Uefa has approved plans to force clubs in European competition to spend only what they earn, with the body's president Michel Platini insisting they want to "protect clubs and not punish them".
The financial fair play rules will require clubs to break even over a rolling three-year period if they want to play in the Champions League or Europa League. Clubs will also be assessed on a risk basis, taking into account "debts and salary levels", Uefa says.
Platini, speaking after Uefa's executive committee approved the rules at a meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, yesterday, said: "We have worked on the financial fair play concept hand-in-hand with the clubs, as our intention is not to punish them, but to protect them. We have an agreement with the clubs. The philosophy is that you cannot spend more money than you generate."
Some leeway will be granted for the six years after 2012 but some Premier League clubs, notably Manchester City, Chelsea and Aston Villa, could still fall foul of the rule unless they change their spending habits.
Manchester United have carried out a "dummy test" and believe they would pass the rules despite having to pay out £45m to service debts every year. Arsenal and Tottenham would pass the test comfortably, while Liverpool would probably do so too.
The new Uefa scheme will come into effect in 2012. It is understood that initially clubs must not return losses of more then €45m (£38m) for the 2012-15 period. After 2015, clubs are given a leeway of €30mn (£26m) for three-year losses after which the figure will be reduced still further. If clubs breach the rules then they will not be granted a Uefa club licence to take part in European competitions.