Sugar slams football excesses

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The Independent Online

Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar has criticised the "irresponsible manner" in which he thinks most football clubs' finances are run, with Portsmouth facing the threat of being wound up today over an unpaid tax debt.

Representatives of Portsmouth will attend a High Court hearing today aiming to obtain an extension to settle their debts with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. If they fail to do so, the club could be wound up or forced to enter administration and suffer a subsequent points penalty.

Sugar believes Portsmouth will go on even in that event, but feels their problems are symptomatic of a wider problem in football where clubs spend way beyond their means to achieve success.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "The problem is the irresponsible manner in which all clubs are run - not just Portsmouth.

"(They are) spending far too much money, 90% of their income is spent on players and players' salaries, and it's something that should have been nipped in the bud years ago."

Sugar sees football's business model as a flawed and "vulnerable" one which is too heavily dependent on the well-being of a small number of highly-paid individuals.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was sold (for £80million, by Manchester United to Real Madrid). God forbid he got run over by the number 36 bus in Madrid - he'd be worth nothing," he added.

"That's how vulnerable football is."

One of the most negative by-products of the huge sums being paid to players in Sugar's view is how much of that cost has been passed on to supporters in increased ticket prices.

"It is outrageous what a man, his two kids and his wife have to pay to go and watch a football game," he added.

"Families used to sit down and have a serious discussion about whether they could afford to buy a toaster or a new washing machine which might be a couple of hundred quid. Now, in that industry, you can buy toasters for 10 quid or a TV for a £100, but it costs over £200 to go and watch a football match."

Sugar, who was also critical of the Glazer family's leveraged takeover of Manchester United which he feels could put the club in "serious, serious trouble", believes a solution to the problem would be to put half of all broadcast revenue in a trust.

"I advocated years ago taking the money that is thrown at the clubs by the television companies and sticking half of it in a trust, and only allowing half of it to be distributed to the clubs to spend on players," Sugar said.

"A salary cap has got a lot of implications with European law, you can't tell people what they can earn and what they can pay.

"But the (Premier) League could have taken the £1billion a year or whatever they get and put half a billion a year into a trust.

"That trust should be used to distribute to the clubs to improve on their grounds, improve on their training and all that type of stuff.

"It should be absolutely taboo to spend (the trust money) on players."

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