Leeds United were today hit by the not-in-the-least-bit-surprising news that the club are to be punished for failing to comply with Financial Fair Play rules last season and will be subject to a transfer embargo in January 2015.

In a statement published earlier today, The Football League confirmed Leeds United along with Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers failed to operate within the £8m loss allowance during 2013/14, outlining the restrictions that would now be in place for them until at least the end of this season, at which point the League will review the clubs books again to see if the financial situation has improved.

The conditions under which the transfer ban will be enforced make for interesting reading as they offer some hope of new arrivals at Elland Road, albeit on a free transfer basis and with a fairly restrictive wage cap in place.

Clubs will be prohibited from registering any new professional players (permanent contract or loan) unless they have:

•    24 or fewer established players (players aged 21 or over that have made at least 5 starting appearances for the club).

Based on the appearance stats over on WAFLL, Leeds appear to meet this condition.

Despite having a fairly large squad, Leeds have started just 20 players more than 5 times this season and a couple of those are below 21. If this condition includes previous seasons – which it may well do as the wording is unclear – we’d be a bit closer to the limit, but still have room to operate as far as I can tell.

January being a difficult enough time to sign players without these conditions in place, the real sticking point could be the ban on transfer fees and restriction on wages outlined below.

Where clubs have fewer than 24 established players, they will only be permitted to sign players in the following circumstances (with the player in question being added to the club’s list of established players regardless of his age or previous playing experience):

•    Where the employee costs of a player being signed are less than £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on a shorter contract).

Where clubs have 24 established players, they will be permitted to trade on a ‘one out, one in’ basis but only if the employee costs of the player coming in to the club are no more than whichever is the lower amount of:

•    75% of the equivalent costs of the player going out.
•    Or a maximum of £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on shorter contract)

£600,000 is a reasonable enough salary at Championship level and Cellino seems quite fond of loaning players with a view to buying them later so transfer fees are easily circumvented, the trouble is that such deals generally seem to involve a loan fee that the club would presumably be unable to pay, but this is something that can be worked around in negotiations I’m sure.

To sum up, the embargo will make things more difficult but in no way prevents us from adding new players to the squad making the embargo more of a hindrance than a blockade.