League football returns to towns and cities across the country this weekend as the 113th season of the npower Football League swings into action with 1,671 matches of competitive league football set to span the next ten action-packed months.
In welcoming the start of the new season, Football League Chairman Greg Clarke said: "The 2011/12 npower Football League season is sure to be yet another enthralling campaign packed with hard fought, entertaining football, as well as all the usual debate and controversy.
"As ever, optimism is high at clubs throughout The League that this will be their year and supporters everywhere can't wait to get things under way."
The new season will see a number of changes on and off the pitch following decisions made by clubs at The League's AGM in June and subsequent EGM in July:
1. Financial Fair Play
Football League clubs have agreed to adopt UEFA's Financial Fair Play framework.
This will see clubs in League 1 and League 2 operating the Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP), which has been in use in the latter division since 2002/03. The SCMP limits spending on total player wages to a proportion of each club's turnover.
For 2011/12, League 2 clubs have reduced the permitted base spending threshold to 55% of turnover from the previous 60% with sanctions applying (in the form of transfer embargoes).
For League 1 clubs it will be a transitional season with clubs setting a 75% of turnover target for player salaries but with no sanctions being applicable. This threshold will reduce to 65% in 2012/13 and 60% in 2013/14 with sanctions applying in both seasons.
Championship clubs are currently engaged in discussions about a new break-even financial model for The League's flagship competition.
2. Home Grown Players
The threshold of home grown players that clubs must include in their matchday squad has increased to six out of 16 (from four out of 18). To qualify as home grown players must have played in the domestic system for at least three seasons prior to their 21st birthday (or end of season in which the player turns 21).
This rule change is designed to ensure that there are first team opportunities available to domestically produced playing talent.
3. Transfer Levy
The Football League has introduced a new 1% levy on transfer spending with all monies raise being used to fund the development of young players at Football League clubs. It is anticipated that the new levy will raise approximately £600,000 per season.
League clubs have chosen to reduce the number of substitutes that can be named on the teamsheet from seven to five. Clubs will be permitted to name seven substitutes in the Carling Cup and FA Cup and will continue to nominate five in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
5. 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 (or 1st August 2015, whichever is later).
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 (or 1st August 2015, whichever is later).
The new regulations will take effect from the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
Clubs will no longer be permitted to use the multi-ball system in Football League competitions.
7. Official Charity Partnership - Help the Hospices
Help the Hospices has been selected as the Official Charity Partner of The Football League for the 2011/12 season. As the national charity for hospice care, Help the Hospices represents and supports local hospices, and champions the very best care for anyone facing the end of their life.
Chosen by fans following a public vote on The Football League website, Help the Hospices 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.
To view the Regulations of The Football League in full, visit www.football-league.co.uk/page/RegulationsIndex
For the latest updates from The Football League, follow the official Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/football_league