Pandemic has underlined just how financially broken the fragile Championship is

AT times it can be a handbrake on ambition, but the crisis English football is going through shows why financial fair play rules are needed.

Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri: Financial problems face club.

Its regulations are not fit for purpose, but that does not make the sentiment wrong.

Stopping the reckless gambling threatening some of our community institutions is essential because owners have shown they cannot be trusted to run clubs properly without it.

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The drastic damage the coronavirus threatens to so many businesses could not be legislated against but it has laid bare how fragile football’s finances are.

You would think the further down the pyramid, the smaller the incomes, the bigger the issues.

Whilst lower-league and non-league clubs are in great peril, the Championship, home to six of Yorkshire’s 10 league clubs, is the most messed up.

Being in the second tier allows you to dream. Play-offs put the Premier League within reach for the majority.

With promotion reckoned to be worth around £170m, and nine-figure sums due every year, the temptation to take a risk to reach it is obvious, the deterrent not strong enough.

On Thursday, Leeds United published their 2018-19 accounts. Last season saw them push their wage bill up £22m to bring in a world-class manager and the coaches and players he wanted, tipping them into a pre-tax loss of £21.4m.

Those behind the scenes at Elland Road argued they were doing what was necessary to win promotion. Sheffield United were second paying £19m last season, as the Whites (£46.2m) missed out in the play-offs.

Leeds’ wages were 94 per cent of income. UEFA recommends 70 per cent. Leeds are one of the better-run Championship clubs.

They are confident these figures will not cause them to break the league’s “profit and sustainability” rules.

By the Championship’s twisted logic, “only” losing £39m over three years represents prudence.

Ten of the 19 clubs to file 2018-19 accounts have ratios above 100 per cent, and it would be no surprise if those still to report added to that.

One is Bolton Wanderers, others are Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County, who in 2017-18 had the third and fourth-worst ratios of clubs still in the division. Without them, the Championship average was 104 per cent.

It was no surprise to hear the Owls, Derby and Reading (226 per cent of 2018-19 income on wages) named amongst the clubs most under threat if they cannot agree pay cuts of deferrals with their players.

The Premier League and Football League have offered relief packages, but these only bring forward cash, robbing Peter to pay Peter a bit sooner.

The Football League is trying to clamp down, charging Sheffield Wednesday not with breaking the rules, but how they tried to circumvent them.

Charges against owner Dejphon Chansiri, finance director John Redgate and former chief executive Katrien Meire have been dropped, as has one against Birmingham City for breaking the business model set out after their last FFP breach. The League plans to appeal the independent decision in favour of the Blues.

Hull City had the Championship’s lowest 2018-19 wages-to-income ratio (51 per cent) and one of its lowest salary bills (£24.m), yet despite selling Jarrod Bowen for an initial £18m in January when it was too late to replace him, they have asked their players to take a 20 per cent pay cut.

Along with Hull, Rotherham United and Bristol City, Middlesbrough are one of just four Championship clubs to record a 2018-19 profit (£2m) but they needed to sell £33m-worth of players and £35m parachute payments to get there. They owe £29m in transfer fees and have no parachute this season.

The Championship is broken. It can only fixed by its clubs agreeing a more sensible framework and abiding by it.

There is probably more chance of a bailout from the tooth fairy.

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