League planning salary cap in Championship

The Football League has a "strategic ambition" to introduce a salary cap in the Championship and has already been told by some of its biggest clubs that they would welcome it.

The ground-breaking move will be among issues discussed at the annual meeting of the league's 72 club chairmen on 6 June, where a significant guest will be Jose Luis Arnaut, the man who headed the Europe-wide review of football that was published on Tuesday and who recommended salary-capping across the game.

Arnaut's report, which also recommended quotas for home-grown players amid a raft of measures to make football more competitive, is the subject of negative briefings, including in some political circles, where any EU intervention in football is seen as negative, and by major clubs, which resent any moves to damage a supremacy based on money.

Arnaut is known to admire the Football League's work in a number of areas - including transparency on payments to agents, and encouraging financial prudence - and welcomed a League invitation to the meeting in Albufeira in Portugal, his home country.

The League, the best attended in Europe in terms of total ticket sales of 16.2m for its three divisions, is also viewed as carrying clout for new initiatives. It may trail behind the financial powerhouse of the Premiership but is the sixth biggest overall in turnover.

The League already operates a salary cap in Leagues One and Two, with clubs prevented from spending more than 75 per cent of their income on all club wages, or more than 60 per cent on playing salaries. It is not legally binding but has been in place for two years, during which time no club has exceeded the cap. The 2005-06 season was the first campaign in almost a decade when not a single League club entered financial administration.

The League did not introduce a salary cap for the Championship because the 24 clubs did not want it. Some remain opposed, but the League's chairman, Sir Brian Mawhinney, is committed to the principle and has been encouraged that an increasing number of chairmen, including at some of the largest Championship clubs, are coming round to the idea.

Sheffield United's chairman, Terry Robinson, whose club will join the Premiership this summer, was the latest to go public in his support yesterday. "A salary cap would be good for us because it would enable us to attract an even better quality of player... It's something most people would be pleased to see, but it would have to be football-wide because otherwise players could simply go to other countries."

No Championship cap can or will be in place for 2006-07, but senior League figures are not ruling it out within the next couple of years. A cap need not necessarily be based solely on turnover. A Football League survey of 43,000 supporters in April found 87 per cent of fans in favour of some kind of cap.

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