The world’s original league football competition – the npower Football League - returns this weekend for its 114th season and is set to deliver 1,671 matches and ten months of competitive league football in towns and cities throughout the country.
In welcoming the start of the new league season, Football League Chairman, Greg Clarke, said: “Following a truly memorable summer of sport, I’m sure football supporters are now keenly anticipating the start of a new league season. Once again, it’s going to be a fascinating campaign with no shortage of thrilling matches, great goals and all the usual debate and controversy.
“It is particularly encouraging that the new season begins with our clubs having made a new commitment to fair play both on and off the field. I believe our new Financial Fair Play regulations will be a significant step towards creating a sustainable financial future for our clubs. I am also delighted that clubs have made a new commitment to playing matches in a sporting manner.
"Professional football should be tough and competitive, but it should also be played with respect for your opponent, the game itself and, most importantly, the fans that have paid to watch.”
The new season will see a number of changes on and off the pitch following a number of recent decisions by clubs:
1. Financial Fair Play
The Football League has introduced Financial Fair Play regulations in all three of its divisions from the beginning of the 2012/13 season. The new rules are intended to exert greater control over club expenditure and each division has been given the flexibility to determine its own specific approach.
Financial Fair Play (FFP) in the Championship will require clubs to stay within defined limits on losses and shareholder equity investment that will reduce significantly across five seasons.
The 2012/13 season will be a transition period with no sanctions being applicable but with clubs aiming to keep their losses to within £12m (excluding certain areas of club infrastructure such as community and youth development programmes) of which £8m can be funded through shareholder equity investment.
This will reduce to £5m by 2015/16, £3m of which can be funded by shareholders. Sanctions will take effect from the 2013/14 reporting period.
Going forward, each club will be required to provide annual accounts to The Football League by December 1, covering the previous playing season. Failure to stay within the defined limits will lead to the imposition of sanctions, depending on whether the club was ultimately promoted to the Premier League, remained in the Championship or was relegated to League 1.
• Clubs promoted to the Premier League will have to pay a ‘Fair Play Tax’ on the excess by which they failed to fulfil the Fair Play requirement ranging from 1% on the first £100,000 to 100% on anything over £10m. Any proceeds will be distributed equally amongst those clubs that complied with the FFP regulations for the season in question.
• Clubs remaining in the Championship will be subject to a transfer embargo until they are able to lodge financial information to demonstrate they comply with the FFP regulations (either for the previous reporting period or a future reporting period).
• Clubs relegated to League 1 will not be entitled to any payout derived from the Fair Play Tax and will be required to comply with the FFP rules in operation in that division.
Clubs relegated from the Premier League will not be subject to sanctions in their first season in the Championship, as long as they have met their financial obligations under Premier League regulations. They would, however, be subject to the potential of a Fair Play Tax if they achieved promotion in the first season in the Championship whilst not complying with the FFP regulations.
• Leagues 1 and 2:
League 1 and League 2, clubs have chosen to implement the Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) that limits spending on total player wages to a proportion of each club’s turnover, with clubs providing budgetary information to The League at the beginning of the season that is updated as the campaign progresses.
Any club that is deemed to have breached the permitted spending threshold will be subject to a transfer embargo. Wherever possible, The League will seek to tackle the issue ‘at source’ by refusing player registrations that take clubs beyond the threshold.
In League 1 the SCMP threshold will operate at 65% of turnover and in League 2, where it has operated since 2004/05, it will be 55%.
2. Sporting Conduct
At their Summer Conference in June, Football League clubs voted unanimously to support proposals aimed at encouraging sportsmanship and curbing gamesmanship in matches.
The proposals, which were put forward by Exeter City Chairman, Edward Chorlton, had three central themes:
• Gamesmanship has no place in our game. Football League matches should be played within a culture of sportsmanship not gamesmanship.
• Clubs will undertake to instruct managers, coaches and players accordingly - in particular to discourage actions which bring the game's reputation into disrepute, such as:
- showing disrespect to match officials; and/or
- those actions that undermine a sporting culture including diving/simulation, time wasting and feigning injury.
• In the first year of this initiative, The League will request that referees support this initiative by taking more robust action, particularly in the following situations:
- obstructing the quick taking of free-kicks
- stealing ground at throw-ins.
3. Managers’ qualifications
League clubs have agreed to the introduction of compulsory coaching qualifications for all Football League managers.
Managers in the Championship must hold a minimum of the UEFA ‘A Licence’ and be working towards completing the UEFA ‘Pro-Licence’ within three years of appointment.
Managers in League 1 and League 2 must hold a minimum of the UEFA ‘B Licence’ and be working towards completing the UEFA ‘A Licence’ within three years of appointment.
4. New Matchball
All Football League matches will feature a new matchball this season after Mitre, official football suppliers of The Football League, unveiled its latest professional matchball – the Delta V12.
The most accurate ball ever designed by Mitre, the Delta V12 comprises identical panels made of micro fibre material to guarantee unrivalled symmetry. The exclusive 12 panel construction offers enhanced aerodynamics to optimise shot accuracy, without sacrificing speed or power.
Launched exclusively across all 2012/13 npower Football League and Capital One Cup fixtures, each ball's graphic design is unique; with every one of the 72 Football League clubs having their own customised match balls printed with club colours and badge.
Clubs will be permitted to name 7 substitutes, of which 3 may enter the field of play.
6. Official Charity Partnership – Prostate Cancer UK
Prostate Cancer UK has been selected as the Official Charity Partner of The Football League for the 2012/13 season.
Chosen by fans, clubs and Football League staff following a vote on The Football League website, Prostate Cancer UK will benefit from unrivalled exposure across The League’s 72 member clubs throughout the season, with a wide range of fundraising activity and awareness building initiatives.