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Premier League March to clear debt

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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Understandably when many fans see words like financial controls or regulations bandied about they tend to drift off into the land of nod. It’s one of those things you know is important but somehow it’s not quite as exciting as seeing a 30 yard screamer or last minute winner – we feel the same, obviously!

Nevertheless we’re intrigued to see that the Premier League is today reporting the implementation of new financial controls intended to protect its clubs. This is something we’ve long campaigned for and credit where credit’s due as this is a step in the right direction with the first round of checks to come in March 2010.

No one wants to see their club fall into administration because they’ve recklessly wasted millions that they could never afford in the first place. The measures include annual independently audited accounts and requirements for Premier League clubs to prove they do not have outstanding (unaffordable) debts to other clubs or the taxman. Read more on the Premier League’s own website.

So generally a warm welcome, however, we would still argue that at first glance these measures do not go far enough.

For example, clubs will still be allowed to go into mountains of debt, so long as they have owners who are willing to constantly bail them out. This is in itself uncompetitive but also dangerous – what happens if the sugar daddy pulls the plug?

It’s obvious that a sophisticated system is required – we’re living in times of holding companies and all sorts of bafflingly complex ownership structures after all. Never mind trying to work out who your new signings are, half the time you don’t even know who owns the club.

The FSF would argue that English league football needs a licensing system similar to that run by the German FA. Clubs must meet strict criteria before being granted licenses to participate in the league meaning financially unsound situations are never allowed to develop – although we don’t see Scudamore & co voluntarily signing up to that anytime soon.

The timing of the Premier League’s announcement caught our attention too – coming as it did only hours before Uefa’s ‘financial fair play rules’. Uefa’s proposals look far more stringent and we couldn’t see many Premier League clubs passing them at present (although they’re not to be enforced until 2012).

There’s not a chance the Premier League will back them either – although the clubs look to have little choice if they want to continue competing in the Champions and Europa Leagues.

So we did raise an eyebrow as the Premier League and Uefa proposals were released on the same day. They wouldn’t be trying to get one over on each other, would they? No, it must be a coincidence!

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