Uefa looks to salary cap

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The Independent Football

The first tentative moves towards a European salary cap were made yesterday when Uefa announced that clubs wishing to take part in its competitions would have to be licensed.

The first tentative moves towards a European salary cap were made yesterday when Uefa announced that clubs wishing to take part in its competitions would have to be licensed.

The licences, due to be introduced in 2004, are designed primarily to force clubs to confront the spiralling levels of debt within the game which has hit Italy's Serie A most heavily; Fiorentina are in administration while Milan's debts are estimated at £100m. Real Madrid, who until two years ago owed more than £150m, have overcome their financial crisis by the sale of their training ground and lucrative image-rights deals with the likes of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane.

Clubs entering the Champions' League and the Uefa Cup would have to provide audited accounts, have their stadiums certified, and be able to prove they have no overdue transfer payments and have paid wages on time. There will also be requirements to run a minimum of three youth teams and have a management structure with a head coach, general manager and finance director.

From 2006, they will have to prove an ability to trade solvently, although Uefa's spokesman, Mike Lee, stated this did not mean a bar on clubs who owe significant sums of money such as Chelsea, whose debts have been put as high as £97m. The real target would be organisations such as Fiorentina, whose financial future cannot be guaranteed from one season to the next.

Uefa's chief executive, Gerhart Aigner, admitted yesterday that a licensing system was a prerequisite if salary caps were to be introduced across Europe to prevent the huge sums generated by television deals hemorrhaging into the pockets of players and agents.

"The clubs are very keen to go in this direction," he said. "A salary cap may be one of the features needed to give stability to our competitions. Without a licensing scheme, it is probably impossible and even with one it is still not an easy thing to do."

However, the Premiership's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, doubted that a salary cap, even if allowed by the restraint-of-trade laws, could be imposed. "The clubs would look at anything but how do you pitch it? In the Premier League we have clubs with turnovers ranging from £30-£130m."

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