Carlisle United: John Nixon fears for football structure future

John Nixon

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Carlisle United's first - and last - promotion to the top flight of English football, under the management of Alan Ashman.

The Cumbrians even topped the old First Division after three games with players such as Bill Green, Chris Balderstone and Hugh McIlmoyle in their squad.

Although relegated that same season, it remains a high spot in their history, and if the fears of managing director John Nixon are realised, it will be a feat that will never be achieved again.

"There's an awful lot of cash going into the very top level of the game, to the Premier League," Nixon told BBC Late Kick Off.

"They have whip hand, whether it's going through youth football or genuine football, and the vast majority of that is coming down through parachute payments. The amount of money that is coming in through worldwide deals is unbalancing the whole structure of football in England.

"It sounds like the Premier League are in a position that they're trying to run English football, it could drive us toward regional and part-time football."

while foreign contracts are expected to add a further £1bn to that pool of cash.

However, just £62.7m of that figure is expected to be split throughout the Football League in solidarity payments over the same period, if agreed by Premier League clubs at next month's meeting.

In contrast, £23m will be paid out to each club relegated from the top flight in their first season outside of the Premier League, as part of the parachute payment system.

"It will take a team like Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday or Derby County 25 years of solidarity payments to get the same as what say Queens Park Rangers would get if they came down into the Championship in four years," Nixon added.

"They'll struggle to compete and that affects us, because we have an aspiration to get into the Championship.

"Under the current scheme we'd receive £2.3m [a year] but we'd be trying to compete with a team like QPR say, or Reading, who have £23m of income. You're not going to compete."

The disparity of teams in the Championship has to some extent been highlighted by the success of clubs that have come down from the Premier League and then gone on to achieve promotion.

Reading and West Ham were successful in bouncing back last term, as were Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion two years previously, and Wolves and Birmingham City the year before that.

And clubs who do not quite make it are often heavily involved in promotion bids, with Birmingham and Blackpool reaching the play-offs last season, with Middlesbrough and Hull just missing out while receiving their slice of the Premier League fortune.

Of course clubs without such resources, including Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford and Crystal Palace, have shown it is possible to be competitive but the financial advantage for those receiving parachute payments is clear, particularly with the increased TV deal further weighting in favour of those clubs dropping into the second tier.

"Once you get into the Championship, every team has to have that ambition to get to that holy grail. Even Blackpool and Burnley did it once, they've been there, tasted it and they're now living on four years of pots of money," Nixon added.

"A team that comes down under the current proposals this season has a guaranteed income of nearly £60m over four years."

Whatever his concerns over the future, Nixon concedes that Carlisle's dependency on such payments means there is little chance of Football League clubs bucking the trend, particularly in such a difficult financial climate.

"The Premier League have almost turned us into drug addicts," Nixon added.

"They gave us some money six years ago, between £50,000 and £150,000 over a three-year period, and three years ago they upped it to £320,000 but there were strings attached.

"We couldn't afford to say no and this time round they'll give us a bit more and I think we'll say yes again.

"That's the problem we've got ourselves into, we do rely on all our streams of money and that's one of those streams."

BBC Late Kick Off in the North East and Cumbria covers all six professional clubs across the region as well as the big stories in non-league football.

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