New regulations that would change the face of English football are being debated by the 20 Premier League clubs, a majority of whom are understood to favour far greater financial controls, especially on wages.
The measures would bring a degree of sanity to a world in which barely one-third of the country's top clubs manage to make a profit despite receiving huge sums from broadcasting and commercial activities. One effect that advocates of change hope for would be to prevent a mega-rich owner like those at Chelsea and Manchester City from buying success by paying inflated sums in wages and transfer fees.
There is little support for the salary cap proposed by Wigan's Dave Whelan, which is regarded as impractical if not illegal, but other measures discussed include an annual limit on wage rises and a ceiling on the percentage of income spent on salaries. The latter plan is supported by West Ham's David Gold, who says: "Wage capping is almost communism, that's abhorrent. Most Premier League clubs support Uefa's Financial Fair Play, but I think what clubs want is something that works alongside that to stop the ever upward spiralling wages."
In the Football League, clubs now face a transfer embargo if they spend more than 55 per cent (in League Two) or 65 per cent (League One) of their income on salaries. Championship clubs will be subject to a form of Financial Fair Play and face fines for not complying from 2014.
On the latest available figures, from the 2010-11 season, only seven Premier League clubs – Arsenal, Fulham, Manchester United, Newcastle, Tottenham, West Bromwich Albion and (relegated) Wolves – made a profit. Another seven, including Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, made such large losses they would have failed the Financial Fair Play rules being introduced by Uefa. That is despite each of the 20 clubs making a minimum of £39m a season from broadcasting alone.
A Premier League spokesman said yesterday: "Income is rising while debt is falling and it's from this position of strength that the 20 clubs are currently discussing what further financial regulation might look like. At least 14 clubs will have to agree before anything's implemented."