Birch warns against billionaires' follies

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Trevor Birch, Chelsea's former chief executive, yesterday issued a veiled attack on the Russian takeover at Stamford Bridge by questioning the new breed of football club billionaires and warning against spiralling wages.

Birch, replaced by Peter Kenyon less than two weeks ago to become an executive victim of English football's most extravagant revolution, has been keeping a low profile but yesterday he turned up in central London as a speaker at the Euromoney Seminars football finance conference. His subject was the viability of football's business model and he made it clear that the millions being splashed out at Chelsea were not necessarily the best way of solving the game's ills.

"It remains to be seen whether the publicity generated by Mr Abramovich leads to other incredibly rich people moving into the game," Birch said. "You certainly can't rely on it as an economic model ... It's fundamentally flawed because any significant revenue enhancement goes in player salaries. I remain to be convinced about the concept of global brands."

Embarrassingly for the organisers, Birch's identity badge still referred to him as Chelsea's current chief executive. He took it in his stride yet declined to answer questions about his sacking or what he would be doing next.

But he did say that even with Abramovich's fortunes, Chelsea could suffer a financial slump if salaries were not controlled and the current owners lost interest in their plaything. But it is at the other end of the scale, said Birch, where belt-tightening was most needed.

Birch was joined by the Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside, who vented his irritation against Leicester. He said the Midlands club should have been sanctioned for being allowed to cut their debts by going into administration, and out again before the new season.

"I have a problem with clubs going into administration, passing on their debts and then coming out again and competing at the same level," Gartside side. "Leicester have had an unfair advantage ... We're trying to run our businesses on a proper commercial basis and then someone comes along and slashes their debt in half. That's unfair competition when you wipe out half your debts and start again."

He said stringent sanctions should be applied, "not just points deduction but even relegation. A club who goes into administration, restructures and gets back into the top league on the basis of ditching their debts is unfair. We built a new ground at Bolton and we've still got the debt."