Compliant teams prepared to drag debt-laden rivals into court
Premier League clubs are prepared to take legal action, if required, to prevent the division's big spenders evading Uefa's financial fair play rules.
With four of the leading top-flight clubs having reiterated, in writing, their demand for Uefa's full financial fair play (FFP) rules to be brought in to the Premier League, it is becoming clear that some will take recourse to the courts, if necessary, should Uefa not rigorously enforce it. Only when Uefa's way of operating FFP is seen in practice will those clubs who are in favour know if such action is required, but a number of proprietors have made investment decisions in clubs on the basis of FFP is being introduced.
Liverpool's principal owner, John W Henry, has said that his own decision to purchase the club, in 2010, was in part based on a knowledge that FFP would introduce a level playing field several years later.
Henry said in his first meeting with newspaper journalists after buying Liverpool that it didn't matter he lacked a "'Sheikh' in front of my name" because FFP would deliver a level playing field. When it was put to him Manchester City, Real Madrid or anyone else will find a way around the Uefa break-even rules, he replied: "You're cynical. If the FFP rules were ridiculous or not that strong, why was the transfer window down 25pc last year? The clubs have to comply."
City's £97.7m losses for the last financial year left them facing a severe challenge to comply with Uefa's FFP targets. The results also included the first of several puzzling figures in big-spending clubs' accounts – a £13m take for intellectual property sales – which have helped the clubs get nearer to the FFP allowable losses.
City have not yet explained what the £13m covers. Neither have Chelsea explained the £18m "exceptional share profit" item detailed in their accounts, which were released last week. Both items were highlighted by leading FFP analyst Ed Thompson, author of the financialfairplay.co.uk website.
These odd figures illustrate what a minefield Uefa faces in satisfying willingly compliant clubs that they are scrutinising the rest. At Liverpool, Henry is known to be unhappy about the transparency of City's £400m sponsorship deal with the Abu Dhabi airline, Etihad, though there is a strong case to be made for its probity – despite Etihad paying out a world-record sum, having failed to make a profit in its seven years of existence. (© Independent News Service)