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National League should have a salary cap says Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash

Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash has called for the National League to introduce a salary cap.

Speaking on the KM Football Podcast, he also questioned whether enough scrutiny was applied to people wanting to buy football clubs.

Ash also believes the rules controlling budgets need to be tightened.

Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps
Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps

He said: "One thing I’ve argued for on the National League board is salary caps.

"There are general financial caps in the top leagues but in the National League, there’s no salary cap.

"It was debated at the National League a couple of years ago, the idea of putting in a salary cap at a high level, a level probably commensurate with the top three or four clubs, so not to try to disqualify a club that’s got money and can sustainably demonstrate it’s got money from buying better players than smaller clubs, that’s not the problem, but to limit it so it equalises the playing field and there aren’t excesses and it reduces the risk of a Bury-type situation where a club gets promoted on the back of an expensive playing squad that the owner can’t pay and that could go bust and is in terrible straits the year after having been promoted.

"It’s just a joke. The administration of football in that respect has failed lamentably and who suffers? Ultimately it’s the fans."

Ash, who took over Maidstone alongside Terry Casey in 2010, criticised the FA for not doing enough to make sure clubs don't fall into the wrong hands.

He said: "We’re trying to make sure the club is sustainable and has infrastructure and assets and is run like a proper business.

"We’ve seen the damage that can be done to hundreds and thousands of people in a community - for whom a football club can be the most important thing in their lives – if a football club goes under. It’s a constant in football at National League level and also the Football League that clubs are mis-managed and suffer and a result they can drag whole communities down with them.

"That’s why it’s so important the right financial controls be put in. At the moment, I would say those controls are inadequate.

"It’s almost a joke, this fit and proper persons test, when you see the sorts of people that are running football clubs.

"In the National League, the most difficult situation to deal with last season was Gateshead and there needs to be some sort of control before ownership events occur in football clubs.

Maidstone playing against Salford, who went up via the play-offs Picture: Sean Aidan
Maidstone playing against Salford, who went up via the play-offs Picture: Sean Aidan

"The leagues now run football above the National League in a way which was never envisaged 30 years ago. The FA has lost all its power.

"People say there needs to be a regulator to come in and regulate these sort of things in football but that was the FA's original job. They haven’t done it well enough and they’ve faded.

"The FA run a few competitions which are, year-on-year, losing their shine and they’ve got their say on the National League but above that, they have no say at all. The leagues run things and they run things for themselves and their clubs.

"In the case of Bury, Bolton and Blackpool, they’re awful situations and the fans are paralysed. They can’t do anything about it and they see all these different charlatans come in and they’re either trying to asset-strip clubs or they’re just incompetent.

"If somebody’s incompetent with their ball bearing business, who cares? People can buy ball bearings somewhere else but in a football club, you’ve only got one. A football club is a monopoly in its town and it has that privilege and it has that responsibility.

Maidstone United co-owners Terry Casey and Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps
Maidstone United co-owners Terry Casey and Oliver Ash Picture: Martin Apps

"I would like to see, whether it’s the Football League or National League, imposing a rule that for clubs to be able to play in the league, no sale event can occur to anybody who’s had any criminal conviction or has ever been bankrupt. A football club is too important to allow that to happen."

Ash says Maidstone's budget is above average in National League South and while he's not against other clubs splashing the cash, he wants that spending to be better regulated.

"There need to be rules controlling clubs’ budgets better," he said.

"Leagues ask for clubs to give their budgets at the beginning of the season and they have to justify where the money’s coming from but there’s not enough demand on guaranteeing the budgets.

"If there’s a budget with a deficit of £1million in the National League, I’ve got no problem with that if the owner can guarantee, with proper bank guarantees or money deposits, that £1million will be there at the end of the season to pay for all the expenses that have been budgeted and that there are sanctions if that isn’t the case.

"If the money’s not there and it’s a simple letter of guarantee, it’s meaningless, so that needs to be tightened up."

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