Football: European wage cap considered by Uefa task force

UEFA, EUROPEAN football's ruling body, yesterday approved the creation of a task force which will examine a possible limit on players' salaries as part of a planned licensing system for Europe's clubs.

Speaking after a meeting of the executive committee in Geneva, Uefa's general secretary, Gerhard Aigner, said it was hoped to have the committee in place in the next two months. He gave no date for its conclusions. "This is going to be a complex matter," he said, adding: "If we thought it was impossible, we wouldn't try to do it. We have to now acknowledge this...excessive situation that we have in the transfer market and see where we can find tools to start and bring it down to normal standards."

The committee deferred action on a Uefa recommendation to introduce standardised deadlines for transfers from the 2001-02 season. The plan would mean players could only change clubs during two specific periods of the year.

Uefa will consider the system in October or November because a number of member associations, including the Football Association, requested more time for "internal consultations," Aigner said. The FA was not involved in drawing up the proposal.

Earlier this month Uefa proposed a first transfer period running from the last day of countries' domestic championships and ending on 15 September for domestic transfers. The deadline for international transfers would be 31 August. The year's second transfer window would run from 15 December to 31 January.

"We could at least to some degree assume that a team starting a competition will stay together for at least half the competition," Aigner said.

The new task force's main job will be to study a club licence system, under which the financial and technical conditions clubs have to fulfil to take part in European conditions would be laid out. It also would involve "youth education" requirements.

Aigner said that under the system Uefa "would like to control the volume of salaries to be paid by clubs to players" as part of the club budget. The intention was to "help us to create equal conditions for teams".

Aigner said he would be "thrilled to bits" if the European Union allowed Uefa to reintroduce limits on the number of foreign players. In December 1995, the European Court of Justice ruled that per-team limits on EU foreigners were illegal. "We would definitely go back... if we could, because it was the perfect tool to keep a balance on the field of play," Aigner said.

Uefa agreed also that money received from fines should benefit either charity or "players who need support".