The 2009-10 Football League season will see the introduction of seven substitutes as standard for all League matches. The rule, which had been applied to all FA Cup and Carling Cup matches last season, will now be extended to cover all Football League games. We would assume this also includes the Johnstone's Paint Trophy given that this competition is also administered by the Football League, although the official statement does not make this clear. As per current rules only three substitutions can be made out of any seven named on the teamsheet.
The changes, which were agreed at the League's AGM in Portugal last weekend, also include the establishment of new rules concerning tax debts, covered on this site on May 21st, aimed at preventing clubs from falling into administration carrying significant debts to HMRC (aka the Taxman).
A League statement says that "once necessary practical arrangements have been made, any club that falls behind with its employee related payments to HMRC will be subject to a transfer embargo until such time the debt is cleared". It's not clear as yet how the League will deal with any legacy debt that may have accrued over the years, or exactly how much of a backlog can be accrued before an embargo kicks in.
The Football League's Member Clubs have also given permission for the Football League to monitor their tax affairs directly with HMRC, overcoming an obstacle where the League's governing body were unable to directly view any disputes with HMRC due to Data Protection laws. However, there's no mention as yet as to how they would intervene, with the exception of the above transfer embargo clause.
The League's end goal is two-fold. One is to provide an "early warning system" to allow issues to be raised with respect to overspending clubs before they fall into administration. The second goal is to reduce each club's tax liability to a level where HMRC cannot influence the outcome of a CVA, which has led to several clubs recently incurring a second points penalty when trying to exit administration. When the overall tax debts of a club exceed 25 percent of its total debts, HMRC are able to block all CVA proposals, thus preventing the club from coming out of administration in accordance with Football League rules, and so the League hope that these changes will make it harder for this scenario to materialise.
We had hoped to see harsher penalties for clubs entering administration, with Leyton Orient Chairman Barry Hearn suggesting that he would like to see such clubs forcibly relegated as punishment for overspending. However, as yet there is no suggestion that made it to the table as a formal proposal. Similarly, there are no signs that Oldham Athletic and Carlisle United's gambits for regionalised divisions got any further than the Portuguese hotel bars.
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