JAMES SHIELD: Why United should not fear the financial reaper

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BE afraid. Be very afraid.

So say the doom merchants and mischief makers predicting that the Football League’s decision to adopt a new financial framework marks the end of Sheffield United as we know it.

Big names will leave and crowds are set to dwindle as a succession of players signed from Queens Head Casuals and Red Lion Rovers are drafted in to replace them.

Yes, change is one the way. But, in this instance, it is no bad thing.

Rather than fear the game’s new age of austerity, Bramall Lane should embrace it.

Because there is good reason to believe that, providing they devise and stick to a plan rather than change course when it suits, United stand to benefit.

Indeed, far from producing a level playing field, they could find themselves enjoying a distinct advantage over their League One rivals. Providing, of course, United can exploit those opportunities.

With the Salary Cost Management Protocol - which pegs wage expenditure to a portion of total turnover - underpinning the project, Danny Wilson’s side immediately have more room for manoeuvre in budgetary terms.

United averaged crowds of nearly 19,000 last season, more than all of the teams Wilson’s men will encounter this term.

Bigger gate receipts plus bigger merchandising streams multiplied by a bigger reputation equals more power to attract the talent.

Of which there is plenty in the bottom two divisions as United have discovered, albeit rarely to their cost, since relegation.

Nevertheless, there are dangers and the journey towards prudence and probity unlikely to be smooth.

Rugby league is perhaps the only other high-profile English sport to implement measures similar to those foisted on the governing body’s member clubs.

Devotees will testify that there have been winners, losers and arguably even a downturn in quality as previously leading franchises are sucked into the morass.

Some, though, have prospered. Invariably those with the biggest support and marketing opportunities.

In each of the previous 14 seasons, only five teams have won the Super League while the same number have contested the ensuing Grand Final.

The message is clear. By combining sound business practise with an imaginative approach, United should view these measures as a chance to enhance, not diminish, their clout.

One of United’s matches has been changed to avoid a fixture clash with Everton. Sheffield Wednesday’s calendar has been altered because of a university freshers’ fair.

Next week, both are told to change their diaries because the opposition chairman fancies a night out with the missus.