Clubs with excessive debt could face being thrown out of the Champions League and UEFA Cup, UEFA general secretary David Taylor said today.
A working party will hold its first meeting at the Swiss headquarters of European football's governing body on Monday to come up with fresh ways to put the squeeze on clubs who are succeeding on borrowed money.
Taylor suggested that theoretically even Europe's biggest clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United - both heavily in debt - could be thrown out.
''We cannot let things stay as they are,'' Taylor told the Leaders in Football conference in London.
''There would be forms of communication, even warnings, even reprimands before one would ever get to a situation of exclusion but it's absolutely possible. That is the ultimate sanction.
''In some countries like Germany and Switzerland, stronger requirements are put on clubs in terms of bank guarantees and having no negative equity. These are the models we have to look at.''
Taylor said UEFA wanted to promote ''financial fair play'' and not allow clubs to build up mountains of debt. Although no time frame for upgrading UEFA's club licensing system was given, he said the time had come for further action.
Taylor's remarks came 24 hours after Football Association chairman Lord Triesman revealed English football clubs had amassed a debt of £3billion, and that last season's top four Premier League teams accounted for a third of that.
Significantly, all four reached the quarter-finals of last season's Champions League.
UEFA's current club licence is issued annually in May and Taylor said this would now have to be reviewed in the light of serious overspending, perhaps copying the French model which, he said ''looks at clubs over a period of time and has a continuous assessment of financial stability''.