financially embattled clubs went against that.

“That concerns me, particularly when Fox is trying to make some very important decisions,” he said.

“It makes me wonder whether, despite the fact salaries are being paid for, why are clubs still struggling to make ends meet. Maybe it says the minimum is too much for some clubs?”

In a period when the PFA are trying to argue for more money for the players, Bugno recalled the minimum player salary of $25,000 back in Season One and argued things have come a long way in 10 years.

In the FFA’s latest changes, the minimum annual salary for players aged over 21 has moved from $51,000 to $55,000.

“We’ve still got the issue that it’s the major owners who put the money into this game,” Bugno added.

“The day some of the major owners of these clubs decide enough is enough, what happens then? They’re being supported by the benevolence of some very important owners.”

Bugno also added he felt the changes to the marquee rules, whereby clubs are no longer restricted by nationality, wouldn’t lead to the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poor.

“Personally I doubt that anyone is going to go and get two Alessandro Del Pieros,” he said. 

PHOTO flashback: Sydney FC Chairman Walter Bugno answers questions about the new national soccer competition, the Hyundai A-League (Nov 1, 2004).