Making Sense of the League One Squad Cap

In February 2021, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) successfully lobbied for the removal of the salary caps introduced in that season. However, the Football League quickly replaced the salary cap with a cap on squad size instead, presumably in an attempt to monitor football club finances and prevent another Bury from happening.

Under these new rules, League One and Two sides are allowed to register 22 players for the first team, but under-21 players and goalkeepers are exempt from this total. To be counted as an under-21 player this season, the player must be born after 1st January 2000. Therefore James Vennings, born 20th November 2000, does not count towards the limit but Ben Dempsey, born 25th November 1999 does. Of these 22 players, 8 must be “Home Grown”, meaning they have spent 36 months at an English or Welsh club prior to their 21st birthday. The EFL regulations for 2021/22 can be found in full on their website here at section 43.9.

Players Included in Cap Players Exempt from Cap
Chris GunterCraig MacGillivray
Adam MatthewsNathan Harness
Ryan InnissJacob Ruddy
Akin FamewoCharlie Barker
Jason PearceDeji Elerewe
Ben PurringtonJames Vennings
Sean ClareJohl Powell
Alex GilbeyAaron Henry
George DobsonAlbie Morgan
Ben WatsonWassim Aouachria
Jake Forster-CaskeyHady Ghandour
Ben DempseyCharles Clayden
Diallang Jaiyesimi
Charlie Kirk
Conor Washington
Jayden Stockley
Josh Davison
Ronnie Schwartz

What does this mean for Charlton?

With the signing of Kirk, Charlton now have 18 registered players in their squad, meaning that they can sign a further four overage players without breaking the rules. However, this total includes the apparently out of favour Ronnie Schwartz, as well as “overage” U23 players Ben Dempsey and Josh Davison. The Ben Dempsey situation displays the issue with this approach from the Football League quite clearly. Dempsey is at an age where he needs to get regular football but seems unlikely to do so at Charlton. Focusing on an U23 development model while forcing players over 21 to be registered in the first team is an illogical move from the Football League. It may hurt player development in the long run as clubs will be reluctant to “waste” a registration spot on late-blooming 21–23 year olds.


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