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Feb 10, 2009

Clubs quash salary cap but mull player quota

Premier League clubs have restated their opposition to the introduction of a salary cap and are considering a quota for a minimum number of 'homegrown' players in a bid to stave-off attempts to impose spending controls.

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry revealed on Tuesday that the 20 clubs discussed the move at a meeting last week and there was consensus over the general principle of homegrown players.

The move comes as the European Clubs' Association, of which Parry is a board member, shelved a proposal for clubs in UEFA competitions to be limited to spending a maximum of 50% of their turnover on wages.

ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a strong supporter of the proposal, said: "When it came to cost control the general impression was it was no simple task to find a solution.''

Bayern Munich chairman Rummenigge said the clubs would instead focus on working with European soccer's governing body UEFA as it looks to tighten its existing licensing system.

UEFA lays down 34 criteria, covering issues like audited accounts and the settlement of debts, which clubs have to meet or face possible exclusion from European competition.

''A clear majority of our members were in favour of financial fair-play via the licensing system so we will prefer that route for now and leave cost control for the future,'' said Rummenigge.

Clubs in the Champions League and UEFA Cup are already obliged to have eight homegrown players - of any nationality, but who have spent three years under the age of 21 at the club - in their 25-man squads.

Parry, speaking in Geneva, said: ''It was discussed at the Premier League last week after being put up by the Premier League board. We have not accepted a figure, just the principle that some minimum limit of homegrown players makes sense.

''For those of us in the Champions League we could introduce it now and it wouldn't be an issue. Indeed the Premier League did produce an analysis which showed that actually a lot of the clubs would not have too much difficult complying.

''It will certainly be given more consideration, it's a way off being decided but it was certainly a constructive discussion.''

The Football League have already agreed that from next season at least four out of the 16 players in matchday squads have to come through the ranks of clubs in England and Wales.

Other proposals being considered by the Premier League include giving financial incentives to clubs to use academy products, but the 'homegrown' rule looks the most likely. It will also allow clubs to argue they will bring more players through the ranks rather than spending big on established stars.

Parry said the Premier League's discussions have come in response to pressure from the Government, UEFA president Michel Platini and FA chairman Lord Triesman for top-flight clubs to create a more level playing field and reduce debt.

He added: ''We are aware that there is concern at Government and FA level and what we have to do is engage in that debate and be part of the solution. They want to see something, as does Michel Platini, so it's about not being completely negative and isolationist about those ideas that do have merit and perhaps being in step with Europe rather than being completely out of step.''

The clubs will return to the issue at their summer meeting in June when a range of options on encouraging youth players will be put to chairmen.

Parry said that the 93 member clubs of the ECA who turned up for Tuesday's general assembly viewed a 50% turnover-wages limit as a ''blunt instrument''.

He said: ''The debate on should we just have a simple 50% limit on turnover threw up all sorts of issues such as does that mean the big clubs stay big and the small ones never have a chance to catch up?

''Does it mean that clubs in countries with different tax regimes suffer? A lot of clubs felt it is a bit of a blunt instrument and maybe the debate over young players is a better approach. What we in England don't want to see is a dumbing down and be penalised for the success we have achieved.''

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