An open letter from the PFA to EFL clubs

Charlton Athletic

To: All Championship Clubs, League One Clubs, League Two Clubs and all EFL Players

With copy to: Mr Trevor Birch, chief executive of the English Football League (EFL)

Dear all,

Re: Squad size limits in the Championship, League One and League Two 

As you know, the PFA was recently required to take hard salary caps to arbitration, where the independent Panel unanimously confirmed that the introduction of the salary cap without the prior agreement of the Premier League, the FA and the PFA (acting through the PFNCC) was in breach of the legally binding PFNCC constitution.

Following the logic of the panel’s decision in the salary caps case, the PFA expected the EFL to remove the squad size limits (25 for the Championship, and as from next season, 20 for Leagues One and Two) because these limits were also introduced without consultation or the agreement required from the members of the PFNCC. 

Unfortunately, the EFL is refusing to withdraw the squad size limits. Frustrating as this is, unless another solution can be found, the PFA must now therefore consider commencing a further arbitration claim and/or bringing other legal claims. This would cause a further needless waste of legal costs, money that ultimately the clubs themselves have to pay if the EFL is again unsuccessful.

Our Proposal

To avoid further legal costs and uncertainty for next season, the PFA has proposed to the EFL a temporary limit of 25 players across all EFL leagues, pending a proper discussion of the underlying issues and the best way to resolve them.

The EFL has rejected our proposal but we believe there exists a majority of clubs in the EFL that would prefer to have stability and certainty for next season instead of suffering the inevitable uncertainty that another challenge through arbitration or the courts brings.

We believe there are very important issues that need to be considered, including:

  • It is not fair to impose a squad size limit of 20 for Leagues One and Two in a 46 match league. The demands of the EFL season mean that limiting squad sizes increases the risk of injury to players; 
  • Squad size limits have nothing to do with the current pandemic: all clubs should be free to set their own squad size, large or small, taking account of their own economic circumstances;
  • Clubs relegated from the Championship will be forced to honour multi-year contracts to players who are no longer able to play due to reduced squad sizes;
  • The Premier League has a squad size limit for its own unique reasons, nothing to do with clubs in the lower leagues;

Under the Articles of Association of the EFL (see Article 10) it is open to the clubs to request a vote on the PFA’s proposal, pending further discussion and agreement. We urge clubs to engage with the EFL and if necessary to request a vote on this proposal, as an alternative to the PFA having to assert its rights through PFNCC and then likely the courts or arbitration again.

We trust that clubs and players alike see that the PFA intends to be part of the longer-term solution to current challenges. The PFA is certainly not the problem. Our door always remains open for those who wish to discuss a fair and appropriate way forward, in the same way that we never objected to squad size limits for the Premier League, or financial controls for clubs in lower leagues in the form of SCMP.

We intend to host an open discussion about squad size limits in the near future. We hope you will join us, and if you would like details, please contact the PFA.

Yours faithfully,

Gordon Taylor and the Players’ Board of the Professional Footballers’ Association