UEFA eyes squad limit of 25 players

STRASBOURG - UEFA is mulling plans to ask European leagues to limit clubs to a squad size of 25 players in a bid to curb football's massive wage bills, a senior official said on Tuesday. William Gaillard, special advisor to UEFA president Michel Platini, told Reuters that reducing the number of professional contracts across Europe had "become more favourable" than Platini's proposal to cap wages and transfer fees to help the game deal with the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years.

"There is no quick or easy solution to protect clubs from the global crisis ... but one proposal which seems to be gaining a consensus is limiting professional contracts like we have already in the Champions League," Gaillard said in an interview.

"But of course we would need to get the backing of the major clubs, but more importantly the leagues and associations running their domestic competitions."

Clubs are currently limited to squads of 25 players for UEFA's top tier Champions League competition and secondary UEFA Cup.

UEFA is currently in talks with the European Club Association -- representing 137 clubs such as Manchester United and Real Madrid --, Europe's top leagues and the players union FIFpro on ways to shield the game from the economic downturn.

The executive committee of soccer's European governing body agreed to setting up a special panel to police club finances, otherwise known as club financial control panel.

"This control body, at a UEFA level, will be composed of experts in the financial and legal field," UEFA said in a statement.

"The main task of the panel will be to conduct financial audits on clubs in order to ensure that licences were correctly awarded and it may further conduct spot-checks, and/or investigations, to ensure that the integrity rules are observed by the clubs."

Gaillard said Platini's plans to limit clubs to spending around 50 to 60 percent on wages and buying players "was still on the table, but has become more difficult".

"Salary caps is still there, but what form will it take? Europe is a complex place for soccer. We have promotion, relegation, European competitions. It is very difficult to find a one size fits all solution," he said.

The ECA and England's lucrative Premier League said they oppose salary caps.

Gaillard said a move to curb squads would help reduce massive wage bills at clubs and provide "a more level playing field".

"It would stop the hoarding of players by the richer and more powerful clubs. Players would be signed to play rather than to possibly prevent opponents from signing the player," Gaillard said.

UEFA said some of Europe's top clubs are paying some of the game's top professionals up to 200,000 euro a week.

Gaillard said UEFA had discussed a so-called U.S.-style luxury tax on transfers and players' salaries with the proceeds redirected to poorer clubs. But he said the plan "is not top of the agenda".

"People are less favourable to this idea," Gaillard said.

"It's about getting the right cocktail mix of measures. We are looking at an array of measures and building a consensus within the game on which ones to take."