The Football League is to examine urgently a range of measures, including a potentially radical salary cap in the Championship, to offset the effect of vastly increased parachute payments for relegated Premier League clubs that it claims could fatally undermine competition.
Following a summit meeting of all 24 Championship clubs the Football League board was mandated to draw up a list of ways that they could try to mitigate the advantage conferred on relegated clubs that will get a proposed £23m in the first year after relegation and £18m in the second, followed by £9m a year in years three and four.
In contrast Championship clubs that are not in receipt of parachute payments will receive around £2.3m in solidarity payments. Some owners who attended the summit meeting on Wednesday claimed they may have to walk away from the game if they were forced to compete with clubs that received more in parachute payments than their entire budget for the year.
Whereas the parachute payments are proposed to increase by £7m in the first year alone, the solidarity payments to other Football League clubs will increase by only 5% despite the Premier League's £5.5bn broadcasting rights bonanza over three years.
One of the options on the table is likely to include the possibility of withholding a share of the Football League's own distribution of its TV and sponsorship money from those clubs that are in receipt of parachute payments. The payments of around £2.3m per Championship club could then be spread equally around the rest.
Under another, more radical, proposal voiced at the meeting all clubs could be subject to a "hard" salary cap for the first time. If a limit of, for example, £20m per season was put on each club's wage bill, then it would limit the effect of the extra cash banked by relegated clubs.
The nuclear option of turning its back on the Premier League altogether will be considered only as a last resort, with chairmen acutely aware that once they break the link it will be hard to re-establish.
There are concerns that the hugely increased parachute payments, designed to cushion Premier League clubs from the blow of relegation and give them time to "gear down" their wage bill, will undermine the financial fair play (FFP) rules voted in for Championship clubs last season.
Under the scheme owners can invest a maximum of only £6m this season, £5m next and £3m in 2014-15. After that clubs will be limited to a maximum £2m operating loss and £3m of investment from their owners or risk a heavy fine or a transfer embargo.
But there is a fear that, if some clubs are receiving 10 times as much as others at the start of the season, it will make it difficult for those without parachute payments to compete under the FFP system.
The mood at the meeting was said to be intensely concerned but businesslike and determined. As well as looking at a range of options to offset the effect of the increased parachute payments the Football League board was also mandated to carry on negotiating with the Premier League ahead of its next meeting on 10 April.
The Premier League will argue that the parachute payments are governed by a set formula while the so-called solidarity payments are part of a separate negotiation. They are also part of a wider package that includes Football League clubs' share of £320m to be invested over the next four years in the new Elite Player Performance Plan to overhaul youth development and separate investments in Football League community schemes.
It says there is no evidence that parachute payments have a distorting effect on the Championship, with only one of the current top six (Hull City) in receipt of them and only one of last year's promoted clubs (West Ham United).
The Premier League, which will on Thursday launch its Creating Chances annual review demonstrating how its distribution of the money flowing into the game from broadcasters is helping grassroots projects, argues that it gives away more money than any other League in Europe.