Nigel Clough: Premier League can do more for EFL clubs' finances, says Burton boss

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough's Burton finished ninth in League One last season - their first back in the third tier after two seasons in the Championship

The Premier League should share more of its riches to boost the finances of English Football League teams, says Burton Albion boss Nigel Clough.

Burton's League One rivals Bury and Bolton have been deducted 12 points because of financial issues.

While the crisis has cost Bury their opening game, the Premier League remains the world's richest league.

"I genuinely think there is enough money in football at the moment to support everybody," Clough said.

"I know the Premier League have so much control because they control the purse strings, but also there is a responsibility to the rest of football.

"I know they do a lot anyway, but they've maybe go to do just a little bit more.

"There is an awful lot of money at the top of the game, but I think a little more could be spread out among the other teams.

"The wider thing of why clubs are struggling and being in this position is something people might just say is mismanagement, but others will say they could do with more help from the top level."

Just weeks before Bolton became the first EFL club since 2013 to go into administration, a report by Deloitte showed that combined revenues in the Premier League rose to a record £4.8bn in the 2017-18 season, with an operating profit of £867m.

In contrast, across the 72 clubs below the top flight, wage costs exceeded £1bn for the first time in history while revenues are yet to break that mark.

Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt has previously said EFL clubs are "like starving peasants begging for scraps" from the Premier League.

Those "scraps" are solidarity payments of about £4.5m from the top flight to Championship clubs, with £1m going to League One sides and about £800,000 to clubs in League Two.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, from the University of Liverpool, said the Premier League is "pretty generous" with what is funnelled down.

"The money that is coming from the Premier League is far greater than the EFL generates itself from its TV deal," said Maguire.

"Championship clubs get £4.5m from the Premier League and £2.5m from TV. Yes, the Premier League could be more generous but they are not going to be.

"The problem with EFL clubs is that they are living beyond their means."

Not just about 'fairness'

Harry Maguire in pre-season action for Leicester City
Leicester City's England international Harry Maguire, who Manchester United have made a £70m bid for, played much of his early career in the Championship and League One with Sheffield United, Hull and Wigan

Clough said it is "worth a discussion" with the Premier League for the sake of the English game's future, pointing to the 17 players in the national team that finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup who had previous experience playing in the EFL.

"When you look at some of the players at the highest level, so many have come through the Football League," Clough told BBC Sport.

"It is not even a fairness thing, it is a reality that if you look after the lower clubs they will produce players that will one day perform at a higher level and maybe on the international stage.

"Quite a few of the England side that are doing so well came through the Football League, so it is absolutely vital that we look after it."

Former Liverpool, Manchester City and Nottingham Forest forward Clough said the struggles of Bury and Bolton are a reality check for all clubs in the EFL.

"First of all, you feel sorry for the clubs that are in that position and the supporters and the staff - you hope they get out of it," he said.

"It highlights further that it is necessary to be financially responsible and live within your means."

Clough said Burton, who were one of just two clubs in the Championship in the 2017-18 season that recorded both an operating and pre-tax profit, were themselves "hit hard financially" after being relegated back to League One last summer.

"You have to survive as a football club," Clough said. "Over 20-odd years it has been a success story at Burton by doing that - by being able to pay everybody on time every month and not having to lay people off when you get relegated.

"We had a bad time after being relegated, the first one in the club's history, but we are recovering now and hopefully building again.

"Clubs get into trouble by gambling, then if you are not successful you can all of sudden be in a little debt and then it's 12-point deficits and no-one wants that."

Lessons learned by Luton

Mick Harford celebrates promotion with Luton fans
Mick Harford said Luton Town will need to be financially prudent on their return to the Championship

While Bury are absent from the opening weekend of the EFL, one of the competition's most heavily punished financial failures, Luton, are back in the Championship after a 12-year absence.

Financial problems at Kenilworth Road more than a decade ago led to crippling points deductions - 10 points in 2007-08 and 30 the season after - as they suffered three successive relegations to drop from the Championship and out of the EFL.

Mick Harford was in charge when they dropped into non-league, and as caretaker boss he guided them to the League One title last term.

"We would rather have not been there and would rather have not had the penalties. It took a long time for Luton to get back into the Football League," said Harford, who has returned to his old job as recruitment officer at the Hatters.

"Has it taught us a lesson? I would say so. We, me and especially the board and (chief executive) Gary Sweet, pride ourselves on doing things properly.

"We work within a strict and stringent budget so not to get in any financial problems again.

"You do look at them (Bury and Bolton) with sympathy, but you have to keep your house in order."

'Something has to change'

Stoke City assistant manager Paul Hart, who was in charge of Portsmouth just before they became the first and only Premier League club to go into administration in 2010, says "it is a difficult time" for clubs in the EFL.

"Anybody worth their salt in football worries about the future of football clubs," he said. "It is difficult to see it happen again.

"I was brought up in the North West, so Bolton and Bury are two clubs with great histories that have been around me since I was a young boy.

"It is very disappointing to see the plight that they face."

Hart said the troubles at both clubs, and issues which plagued his former club Notts County before a takeover last week, should prompt the EFL to "question" how they deal with takeovers and conduct the owners and directors test.

It was revealed earlier this month that Bury owner Steve Dale took control of the club without full approval from the league.

"Something has to change," Hart said. "I don't want to see players and supporters punished because of the mishandling of their football clubs by people who are not proficient enough.

"It would be great if a line in the sand was drawn and we adopted new processes."

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