English football debts dwarf rest of Europe

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The Independent Football

Premier League clubs' debts are more than the rest of Europe's clubs put together - but the English top flight also accounts for almost half of clubs' assets across the continent.

The figures are contained in a new UEFA report into the state of football's finances, and shows the total debt of the Premier League clubs as being 3.8billion euros (£3.4billion), 56% of the total across Europe.

Premier League clubs' assets are 4.3billion euros (£3.8billion), accounting for a 48% share of the assets among all European clubs.

What is worrying for English clubs however is that the total value of the debt is so close to the value of the assets.

In Spain, which has the next highest debt of £858million, the assets are worth £2.5billion, three times the value of the debts.

In Italy, the debt is £442million and the assets worth £1.3billion.

UEFA's report, the European Club Footballing Landscape, has looked at the 2007-08 accounts from all 732 clubs licensed by football's European governing body.

The 80-page document's analysis of the Premier League reports that many clubs have used their stadiums and grounds as collateral to borrow money.

The report accepts much of the debt is linked to the leveraged takeovers by the Glazer family at Manchester United and the Hicks/Gillett buy-out of Liverpool.

"Some of the long-term debt is linked to new stadia such as Arsenal's, and in other cases already-built assets provide security for commercial lenders," says the report, adding that the leveraged buy-outs have been "so far acting principally as a burden rather than to support investment or spending".

The report did not include the debts of Portsmouth and West Ham because they had not been granted UEFA licences that year due to their financial problems.

The report comes after it was revealed that Manchester United's £716million debt is greater than the entire cumulative sum owed by all 36 clubs in the top two divisions in Germany.

The German Football League (DFL) clubs' debts total £544million.

UEFA president Michel Platini is pushing for a system where clubs in the Champions League and Europa League will only be allowed to spend what they earn.

Platini said recently: "The Financial Fair Play concept is very important for the well-being of clubs.

"We believe that for clubs to survive they can't spend more than they earn and the executive committee has agreed to introduce regulations to reach this aim."

The report is due to be published in full later today and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has said the example of Portsmouth, who are expected to go into administration at the end of this week, showed the need for action.

Infantino told the Guardian: "The problem is that all clubs try to compete, a few of the biggest can afford it, but the vast majority cannot. They bid for players they cannot afford, then borrow or receive money from owners, but this is not sustainable because only a few can win.

"The recent example in England of Portsmouth shows it is time to do something. The requirement to break even is not to punish clubs but to help them. Many owners themselves have asked us to introduce some rules, to help them resist the pressure to overspend."

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