Premier League clubs will have five more years to put their financial house in order before facing the possibility of expulsion from European competitions. The European Clubs' Association, which represents 144 clubs, has agreed new licensing rules with Uefa, under which clubs cannot spend more money than they receive; but figures will be worked out over a three-year period, not a single season, and no sanctions will be brought in until 2015.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Bayern Munich, the ECA chairman, who had met the Premier League's Richard Scudamore on Monday, said yesterday: "It's a very good day for European club football. I believe all clubs in future will be more responsible. It will become more rational." Rummenigge was speaking at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester, where the message was that the old days and the old ways of financial mismanagement had finally to be addressed. Having a Premier League club go into administration has sent shock waves across the continent and the mood was summed up by Internazionale's chief executive Ernesto Paolillo, who said: "The old times are finished. Sometimes you need a shock and this is it."
In the same debate, Sevilla's vice-prsident Jose Maria Cruz said half a dozen Spanish clubs faced bankrupcy and that some in the Spanish second division spent one-and-a-half times their turnover on wages alone.
Manchester United's David Gill, a member of the ECA board, welcomed the new proposals, as did representatives of Arsenal and Chelsea, the two other English clubs in the top six of the Deloitte Football Money League announced yesterday. Gill claimed that United, "which has always been professionally run and will continue to be", already met the criteria because they related to breaking even, not accumulated debt.
Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's chief executive, said: "The fundamental issue that we all face is do we have the courage and fortitude to control our spending in a fairly irrational environment. If we can manage that there's no reason why anyone can't have a long-term stable business in football. It's been very positive that Uefa are taking the lead on this. But I don't think football's in crisis because a crisis would be if you can't see the way forward. I think we're in an industry that has incredinble potential for growth.”
Chelsea's chief financial officer Chris Alexander added: "The ECA is working hard with Uefa to improve the financial framework. I'm sure there will be financial fair play that everyone can sign up to." Others have suggested it was anything but fair for Chelsea and Manchester City's owners to have wiped out huge debts by converting what they were owed into equity. Both clubs now claim to be debt-free and Alexander said: "There was initial investment [by Roman Abramovich] to be competitive with Arsenal and Manchester United but Roman doesn't want Chelsea Football Club to run perpetually at a loss.”