Move to cut back players' wages

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The Independent Football

Ministers are engaged in secret talks with football chiefs over plans to end a crazy spiral in earnings which is threatening to push some of England's famous clubs into financial ruin.

The Independent on Sunday has learned that senior figures in the Football Association have discussed a cap on players' salaries in crisis talks with club chairmen and ministers.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is expected to come under pressure to offer tax breaks to clubs in crisis to keep open community sports schemes. But imposing an overall maximum limit on club pay bills is emerging as the most likely way out of the financial chaos which has been brought to a head by ITV Digital's repudiation of its £315m deal to televise matches in the Nationwide League.

The league is threatening legal action against the heads of the television companies. However, football chiefs and ministers believe the FA must end the madness of inflated salaries which has seen players pocketing £20,000 a week, even though in their lower divisions clubs are in the red.

A senior Whitehall source said the soaring levels of players' wages were like the rise in shares before the crash. "It's gone crazy and it's time to say to the players the party's over," the source said.

Critics warned salary capping for the lower divisions will be a cheats' charter, but rugby bosses told the IoS it had saved professional rugby from financial ruin when it was introduced four years ago.