Ministers agree proposal to limit clubs' spending

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Major reforms of European football have moved a step closer after sports ministers agreed to a raft of proposals including controls on how much clubs can pay for players' wages and transfers.

The Independent Sports Review, the report by the former Portuguese minister Jose Luis Arnaut that contains the proposals, is to become a key part of a European Commission white paper on sport.

Arnaut's review calls for rules to prevent billionaire owners "buying up all the best players", and says that salary controls should not limit what an individual player can earn but curb the total amount clubs can spend on wages.

The latest move was agreed by a meeting of 25 European sports ministers in Brussels yesterday, and six ministers - including Britain's Richard Caborn - will form a working group to advise on the drafting of the new legislation.

The International Olympic Committee have also been successful in their efforts to ensure that new laws will help grassroots and community sport as well as tackle commercial sport.

Caborn has been criticised by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore for trying to increase government influence over sport, and the pair will have a meeting on the issue in February. The sports minister has also agreed to meetings with G14, the grouping of elite European clubs, and he will meet the European leagues in January.

On the proposal that clubs' spending on salaries should be limited to a proportion of their turnover, Scudamore said: "[This] actually locks in an advantage to the big clubs, because they have the highest turnover. It would also mean that the likes of Wigan, Fulham and Middlesbrough would probably not be in the Premier League. Is this what we really want?"

Issues also previously identified by Arnaut as needing attention include some form of limit on foreign players and the urgent need to tackle illegal gambling, money laundering, racism and the trafficking of young players.

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