SAO PAULO -- Brazilian league teams will be stripped of points if they don't pay players' salaries on time.
Clubs may lose three points for each match played while salaries are owed, the Brazilian Football Confederation said. The teams would keep losing points for as long as the debts persist.
Players will be entitled to denounce their clubs when payment delays reach 30 days. After being denounced and found guilty by a sports tribunal, the teams will have 15 days to make the payments and avoid losing points.
The rule approved this week is the first of its kind affecting the Brazilian league, where some of the top clubs have endured serious financial difficulties in recent years.
"Nobody wants teams being punished because of this. All we want is that the teams pay their players on time," said Rogerio Caboclo, the Brazilian confederation's director of finances.
Traditional clubs such as Santos and Botafogo recently faced lawsuits from players demanding payments. Some players were allowed by the courts to terminate their contracts and seek other clubs. Four Botafogo players left the club after winning judicial battles, while Santos, the team made famous by Pele in the 1960s, lost its starting goalkeeper and starting defensive midfielder.
"We have to think about our future," said goalkeeper Aranha, who joined rival Palmeiras.
Palmeiras, the team with the most national titles, recently became the first local club to install a salary cap and a production-based contract for players.
Other top clubs struggling to keep up with high salaries include Gremio, Fluminense, and Corinthians. Six-time champion Sao Paulo recently admitted they haven't been able to pay image rights owed to some of their athletes.
Salaries are so high that some clubs release players on loans but still have to keep paying part of their salaries. Corinthians still pays a portion of the salary owed to Sao Paulo striker Alexandre Pato, while Santos still pays part of the salary of Cruzeiro striker Leandro Damiao.
A top player in Brazil can make $200,000-$350,000 a month, but many clubs are already refusing to sign new contracts with players demanding such high salaries. Players have had to seek clubs abroad to keep their earnings. Fluminense recently lost Argentine playmaker Dario Conca to Chinese football, and Corinthians are in danger of losing Peru striker Paolo Guerrero.
The "Common Sense" movement, created by some of the country's top players to improve conditions in Brazilian football, complained about the confederation's new rule because it "exposes" the players by forcing them to publicly denounce their own clubs. The confederations dismissed the concern, however, saying the players' union will also be allowed to come forward against the clubs.
The Common Sense movement has been lobbying the Brazilian government to approve new legislation that would force clubs to act with greater financial responsibility, and hold team directors accountable for bad administration.
The new confederation rule is valid for the first, second and third divisions.
The Sao Paulo state federation has had a similar regulation in place since 2012, but no team have ever lost any points because of it. In 2013, 18 players from the same club complained to the federation about owed salaries, but the payments were made in time to avoid punishment.
The Brazilian league begins in May and ends in December. Regional championships are currently being played across the country.