Football League clubs will today pave the way for one of the most radical innovations of recent years when they vote whether to introduce quotas for home-grown players in the three divisions beneath the Premier League.
The far-reaching move, expected to be ratified by a large majority of clubs at an extraordinary general meeting at Derby's Pride Park, would almost certainly take effect next season following intensive lobbying by the Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney.
If approved, the quota would require clubs to include at least four players "registered domestically for a minimum of three seasons prior to their 21st birthday" in every 16-member match-day squad. It is understood there is general agreement for the quota limit to be raised even further in subsequent seasons.
Although the Premier League has resisted any kind of limitations on foreign players, Football League chairmen say a home-grown rule is essential to safeguard academies and reduce mounting salaries. To go through, today's vote needs a majority both of the 72 Football League clubs and of the Championship on its own.
The proposal is similar to the Uefa rule which insists on a minimum of eight domestically trained players in every 25-man squad competing in the Champions League and Uefa Cup. Unlike the "six-plus-five" policy championed by world governing body Fifa, the Uefa and Football League systems do not infringe EU laws on freedom of movement since they are based on age and length of player development rather than on nationality.
"Overseas players have made a major contribution to English football but there has to be a balance," said the Ipswich chairman, David Sheepshanks. "It is important we enthrone some protection of local identity."
Number of squad players who will have to be 'registered domestically for a minimum of three seasons prior to their 21st birthday'.