Another week, another crazy signing!
Aaron Hayden’s arrival from Carlisle, like the previous capture of Paul Mullin, has sent shock waves around the lower divisions of the Football League. Once again, a player who has succeeded in the division above us, who is looking to take a next step up the ladder, has decided that we’re the best option for their career progression.
Obviously, we’re now able to offer good wages, and we shouldn’t forget that. Being a League Two player is a short career which is not particularly well remunerated, so it would be daft to ignore the chance to sign an attractive contract.
However, despite what some might suggest, ambitious players will be more interested in signing for a club that can offer them the best chance of getting as high in the game as possible. It’s so exciting that Wrexham are successfully arguing that dropping down to the National League with us is the progressive option.
As Phil Parkinson said earlier in the Summer, we have to be patient if we’re hoping to snag the sort of players we want to sign. The “one step backwards, two steps forward” argument might not be the easiest to make, and players will need a bit of time to consider it. However, the more players in their position that sign for us, the easier it will be for similar targets to make that decision.
Those shock waves I mentioned before have certainly sparked a response online. Most memorable was a video by an angry Carlisle fan, who complained about Hayden being poached by “oil money” Wrexham.
There is an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” called “The Gang Solve the Gas Crisis” where Rob McElhenny’s character tries to make a financial killing by selling petrol door-to-door, but I don’t think that’s how we funded any of our signings!
It’s understandable that our sudden wealth has sparked incoherent rage from fans of other clubs – especially those we sign players from. It’s no different to how we’ve felt in the past when the likes of Fleetwood, Crawley, Salford and Forest Green have leap-frogged us into the Football League.
However, there’s a fundamental difference between what we’re doing and how Paris St Germain are able to carry the wages of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe in a country with high tax rates for the rich! We’re looking to make ourselves self-sustainable, so we can grow organically as we climb the divisions and be able to pull off such transfer coups naturally.
Whether we go up or not this season, we’ll have to operate within some sort of financial fair play structure for the first time in our history next season: the Football League introduced such a system after we were relegated from League Two; and the National League will be introducing a salary cap next season.
The precise nature of the restrictions in either division aren’t set in stone yet. The extent to which the Football League’s rules will reach are subject to legal challenge, and as I’ve previously mentioned there’s no decision yet as to whether the National League will introduce a hard or soft salary cap. Clearly, whatever rules we have to operate under next season, the drive to become increasingly self-sufficient is an absolute priority.
So far, that’s gone well. The image of this summer has been a queue round the block of student accommodation, whether the product is season tickets or new kit. Throw in the spectacular world-wide brands which are clamouring to sponsor us, and we’re well on the way to paying our own way. It’s a smart way to do business: we have capitol, but rather than burn through our investment, we’re using the profile of our owners to raise funds.
As McElhenney’s character in “Always Sunny” suggests, “We just need to adjust our business model to meet the needs of a changing market…we’ve got to make some money in the short term”. Admittedly, he’s talking about returning unleaded to the petrol station he bought it from because he’s realised that driving to where they’re storing the fuel is wasteful, as is syphoning the petrol into bins by mouth!
Admittedly, he’s not a character who is particularly wise: he tries to attract customers by breathing fire on the pavement, surrounded by bins full of petrol! That’s burning through your investment in a completely different manner!
Fortunately, in real life McElhenney is rather more shrewd, and we’re reaping the benefit. We might have missed out on Messi, but we’re still getting a good return on our “oil money”!