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Eight out of 10 fans believe footballers' wages should be either cut or capped

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Eight out of 10 fans believe footballers' wages should be either cut or capped, a survey of 4,000 supporters, seen exclusively by the Guardian, has revealed.The Virgin Money Football Fans' Inflation Index found that 40% of match-day supporters advocate a wage cut for their own club's players while only 20% of those surveyed believe that footballers should be free to earn as much as they can. The introduction of a league-wide wage cap is supported by 41% of fans and it is most staunchly backed by football's most loyal demographics – 30 to 34-year-olds and season-ticket holders.

The swing towards a clampdown on wages might be explained by the increase in the amount that attending a match costs a typical supporter. Expenses such as train tickets, a pint of lager and match tickets have increased by 5% on last year, to an average match-day expenditure of £89.53.

In the Premier League, where no wage cap operates, the average player earns about £21,000 a week, or £1.1m a year, with the highest paid players – such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Robinho – earning up to £130,000 a week, almost £7m a year.

League One and Championship clubs have so far resisted calls for the introduction of the cap that operates in League Two and the Blue Square Premier, restricting clubs to a wage bill of no more than 60% of their turnover.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, said that the approach of the lower leagues should be adopted by the top three tiers of English football: "This is the way forward and we would like to see this introduced in the higher leagues to ensure financial responsibility.

"Like any other industry, football has to learn to live within its means and look after its customers, many of whom are suffering as a result of the recession," he added. "If this means more ticket price reductions and a bit less for the top players, so be it."

Fulham's owner Mohamed Al Fayed this week described player wages as "crazy", declaring he would campaign for a cap on the "sky-high" wages being paid in the Premier League, but a spokesman for the league said yesterday that imposing a limit on wages would be an "incredibly difficult concept", especially as it would have to be undertaken across Europe.

"A percentage cap would just lock in the big clubs with the big turnovers, meaning the bigger clubs would be able to pay the bigger wages," he said. "Clubs compete for the best talent and fans want to see the best players, which means they can demand bigger wages because they are in short supply."

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