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Football: Plan to cap club wage bills

WAGE-CAPPING may be introduced into English football next season in an effort to save an increasing number of threatened lower-division clubs from financial ruin. The move is likely to start on an experimental basis in the Third Division and could be extended if successful.

Although there will be no fixed maximum that an individual will be able to earn - that would be illegal and the proposed caps will be voluntary - clubs' overall salary bills will be linked to turnover, which will effectively lead to cuts in pay for some players.

Average Third Division salaries of pounds 25,000 - rising to pounds 50,000 with bonuses - are small when compared with Premiership levels, but are rising unsustainably. Packages of between pounds 50,000 and pounds 70,000 are not uncommon in the league's lowest division, and the new plan will seek to introduce deflation and stability. Any club breaking the caps will be liable to sanctions, including fines.

The proposals, which have the backing of the Football League, are being put forward by Leyton Orient's Barry Hearn, who is chair of the Third Division Chairmen's Committee. The plans will be put to Third Division clubs in the New Year and, if accepted, could be in place in the lowest division of the Nationwide League by next summer.

"We're looking at proposals where wages would be capped to a percentage of club turnover, with 60 per cent the figure being discussed," said Hearn, who added that wage inflation is the main threat to clubs with financial problems. The new proposal may set an absolute limit on total squad pay to make it more equitable. The average turnover in the Third Division is around pounds 1m and wage levels of 60 per cent of that are considered sustainable.

Football's fight for survival, page 22